Rethinking Lifestyle

Update on my Electric Car

  • Gary Martens, Guest Author
  • Retired Lecturer U of M, Agronomist

When I last wrote it was mid-September and I had just bought a 2013 Chevy Volt from Ben R Auto in Steinbach. I now have about 6000 km of experience. During the warmer days in September I could typically get 50-55 km out of a full battery charge (10.5 Kwatts costing 85 cents). My electric mileage averaged about 200 watts per km at 100 km/hour. After Wade Wiebe wrote his article entitled “Time to save gas” I tested the concept and found he was correct and I only needed 160 watts per km at 80 km/hour. It is interesting that in a gas powered car you get better mileage on the highway because it is continuous and not stop and go. With the electric car it is just the opposite; better mileage in the city in stop and go traffic because there is no idling at the stop light and the slower you go the more efficient your mileage.

In a round trip from Kleefeld to Winnipeg, the trip there, 53.9 km used 9.3 Kilowatts of electricity and 0.75 litres of gasoline. The gas motor ran because of the cold temperatures. The batteries have an active climate control system keeping them at a comfortable 20ºC. The trip back, 58.6 km (slightly different route) used 1.2 Kilowatts for a total of 10.5 Kilowatts for the whole trip giving me an average of 205 watts per km. I ran out of battery after 4.9 km coming home for a total of 51.2 km on battery. The rest of the 53.7 km coming home took 3.5 litres for a gasoline mileage of 6.5 litres/100 km (43.7 mpg CDN) from the 1.4 litre engine. Total cost of fuel for the trip: 4.25 litres @ $1.20/litre = $5.10 for gasoline and 10.5 Kwatts @ $0.08/Kwatt = $0.84 for electricity for a total round-trip cost Kleefeld to Winnipeg of $5.94 or 5.3 cents per km.

I did an analysis of the economics of my 2013 Chevy Volt compared to buying a 2013 Chevy Cruze. If I assume 10,000 km annual mileage on gasoline and 15,000 km on battery compared to 25,000 km on a Cruze and take into account the higher purchase price of the Chevy Volt ($20,600 compared to $12,430 for the Cruze) and higher depreciation (I depreciated both to $1,000 in 10 years) on the Volt I will break even at $1.20 per litre of gasoline. Below that it would have been better to buy the Cruze but above $1.20 per litre the Volt is a better economic choice. If I mainly drive between Kleefeld and Steinbach I could travel mostly on batteries meaning that the economic choice would be the Volt at a price of $1.00 per litre or higher.

This winter I averaged about 3 litres per 100 kilometers in my commute from Kleefeld to Winnipeg and back. I could have done better if I had a continuous power supply on the parking lot block heater plugs but they cycle on and off which my charger could not handle.

So far I am happy with my purchase. The only impact of minus 20 degrees was that the engine ran more to keep the batteries warm. Another interesting item: I can fully charge the Chevy Volt twice per day with the 4.5 Kwatt solar panels on my roof courtesy of Evolve Green in Marchand. That is in winter with an average production of about 20 kilowatt hours per day. Now in the middle of April the system is producing just over 30 kilowatt hours per day.