Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On the Chevy Volt

Well, evidently GM has brought out a hybrid car that will work pretty much like a diesel-electric locomotive. A gasoline engine drives a generator, batteries drive a motor. The Volt is a fairly typical compact car otherwise, and should retail for somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. Let's see what happens if it indeed eliminates the cost of gasoline for a driver who commutes 10,000 miles or so per year--250 days of work times a 40 mile round trip commute, and let's compare it with the Cobalt, built on the same platform.

Pricing for the Cobalt starts at about $15,000, and its real world mileage is probably about 30mpg. The 300 gallons you'd put in it each year would set you back about $1200. The electricity to charge it? Battery capacity is 16kW-H, so you're going to spend about $400/year in juice to charge it.

The flip side? Well, you've just paid double or more for your car, and hence the annual cost of owning a hybrid is about $2000 to $3000 over that for the Cobalt--10% depreciation and 5% interest on $15000-$20,000 excess cost. One could theoretically break even if the price of gasoline got to $10-15/gallon, but remember that the price of electricity will increase as well because all that coal is brought to market by diesel powered locomotives.

So if you've got an extra $10-15k in your bank account that you want to use to help the environment, may I suggest a new bike?


Gabrielle Eden said...

A new bike is my next major purchase. I'll stay tuned to you, the bike master.

Gabrielle Eden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bike Bubba said...

Gabrielle, my recommendation for virtually anybody is really simple. First, if you have a bike, take it to a reputable bike shop (Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Costco are NOT in this category) and see if it can be made into something worth riding. Sometimes for $100 or $200 in repairs and upgrades, an old beater can be quite nice.

If that can't work out, plan on spending at least $300 to $400 on a new hybrid, comfort, or mountain bike. Don't worry too much about how heavy it is; most of us are (sigh) carrying 10 lbs that is equivalent to the difference between a $500 bike and a $5000 bike. (if you're not, my apologies) Just get something that the salesman/lady can fit well to your height and body type.

pentamom said...

Hard to fit two people and the groceries on the bike, though.

Not knocking bikes, mind you! But they only work for individual, personal, short-distance transportation, not multiple people, journeys, or even a modicum of payload.

And of course I take your main point about the non-economy of the hybrids.

Bike Bubba said...

Well, you obviously need to get bikes for those kids, and a Burley trailer (or a few since you have teens) for those groceries. :^)

Probably not the best idea if you're more than a few miles from the store, or if you're picking up frozen foods or rock salt, but it can be done.

And yes, I can't see a hybrid powertrain displacing the trusty old minivan anytime soon, either. Oh well. Love the technology, but sad to say it's not there yet.