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Chevy Volt 2015 gas consumption statistics - an Eastern Canada case study

Posted 2018-07-17
Updated 2020-05-10

I am a climate scientist, not a car specialist. In February 2015, after giving a scientific seminar on the physics of global warming, I asked myself what little step I could take to reduce my personal carbon footprint.

This started a month-long process of diligently doing my homework by ...
  1. thinking about my needs with respect to the daily commute to work and occasional longer trips for family visits or vacation.
  2. taking into account the reduction in electric range due to the very cold winters of eastern Québec, Canada.  See my post on Canadian winter temperatures and EVs (written in French).
  3. looking at all the battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that were then available for sale in Québec and that I could afford.
On March 27, 2015, I ended up purchasing a Chevy Volt (first generation, model year 2015), with the following specifications:
  • Battery: 17.1 kWh
  • Electric range: 61 km
  • Extended range (gasoline): 600 km
  • Combined city/highway gas consumption: 6.4 L/100 km

From Day 1, I decided that at each gas filling, I would carefully note both the number of litres of gasoline purchased and the car's odometer reading.

Below is a graphical summary of my 2015 Chevy Volt's gas consumption statistics over 5 complete annual cycles. Over these five years, the average gas consumption was 2.39 litres per 100 km (rounded to 2.4 L/100 km). For comparison, the car I previously owned (Honda Fit 2009) had a combined city/highway/summer/winter gas consumption of 6.5 L/100 km. Mission accomplished: by purchasing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), I was able to reduce my personal car's gasoline consumption by 63%! 😊

Interpretation of graphic
  • the horizontal red bars represents the seasonal median (50th percentile) gas consumption rates, so that 50% of the time, the gas consumption rate was higher than the red bar, and it was lower 50% of the time.
  • The lower blue horizontal bars represents the 25th percentiles
  • The upper blue horizontal bars represents the 75th percentiles
  • The small red dots represent individual gas fill-ups that are either below the 25th percentile or above the 75th percentile.
The lowest gas consumption rate is found in summer (1.1 L/100 km), whereas the highest gas consumption rate occurs in winter (4.0 L/100 km). Intermediate values of gas consumption rates are observed during spring (2.6 L/100 km) and fall (3.0 L/100 km).

To gain insight as to why gas consumption rates are much higher in winter than in summer, it is useful to look at the details of my daily commute from home to work. A one-way trip is 38.5 km, so that a two-way trip from home to work and then back home is 77 km. Unfortunately, there is no charging station at my workplace, so that I can only charge my car at home.

During the summer, I usually DO get the 61 km of electric range advertised in the Chevrolet specifications. In fact, I often get more than 65 km of electric range (green line), and sometimes get over 70 km of zero emission car driving. In the chart below, the blue line indicates that gasoline may or may not be needed for the last 20 kilometers of my summer ride back home.

In winter, the lithium-ion batteries are not as efficient. Roughly speaking, the reduction in electric range is about 20% around 0°C, but can get as bad as 50% when ambient air temperature drops below -20°C.  Depending on outside temperatures, wind and snow conditions, the 2015 Volt's winter electric range  (green line) can vary between about 30 km and 50 km in Rimouski (Québec, Canada). Gasoline is required over the last 25 to 40 km of my daily commute (blue line).
The above schematics explain why gas consumption rates are much higher in winter than in summer for the Chevy Volt 2015.

Your own PHEV's gas consumption statistics will differ from mine according to these parameters:
  1. distance from home to work
  2. availability (or not) of a charging station at work
  3. climatic conditions
  4. electric range of your PHEV

Average battery degradation after five years

Geotab, a fleet management and vehicle tracking company, published battery degradation statistics for 6000 electric vehicles in a December 2019 report for different vehicle makes and model years. Below is a chart for three vehicles from model year 2015: the Chevy Volt, Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf. After five years, the Chevy Volt retains about 95% of its initial State of Health, a measure of how much energy the battery can deliver (kWh). The slower battery degradation of the Chevy Volt 2015 is explained by the fact that it has comparatively large top and bottom protection buffers; about 6 to 7 kWh of the 17 kWh are reserved for the top and bottom protection buffers, leaving 10 to 11 kWh of energy for your daily commute.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) - Model year 2020

This post provides a real life example of gas consumption statistics over five years using a first generation Chevrolet Volt, model year 2015 with 61 km of electric range. Unfortunately, Chevrolet discontinued manufacturing its second generation Volt in 2019. But other car manufacturers are continuing to offer PHEVs. Here is a partial list of reasonably priced 2020 PHEV models available in Canada and the USA and their electric ranges as estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Chrysler Pacifica - 51 km
Ford Fusion - 42 km
Honda Clarity - 76 km
Hyundai Ioniq - 47 km
Hyundai Sonata - 45 km
Kia Niro - 42 km
Kia Optima - 45 km
Mitsubishi Outlander - 35 km
Toyota Prius Prime - 40 km

With all of these PHEVs, gasoline seamlessly kicks in whenever your battery runs out of power, giving total ranges between about 500 km and 1000 km depending on model. If you own a "conventional" gasoline powered internal combustion engine vehicle, you already know how to deal with this particular flavor of range anxiety. Just make sure you don't run out of gasoline by paying attention to your car's low-fuel alerts. A simple 5-minute stop at the nearest gas station and you're ready to go again!


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