There’s been a lot of buzz around the unveiling of the 2011 GM Volt. The long-awaited American electric car promises the greenest ride on the market and the lowest power costs, as well as reduced car insurance prices. While we don’t know yet if it will fulfill its promises, the Volt is a very popular subject among green car owners and future owners. But how does it compare to the long-established Prius? Can GM take over the electric car market?
At first glance, looking at both cars’ technical specs, we must say that we are indeed impressed with the Volt. The dependence on gas has been reduced to a minimum in this model; whereas the Prius relies on both electric and gas to power itself, the Volt’s only power source is the electric battery. There is a small gas motor, but it is only used to recharge the battery should it empty on the road; gas is not used to power the car itself. Theoretically, the battery itself has a range of 40 miles (not much, you might say) but the gas generator kicks that number up to around 300 miles, for a fuel usage of 230 mpg. That sounds great, right? But the problem is, you’ll pay a lot for that range: the car comes at the price of a Corolla, while it is about $20 000 more expensive than the base model of a Prius.
GM claims that the battery can be completely charged in 3 hours with a 240v plug, and 8 hours with a 120v. That means that unless you fit your house with a 240v plug, you’ll have to leave the car plugged in for extended periods of time in between trips. GM also says that powering your car takes less energy annually than your home fridge and freezer. You’ll only see a small hike on your electricity bill, the equivalent of one cup of coffee (probably not Starbucks’) a day for the charging, and two cents per mile for gas (considering the current price of $2.75 per gallon). So if you can handle the premium price, driving the car itself is pretty cheap.
So what happens to the Prius? Well, the model has been out for some time, and despite a few problems, it has proven to be popular and reliable. It is relatively cheap for a hybrid car (cheaper than the Honda Civic Hybrid, for example) and has made green driving accessible to a larger market. However, for those who want to have the greenest ride and reduce their carbon footprint to a minimum, the Volt is awfully attractive, if they can pay the price for it. Whether it is worth it or not, however, is something that each consumer should figure out on his own, especially if they have a lease with Toyota for the Prius.
No matter what you choose, make sure to also get a reliable car insurance quote before you make a final decision. Maybe the price of insurance will be the tipping point in favor of one model or the other. Remember that you can also get a used Prius, whereas it’ll take some years before used Volts show up on the market.