Electric Cars not the wave of the future in California.

Chevy Volt

This article was written in 2009, so it needs to be updated, but some of the info is still relevant. The cost of charging a car can be subsudized and sub-metered for lower kilowatt costs, so the math changed over time. Looks like for the better 🙂


So, I have been looking into the new chevy volt and other cars coming out over the next year or two. One thing the car companies want you to believe is that these new cars are going to cost you significantly less to drive. That may be true in the middle of Montana, but here in California we have something called “Southern California Edison.”

Let’s get down to some numbers.
The Chevy volt claims to get 230 Miles per Gallon. WELL… Let’s forget that stupid little number for now, considering it’s electric, the gasoline rating doesn’t matter at all. Let’s TALK KILOWATTS!

The Chevy Volt will use 16 Killowatts per hour, as said here by GM:

What Will it Cost To Drive a Chevy Volt?

They list the Chevy volt as driving 40 miles on that 16 Killowatts… AND then at the bottom in the note they claim 40 miles on 8 Killowatts.

On this site:
They Claim 100 miles on 25 Killowatts.

Let’s do some math here on these numbers:
4 MPK (Miles per Killowatt), 2.5 MPK, and 5 MPK. That’s a very big range. I’m going to go with the 4 MPK as listed on Chevy’s web site.
Keep in mind what a car is rated at in terms of mile per gallon, is hardly ever correct. My hybrid is listed at 50 MPG and gets an average of 34. Getting approximately 70% of what is being claimed by the manufacturer

OK, SO 4 MPK! That sounds pretty decent. 10 Killowatts for 40 miles. Seems ok. Well, let’s just check how much that REALLY is for Southern California.

Well, how much does a Killowatt cost?

Power is supplied in Tiers, which means, the more you use, the higher the rates go. A good explanation is here: http://www.sce.com/customerservice/billing/tiered-rates/

I know NO ONE who uses under their first tier of electricity. If you have a computer, fridge, washer, dryer, TV, AC, you’ll end up being in tier 2 or 3. The tiers and usage have gone unchanged and their baseline electric costs since the 60’s. Back to my point, the Killowatt cost is as thus:
Tier 1: $0.12
Tier 2: $0.14
Tier 3: $0.24
Tier 4: $0.27
Tier 5: $0.31

Look at that jump in between tier 2 and 3. Keep in mind these numbers DON’T include 5.8 cents per KWH for electric delivery. So Let’s just add that in!
Tier 1: $0.18
Tier 2: $0.20
Tier 3: $0.30
Tier 4: $0.33
Tier 5: $0.39

How the numbers jump! So let’s go with our 10 Killowatts for 40 Miles equation.
MPK=Miles per Killowatt.
Tier 1: $1.80 for 40 miles – Not Bad!
Tier 2: $2.00 for 40 miles – Still Pretty Good!
Tier 3: $3.00 for 40 miles – Um. OK
Tier 4: $3.33 for 40 miles – um
Tier 5: $3.90 for 40 miles – Better than an SUV?

Let’s just predict that the 4 Miles per Killowatt is an OVER-ESTIMATE, like most MPG ratings are! Let’s go with the 70% Average . Which would make it 2.8 Miles per Killowatt.
40 Miles, Again- 14.3 Killowatts for 40 Miles now
Tier 1: $2.58 for 40 miles – Cool
Tier 2: $2.86 for 40 Miles – Ok
Tier 3: $4.29 for 40 miles – WTF?
Tier 4: $4.79 for 40 miles – Seriously?
Tier 5: $5.58 for 40 miles – WOW

Oh, and did I mention Southern California edison is looking to raise the rates again?
From 10 to 13.3% increase for Tiers 3 to 5. So the more you drive, the higher tier you will go.

My Conclusion:
I would love to use less fossil fuels in order to travel from day to day, but let’s face it. It’s not cost efficient or feasible right now. Even if you do plug in your car you’re using OIL and GAS ALREADY http://www.energy.ca.gov/maps/power_plant.html .
You’re not saving fossil fuels by using an electric car, you’re burning through it at a higher cost to you! Why add even more to your power bill by adding another power sucking car to your list of appliances in your home, causing you to go up more tiers of cost. In other words if you’re on Tier 2 now, add your car, and you could go up to tier 3 and now suddenly you home electric costs are 41% higher!

I can see why Southern California Electric would LOVE you to drive an electric car. Seriously, just drive a hybrid or a low MPG car and forget electric cars in California.

BTW.. The COST of the Chevy volt will be around 37,000 . http://gm-volt.com/2009/03/27/gm-chevy-volt-price-depends-on-cost-of-gas-and-will-be-set-in-may-2010/

The cost of a prius: 22,000
51/48 MPG.


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Kc Wayland

Creator of "We're Alive: A Story of Survival" and "We're Alive: Lockdown". Writer and director, with a current focus on audio drama production.
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By Kc Wayland

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