By on October 12, 2010

If the recent flap over the Volt’s drivetrain has taught us anything it’s that A) GM’s internal-combustion-assisted plug-in is more complicated than we thought, and B) GM is fine with simplifying its complex reality in order to make it appear as attractive as possible. Which is just fine: they’re the ones trying to sell a $41k car, and as such they’re entitled to do what they can to make it seem worth its many shortcomings. What the automotive media needs to take away from the brou-ha-ha isn’t necessarily that GM’s hesitance to bring forward “the whole truth” is an intrinsically big deal (let’s just say this wasn’t the first time), but rather that knowledgeable writers should focus on explaining the Volt in ways that are both comprehensible and fully accurate. In this spirit, the most important question isn’t “what should we call the Volt?” but “how efficient is the Volt in the real world?”And on this point, there’s plenty of room for some truthful clarification.

But as with questions of the Volt’s taxonomic category, objectively analyzing the Volt’s efficiency requires a certain amount of semantic clarity. After all, unlike any car that has come before, the Volt operates in two discrete modes: “EV mode,” in which it drives on pure electrical energy, and “Charge Sustaining” or “CS Mode,” in which its gas “range extending” engine generates electricity and (under certain circumstances) even sends torque directly the Volt’s wheels. Unlike a Prius (or other parallel hybrids), the Volt doesn’t continuously vary between gas and electric drive, but runs on pure plug-in power until the battery reaches 30 percent capacity, and then switches to CS Mode.

Because of this drivetrain concept, it’s crucial that EV Mode range is presented separately from CS Mode MPG. After all, combined MPGs from a trip using both EV and CS modes will depend entirely upon the length of the trip. If a trip lasts (say) five miles longer than the EV range (say, 40 miles in EV mode and five miles in CS mode), and the car returns (say) 50 MPG over those last five miles, it will have burnt .1 gallons for the entire trip, resulting in an average MPG of 450 MPG. But if you charge the car’s battery once (giving another hypothetical 40 miles of EV range) and then drive 450 miles (410 of which burn gas at the hypothetical rate of 50 MPG), you’d be lucky to get 55 miles per gallon for the trip. In short, how often you recharge the Volt’s batteries is the single defining factor in determining an overall MPG rating for the Volt.

And this reality is already leading to confusion. Over at Motor Trend, former TTAC writer Jonny Liebermann claims to have wrung 127 MPG out of his Volt tester, gushing

Broken down, over the course of 299 miles on Los Angeles highways, byways and freeways, the Volt burned 2.36 gallons of gasoline (fine, 2.359 gallons — we rounded up). Most other cars use up a tank of gas going 299 miles. The Volt, to reiterate, used 2.36 gallons over 299 miles. That’s freaking amazing!

Unfortunately, Lieberman prevents us from concurring with his breathless assessment by failing to include an accurate log of the trips he took to achieve that number. Working backwards through his less-than-scientifically-presented data, we reckon Lieberman got about 52.6 MPG in CS mode, with at least one battery recharge somewhere in the middle. That’s better than the consensus forming around the Volt’s CS-Mode efficiency (somewhere around 35 MPG according to Popular Mechanics and Car & Driver), but it’s still nowhere close to supporting 127 MPG as a consistently-achievable CS Mode rating (it’s also a number that GM would likely not stand by if pressed).Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t prevented GM’s social media and PR team from sending copious numbers of detractors to Lieberman’s piece by way of “educating” them.

Of course, Lieberman’s analysis is not without value: it shows that the Volt can achieve 127 MPG in “normal” driving. But with an extra charge-up somewhere in his poorly-defined test, he could easily have achieved twice that number (think the infamous “230 MPG“).  Without an actual trip log showing how much gas and electricity were used on each leg of his test, however, Lieberman’s 127 MPG number means nothing. By using it as proof that the Volt is indeed a “game changer” GM’s PR team is simply proving the extent to which they’re willing to exploit confusion (even among the august ranks of buff book contributors) in order to hype their car.

At the end of the day, the Volt’s efficiency will most accurately be represented to consumers by outlets that test EV range and CS mode range independently and transparently. Actual EV mode is important, because it will give consumers a real-world sense of how far they can go without using any gas (i.e. whether their commute is short enough to use the Volt regularly in EV mode alone). CS mode MPG is also important because it tells consumers what they can expect when the Volt’s EV range is expended. Any attempt to fuse the two into a number that can be compared to the MPG of a Prius or Escalade must be clearly qualified by a transparent accounting of the trips used to get that rating.

Thus far, a consensus on these points is building:

Popular Mechanics calculates a 33 mile average EV mode range, and between 32 and 36 MPG in CS mode.

C&D claims between 26 and “the upper 30s” for EV range in miles, and 35 MPG for CS mode.

We’ll keep a close eye on efficiency test results for the Volt, and report them here at TTAC in terms of EV range and CS mode efficiency. Anything else would be less than the whole truth.

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97 Comments on “The Chevy Volt: As Efficient As You Want It To Be...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    Nice piece, Ed. I think a lot of the discussions about the “true” economy numbers (GM’s obfuscating aside) is more a function of how weak our society is with moderately complex math and engineering ideas.
     
    Let’s not even start with the idea of “infinite mpg” if you use the Volt as a short-distance daily commuter.
     
    I have coworkers who ask questions like “Where did you buy your tires and how much were they?” without regard to brand, type, size, or vehicle. We buy our cars based on part on an EPA sticker that includes a highway cycle that never exceeds 60mph, then we get angry when we can’t meet those numbers ourselves. I know companies want easy marketing and the media wants easy sound bites, but we’ve all got to get over this collective ADD that’s holding us back.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Exactly right. With the Volt and other up-coming plug-ins, a driver needs to evaluate how many trips they’re likely to be able to complete on electric range alone and how often they’ll be driving on extended-range or hybrid mode. That means two classes of numbers are required at least. In the case of the Volt, thanks to its unique gearing that we just learned about, a third number for the 70mph+ highway cruise mode is probably needed too.
    At the very least he could have included how many watt-hours of electricity he used in addition to the aggregate gas engine fuel efficiency number.

  • avatar

    The one thing that would make the VOLT perfect is if it had a SOLAR PANEL ULTRAVIEW MOONROOF. 

    Or, perhaps if ALL THE GLASS could capture solar energy.

    I saw on Engadget that people put solar panels on Prius and got 25% more mileage.

    If one of these EV’s had solar glass all around, it would be possible to charge it without plugging in if you lived in high sunlight areas.

    Imagine the potential.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      I saw on Engadget that people put solar panels on Prius and got 25% more mileage.

      That’s ridiculous. Physically impossible.

      [If you are just being sarcastic with your comment, please forgive me. It\'s hard to tell.]

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      This is actually a good idea, though it should replace the entire roof panel and remove the sunroof/moonroof option entirely.

      If you live in Arizona or Los Angeles, yeah, that’d be the way to go. Park it in the middle of the lot, or on the roof, and you’re golden.

      And if you’re driving to Vegas, it’s a CS bonus

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      This is internet napkin math, so take with a lot of salt.  Gasoline has 125,000 btu.  If you had a car with 2 square meters of solar panels at 100% efficiency (which is impossible) parked at Flagstaff during the brightest month of the year, you would have to leave it parked for 6 days to charge the batteries with the same amount of energy as a gallon of gas.
      So yeah, it’s pretty much impossible.
      Speaking of which, the 400lb battery pack of the Volt apparently holds as much effective energy as a gallon of gas.  So yeah.  I’m not really encouraged about electric cars.  Not without either some crazy advances in battery tech or a really radical reduction in the size and weight of cars.  Like full carbon fiber cars type radical.
       
       
       
      http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/sum2/03103.txt
      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Convert_kWh_to_BTU
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Let’s say that the a solar roof is good for 1/6 gallon of gas per day.

      If Volt is good for 30 miles per gallon, then that means a solar roof get 5 miles of range added to the car.

      If the commute is 10 miles each way, for a 20-mile daily total, then the solar roof cuts the re-charge cost by 25%.

      Yeah, it’s not very good math, but it illustrates the point that a solar roof would have some measurable benefit when the Volt is in commute mode in a sunshine state.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Let’s say that the a solar roof is good for 1/6 gallon of gas per day.

      By my math, you would be lucky to get the equivalent of 1/100 gallon of gas per day from a solar roof on a Prius. On a good day. In the summer. In full sun. In Arizona or south.

      People do use solar cells with electric vehicles. If you use the electricity from the solar cell to power a fan to cool a parked car, you will take a big load off the air conditioner when the driver gets in. That saves the battery.

      Unless you have a very small “car” covered with solar panels, like those used in the solar car races in Australia, the amount of power you get from solar cells is not enough to matter.

      If someone is claiming on Engadget that they put solar panels on their Prius and get 25% more mileage, I’d say that person is a liar. Or if not a liar, then I would have to say that their tray table is not fully in an upright and locked position. In other words, they’re crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      You have no idea how little energy you’d get from that panel.  Plus, you have to haul it’s mass around with you everywhere, and put it in harms way.  You’d be far better off putting the panel on your house.

    • 0 avatar

      DAANI

      Maybe you shouldn’t doubt me before LOOKING IT UP !!!

      http://www.engadget.com/2005/08/17/the-solar-powered-prius/

      The Engadget article here claims 10% efficiency, but I’ve seen follow up articles that claim up to 25%.

      And even if you had to leave the car 6 days to charge it,  imagine how much energy you could save if you weren’t driving it regularly, or if you had a fleet of volts to drive and didn’t have to drive the same one each day like agencies do.

    • 0 avatar
      ghillie

      I believe that at least in some markets the current model Prius is already available with a solar panel roof.  However, it only generates enought power to run a fan (airconditioning?) that helps cool the cabin when the car is not running.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Click through to the Treehugger article that Engadget summarizes. They “extrapolate” the energy collection from one theoretically perfect day to apply to their total fuel consumption, which is just silly for nearly all real-world drivers.
       
      http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/08/solar-powered_t.php
       
      “For June and July in Kingston Ontario, about 6 kWh of energy from the sun strikes each square meter of horizontal surface. If we install 2 square meters of photovoltaic panels on the car and we collect 10% of the energy from the sun as electricity (well within present PV efficiency), we can theoretically go about 8 km each day on just the sun’s energy. If we drive 24 km on a sunny day, that is enough to reduce our gasoline consumption by 33%. This would take the Prius from 5.0 l/100km [47 mpg] to 3.3 l/100km [71.2 mpg].”
       
      The 6kWh figure is per day, which means at best, you could run on solar for all of 8 km (5 miles) per day under absolutely perfect conditions. So as long as you never drive more than 20 miles without letting the car sit in full sunlight all day, you might see a 25% gain, at best. Of course, they don’t appear to have accounted for the impact of dragging around another 100 pounds of panel and mounting hardware, or the drag caused by mounting all that junk up there.
       
      A good high-efficiency panel runs about $600 per square meter, so that’s a $1200 setup (not accounting for mounting and cables and so on). If his Prius is already getting about 45 MPG, he could just spend that money on gasoline and travel more than 20,000 miles.
       
      It doesn’t add up.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      I searched for and read the Treehugger article, and the math seems highly speculative and somewhat optimistic.  A lot of their estimations are theoretical, and it is not clear exactly how they arrived at the “10% improvement in fuel economy”, but its seems a tad far-fetched.  (aside: I have a huge peeve about many of the liberal-arts types who write on these ‘green’ sites – their opinionated half-baked ideas about engineering leave me questioning the credibility of what is often a good engineering effort)
       
      I actually evaluated the solar-panel on the prius when I bought mine – and decided it wasn’t worth the thousands of dollars extra they wanted for it.  All it does is run a fan while you are parked in the sun.  Good idea though – so I jerry-rigged a solar panel to a mini fan and built a plastic enclosure that I can clip on to a cracked-open window.  Cost me about $30 and a weekend of work. :-)
       
      I have a solar panel on the roof of my house instead – most of the day when I am not home, it pushes electricity back into the grid, so my electricity consumption at night when I draw from the grid is free.  When a viable plug-in-hybrid hits the market (soon), that will be a much better way to go than putting panels directly on the car.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      M1: that is some sloppy math.  The natural resources board of Canada says you can, on average, expect 5.2 kwh/day per square meter of surface area POINTED DIRECTLY AT THE SUN. This panel would be on a roof facing straight up…and a slightly curved roof at that…and not tracking the sun across the sky, either.  That’d be fine, at noon, if you lived on the equator.  At 55 degrees latitude, a horizontal surface will only collect about 5.2 sin(35deg) of that energy on average (on the equinox).  That brings us down to 57%, for 2.98 kwh/day.  Lets reduce that further for the fact it doesn’t track the sun across the sky, and for shade, garage time, etc.  We’ll estimate half, for about 1.5 kwh/day.  With 10% cell efficiency likley to be found in affordable, lightweight cells, and neglecting any inefficiency in charging and discharging the batteries, we’re looking at 150 watt hours per day up in Canada.  That’s the energy equivelent of 0.4 ounces of gas- just over a quarter of a shot glass, or about one cent worht of gas at $3/gallon.  One cent per day is $3.65 if you drive every day of the year from a 1 square meter panel.  At $600 for the panel alone (neglecting fitment, wiring, electronics, etc. you’ll break even in a brisk 164 years. 

      From that, subtract a bit for the energy required to accelerate the extra mass.  Even if you live in Arizona and get several times that, it still isn’t worth it.  Now…those solar race cars use top of the line everything, and only require a couple hundred watts to do 35 mph, so they can get away with it.  On a normal car though, a solar panel is nothing but green washing until we can coat an entire car in thin-film cells for under, say, 60 pounds weight gain and under, say, $450 or so.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      carve, I thought that number wasn’t right, but if you check out this map  http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/  6KWh per day is a pretty good number for a horizontal surface in Ontario in June.  (Yes, the map is for the US, but Kingston Ontario is just over the border from New York State).
       
      As others have pointed out, though, you should still put your solar panels on your house before you put them on your car.  Even if we got up to 20% efficiency, two square meters would be 2.4KWh per day, or about 10 miles of sun-powered travel per day.  If you aren’t driving around during the high-sun hours, you need storage for that.  Much better to put it on your house, where you can tie to the grid which has the excellent feature of wanting lots of energy when the sun is highest.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      @nonce: go to your link and look at the ANNUAL AVERAGE (not max) for a HORIZONTAL FLAT PLATE.   Who cares how it does in June if you’re going to drive it all year?

      3 or 4 kwh what you’d get in the northern US. I estimated 2.98 for somewhere at 55 degrees latitude in a somewhat cloudy area (like B.C.- my solar flux number was for Vancouver…first one I found, and I just guessed at a round number for a southern Canada latitude). I’d say my estimate came out pretty close. Even if I was off by 100% (getting rid of the tracking factor, which is probably already incorporated into this number), it’s still going to take your whole life to break even.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Compared to anywhere in the southwest, Canada is a horrible place for solar power. They’re farther north, have more cloud cover, and the light comes in at an angle through deeper atmosphere. The southwest has more days of sunshine and is more perpendicular to the sun.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      As others have pointed out, though, you should still put your solar panels on your house before you put them on your car

      Side note: What you really ought to do is put solar water heaters on your house.  They’re more efficient, cheaper and more robust.

      Another question, though: how much does the solar roof on the Prius weigh?  Anyone know?  I could see the point of such a device as a passive heater or cooler (eg, it could drive a fan or heater while the car is parked) if the weight isn’t an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Right you are, pearlie.  If you look at the numbers a horizontal flat surface in the southwest gets 5-6 kwh/day as a yearly average.  All give you the benefit of the doubt and do some best-case numbers.

      6 kwh * 10% = 600 watt hours per day.  Assuming the charging system is completely lossless (fat chance), and the car is NEVER, EVER in the shade or a garage, and you always keep the panel clean, that’s an average of 600/36,600=.016 gallons of gas saved per day, minus whatever energy it takes to haul the weight around.  2 ounces.  One tenth as much as your 1/6 gallon estimate.  Assuming a 100% efficient drivetrain, it’s enough to go 0.8 miles (actually further than I expected).  At $3/gallon, that’s nearly  5 cents per day.  $18.25/year if you drive every day.  That’s only a 33 year payoff- about twice as long as the car will last.

      Once you take into account the realities of charging and motivation inefficiencies, the fact that is won’t ALWAYS be in the sun, reduced high-temp efficiencies, degreaded cell and battery performance as it ages, the weight penalty, the ACTUAL cost of install, electronics, etc. the numbers will be much worse.  Half as good if you’re lucky. If you’re just interested in energy and not cost, it’ll take a long time for the cells to recover the energy invested in their production, although that number is improving all the time.

      It’s true on houses, and true on cars: for alternative energy to makes sense, we need devices that require much, MUCH less energy.

      The fact is, unless you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere and have no access to a point to plug in, and the energy needed to save that few ounces of fuel per day is important, it makes terrible sense to put the panels ON the car. Put them on your house. Sell the expensive power to the grid in the day, and get that cheap off-peak power back at night, when much of it is normally wasted anyway. The panels on the house won’t give you a weight penalty on the car, they can be mounted at the appropriate angle to the sun, put so they’re never in the shade…maybe even have a heliostat, and produce several times as much power. They’ll be in a much more benign environment (not wrecked in a crash, much less vibration, a cooler back-side for improved efficiency and longevity), and can be backed with heavier, more robust and reliable electronics that can be used indefinitely, rather than just for the life of the car. They use standard parts and don’t have to be specially curved for the roof of your car, and you don’t have to worry about the increased cg on your house.

      It’s just better in every way. Solar panels and cars are just for look-at-me greenwashing and to impress people who don’t understand physics or economics, and they’ll continue to be so until solar panels are another order of magnitude cheaper and lighter.

      P.S.- Absolutely correct that solar water heaters, and solar air-heating panels, are a far more cost effective method of saving energy than solar panels. In fact, buying more efficient lighting, appliances, heating/cooling, insulation, etc. is far more cost effective than either of those. Efficiency is really a prerequisite before any kind of solar power makes sense. (although, other than insulating pipes, there’s not really an efficient way to use hot water, so it’s a good place to start for most people)

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Who cares how it does in June if you’re going to drive it all year?

      Well, this thread cares. I was responding to the quote that M 1 supplied, which explicitly was about a horizontal plane in June or July.
       

    • 0 avatar

      #1  Who says that the technology for solar panel glass CAN’T GET CHEAPER?  Did any of you even consider the fact that if glass like this was MASS PRODUCED for not only the volt, but for other cars, that it would become cheaper t produce eventually?

      #2  Who says that people are absolutely going to drive this car every single day, for more than 20 miles?   Who says that there aren’t going to be days when someone doesn’t use this car and just leaves it sitting in the sun? 

      The whole point of Hybrid vehicles is suppossed to be using multiple techniques to recover energy. Regenerative brakes for one. 

      I think solar panel windows would help justify their cost if a person lives in a sunshine state.

      And by the way – you claim the moonroof would be about $1200?

      Well, a typical moonroof is about $1000 and it recovers 0% solar energy.   Seems to me an ultraview  $1200 roof (and side glass) that recovered enough energy to get 5 miles would eventually pay itself off.   Not to mention it heps the buyer enjoy the car.

      There are people who spend this kind of money on a Cadillac SRX ultraview monroof – why not an EV?

      And you completely missed my point. I’m not suggesting mounting hardware and extra weight. I’m suggesting that ALL OF THE CAR’S GLASS BE SOLAR GLASS.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Nobody said they won’t get cheaper.  Quite the opposite.  However cheap they become, it’ll still be more efficient to put them on your house.  You can collect a lot more energy, it’s safer, more efficient, and prevents the car from gaining weight, and the expense is added to an appreciating asset rather than a depreciating car.

      Also, a transparent solar panel will never be all that efficient.  The more transparent they become, the less light they’ll absorb & convert to energy.  They can only become as dark as the legal tinting limit.  Plus, for the time being, there’s an annoying pattern on the glass.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    What is desparately needed here is a STANDARD test method for pure EV range, much like the EPA uses to gather their fuel economy data for internal-combustion-powered vehicles.  That is the only way that one will be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison between various EVs coming onto the market.

    An EV is similar to any car in that there are a number of variables which affect range/mileage, but there are additional factors including battery temperature, battery age (battery capacity tends to decrease over time), use of high-power accessories (IC cars use waste heat, whereas EVs must use battery power to heat the cabin) and so on.

    Somebody in a temperate climate, driving at contant speeds with minimal starts/stops over flat roads, will achieve the highest economy, whether it’s an EV or a “normal” car.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The problem is that the Volt is inherently very complex. It’s got 2 EV modes, plus a coupled parallel mode, a generator mode, a mountain mode, and so on. So getting a clear range or mileage number out of the Volt is pretty difficult.

      At best you might reduce the Volt to 3 numbers:
      - EV City range
      - EV City mpg
      - CS Highway mpg

      How to combine them to a net City number or a net mpg number is hard to say.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      A single number “MPG” cannot really represent all kinds of use-cases and different flavours of hybrids, diesels and EVs.  An MPG number for a hybrid is really meaningless, because in real life it all depends on the proportion of your trips that you can run on pure EV mode.
      The significant data, IMO, is separate numbers for MPG (gas or diesel, consumed in pure internal combustion mode), EV range, and charging time on standard 110v.  Each buyer can then evaluate which one fits their driving profile the best.
      Somebody in a temperate climate, driving at contant speeds with minimal starts/stops over flat roads, will achieve the highest economy, whether it’s an EV or a “normal” car.
      That again sort of depends.  I found that on my daily commute (Los Altos foothills to Palo Alto downtown, as temperate as you can get :-)), the best route for my Prius is actually one in which I have slightly uphill/downhill stretches.  Using gas on the slight 50mph uphill stretch charges the battery to about half, and maintaining the speed downhill tops up the battery fully-  so by the time I hit a flat 35mph section, I am completely in EV mode.  That seems to get close to 72mpg overall without hypermiling tricks.  With the other driving in sub-optimal conditions, it drops to about 57mpg for each tankful.
      For my usage pattern, something with a 35-mile EV range seems like a great approximation of a perpetual motion automobile.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    This is and should be considered as a commuter’s car. For most people who drive 20-ish miles per day, the car makes tremendous sense. I drive 22 miles each way to work. Assuming a 35 mile EV range and 35 mpg on gas, that means I’d burn about 1.3 gallons per week. Even that POS Jetta TDI I used to own used 5.5 gallons per week. That’s a huge savings that  can’t be ignored.

    For people driving all over the nation selling barbed wire, this car may not be the best ticket.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Don’t forget that your electricity is neither cost nor pollution free.

      And, what commuter buys a $40k vehicle to go back and forth to work in?

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Sundowner -
       
      Most of the people I know that have “commuter cars” have $15,000 Civics, Accents, Elantras or Versas, not $40,000 Volts.  I’m not saying this won’t make a great city car, but it just isn’t at a good price point…yet.  Hell, a Chevy Cruze makes more sense.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Sundowner,

      I can’t see it, myself, but some people do commute in fairly expensive cars.  There was a Porsche stuck behind me today, doing 50.  He was doing 50 behind me because I was stuck behind a guy doing 50.  Even if there wasn’t that much traffic… who’s going to do 80+ though the middle of town?  I can see getting a car that’s quiet, so you can enjoy a decent stereo while you wait in traffic but anything more than that just seems like overkill.

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      As a commuter car around here, the Volt would run mostly on coal and gain much of its operating cost advantage by not having to pay any road taxes on that coal-produced energy.  Volt-owners will free ride on everybody else — first with the huge tax credit and then by letting everybody else pay the usage taxes to maintain the roads.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      John Horner said:
      Don’t forget that your electricity is neither cost nor pollution free.

      Not cost free, yes – but it can be significantly pollution free with solar panels.

      And, what commuter buys a $40k vehicle to go back and forth to work in?

      Any time you are free, please stop by my office.  We can take a walk in the parking lot and count the number of 40+K vehicles that seem to be used for this purpose.  :-)  And absolutely no kidding, there is one idiot who drives I-280 Northbound in the morning commute and takes the exit at Page Mill in a burgundy-and-black Veyron.  I have seen him several times – at the same hour – and wondered what is wrong with him and how many times he has had to change his tires (that will be $90,000 sir, thankyouverymuch).  Of course I am not saying that sort of lunacy is typical, but there are plenty of $40K vehicles whose primary (mis)use seems to be for commuting 15 miles each way to work.
       

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      And, what commuter buys a $40k vehicle to go back and forth to work in?
      A better question might be, what commuter drives to work in a $350/mo leased vehicle?
      I have no trouble envisioning this as being all the car a massive number of suburban-urban commuters would ever need. In their world, their Volts are going to burn only as much gasoline as the cars require them to cycle through them.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    One of the best TTAC stories – EVER.  You bring up the eight million pound elephant in the room.  MPG is in the eyes of the beholder, or more accurately, in the eyes of the end user.  If you drive this in EV mode, than even the infamous 230 MPG number is not only possible, you could achieve even better.  If you never plug it in (then why did you buy it exactly) then you’re driving a Chevy Cruze with a 450 pound cinder block around its neck and a grossly over complicated transmission.  Fail.  Like everything else, the truth lies somewhere between (as you note).
     
    MSNBC is also doing a drive of a Volt from Seattle to San Francisco, and they are getting around 35 to 36 miles in EV mode.  Second installment was today (just provides another tracking point for EV range).

    • 0 avatar
      beken

      I would like MSNBC do a comparison of such a drive from Seattle to San Francisco in the summer and in the winter.   I’m counting on the battery not holding up as well in the winter and when the nights are much longer in the Seattle area.
       
       
       

  • avatar
    John Horner

    An excellent write up. The other piece of information it would be great to have is energy cost per mile in both modes and what price was assumed for the electricity and for the gasoline used.
    Where I live, we have a crazy rate system whereby the more electricity a person uses, the higher the incremental price for it. So, if I were to start recharging my Volt at night at home I would be paying the top tier $0.39/kwh for doing so. The reports I have found seem to indicate that it will take about 8 kwh to recharge a depleted Chevy Volt. For me, that would cost $3.12 (8 x .39), or just over the cost of a gallon of gasoline. If I get 35 miles or so of driving out of that recharge I’m spending money at roughly the same rate I would be if I just bought a 35 mpg car. Wow, game changer!
    A plug-in Prius will likely bury the Volt.
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      John,  GM has said that it will take 10kwh to recharge a fully depleted Volt battery; the actual battery capacity used is closer to 9kwh, and there are losses in charging.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      $0.39/kwh?  Where do you live that electricity is that expensive?

      Here in the Seattle area the top residential rate (for over 600kwh of useage) is about $.103 per kwh.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      I’d blame California’s electricity rates for that. The national average is about 8 cents. So you would pay $0.64 to “fill up” on electricity.
       
      I’m a Pacific Gas & Electric customer myself. True, California’s electricity usage per capita has gone down with these rates. But I don’t know that it’s worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      There are already plug-in Prius’, just not for retail sale.  I am kicking myself for not taking a picture at the time, but when my father was visiting a while back we saw a car trailer loaded with plug-in Prius’.  Toyota was giving them to many agencies for real-world testing.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Here’s a chart for electric rates around the country from the DOE:
      http://www.eia.doe.gov/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The tiered rates thing is a California Special :) … right in the heart of the largest intended market for the Volt. Only in California do you pay a volume penalty instead of getting a volume discount.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Doc

      So, we need something like this:
      1. Range (electric)
      2. miles per kwh (electric)
      3. mpg (range extender mode)
      Some EV’s could in theory get more miles per kwh based on weight, friction in the drive train etc.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      John Horner,

      Actually, the Volt seems to “fill up” with 9.4kwh of electricity.  However, there are losses and, maybe, “conditioning” and it seems like 9.4kwh in the battery, net, requires perhaps 13.4kwh at the meter.  Maybe more in the cold.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Not just in CA, in Maine I average well over $.25/kwh, and going up steadily – and I choose the cheapest, non-environmentally friendly provider. My electric bill for a 1200sq/ft house (oil heat and hot water) for two occupants already averages $200 month. I could choose to pay double that for “green power” if I cared. Which brings the “volt discount” over just buying gas to ~$.50/gal at current prices here. Which means the payback time over something equivalent and conventional (Elantra, Corrola, Civic, TDI, etc) that gets ~35-40mpg is damned near infinity, given the price difference. As others have said, electricity is not free in most places.

      Plus in all seriousness, you would have to have your HEAD EXAMINED to buy the first examples of an all-new technology General Motors product!! What are the chances it doesn’t have major issues? Will be fun to watch for sure!

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Even at the lowest rates it still costs owners money, but I suspect a lot of them won’t think about it, and view it as “free” miles because the cost is deferred.  Perhaps they will notice the increase in their electrical bill and then start to realize the real cost.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      An electric car gets about 4 or 5 miles to the KWh.  If your electricity costs are 40 cents per KWh, you should not get an electric car.
      Or, ask your utility about EV-charging rates.  I know PG&E has such a beast.

  • avatar

    just keep in mind who’s building and promoting the darn thing and you’ll remember failure is their inbred culture.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    How about this revolutionary idea. Fully charge and fuel the Volt. Then drive it through the city cycle until the battery is down to 30% and it runs out of gas. In each case, take the TOTAL miles traveled and divide it by the amount of gasoline burned. That will get you your City and Highway MPG, which is the standard measurement for any car with an ICE. To me that is the closest you will get to an apples-to-apples comparison of the Volt to other cars. Sure the number may appear artificially high but if Car Maker T wants to match it they can build a car that performs in a similar way.
    The cost of that energy is an entirely different matter, since you will need to include the retail cost (i.e. the number for generation and for distribution) that appears on an electric bill with the cost of gasoline. Again, not as difficult as everyone is making it out to be.

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      That makes little sense.  Using your test, two Volt-like cars that are identical except that one has a gas tank twice as big as the other’s will have drastically different MPGs just because one can go farther than the other.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Exactly, though without doing any math I would think that the longer distance between fill ups and the more gallons required to fill the tank would make it a wash. Miles per gallon is simply a measurement of fuel consumption; how far the vehicle will go on a gallon of liquid, which is why you can test gasoline fueled and Diesel fueled cars the same way. MPG does not take the cost of energy into account, although the do make such calculations and display them on the Moroni sticker separately.
       
      The tricky part would be what would you do with a Leaf or other pure electric vehicle that burns no fuel?

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      OOO. Can I play?
      Make a Volt with a one gallon fuel tank capacity.

  • avatar
    Mercennarius

    As an EV, this thing sucks. Its more of a Prius competitor then it is a Leaf competitor. Those who truly want a EV will buy the Leaf.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Right, and those who truly want a Chevy economy car will buy a Cruze.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Your post made me wonder. Suppose you had to buy one or the other: a Nissan Leaf or a Chevrolet Volt. Which would choose? Why?
       
      I would choose the Volt. I work from home. Any place close I walk or ride a bicycle. When I drive, I usually go more than 40 miles round trip.
       
      Plus, I like the look of the Volt better. And the drive train architecture seems better engineered. The Leaf is just a gasoline car with the engine taken out and replaced with an electric motor. Just like the first automobiles where horse carriages without the horse.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Bingo! Having just spent some time last weekend riding around in a friend’s 4-year old Prius, on the highway and in city-style driving (where the cumulative MPG gauge was comfortably over 40, like more than 45), I was pretty impressed with the car.
      I do have a short commute and live in a city, so as a “city car,” a pure EV like the Leaf (aesthetics, etc. aside) would make a lot of sense to own.  I would certainly not have range anxiety in that kind of usage, I’m pretty sure.  The argument for the Leaf over the Volt is simply price.  Even excluding the subsidies and the funny lease deal, the Leaf is substantially cheaper to buy. So, not to state the obvious, the Leaf is a better pure EV than the Volt, by a big margin.
      Let’s suppose, however, that I want a vehicle that is not as range-limited as the Leaf.  That’s the need that the Volt is supposed to fill.  The concept makes sense . . . here’s a mostly-EV that you can also use to drive to a relative’s house in, say, Annapolis (which is about 40 miles away from DC) for a Saturday afternoon visit.  Not a cross-country family vacation, but just a little day trip outside the metro area.  For that purpose, the comparison is between the Volt and the Prius.  In the first instance, the Volt is a lot more expensive than the Prius to buy.  So, that’s strike one.  Secondly, it appears that the Volt is about 25% less fuel-efficient than the Prius when it’s running on its gasoline engine.  So, for me, without doing the math precisely, the Prius seems like a much better “compromise car” than the Volt.  And, if I wanted roomier accommodations than either car, I could get a Ford Fusion hybrid still for a lot less acquisition cost than the Volt and get somewhat better fuel economy, though not as much better as that achieved by the Prius.
      Finally, as someone else has mentioned, a substantial component of the retail price of motor fuel is federal and state taxes used for highway construction and maintenance.  To the extent that EV owners avoid that tax, they’re being subsidized greatly by everyone else.  Don’t expect that situation to last.  Indeed, the improving fuel economy of the vehicle fleet generally (and the existing subisidy of fuel-sipper drivers by gashog drivers) is already prompting calls for replacing the fuel tax with a mileage tax, which would be imposed uniformly on a vehicles of the same type and weight class.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    The cynic in me wonders if the limits on battery state of charge are the same in these highly publicised pre production cars as the ones that will have a guaranteed battery life. After all the good publicity from a high AER figure, at this point in time, is essential.

  • avatar
    dougw

    Anybody ever heard this one:   Your mileage may vary!

    A missed point here, nuclear, coal fired, hydro, solar, wind….none of these electricity sources enslave us to the oil cartels, now do they?  Even our dirty midwest coal is as we speak being helped by a new gasification project in our state.  It will drastically reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants from high sulfur coal.  And remember we have a much larger and more dependable future source of these energy suorces than peak oil.

    Nuts that buy cars such as the Volt, Leaf, TDI, etc., will be stretch those oil reserves for the rest of us oil burners.

    Yes we all know that electricity is not free from pollution or cost, but the solutions, monies invested and technology learned will remain for the most part in our domestic domain.  I think that is far better than hemorraging our balance of trade out to our waiting enemies turning our petro dollars into tools purposed for our ultimate demise.

    Let’s embrace these new transportation ideas and advances for what they should be-steps to a brighter and greener future that benefit all of us and the planet as well.  Criticizing, scandalizing, sarcasm and passing along false notions and misrepresentation is especially unflattering for those who evidently have not a single notion of their own of how to do better.

    And don’t underestimate the good feelings to be had along the journey.  It feels pretty neat to sit at a traffic light with the heat pump air conditioning on, the engine off in a hybrid while twenty other cars around you sit sucking gas doing nothing for a minute or two every few blocks.  I am equally sure that it will be a special feeling to drive at 60mph for miles and miles on nothing but the turbine smooth electric motor answering to your right foot. 

    And when we get to hydrogen, we will have all the more experience by then for making the electric propulsion systems even better than the current fuel cell vehicles….which are already damn fine from what I gather.

    Or everyone working on these issues trying to come up with something-just about anything-better than our current dead-end predicament may get tired of all the badgering and say “enough” and go home leaving us to a grinding, convulsing,  lurching halt, bartering for remnants of gasoline or one of the various (blank)ohols while watching China outbid us for the last few years of fossil fuels left.

    Get on board with the future and if the entry point for you is at a lower price point, or more developed technological stage, or a time of betterment of your own personal situation at least acknowledge that others doing so before you are your benefactors.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      All those same hippies you assure us are busily saving the world also oppose every single one of the alternatives you list. As for the “oil cartels,” I’m completely in favor of using up their oil first.
       
      The other cars at the traffic light are, at most, sipping gas. Even my old 1955 Buick can swing 19 or 20 MPG using a primitive 60-year-old carburetor. The only time they “suck” gas is upon acceleration, at which point your hybrid is going to flip on the fuel pump as well — because it’s still the single best fuel available.
       
      Life in the real world isn’t quite as flowery and simple as you imagine.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      And don’t underestimate the good feelings to be had along the journey.  Well, I’m not Elliot Spitzer, but $30K for a good feeling seems a bit steep to me.

      …leaving us to a grinding, convulsing,  lurching halt, bartering for remnants of gasoline or one of the various (blank)ohols while watching China outbid us for the last few years of fossil fuels left.

      I simply don’t get this disconnect that all the greenies have about technology.  Let’s see: we must therefore use imperfect technologically advanced vehicles now, because   we won’t make any more technological advances in the future? 

      We can’t use any of the oil we have now in the US because someday we’re going to run out of oil. But, we can’t use nuclear, or clean coal, or (apparently) gas either to reduce our need for oil. We have to depend on the whims of the wind, and pray for sunny days. 

      It’s just a total mystery to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      Lokki said: I simply don’t get this disconnect that all the greenies have about technology. … But, we can’t use nuclear, or clean coal, or (apparently) gas either to reduce our need for oil. We have to depend on the whims of the wind, and pray for sunny days.

      Many of the “greenies” seem to have slept (or more likely daydreamed about kittens and unicorns) during science class.  I am an engineer and work with engineers, and have found that people who understand the science are more tolerable to listen to, and much more sensible about alternatives.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      It’s not a universal trait, but a sizable number of the greenies are coming to admit that nuclear power is okay.
       

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Shame about Leiberman, hope he is frugal with his 30 pieces of silver. After MT bites it there won’t be any place in the car bloga for him. That is a trashy Volt review worthy of only the most shameless PR flack. No data, no information, no nothing except company line garbage. Lieberman used to be a good writer but Motor Trend has ruined worse writers before.

    Has anyone done a verified test using a Volt in normal driving, a mix of commuting, shorter trips and long trips? Has anyone tried to quantify mpg when running on gas only? And most importantly, how much will it cost to charge the Volt/? Just what is the total cost of ownership? GM has lied about the Volt and lots of other things so why should we trust them on anything?

    • 0 avatar
      Matthew Sullivan

      “Has anyone done a verified test using a Volt in normal driving, a mix of commuting, shorter trips and long trips?”
      Yeah:  Lieberman in Motor Trend.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      No he didn’t, he just had GM pr write a puff piece for him. There was no description of the methods used to obtain those numbers so they could be replicated. I want to see an unbiased test completely described that can be verified. Lieberman failed at that.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It reminds me why I stopped reading Motor Trend so many years ago.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I wonder whether GM will offer the old 60-day return policy on the Volt?

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If Toyota had pulled this, you better believe Congress would be dragging them in front of committees demanding why they lied to the American public, and used tax-payer dollars to pay for this scam.
     

  • avatar
    mcs

    Someone check my math. I think I have a formula to convert the volts electrical costs to MPGs.
    It’s gas/((kwh * rate) / range) = mpg.
    Assume 10 kwh to charge the Volt. .1536 per kilowatt hour to charge. 33 miles range. $2.69 for a gallon of gas.
    $2.69/((10 * .1536)/33) = 57.79296875 MPG
     

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      You are on the right track, but it would be simpler just to compare miles-per-dollar of fuel used rather than converting to a pseudo-MPG number.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Doc

      The formula makes sense. If the price of gasoline goes up and the price of electricity remains unchanged, the “pseudo” mileage increases.
      From this standpoint maybe the price is not so bad. A Prius will cost you more to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      John Horner: You are on the right track, but it would be simpler just to compare miles-per-dollar of fuel used rather than converting to a pseudo-MPG number
       
      That sounds like a good idea – but then you remember how Bernanke is buttseksing the dollar and realize that miles per dollar will go down faster than Andrea Parducci in Little Oral Annie.

  • avatar
    Sugarbrie

    Buy a standard (non-luxury) used car that is at least 8 years old and has 100K miles on it; that has a history of always lasting 200K+ miles.  It will cost you about $5,000.
     
    You will have $36,000 left over for gas.  Even if it gets only 20 mpg you’ll still be way ahead.

    Yes, it will required a few more repairs, which is compensated for by no collision and comprehensive insurance cost. You also save a lot in sales tax depending on your state.

    $5,000 is your down payment on a Volt; so also count on no loan interest costs for those who borrow.

    That is how to save money, not buying an expensive car with good gas mileage ratings.

    ——————————————————————————–

    One car in that category is the Mazda 626.
    Almost as reliable as Camry/Accord at a fraction of the resale value.
    (Even though Camry/Accord is also a good choice).

    • 0 avatar
      ravenchris

      Yes, the Chevy Volt is a car for the willing…

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      Sugar, your point is true as far as it goes.  The Volt is not an economical car.  Neither is the Prius.  Point granted.  The Volt and the Prius and other EVs are like DVD players.  When they came out they were 800 bucks.  Rich people bought them as toys.  They got cheaper and cheaper, and better and better, until you can buy a $30 dvd player that is probably as good as the $800 player from 1997. 
      The Volt is an early technology that will only appeal to prosperous EV fans who want a fancy toy.  That’s fine, and to be expected for the early generations of a technology.  It’s only later on that penny pinchers will find the technology attractive.
       
      So, in short, yes, you are correct.  But your point is entirely beside the point.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    As you can clearly see in the photo, Fritz was claiming that the Volt would achieve 23 MPG.
    The smiling electric socket signifies that the car is a plug-in hybrid.
    Looks like GM has exceeded expectations.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    I think one of the Volt reviews said that the Volt’s dash calculates EV mode as ‘infinity’ miles per gallon.  Meaning that even if you recharge it, it’ll keep stacking the ‘mileage’ on top each other giving some insane number.  At this point its not clear when the ‘mpg’ counter is actually reset (maybe when you put gas in again).
     
    I’m thinking MT basically used the mpg number from the dash.  We’ll likely see a whole generation of Volt owners thinking that electricity is completely free energy.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Darn, things get complicated when you try to simplify. Just remember the Volt gets 35 miles to a charge and 35 MPG on the ICE with mixed driving. Everyone will have differing results and will have to do some math. I drive 70 miles, round trip, with mixed driving and would be spending $1.50 to charge it and $3.29 for a gallon of premium unleaded. Great, only $4.79 per day.

    Or plan B) Get a new Corolla, well equipped for $24,000 less but would have to spend $7.02 a day because it only gets 30 MPG mixed and regular unleaded costs me $3.01 a gallon.

    Terrific! I’ll get the Volt and save $2.23 a day! It will only take me 40 years to recoup my lo$$e$!

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I’m pretty good at this “game changer” math too.

    I can run 100m in 15 seconds. Therefore, I run 400m a minute, and by extension can run a marathon (~42km) in 105 minutes.*

    *=with clock paused and a 30 minute rest between each sprint session

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Well, if we’re talking efficiency, I gotta ask. The Volt is the most aerodynamic production car GM has made. Strip out the 1.4 liter generator/engine, electric motor, battery, planetary gearbox, transaxle and assorted black boxes to make all this work in harmony and what have you got? Well, you’ll go from an aerodynamic 3900 pound car to probably a 2,000 pound car. Now, add a fuel efficient diesel from GM’s parts bin and then let’s see what the “real world” mileage is.
    Factor in that, as published here on TTAC, it takes more than 37,000 BTUs per pound to make a hybrid, and less than 32,000 BTUs per pound to make a conventional vehicle, and you’ll see that what GM has created is an energy hog to appease “progressives” that most members of the progressive movement can’t afford.
    Honestly, if that’s not a metaphor of American politics, I don’t know what is.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Like some have mentioned before it is very important to not only make calculations about the amount of fuel the Volt uses in terms of gas usage but to also take into account how much fossil fuels are burnt before electricity magically appears out of the socket and more importantly, how efficient this really is when translated to real world mileage. Then there is also the seperate issue of the materials used in the batteries etc etc…
     
    Unfortunately all this depends on so many variables that it becomes very hard to tell how efficient (real or semi) EVs really are, so the outcome of these calculations is just bound to be what the guy doing the research wants it to be…
     
    Just as a personal opinion I really don’t think EVs provide any real net environmental benefits, and won’t do until the batteries can be made from more common and less problematic materials in the future AND electricity can be generated through environmentally friendly (or friendlier) sources. You still need to move a certain amount of mass a certain amount of distance at a certain amount of speed and that requires a certain amount of energy delivered at the wheels.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Ed, for the Volt review, you should try to measure the kilowatt hours used to charge the battery. Then use the formula I posted to calculate the equivalent/pseudo MPG based on the range you get from the car in EV mode. MPGs are what everyone understands for better or worse and I think that’s the best way to present the cost of running the vehicle in EV mode. The formula is g / ((k*c)/r) where g is the cost of gas per gallon, k is the number of kilowatt hours needed to charge the pack, c is the cost per kilowatt hour of the electricity, and r is the range in EV mode that was achieved.

    The other reviews seem to be treating the electricity as through it’s free and that isn’t the case. We need to put the costs into numbers we can use to compare. Again, miles/gallon is what everyone in the US uses and having a pseudo MPG number to compare would help cut through the propaganda machines smoke screen.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    It makes you wonder than because it’s so difficult to ascertain the Volt’s efficiency (it depends on so many variables, you could argue it’s impossible), Chevy wouldn’t have been better off with PR and marketing that embraces the fact that the Volt belies all the conventional forms of measurement in regard to efficiency.

    You have to throw the EPA sticker out the window (or rather, peel it off). The Volt is so new, and it’s efficiency so tied to how you drive it and when you charge it, simple averages are irrelevant.

    The title of this article may not be the most marketable slogan, but it is true. And GM could stand to have a little more truth in their marketing. Sweep all the confusion away and simply say “IT DEPENDS.”

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Sooooooo…if I bought a Honda Insight I would get a bit better mpg than the CS mode and the extra 15K bucks I save will buy me enough gas to cover 220K miles.
    I think that will cover any savings I might get from the EV mode.

    DO a similar comparison with virtually any small to midsize non-hybrid and I suspect they ALL make better sense.

    Nice job (again) GM.

    Bunter

    • 0 avatar
      SkiD666

      How about lease the Volt instead – then there wouldn’t be such a huge price gap – no need to ‘buy’ first generation technology.

      Besides, based on this weeks reviews of people actually driving the Volt vs. the poor historical reviews of the Insight – I think the Volt would be the ‘better’ car.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Car are subjective purchases. Attempts to influence subjective purchases with supposed objective data has been around since Jacob convinced Esau to sell him his birthright.

    The bottom line is – are you going to like this car?

    Arguing over how many miles per gallon it gets is ridiculous because you have to drive and live with this damn thing. If this car sucks, but gets 230 miles a gallon, would you be so stupid as to still buy it? I don’t give a crap. If the car sucks, I don’t care how many miles I get per gallon. GM’s entire presentation over the Volt has been based on smoke and mirrors on an issue that doesn’t determine how many of the damn things they sell.

    And what is with that 230 miles per gallon anyway? What kind of organization would present any vehicle with that kind of claim? A bankrupted one that obviously is trying to survive from day to day and willing to sell their trophy wives on eBay if they could keep their corner offices. That’s who.

    What is different here is the fact that we have reached a point where mpg claims are so ginned up, they make a charade out of this once-useful guide to understanding what a specific vehicle can do once you own it.

    “As efficient as you want it to be” – is absolutely correct. And absolutely useless in the real world.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Actually its been bothering me that most early reviews have focused so-much on the cs numbers. I’d rather hear combined numbers relevant to the daily use of the commuters Chevy is targeting with this car. 50-mile round trip with a full charge, then 100, then a full tank trip.

  • avatar
    samdog

    1. Stay under 40 miles between charges – ie 40 miles per day — you get infinite mpg.
    2. Average 60+ miles per day — you get decent but not stellar mileage. 
    So the less you drive it, the better mileage it gets.

    As efficient as you want it to be — provided you don’t really need a car very much. What exactly is personal transportation for?

    As an added bonus, you get a cramped economy car for the price of a premium sedan.

  • avatar
    samdog

    To put it another way: why would GM’s target buyer — the less than 50 mile daily commuter — spend $41k when any number of competent $20k commuter cars are available? The satisfaction of “sticking it” to the oil companies? Is that worth $21k?

    For the city commuter, even the Smart car makes a better argument; “Green” cred with your haughty friends and you can park it almost anywhere. 

    Alternatively, anyone expecting to routinely drive in CS mode would be better served by a Prius, Fusion hybrid or Jetta TDI.

  • avatar
    view2share

    Gee my old Corolla CE got around 38 to 40 MPG on the freeway, and cost around $15K to buy… just saying.

  • avatar
    view2share

    I don’t golf, so then someone explain why I would need a golf car ;)

  • avatar
    ASISEEIT

    Let’s change the subject for a minute. As a retired GM employee I was interested in GM’s IPO and how I might get in on the buy. Well I called up Fidelity where GM employees and retirees have their PSP plans(Personal Savings Plans) to see if they would be creating a “NEW” catagory in which employees and retirees could invest in what we thought was our company especially since we have invested our lives to this company. Fidelity said “Nothing Yet”. Then I recieved a letter stating that ABSOLUTELY NO PSP MONEY COULD BE USED TO PURCHASE GM STOCK!!! Evidently GM wants to keep their former and current employees from being part of the company! Oh yes we can still purchase shares from a broker or Scott trade and the like but cant use money from where the bulk of most every ones money is! Maybe I wont purchase their vehicles either! With the new employee purchase program most any one can get as good a deal as an employee! GM is very good at one thing though and that’s making enemies of their employees and former employees!

  • avatar
    CSal

    Hmm. The EV mileage figure from Popular Mechanics is “in the range of 32 to 36 mpg.”  For a $41,000 car. And for those of you whose reasoning powers lead you to believe that lottery tickets are a great investment, keep in mind the car costs $41,000, even if Uncle Sugar ponies up seven grand of it.

    In comparison, the 1961 Falcon with the 144cid Mileage Maker Six “was capable of 32.68 miles per gallon” (http://www.dearbornclassics.com/falcon.html).  This with a laughably antique straight six with (gasp) carburation fuel “management” and points-type ignition that required your wife’s fingernail file with depressing regularity.  That Falcon sold for under $1,800 in 1961 dollars, equivalent to just under $11,000 current dollars by the CPI.

    So after 50 years time the vaunted Volt has achieved exactly… zilch. NO improvement in fuel mileage despite the massive investment in time and technology.  In fact, by the time you include the cost of the single gallon of gasoline equivalent of the electric charge, that early ’60′s rusty, crusty baby of R. Strange McNamara was a vastly more economical car not only in fuel costs, but also in purchase and repair costs.  A complete rebuild of the old Mileage Maker Six, clutch, and other drivetrain might set you back $3,000 today.  Anybody care to guess what it would cost to rebuild the engine, motors, generators and other drivetrain components of the Volt?  I’d guess three grand might get you a diagnosis and repair estimate, and not much else.

    Let’s face it. the Al Gore/Obama model of automotive America is incredibly wasteful economics, redeploying investment and expenditure dollars to frivolous engineering that should be better put to use on other things.  Hell, even the architect of the Vietnam War, the multi-useless F-111 fighter/bomber and the M-16 Jam-O-Matic could do better automotively than this politically correct shitbox from Gubmint Motors.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I don’t understand how “hippies” became villains. ?
    Waaay too much fixation on the gasoline used by the vast majority of commentators here. I guess it is convenient to ignore the other spigot, the extension cord.
    A friend of mine vilified me for saying that from a strictly economic viewpoint, a Honda Fit would be the fuel efficient choice for me. He thinks I should at least a get a hybrid. Easy for him to say with 8x my income. Seriously, until a hybrid makes practical economic sense, count me out.
    Love that idea of a diesel non EV volt!
     

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    There was never any solid economic logic to the prius, that is why those logical germans were caught flat footed by hybrid popularity. But then is there any logic to a mini over a Kia or a S class over a town car. People will pay more for something they value, be it quality and performance(mini) Quality and experience(benz) the list goes on. A prius made certain people feel good, that on an oblique level they were doing something, never mind the  energy used in construction, or pollution of disposal, or the fuel wasted taxying the jet to takeoff for palm beach.

    The volt conveys a different sense of luxury, how many rich people in paris drove a 2cv or in the UK a mini. So the Volt comes along as a guilt sater, and for many not so rich will also have a rational appeal. people do not like being or feeling that they are held tor ansom by oil, a volt gives a sense of independance(i know electricity is not free). For some, and many suburbanites the commute is 5-10 miles to a train, a volt makes perfect sense, it costs less than a benz will burn no gas, looks cool etc. Plus in a pinch unlike a leaf you can go somewhere in it. The Volt is suburban car, not a city car, city dwellers do not have defined parking and cannot recharge.
    Hybrid drivetrains really make sense on big heavy vehicles like a tahoe with elctric assist to take the edge of town mileage figure, but current marketability works in a so called plebian car(toyota,chevy) that happsns to be expensive. The Lexus hybrid is a dud, to wear the eco badge showy wealth must be mutated. Therefore a fusion hybrid, which is really the best is a poor seller, because it has no cachet over a regular fusion, whereas a prius is instanly reckognisable, but it is a totota so youre still not a rich ahole
    In Short if you do 20 miles per day, a volt practicaly will give you gas independance with a IC safety neIt if you dont mind dropping 40K instead of 20k for the same economic utility.
    In the end this is a marketing situation that may lead to some preferable future technologies, because right now it is pretty obvious that a TD engine is economicaly the best option, but as i said economics has many variables including how someone feels about the product.

  • avatar
    ejhickey

    “In Short if you do 20 miles per day, a volt practicaly will give you gas independance with a IC safety neIt if you dont mind dropping 40K instead of 20k for the same economic utility.”

    Good point.  To me it looks like the volt is an expensive way to save gas and that given its initial price , it may take years of driving the volt in order to make up the difference.  another thing that concerns me is the range.  while the range .  while I could live with 25-33 effective range, I live in an urban area with dense traffic .  what happens if one gets stuck in traffic and a 30 mile commute turns into a 90 minute trip each way in extreme hot or cold temperatures  requiring use of the heater or A/c.?


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