Gasoline prices are rising across the country, and has led one Iraq War veteran to buy a Chevy Volt to ease the pain at the pump. If gasoline prices stay high we can expect more interest in fuel efficiency, especially on electric vehicles, just as fuel efficiency was a hot topic amid 2008's high fuel prices.
As we have noted before, electric cars are more energy efficient than gasoline cars, and electric cars are cheaper per mile driven than gasoline cars. While electric cars are, today, more expensive than their gasoline counterparts, electric car owners can save a lot on fuel costs and maintenance. Depending on which way the cost of gasoline goes, an electric car owner could save enough on fuel to pay for the higher MRSP.
Bob Tanner, the Volt-owning-veteran, has a 62 mile round trip in his daily commute to his civilian job at Fort Dix. This is an farther-than-average daily commute, because the typical driver (according to the NHTSA) drives 40 miles or less a day. GM designed the Chevy Volt to have an electric driving range matching the typical daily driving distance, so that the typical driver could conceivably handle their typical daily driving purely on electricity. Tanner, because of his longer commute, does burn a bit of gasoline, but it's a fraction of what he used to burn. He claims to have cut monthly fuel costs by two-thirds, from $300 per month to just under $100 per month. The fuel costs break down as $50 a month for gasoline and $40 a month for electricity.
After a couple months of Chevy Volt leasing, Tanner has driven over 3000 miles, has averaged 94 miles per gallon of gasoline used, has switched from filling up the gas tank every four days to filling up twice a month, and gets over 640 miles per tank of gasoline.
Tanner, whose first day of Marine Boot Camp was Sept 11, 2011, has a couple reasons for choosing the Chevy Volt. First is the opportunity to save money on fuel costs. “Another big decision (to drive an electric vehicle) was the fact that I’d be using less gas. Having fought overseas twice, I have strong opinions on oil and its effects on international politics and policies,” said Tanner.
Many describe this line of reasoning as a national energy security concern. Because the U.S. has only 2% of the worlds oil reserves, and because the U.S. went past its peak of oil production in 1970, it's nigh-on-impossible for the U.S. to satisfy its own fossil oil needs. Because the U.S. is completely dependent on fossil oil driven vehicles, it leaves the U.S. dependent on foreign countries (not all of whom are friendly to the U.S.) for the fuel to drive these vehicles. Clearly those foreign countries wield huge leverage and financial power over the U.S., and Tanner sees Chevy Volt ownership as a "contribution" he can make "toward the overall mission.” President Obama is pushing this same line of reasoning as justification for a strategic move away from fossil oil, to alternative fuels including electric vehicles and liquified natural gas.
The Chevy Volt has a total driving range of 379 miles based on EPA estimates, so how can Tanner be getting 640 miles per tank? The trick is to recharge the battery pack at every opportunity. The 379 miles range is the 35 miles in the battery pack, and the 340 or so from the gasoline in the gas tank. However, the more a Chevy Volt owner drives on electricity, the less need there is to burn gasoline. Tanner's daily commute of 62 miles is further than the 35-40 miles he can drive on electricity, leaving him with 30 or so miles a day to drive on gasoline. If he were able to recharge the Volt while at the office, even more of his miles could be on electricity rather than gasoline, and his savings would be even more dramatic.
GM says Volt owners have traveled more than 25 million miles, with two-thirds of that powered by grid electricity. Typically Volt owners fill up the gasoline tank once a month, with some traveling 900 or more miles per gas tank. The EPA fuel economy label for the Chevy Volt claims 2012 Volt owners can expect to save approximately $7,600 in fuel costs over five years. The actual savings will depend on the number of miles driven, and how much of that driving is on grid electricity. It does mean fuel cost savings can defray most or all of the cost premium for the Chevy Volt.
In short, in Bob Tanners case, he finds enough reason between fuel cost savings and his political views to justify leasing a Chevy Volt.