Rick Hanley will be keeping a close eye on his fuel gauge this week, but not for the same reason that most gas weary drivers watch the meter.
The Durham resident is one of a growing number of car owners who've turned their cheek to rising gas prices by purchasing an electric car.
"When I really started cranking through the numbers I said, 'Whoa, this is really big time savings,'" Hanley said about the 2011 Chevy Volt that he purchased last spring.
Hanley is a researcher with the state Department of Transportation and in his personal opinion, the Volt is the first "commercially viable" electric vehicle to hit the market.
"I wouldn't say mainstream, but at least they'll be viable alternatives," he said.
Although the sticker price for a Volt is around $40,000, a $7,500 tax credit and annual fuel savings in the thousands of dollars was enough to convince Hanley to buy the vehicle four months ago.
"Unless you really look at the value of all of these things, and go through the whole economic analysis you really can't see the advantage if you just use the sticker price," he said.
Chevrolet announced last month that it was on course to break the company's monthly sales record by selling 2,500 Volts in August.
The announcement comes as gas prices soar — they've never been higher on Labor Day, in fact. In Connecticut, AAA says the average gallon of gas has risen to $4.03, 20 cents higher than the national average of $3.82.
The Volt requires premium gas — about $4.30/gallon currently — but a website tracking Volt owners suggests that the average driver gets about 100 miles per gallon (Hanley said he gets about 75 miles per gallon).
A lithium-ion battery allows the vehicle to travel up to 40 miles on a single charge, without using any gasoline. That's exactly the distance Hanley travels roundtrip to work each day, from Durham to Newington and back.
"If I time it just right, and I don't push it I can make it all the way to work and all the way back home," he said.
Hanley estimates that he travels about 24,000 miles a year and will save several thousand dollars in gas with his new car each year. He charges the Volt by plugging it into a standard electrical outlet for 8-9 hours, which he said costs about $2 per day.
"I feel bad when the price of gas is so I high, but it's one of those things, it's supply and demand, and I figure if I can take some of the demand away hopefully the price is gonna start dropping," he said.
While operating in all-electric mode the Volt does not produce any tailpipe emissions and because Connecticut generates most of its electricity through nuclear power or natural gas, CO2 emissions are reduced further.
The vehicle, which only requires about one oil change every two years, drives like a sports car, according to Hanley.
"I thought I would have to make compromises in order to deal with it. The car has really just lived up to expectations," he said.
Of course, there's his personal reason for buying the car.
"My wife has a nephew, he's in the Marine Reserves. He had been deployed to Iraq and did another tour in Afghanistan and we looked at each other [and said] if we can do something. We've got to get off big oil.
"My philosophy is you don't have to go 100 percent but at least we're trying."
Disclaimer: Although Mr. Hanley is employed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT), the contents of this article do not reflect the official views or policies of CT DOT. The State of Connecticut does not endorse products or manufacturers.