With a gallon of gas hovering around $4, the plug-in hybrid almost seems like the pragmatic option.
Gas is expensive these days. The national average is roughly $4 per gallon. Depending on where you are (and how big your tank is), filling up can cost anywhere from $40 to $100 and up. A Ford Excursion has a 44-gallon tank. Filling one of those up from empty in Los Angeles right now would cost almost $200.
Not so with the Chevy Volt. A recent press release from General Motors claims that owners of the Volt, Chevy's new plug-in hybrid, got an average of 1,000 miles out of every fillup this past March.
“Volt owners drove an average of 800 miles between fill-ups since the Volt launched in December, and in March they averaged 1,000 miles,” said Cristi Landy, Volt marketing director. “When the majority of miles driven are electrically, gas usage decreases significantly.”\n
As a plug-in hybrid, the Volt can run on electricity or gas. When it's fully charged, it runs in "EV mode," and is essentially gas-free. When the charge is depleted, the gas motor takes over. Because it's engineered that way, there's probably a very wide range in the kind of mileage people are getting with the Volt. Gary Davis of Greenville, South Carolina, reports getting 547 miles per gallon, probably because he takes short trips and charges the car every night, and so is nearly always driving in infinity-miles-per-gallon EV mode. A Volt owner with a 70-mile daily commute would not get the same results. It's also worth noting that early adopters of the Volt are probably big alternative energy enthusiasts and may be more disposed to hypermiling and whatnot.
But still, as recently as four years ago, it seemed crazy to think that a plug-in hybrid could be the pragmatic option. They were the indulgence of quixotic treehuggers. With gas as expensive as it is now, getting 500 mpg (or even 200 mpg) means saving real money.
Of course, you could always just opt for a bike and save your health at the same time.