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Study: Chevrolet Volt Drivers Suffer From 'Gas Anxiety'

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

One of the biggest hurdles facing electric car manufacturers is range anxiety -- that is, the public's fear that the battery on an electric vehicle will run out of juice, leaving them stranded.

But an intriguing new study has revealed a different sort of anxiety that afflicts owners of the Chevrolet Volt, which has jokingly been called "gas anxiety".

That's not a fear of running out of gas, it's a fear of having to visit the gas station at all.

The study

According to the New York Times, the study was conducted by ECOtotality, a San Francisco-based company specializing in electric transportation. Not only does ECOtotality create and install charging systems for homes and businesses, but it's also partnered with the Department of Energy to track how electric car owners use charging stations. The hope is that this information will help the public and private sector develop the charging infrastructure more quickly and efficiently.

Though ECOtotality's study is ongoing, the company has released some preliminary data on the roughly 6,000 vehicles it's tracking, most of which are Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts. (ECOtotality offered participants free chargers and a discount on home installation in exchange for participating.) Here are a few of the key bulletpoints to date:

1. Electric car owners who have charging stations at home use them far more often than charging stations in public places. That's because owners tend to plug in their vehicles overnight, so they're fully charged in the morning. 

2. That doesn't mean, however, that public charging stations at hotels and fast-food restaurants aren't used. Owners of the fully electric Nissan Leaf, for example, plug in when they're on the go about 11% of the time.

3. What's interesting, though, is that owners of the Chevy Volt -- which has a gas engine to supply power after the Volt's battery depletes its 40-mile range -- plug in nearly twice as often as Leaf owners. In fact, Volt owners plug in 21% of the time when they're out for work or running errands.

4. And yet, owners of both vehicles make a point of visiting shops where charging is available. In fact, they visit those places three times as often as non-EV owners and stay twice as long.

ECOtotality wouldn't say why Volt owners might be topping off their batteries more often than Leaf owners. Based on some of the owners we've seen profiled in Volt commercials, though, we have a hunch that some see dodging the pump as part of a game. The fact that they could rely on gas sets the stage for a self-imposed challenge: "How long can I go without filling up?"

If you have thoughts on the matter, we'd love to hear them, especially if you're a Volt or Leaf owner. Leave a note in the comments below -- and be sure to read a lengthier write-up on the ECOtotality study at Green Car Reports.

 
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Comments (27)
  1. Dear Reader
    I'm a Volt owner and achieved a gas millage of 225 miles per gal.
    My tank is always just 1/3 full with gas the rest would be dead weight.
    Now a "gas anxiety" is not happening, I think people study to much all I have is a satisfying feeling not using that much gas, plus have a car to drive which is fun to drive.
    I can drive from east to west all the miles I want with this car and every Volt owner knows that so this article is not worth the paper it's written on.
    Sincerely
    Max Bebie
     
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  2. I love going to the gas station in my Volt.
    I put about 2 gallons in every 4-6 weeks. to keep the tank at about 3 gallons for any emergency travel.

    I like to use outside charging stations when available, though I rarely need them, just to let them know they are valued.

    I will, however, select a hotel, when traveling, based on availability of recharging.
     
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  3. I own a Volt and am running right at 165 MPG. There are some days when I barely use 20 miles of range but there are others where I am driving 80 to 100. I haven't really changed my driving habits much compared to my previous car but some of my habits have changed. When asked where to meet for lunch I will suggest places that have a charging station near or I will suggest someplace downtown because I don't have to pay for parking as an owner of an EV. Business owners: putting in a charging station is good for your business. Even if its just a 120v plug in and not all the way at the front door... it's better than nothing and can get me the last mile home without having to rely on the gas.
     
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  4. I have had my Volt for a month now, 1000 miles driven and 4 gallons guzzled. Maybe in another month or two I might think about filling up for the first time but it's really not anything to get worked up about and wont remove the smile that is now always on my face.
     
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  5. I just picked up my 2013 Volt on Monday and I absolutely agree with the "gas anxiety" term! I know if I have to use fuel to continue a trip that's fine, it's one of the reasons I chose the Volt over the Leaf, but I absolutely do everything in my power to avoid using the fuel at all! It's definitely a game and it has seriously impacted my driving style. I used to zip all over just because I had vehicles that could, but I do everything in my power to keep the efficiency maximized to avoid trips to the gas station.
     
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  6. It's a gas phobia not gas anxiety....

    MrEnergyCzar
     
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  7. We are the proud owners of 2 Chevy Volts. My wife has real gas anxiety, she went over 16 months on the dealer supplied gas, and her mpg is over 600. I am not so inclined to worry about that but in that vein it has been since Feb. sinc I bought any gas.. My real reason to get these cars was to get off OPEC and keep money at home. American energy for American jobs.
     
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  8. I have not been to the GAS pump since I got my Volt.

    So..... Yep. I guess you can call this 'Gas Anxiety'.
     
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  9. "Gas Anxiety"- what a clueless, Fox-News-type piece of propaganda. Those of us who drive Volts plug in more because WE USE OUR CARS MORE- like everyday. Would you buy $4/gallon gas if you could drive 45 miles on $1 worth of electricity? Drive a Volt, get at least 100 MPG- its just that simple.
     
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  10. I've now put 10,000 mi on my volt and have burned less than 40 gal of gas, so I do go on extended trips. When I have to add gas its strange since it feels like its been forever since I had put gas in. While I'm adding the 5 or 6 gallons of gas I find myself looking around to see if anybody is watching and when someone is watching, the thought goes through my mind "Wonder what they might be thinking". Thats an electric vehicle, he shouldn't need gas, or that person is being energy wasteful. Actually I'm finding that a large percentage of people do not even understand the technology so filling it looks natural. Try driving around with your charge door open and you'll get people pointing thinking its your fuel door.
     
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  11. I do not use gas in my Volt unless I go out of town on a mini vacation. I drive country roads cuz lower speeds increase my range. When I am out of town I don't get gas anxiety I jus put in a little. I am at 123 MPG because and only because I do alot of vacation travel. About 12000 miles worth out of 40,000 miles on the car in 20 moths of owning it. I love my Volt and still drive around with a Volt smile cuz I know I am smarter.
     
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  12. I don't think of it as anxiety...for me it is more of a game. I think with work, I can "win" the game by keeping my gas consumption under my "personal goal" of 2 gallons a month (or 2 gallons per 1000 miles). This month I am "losing" the game because I am at 2.2 gallons consumption at around 700 miles and it is only the 20th. Again, is this anxiety, a game, mindfulness (awareness of fuel consumption enabled by the car providing so much data), OCD behavior or something else. I will stick with it being a game.
     
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  13. As a LEAF driver, I notice that Volt drivers plug in more often. I, like Volt drivers, don't want to buy gasoline. I chose a LEAF because traveling 100% electric took precedence over the periodic long-range trip. I rent when I do that and I'm still way ahead financially with current gas prices.
     
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  14. I'm with you. Our local Walgreens drug stores all have free chargers, so I plugged in my Leaf once just to see if it would work. Whenever I drive past the charger, the only cars I see plugged in are Volts and an occasional Pruis plug-in. Since frequent charging cycles shortens Leaf battery life, so they say, topping off when I don't need the range makes no sense. However, I do appreciate merchants like Walgreens who've gotten on-board the EV bandwagon and they'll get my business when ever possible!
     
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  15. I think the most important point for businesses and shops and restaurants to take away from the article is this.

    4. And yet, owners of both vehicles make a point of visiting shops where charging is available. In fact, they visit those places three times as often as non-EV owners and stay twice as long.
    I have found my habits being changed significantly. I will go to a business, shop or restaurant if they have a charger versus those that don't. Even if there's a place that's closer or more convenient, if they don't have a charger and there's a similar place that does, I'll go to the place with the charger.

    Changing peoples habits is an incredibly hard thing to do for businesses. Installing a free charger has done it for me.
     
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  16. I don't have gas anxiety, I have OPEC anxiety. The high price of oil, wherever it happens to be produced, allows OPEC countries to fund terrorism, develop nuclear weapons, and stir up religious hatred around the world.

    Expensive production methods like off-shore and arctic drilling and fracking depend on high oil prices. The only way to bring oil back to $10 per barrel is to stop buying gasoline.

    My Volt and I do our part.
     
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  17. Yes, I totally admit to "gas anxiety" with my new 2012 Volt. I have 240V charging station at home and we have several charging stations around town in Ann Arbor. I have to stop myself from trying to drive my big truck on longer trips just to avoid having to hit the gas on the Volt though!
     
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  18. I got my Opel Ampera/Chevy Volt four days ago and i ALWAYS charge it once near an outlet. I try to avoid to run on gas - that's simply it. Running the Volt/Ampera on battery gives me a fantastic feeling (no vibration, no noise, no smell) so i hate it when the combustion engine kicks in and ruins my driving experience - kind of ;-)
    That's different if i PLAN to run the trip partly on gas (highway-150 miles).
     
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  19. I've only burned 17.9 gallons in about 17.5k miles. I definitely don't love having to hit the gas station, but I'm glad I have a car that will take me as far as I need it without recharging.

    http://voltowner.blogspot.com
     
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  20. When my wife threatens me with divorce because I turn down the heat to improve mileage, I suppose anxiety might be the appropriate term :) Currently 4,500 miles on 10.1 gallons. The .1 was becuase of the heat!
     
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  21. My wife and I have owned a 2012 Volt since August and just hit 1500 miles and 3.5 gallons of gas. We've joked about the reverse of range anxiety, never wanting to use gas. The data stream from the Volt does an amazing job of providing feedback about your driving habits, wanting to keep the circle all green is definitely a game in the Volt. The important point is this is just a game, while running out of juice in an all electric car is no game. The stress of having electric range anxiety makes all-electric a non-option for us.
    Does anyone recommend a good app for locating charging stations? I've been using PlugShare and it's pretty good.
     
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  22. I am a Volt owner. I think the article is right on! When I use my car around town, I do my very best not to use gas (running at 202 MPG since I bought it). It's great to know I can use gas if I have to (or if I go on a long trip), but it's fun to limit it as much as possible. While I know it isn't the end of the world if I use gas, I definitely feel anxious about using it, but in a fun sense of the word. I find that the Volt's charge is enough to get me where I need to go all on gas about 9 out of 10 days, but I definitely try to increase that number by charging at stores or other places that have stations.
     
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  23. We have a Leaf and a Volt. I would have thought the reason Volt owners charge more often is obvious: They have a smaller battery. Both Leaf and Volt owners want to avoid gas, but with a 40 mile EV range Volt owners will need to charge more often to make that a reality.
     
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  24. I have driven my Volt 3700 miles on 30 gallons of gas. I use gas on my work trips which are 450 miles round trip. Around town I try not to use gas. One thing I have noticed is that we don't drive my wife's van as much since we got the Volt. I have only had to fill the van once in the last 4 months. I enjoy the sporty drive of the Volt and the challenge of getting 45+ miles per charge each day.
     
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  25. I am a 2012 Nissan Leaf owner since Dec. 2011. The Leaf range estimation display can cause some concern initially. It takes some getting used to. But soon you realize that you are not actually driving as far as you may have thought each day and you have ample range with a daily or every other day charge to 80%. I surmise since the Volt's EV-range of 40 miles is half the Leaf's, the concern may be doubled. I bet many Volt drivers are like Leaf drivers and really want to kick the gasoline habit, so they eschew gasoline and go for public charges whenever they're out and about. The Volt is a good alternative to the Leaf, e.g., if you are a one-car family and/or occasionally need to take trips beyond the electric range of the Leaf.
     
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  26. I've had my Volt over 6 months and have only been to the pump once. My average mileage is about 350 mpg. My only gas purchase was the week that I bought the car, I've hardly used gas in the six months since then. I live in a place that has no charging stations, so I just have to be careful. I'm probably going to take a trip in it just to burn the old gas out, but the Volt is just a perfect car for those of us who primarily just drive around town.
     
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  27. I think this article is actually spot-on. As a Volt owner with about 3500 miles on my car, I've used about 3 gallons of gas. The dealer gave it to me with a full tank, and I've only gone to gas stations to wash the windows. That gives me an mpg of around 1200, and it just goes up. I think the whole mpg concept is obsolete now, at least when it comes to the Volt. The gas anxiety concept, though, that's interesting (to me, at least). When I first got the Volt, I thought of the battery range as the "full" range, even though I intellectually knew it wasn't. I was all but desperate to keep the battery range above 0, but then one day took a longer round trip and...nothing bad! However, I still want to be greener and improve upon 1200mpg.
     
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