How's That For MPG?Pretty much every time I write about the Chevy Volt and other plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), I try to mention the fact that the ultimate fuel-efficiency results you'll get will depend heavily on your driving habits, much more so than with a gas-only or non-pluggable hybrid. Basically, if your Volt has an electric range of about 40 miles and every time you leave your driveway you drive 200 miles, you'll spend most of your time running on gasoline and won't get maximum benefits from your PHEV drivetrain. But if your daily commute is within the electric range of the car, you might find yourself almost always driving on electricity alone, leading to huuuge gas savings.
This seems to be what happened to Jeffrey Kaffee, the retired airline pilot who, two years ago, became the first Chevrolet Volt owner in the world. After putting 12,000 miles on his Volt, he has only burned 26.1 gallons of gasoline! That's an average of about 1.08 gallon per month. Or put another way, that's 459 miles per gallon of gasoline (though of course that's not counting the electricity that he used). Pretty impressive!
Of course, this doesn't mean that your results would be the same if you had a Volt. You have to look at your driving patterns, and figure out if most of your trips would be within the Volt's electric range (between 35-40 miles) or not. Even if they aren't, you can still do very well if you can plug the car on each side of the commute (this basically doubles your electric range).
Mr. Kaffee did do longer trips using his wife's Camry hybrid or by flying (as a retired pilot, he flies for free), so this does mitigate his numbers, but even if we adjust for that, they remain way better than what the average car does. As plug-ins improve and become cheaper over time, we'll see PHEVs like the Volt get progressively bigger electric driving ranges and so further improve their real-world fuel consumption numbers, and pure electrics will eventually remove the need to burn gasoline altogether (and if we keep cleaning up the power grid, their footprint will be further reduced).