Monday, March 26, 2012

My First Volt May Be a Zipcar

My Jeep is in its 20th year and I am starting to think about getting a Chevy Volt to replace it. Off to Clay Chevrolet on the auto mile in Norwood. Time for a test drive.

The 2012 Volt has a battery-powered electric engine and a backup gasoline-powered electricity generator. The round circle above and behind the right front wheel is where you plug it in. The gas tank is in the rear on the other side.

The dash tells you how much battery charge and gasoline you have left, as well as your remaining driving range. The Volt has a total range of around 375 miles using battery and a 9 gallon gas tank.

I don't really like the look of the center dash console. The salesman Scott spent 10 to 20 minutes explaining all the environmental control and On Star options.

Here's the sticker. That 94 MPGe is sure impressive, but what exactly is an MPGe? I get that the "e" is for electricity. On gasoline, it gets 37 MPG, which is pretty good.

The car gets a 10 on the cleanest for global warning score, but only a 6 on the smog rating. That's probably based on the coal-fired power plants needed to charge the batteries. It will also run on wind, solar, or nuclear.

Here's the charging station at the dealer. The Volt takes 4 hours to fully charge at 240 volts, 10 hours at the normal household current of 110/120 volts. You can install a 240 volt home charging station.

We've now got a charging station at the local grocery store. You can charge up your car while you shop in the Porter Square Shopping Center or sit in the Porter Square Books reading On the Road and sipping lattes.

The charging station takes up 2 parking spaces near the store. The 2 behind are handicap spaces. It's possible the parking commissars let them convert 2 handicap spaces as I don't remember being able to park there. It would be fun to park up front.

What does my Jeep think of all this? Actually, I might drive the Jeep out to the family farm in Iowa this summer. With only 46,000 miles on the engine, it might last another 10 years even as the body starts to rust out. And it will get more chances to do Jeep things in rural Iowa that it does here in the 30th densest city in the U.S. (some would say Cambridge is the most dense but that's another story).

My 1993 Jeep Cherokee. I will never sell or trade it.

Simple dials on the console, old-style steering wheel before air-bags, hand-cranked windows, no power locks, and a cassette player, which I can plug a CD player or iPod into.

Will the Volt be so current in 20 years? And what would it cost me to put the Jeep out to pasture?

Item Cost
Chevy Volt MSRP $39,145
Destination freight charge 850
Bose stereo speakers 495
Floor mats for front, back, and cargo 200
Massachusetts sales tax (6.25%) 2,531
Federal tax credit for plug-in hybrids -7,500
Total cost $35,721
Monthly payment (4.5% for 5 years, $0 down) $666

The thing is, most days I don't really need a car. I live and work in Cambridge, and the one mile walk to work is just 20 minutes. The grocery store is just 3/4 mile away. Lots of weeks my Jeep stays parked Monday to Friday. Sometimes it stays parked all weekend. Carrying groceries back from the store is a drag, but I can carry one or two bags with panniers on my bicycle.

That means I have lots of options to paying $666 per month for a Volt. For example, there are two Zipcar spots just two blocks from my building.

OK, a Kia wouldn't be my first choice even if the bike rack tries to make it look cool. But it's only transportation for an hour or two. They already have some Prius hybrids and Zipcar is piloting plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in San Francisco. So one way or another, a Volt may be coming to a parking space near me soon.

Method of Transportation Per Month Per Year 5 Years
Chevy Volt cost per month $666 $7,992 $39,960
Avis weekend rentals (@ $70) 10 114 571
Cab rides (@ $15 increments) 44 533 2664
Zipcar hours (@ $7.75) 85 1,020 5,102
Subway and bus rides (@ $1.70) 392 4,701 23,506
Walking and bicycling ~ ~ ~
Apple iPads (@ $730) 1 11 55
Trips to Iowa or Oregon (@ $1,000)   8 40
Trips to Europe (@ $3,000)   2.7 13

Let's say I mix and match. One Avis weekend rental, 4 cab rides, 8 hours of Zipcar, and 5 subway or bus rides works out to $200 per month. That leaves me money for an iPad, a few trips to Iowa and Oregon, and maybe a trip to Europe.

I should include the cost of fuel in my calculations but for me that is almost irrelevant. I put $195.46 of gasoline in my Jeep in 2011, $386.2 in 2010, and $289.99 in 2009. That's $16 to $32 per month.


Penny said...

I made the zipcar decision in 2001. You forgot to calculate a couple more things into the mix.

Car insurance, excise taxes, repairs, tires etc all add to the cost of your own car and are also gone with carshare.

Then there is the time you will now have to do more interesting things than take care of a car. No time out for oil changes, no mechanics to deal with, no shoveling out the car, no washing it, waxing it, cleaning out the inside.

These beasts do require a lot of care.

cycler said...

Saw a link to your post on Uhub,

I sold my 1993 Honda Accord to a student three years ago, and it has worked out great. I live in Cambridge and work in Boston, ride my bike to work most days and use my bike for shopping- it's amazing what you can carry with a big double pannier. The only things I need a car for are going out of the city and very occasionally a big Home Depot run.
My experience was like yours in that I had a very aged, semi-reliable car (i.e. one I didn't want to drive long distances at high speeds), and I found I just never used it. We only kept it because my husband felt like he sometimes needed to drive guests around. You can do a second test where you do the zipcar thing for a test period (6 months say) and save the money you would have spent on a new car lease in a down payment fund. Maybe by next year they will have fixed the volt's console so it's not so fugly!
Good luck

MuddyValley said...

Our daily driver is the 1972 MB 220D that my father bought new. He's since passed away. The car has always been garaged, gets about 30mpg, and while there were no airbags when it was made, I would prefer to be in this solid chunk of steel than a Zip car of Volt if an accident is in the picture. I might add that repairs have been minor. New springs & shocks, tires, and once a fuel pump.

Michael Monroe said...

Put your Jeep on Relay Rides and make money off it.

fuel trailers said...

I plan on test driving a Chevy Volt as well. I like the design and I am willing to take a chance on either hyrbrid or electric cars.

Angeline said...

Chevrolet Volt is one of the good looking cars created by the company. It looks cool and has a pretty impressive interior and exterior design. I agree with the first comment. You should also consider the possible cost of motor repairs and tune ups.

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