chevy volt vs 2017 toyota prius prime plug in hybrid
Armen Hareyan's picture

Chevy Volt vs 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid: Very Brief Comparison by a Volt Owner

I am a Toyota Prius owner and am very pleased with my car, but people who drive a Chevy Volt have a different view when it comes to comparing it vs the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid.

Ivan Jue, who has contributed EV related articles to TorqueNews, shared this very interesting comment comparing his Chevy Volt experience with the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In Hybrid. Here is Ivan in his own words.

I don't get it either. One of the biggest reasons I chose the Volt was due to the largest battery range. On most weeks, the engines of our '14 and '16 don't even switch on for our daily commutes, weekend events, etc. But I have gone to LA, Yosemite, or Reno (in winter) without worrying about lines at public chargers or worrying about making it to my destination. I consider the Volt as 2 cars in one--an EV on most days that switches to a hybrid when the battery is flat.

The Gen 2 Volt is really crammed full with probably the biggest engine and battery combo for use in North America. Engine can handle the steep mountains without suddenly reducing power and speed. The fuel tank size reduces the inconvenience of filling up whenever the ICE is used in an emergency. Aside from the road trips, I usually refill every 3 months (or every 4000 miles).

Battery is the largest possible (with the necessary thermal management system). The compromise is in the interior (which is fairly small, especially with the tiny perch for a center seat).

The Prius Prime is frighteningly close to what the Gen 1 Volt was (though with less range). No CarPlay or 4G, seats 4, and has ~20 mile range). I read that there is a last minute push to modify the rear seat so it can seat 5, however.

Editor's note: Why do you think automakers are obsessed with Plug-in hybrids with less than 30 miles of EV range?

Also See: Chevy Volt vs Toyota Prius Plug In: Prius Owners Praise Volt as an Excellent Alternative

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I don't think manufacturers are "obsessed" with sub-30 mile PHEVs. Rather, you said it yourself, it's a matter of cost and packaging. A bigger battery costs more and takes up more space. In an EV, the battery can be packaged to use much of the space normally taken by the fuel tank and exhaust system. But, since a PHEV has a gas engine and fuel tank like a conventional vehicle, the battery is going to end up taking space from either the passenger compartment or the trunk. As manufacturers move towards more "clean sheet" PHEVs like the Volt, hopefully we will see greater EV range without the space compromises.
"Why do you think automakers are obsessed with Plug-in hybrids with less than 30 miles of EV range?" Because that range covers well over 90% of the driving people do. Larger energy-storage batteries are effectively permanent liabilities; they age (and thus require replacement) and they add weight and size to the car, reducing energy efficiency. Thus there is a point of diminishing returns, where a larger battery extends range but does not make up for the additional fuel/energy used to drive the larger vehicle. Today adding range to PHEV's is a plus primarily because in most places, charging is still difficult to come by. Thus a 30 mile range really only enables a 10 mile drive when battery aging and lack of charging at the destination is taken into account. As chargers proliferate this issue will become less important, and the benefits of a 15 mile range will start to equal what the benefits of a 30 mile range did before charging was widely available.
In NJ, electricity costs 0.22 kilowatt-hour. Prius plug-in full charge cost 0.66 and gives 12 miles. To reach 50 miles, the plug-in needs be charged 4 times. However, the same plug-in can easily get 50 mpg in any speed. Local gas is $1.65/g at Costco. For the same 50-mile range, EV at 2.64 vs HV at 1.65. Also, HV alone can get 500 miles in one tank when doing long trips with 5 occupants. EV is not economical at current gas price in NJ.
The Volt is first and foremost an electric car—until the battery runs out of juice. That means even if you floor the Volt’s throttle pedal, the car stays in electric mode, keeping the gas engine out of the equation until the battery is nearly depleted. We’ve been averaging 48 miles per charge without trying hard.