A recent cost-to-drive analysis has found the Chevrolet Volt requires less expense to operate than the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid even when the Volt doubles its all-electric range.

In other words, even if the Chevrolet exhausts its 35 miles of EPA-rated battery range, it takes another 35 miles of fuel usage before the breakeven point is reached compared to the 49 mpg Toyota.

Up until 70 miles driven, the American car's energy costs were found to be lower than its Japanese competitor.


Further, assuming a consumer takes advantage of the Volt’s $7,500 federal tax credit versus the Prius Plug-in’s $2,500 credit, the net cost of purchase is only $2,000 less for the Prius.

These findings were by Pike Research’s John Gartner writing for Plugincars.com, and based on a few assumptions.

Namely, the comparison figured gasoline at $3.50 per gallon and electricity at 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. The calculation also assumed the gasoline engine in each vehicle would not be engaged at all until respective battery packs are depleted.

It’s very possible however that the gasoline engine would come on prior to exhaustion of electric drive power, especially for the Prius.

The Prius Plug-in has an estimated 14 miles of electric range, and driving it requires care. Lead foots will be penalized with the engine kicking on, and it takes a couple days at least to learn to drive the Plug-in Prius in a way that Ralph Nader would fully approve.

Naturally, the graph above shows one possible scenario. Gartner did not publish numbers for a variety of scenarios, just this one average possibility.

Changing variables will of course alter results, but one takeaway message is the Volt is still a money saver after the battery pack is depleted and the gasoline generator goes into charge sustaining mode.

For drivers contemplating longer round-trip commutes of 50-60-plus miles, daily costs could still be less for the smoother, faster and better handling Volt than the long-awaited Prius with a plug.

What is more, cost for drives below 35 miles are especially in the Volt's favor.

And looking at the graph further, note the higher cost for the Volt is not exactly earth shattering even in 80-plus mile drives.

Considering the Volt is a nicer ride, price difference is not so great, and a driver could begin to recoup that in lower energy costs, the case for the Volt keeps looking better.