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Bill Roth headshot

Imagine Gas-Free Days Driving a Volt

Words by Bill Roth
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It is day three of my Chevy Volt test drive. I have yet to use a single gallon of gasoline. That is zero gasoline consumption while driving in San Diego’s urban stop-and-go traffic. That is zero gasoline consumption while having fun blasting up highway on-ramps. That is three days of driving the way I enjoy driving while generating zero tailpipe emissions.

This second article on my Chevy Volt test-drive experience explores what this car can mean to your pocketbook.

Is the Volt the best value in the auto industry?


The Volt is not an eco car. It is a luxury car with all the bells and whistles, including fun-to-drive performance. Yet, you can find dealers selling Volts for around $33,000. That is equal to the 2016 average retail sales price for new cars. There are also dealers promoting $269/month lease deals.

Then there are the Volt’s tax credits. As an economist, I wish we did not have tax credits and deductions for fossil-fuel power plants, oil extraction, renewable energy or electric cars. This type of tax policy distorts procurement decisions. But we do have tax incentives, and the tax credits for electric cars are very generous. The federal tax credit is $7,500 for an electric vehicle like the Volt. In California there is an additional $1,500 tax credit. If you live in California, you can buy a fully-loaded $40,000 Volt like the one I am test-driving for $30,000 after tax credits. That is probably $10,000 to $30,000 less than a comparable Mercedes, Lexus or BMW.

Many insurance companies offer a 5 percent discount to electric car owners.

Volt owners can ignore gasoline prices for the overwhelming number of driving days. Most of us drive less per day than the Volt's 56-mile electric range. Some Volt owners I follow on Facebook report going a month with zero gasoline consumption.

The cost to run a Volt on electricity is lower than filling up at the pump. Utilities are increasingly offering discounted rates for electric car charging. It is estimated that the cost to recharge electric cars through utility service is equivalent to 75 cents per gallon of gasoline. Finally, there is a growing trend where homeowners buy a solar system and they buy/lease an electric vehicle that they refuel for “free” from their home’s solar system.

The financial bottom line is that a Volt saves money. It eliminates worrying over gas prices. It is the best deal you can find for a luxury car in America.

How to buy a car


Test driving the Volt has challenged my thinking. It should challenge yours. We all need to rethink how we buy cars.

It is time we learn to embrace the new technology symbolized by the Chevy Volt. Would you still buy a Nokia phone or a Palm Pilot contact manager? They were great technologies at the time. But technology has moved past them.

That is our current situation with the cars we own. We love them. But they are now obsolete. Cars like the Volt must be our future if we are to solve the big problems that confront our economy and health. The Volt is American technology made in America. Think of the jobs and economic growth if we all drove a Volt or Volt-like car. Electric cars deliver zero tailpipe emissions. They are a solution to the urban air pollution that is now recognized as the fourth leading cause of death. You won’t let your kids smoke. Why let your kids breath fossil-fuel air pollution when you can choose to drive a stunning car like the Volt?

The great news is that this American-made technology is price-competitive even without tax incentives. Vehicles like the Volt are bargains with tax incentives. They cost less to operate. Most of all, they are fun to drive. Do something for yourself and America: Go test drive a Volt.

Enough seriousness


For all of the Volt’s serious benefits, the most compelling reason to drive one is that it's a fun car to drive. Tomorrow I am driving the Volt to San Clemente’s Pier where I will bask in the Southern California sun and eat fish tacos. Then the next day, I'll drive over the mountains and down into Palm Springs. Follow along through upcoming posts profiling the fun of driving a Volt in Southern California.

Image credit: Bill Roth

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post stated that California offers a $2,500 tax credit for hybrid EVs. It was updated on Feb. 23 to the correct number. 

Bill Roth headshotBill Roth

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

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