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How Much Does it Cost to Charge a Chevy Volt?

I’ve gotten feedback lately that as much fun as it is to read my very long detailed cost of charging by time of day analysis combined with expected weekly usage analysis, that people just want a simple layman’s answer to the basic question – how much does it cost to charge a Chevy Volt?

This is a fair question – and instead of nerding it out over graphs, I will try my best to explain it in simple to understand terms comparing electricity costs to gasoline costs.  For this explanation, I will leave out the complexity of situations when someone starts to use burn gasoline after you’ve used up your battery energy.

The cost to charge your Volt is based on 2 numbers.  How much electricity you used how much it costs for a unit of electricity.  Because many are not familiar with the terminology, I have a little table below to compare the two.

Gasoline

Electricity

Usage Amount Units

Gallons of Gas

Kilowatt-Hours

Cost Units

$ per Gallon of Gas

$ per Kilowatt-Hour

 

Before I explain how to put things together, here’s a little definition for a word you might not have heard about.  A Kilowatt-Hour is the unit we use to describe how much electricity is “put into” your Volt.  You will normally see this in your electricity bill.  Depending on how big your home is, most families will use somewhere between 300 to 600 kilowatt-hours (If you use heavy air condition obviously it could be a lot more!) of electricity per month.  Check your bill and look for the total number of KwH you used to see just how much electricity you used for your home.  You can see an example of an electricity bill here.

Now to make the comparison, lets think in terms of a normal gas powered car and make the comparison to electricity.  To know how much you spend on gas for a car, you typically know…

1.)    How many miles you drive

2.)    How many miles do you get per gallon of gasoline

3.)    How much does it cost per gallon of gasoline

When you have those three, you can calculate your estimated fuel costs.

Example 1 –  Gasoline:  You drive 1,000 miles per month, your car gets 25 Miles Per Gallon, and you pay $4.00 for a gallon of gasoline.  That means:

1000 miles / 25 Miles Per Gallon = 40 gallons of gasoline

And

40 gallons of gasoline * $4.00 a gallon = $160 per month in Gas Costs.

If you can do the math above – you can easily do the math for electric costs!  Just substitute a few numbers.

Example 2 – Electricity:  You drive 1,000 miles per month, your car (The Chevy Volt) gets 2.7 miles per kilowatt hour used (EPA estimated average), and you pay $0.12 per kilowatt-hour (national average)  That means:

1000 miles / 2.7 miles per kilowatt-hour = 370 Kilowatt-Hours

And

370 Kilowatt-Hours * $0.12 Per Kilowatt Hour = $44.44 in Electricity per month.

Now you know the basics of how to calculate how much it costs to charge a Chevy Volt.  Here are some important considerations.

1.)     Electricity Costs, unlike gasoline costs, typically increase when you use more electricity.  (That is just how most utilities are).  So with this calculation, you need to be careful and understand how your electric rates changes as you use more electricity.

2.)    Some utilities will charge you more if you use electricity during the peak of the day and less when you are sleeping.  You often need to sign up for special rate plans for them to give you these rates.  During off hours, you can pay as little at $0.06 per KwH  (Half Price!)  Or as much as $0.40 per KwH during peak times (3.5x more than average!)  That’s why it’s important to charge at night in many cases because it save you lots on your electricity bill.

In the example above – if you pay $0.40 per KwH, you save nearly nothing vs gasoline on a 25 MPG Car!  Which is bad!  However, if you pay $0.06 per KwH, you can save as much as $120 per month.

This example is a quick and dirty way to understand how electricity costs work.  In actuality, if you really want to know – read the following articles to learn more about the complexity.  Or if you know you electricity rate and how much you drive a month, you can do a quick calculation and be done with it :)

-Off Peak Charging Analysis

-Chevy Volt 240v Charging Efficiency

-First Chevy Volt Electricity Bill

19 Responses to “How Much Does it Cost to Charge a Chevy Volt?”

  1. Chris C. says:

    Patrick -

    This is great info, but I think it’s best to provide an even shorter answer to curious people, and here’s what I tell them.

    Ten dollars a month.

    That is in fact how much it costs me to fuel my Volt. Now, I personally am benefiting from A) slightly low mileage, 8000 miles per year typically, and B) wonderfully low electrical rates. Here in Georgia, our utility offers a TOU rate plan that drops my overnight rate to 5 cents per kWh.

    If you put more like 15000 miles per year on your car then the Volt might cost you about $20 per month to run. If you drive 15000 miles and have more typical electrical rates (say, 11 cents) then it would be about $40/month.

    My point is that while all the cents per mile calculations are neat, they don’t drive the crucial point home, which is that the operating cost of this car is trivial! $40 is less than a single fill-up for most people, and stating it in terms of dollars per month illustrates it best.

    When standing around in a parking lot (or an outreach event) answering questions, I think it’s important to start with the simple, dramatic answer. I do love the look on their face when I say “ten dollars per month” :)

    - Chris

    P.S. By the way, you said that a typical household consumes 300-600 kWh per month. Maybe that’s true in sunny, temperate California, but across the southern half of the United States it’s far more due to heavy A/C loads. I’m in an average sized house in Atlanta and my last bill was for 1900 kWh! Of course I’m working on bringing that down, but that’s frankly typical.

  2. Dave says:

    However you want to spell it out the volts electricity use is not as costly as most vehicles that run off gas. A on the road comparison would be very interesting. Gas mileage always varies greatly depending on how the driver drives the vehicle. I wonder how this car is driven affects the mileage? I have not had the chance to actually see an electric volt here at the Joplin Car Dealership in Joplin, MO.

  3. Eric says:

    I’ve added solar electricity, PV, to my house so the government is not only subsidizing my new Volt, (thank you very much!), it is subsidizing my cost to prepay for all of the electricity my Volt will need for the next 25 years. And a bonus for those of us who care about these things, the electricity generation creates near zero carbon emissions.

    To make this simple, let’s assume you drive 27 miles a day. You’ll need 10 kWh of electricity to get you through the day, (2.7*10). An average solar panel will make 1kWh of energy each day, (more here in the sunny Southwest and less in the Northeast). So you would need about 10 solar panels or about 2500 watts to keep you passing gas stations.

    The US has no standard way to subsidize renewable energy so your costs will be very dependent on where you live.

  4. James says:

    Your missing the true cost of owning a Volt. The per mile analysis (fuel or electricity cost) is only part of the equation. You also need to add the cost difference between a similar size and quality gas operated car. A similar gas engine car will cost about $15,000 or more less than the Volt, even after the taxpayer provided rebate.

    Using 15,000 miles for 5 years or 75,000 miles and the cost difference of $15,000, the built in cost to operate is 20 cents per mile or $250 per month (1,250 miles x .2)

    To enjoy the savings shown in the above comments, the plan is to drive from to work and back. What about the times you travel further and have to recharge away from home? That is not free not to mention the amount of time you have wait for the recharge. A cost that should also be added.

    Yes, nothing is for free.

    • Richard Standerfer says:

      My Volt cost me 25,200 after my tax credit.
      That is about $5000 more than a gas operated car, not $15,000.

  5. Edward says:

    Minor correction for a typo above:
    Example 2 – Electricity: You drive 2,500 miles per month,…..
    Should read
    Example 2 – Electricity: You drive 1,000 miles per month,….

    to be an apples to apples comparison to the gasoline calculation above it. The equation following in Example 2 is correct since it uses 1000 miles, not 2,500:
    1000 miles / 2.7 miles per kilowatt-hour = 370 Kilowatt-Hours

    The end comparison in the article is still accurate

  6. mark says:

    All falls apart in NY (long island)
    $0.45 /kwh
    Yep 45 cents $0.36/kwh service charge + at least $0.0857 usage.
    http://www.lipower.org/pdfs/account/rates_resi.pdf

    So using the above cited formula a Chevy Volt would cost $166 /month v $160/month for gasoline (gas is $4/gal today).

    • Jonathan says:

      Your math is incorrect. Refer to your LIPA (PSEG, now) statement and just divide Total Charges (what LIPA wants you to pay them) by total kWh shown (for that month’s usage). You will arrive at what you pay per kWh. In my case, it is 20.3 cents per kWh this month (January, 2014). The highest I have seen in two years was 24.1 cents. It generally is 19.x cents per kWh. I have the 180 General Usage rate and live on the North Fork of LI.

      For the 20,230 miles I have driven my Volt so far, the cost per mile for gas and electricity has been 6.8 cents per mile. My lifetime mpg is at 90.3.

      The Volt extended range electric vehicle is a great concept. I drive less than 40 miles per day for months on end only using electricity and then can take a 700 mile trip without any range anxiety whatsoever. I just fill up the gas tank along the way.

  7. chip says:

    another way to look at it is that the $15000 could buy you 3000 gallons of gas at $5 per gallon and a car that small should get 30 miles per gallon giving you 90,000 miles paid for before you spend an additional penny on fuel.

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Take $9,000 off that number in California for federal and CA rebates = $6000 = 1200 gallons of gas = 36,000 miles to break even.

  8. anonymous says:

    the guy in the adverisement says he did not buy gas in two months….get real he should also said he only drives a few miles a day!
    i consider that false advertisement !…. i drive my vehicle from point Ki to point A everyday and and i accumulate 35,000 kilometers a year if i buy a volt that means i will only put gas every two months? i dont think so!

  9. Lily says:

    I’m a bit confused. I might be missing a key detail. Does it say anywhere here how many watts the Volt draws. Isn’t that important to know before being able to calculate the per house usage rate. So, for example, if you plugged it into your house for 12 hours and your current rate is .10 cents per kilowatt hour how would you create that formula?

    Setting aside all discussion of how many miles you drive and cost per month or year, just the electrical use of having the car plugged into your house (or someone else’s house).

    12 hours x .10 cents (example: per KwH) x ____________.

    Thanks!

  10. Tim says:

    At 2.7 miles per kwh for the Chevy Volt costing $.09/kwh (Denver) and 16 mpg at $3/gal (Denver) for a 2004 S10 Blazer the comparisons are as follows:

    total Cost Total Cost
    Miles/yr mpkwh Price/kwh per Yr per Mnth
    12000 2.7 $0.09 $397.82 $33.15
    15000 2.7 $0.09 $497.28 $41.44
    18000 2.7 $0.09 $596.73 $49.73
    21000 2.7 $0.09 $696.19 $58.02
    24000 2.7 $0.09 $795.64 $66.30

    total Cost Gas Cost Elec Cost Monthly
    Miles/yr mpg Price/Gal per Yr per Mnth per Mnth Savings
    12000 16 $3.00 $2,250.00 $187.50 $33.15 $154.35
    15000 16 $3.00 $2,812.50 $234.38 $41.44 $192.94
    18000 16 $3.00 $3,375.00 $281.25 $49.73 $231.52
    21000 16 $3.00 $3,937.50 $328.13 $58.02 $270.11
    24000 16 $3.00 $4,500.00 $375.00 $66.30 $308.70

    I am currently pricing a 2014 Chevy Volt to lease at $270/month ($2400 down). I typically drive 18000-21000 miles per year. Insurance is represented to the same as a gas vehicle. I’ll have to find some way to confirm that 2.7 miles per kwh mileage but clearly the cost of electric energy is significantly less than gasoline energy. Apparently driving the volt will save me more money than it costs me. This even over comes my down payt. Of course this savings is because I drive an SUV. The savings is significantly less for a fuel efficient vehicle.

    • Jonathan says:

      Perhaps my experience will help you to understand the cost to drive the Volt.

      Prior to getting the Volt, I had a 2010 Prius that I had driven 30,000 miles. My lifetime average was 50 mpg. There were 6 oil changes. Assuming $3.50 per gallon and $40 an oil change (they were free compliments of Toyota, but should be tallied in the cost to drive), the cost per mile was 7.8 cents.

      The cost per mile for gas and electric usage in my 2012 Volt is currently 6.8 cents. 20230 miles driven and not one oil change needed yet. At my current rate I will need to change the oil at the mandatory 24 month interval, rather than because of depleted oil life.

  11. askjason says:

    in Los Angeles, LADWP charges me $0.167/KwH. The car only allows you to use 11.3 KwH before it switches to gas. It costs me $1.89 to recharge it at home ($0.167 x 11.3). I am blessed that my work offers free recharging, so I do not have to completely recharge my car each night. My work also discounts parking by about 30% for workers who drive a plug-in hybrid or electric car. Last, there are a lot of places that offer free recharging, like my favorite mall by house. So when ever I go shopping I plug it in.

    In response to the real cost of ownership, it is important to note that Chevy is heavily discounting Volts. After incentives and rebates, many buyers end up paying 22K for a fully loaded Volt. A comparable Honda Civic fully loaded has a factory invoice $23,306 per TruCar.com. I personally leased mine for $3k total upfront costs and $164/month with 12k miles per year.

  12. Larry says:

    I am trying to find out how much the Volt uses after it is charged fully. It uses some electricity to keep batteries at a certain temperature.

  13. Heatherly says:

    I am just wondering where these numbers are coming from. I called my electric company and they say it is .10 c per kilowatt hour regardless. I am just wondering where this calculation comes from. I assume it is different depending on region.

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