Dear PoPville – Should DC Government Purchase Chevy Volt Cars?

Dear PoPville,

I saw a dc issued chevy volt and i was surprised that the govt would spend that kind of money in this or any economy.

I understand that there is a federal tax credit that reduces the cost significantly but i would like there to be a discussion on “the consumer culture” in dc govt. Why are luxury purchases necessary to do a job? Wouldnt a sub compact fulfill that purpose with economic and environmental considerations taken into account?

Ed. Note: Looks like you can get a new Chevy Volt for $31,645.

35 Comment

  • DC should absolutely be purchasing low or zero emission vehicles. The fuel cost savings and reduced maintenance over the life of a plug-in vehicle are substantial, without even counting the savings on the negative externalities of oil use, such as climate change, localized air pollution, geopolitical instability, etc. Governments play a critical role in pushing developing technologies like plug-in vehicles forward, so that the costs can come down further and they can achieve greater societal acceptance.

    • I’m willing to be convinced of this, but show me the numbers. Where is the cost-benefit analysis? If each car cost $20K, this would be a no brainer to buy them. At $1 million, a no brainer not to buy them. But how much do these things costs? I’ve read that the cost of production is around $60-75K, so a cost of $70K seems realistic (As another commenter noted, the DC government does not qualify for a tax credit). That’s, what, $40K more than a conventional alternative? Do the fuel savings cover that? And how much is the pollution savings — don’t these things run off the power grid that is mostly coal-powered? Is the DC government’s purchase of, say, 200 cars going to slow climate change or result in geopolitical stability? What is the rationale? Thanks.

    • +1

      I can’t imagine that the Volt is that much more expensive than the other fleet cars the District purchases anyway.

    • BS. It’s crap like this that ruins the reputation of many a liberal cause. Fuel savings and possible (as yet unproven) reduced maintenance costs won’t come close to paying for the higher price tag of this vehicle. If DC wants to buy a few carbon credits to reduce its carbon footprint, great. But don’t spend my tax dollars on wasteful status crap.

      Now if only there was someone to vote for who actually opposed this sort of thing.


      • Really? Well you tell me what fuel prices are going to be 6-8 years from now…then tell me this won’t save any money. Worst case they cost the same as a “regular” car. Best case, gas prices skyrocket (actually that wouldn’t be great news) and DC comes out way ahead by not having to spend that on gas.

    • I want your statement to be true but is it actually cheaper, given the absurdly high cost of replacing the lithium ion batteries every 3-5 years?

    • Zero emissions? I guess this is why so many people on the Left are stupid. So you claim to be the party of ‘science’ right?

      If so, where do you think electricity comes from? Magic land? The tooth fairy? Your parents?

      Sorry to burst your precious bubble, but electricity come from power plants. You know, those yucky buildings that give us light and heat.

      Anyway, Pepco gets roughly 40% of its energy from oil/coal and the other 60% from natural gas (which btw is the good thing, because natural gas emits 50% less carbon than oil or coal ).

      But yeah, lets buy cars that don’t work well in the winter, tend to over heat and catch fire and is roughly an unreliable vehicle. But yes, lets buy a car that has no commercial value and is only around still because the govt mandates them.

  • What about all of those gas hog SUVs that the police are driving? Since gas is going for $4 a gallon these days, those toys have got to cost the DC tax payer some big bucks.

  • I would bet in most cases the Chevy Volt would not be classified as a luxury car.

    Purchasing cars like this is pretty smart in my opinion – both now and in the long run.

  • What they shouldn’t be purchasing are non-American cars. That fleet of Honda Civics is shameful.

    • Ummm, clearly you don’t know how the US auto market works. Some of the most “American” cars today are from “import” brands.” The Toyota Camry has more parts made in America (80% of the vehicle) than any Chevy, Ford, or Dodge gas-guzzling “small car”. Heck, Chrysler and Dodge are owned by an Italian car company now. So what makes American, American? Heck in 2011, 5 of the top 10 American cars were Hondas and Toyotas.

  • Not to nitpick, but the DC government wouldn’t get a federal tax credit since they are not a federal taxpayer.

  • Allison

    This is good policy for an area in ozone non-attainment under the Clean Air Act. Although we aren’t an area required to have clean-fuel municipal fleets, DC may be projecting that our ozone non-attainment will only grow worse. Early compliance is the best compliance.

  • Yes. Next question.

  • Not that anyone here is claiming this, but still:

    The Claim: “The Chevy Volt ‘costs more than 7 times as much to run and takes 3 times as long to drive across country’ than a standard automobile.”


    These are — as any idiot (other than a Fox reporter understands) — designed for local driving, of course.

    Yes, our federal, state and local governments should be buying them. While the cost/benefit equation is not yet where we want it to be, unless we want to cede the future market for electric vehicles and advanced light and powerful batteries to the Chinese, we MUST do this. They are investing many times what we are all around the world (google “Chinese lithium mining”).

  • go here:

    and here:

    for cost comparisons and other data

  • lol – as others have pointed out, a Volt is not exactly a luxury car. Now if they were driving a fleet of Tesla Roadsters, THAT would be an extravagance. Perhaps the OP was confused?

  • Do we know that these vehicles are owned (does DC gov have a policy against leasing vehicles)? This makes a pretty big difference, because volt leases are much more competitive than purchase prices lately.

    • +1

      As a former DC government employee, I can tell you that (at least in the agency I worked for) almost all of the vehicles are leased.

      Also little known fact about vehicle purchasing/leasing – per DC regulations, something like 75% of vehicles that agencies purchase or lease must be alternative fuel vehicles. As the regulation is written, hybrid vehicles are NOT considered alternative fuel or given any preference for mpg rating (my agency had to return a Prius that we had leased because of this requirement). Alternative fuel vehicles currently include natural gas, electric, and ethanol. The vast majority of cars in my department were flex fuel cars, but considering ethanol offers no real cost savings and there is a dearth of ethanol pumps, most people just fill them with regular gas.

      I think the volt would probably be a step up here – even if you don’t install a network of high capacity charging stations, you could easily plug the volt into a normal outlet over night where ever the vehicle lives.

  • A volt is a luxury car?

    Secondarily, fleet purchasers never pay close to invoice, let alone MSRP. They generally get pretty good deals because manufacturers love the press and the regular bulk purchases.

    When MPD recently bought a new batch of Ford Interceptors, they got them outfitted for 40K a piece, 12 K above the base price of the Ford Taurus it is based on, even though it had $15K in modifications (bigger engine, brakes, shocks, higher output alternators etc). Basically, they were getting a fully outfitted car for about 2K less than you or I could go in to a dealer and buy the base model without the lights and sirens. So lets hold the pitchforks shall we.

    The district is a perfect jurisdiction for electric / hybrid electric cars. The District is geographically tiny, only 11 miles from its most northern point to it most southern part.

  • These also fit in well with the mayor’s environmental initiatives/plan for the city. Wow – a politician putting his money where his mouth is!

  • I’d rather our local government officials use public transportation or other means that don’t cost us nearly as much, but if they are going to travel by car, I’d push a chevy volt over most other vehicles. And I hope they plug it into a clean energy source, as plugging into a coal powered system just dumps the problems elsewhere.

  • The battery packs have an 8 year, 100,000 mile warranty.

    That being said, these cars would be used quite frequently i’d imagine and would hit 100,000 miles in a few short years. The warranty also only covers the what they deam as excessive battery deterioration. So, normal usage making the battery not last as long gets no love.

  • Volts could save money over time. City cars put a lot on a lot of miles in very short increments.

    I’m not sure you have much credibility if you think that volts cost 70k or that DC pays federal taxes.

    If this had been fenty’s idea I wonder if this would have even come up?

  • the expert analysis on this post is awesome.

  • I’d rather the Volt over Kwame’s custom Lincoln Navigators

  • Electrification of our fleet will help reduce our need for imported oil and gas. It could help reduce emissions that cause our air pollution problems. FedEx, Coke, UPS, etc are all looking at EV truck fleets too. I think it’s great that DC shows such leadership in alternative fueled vehicles.

  • Should DC Government Purchase Chevy Volt Cars? —


    They are ugly.

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