By on February 9, 2009

Kicking Tires has apparently been curious about yet another potential pitfall of the Volt’s Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) design: gasoline aging. If gas sits in the Volt’s fuel system for an extended period while its owner stays within the EV range, will it degrade over time and harm the gas engine performance? That’s what KT asked GM alt-energy poobah Britta Gross, and guess what? Her answer wasn’t wildly convincing! Writes KT’s Kelsey Mays “It’s certainly a concern, Gross said, but it shouldn’t be a problem: The Volt’s system stirs fuel in the tank about once a month to fight fuel-system buildup. At most, ‘it’s a minor impact on performance and emissions,’ she said.” Unconvinced, May took the query to Volt spokesman Dave Darovitz. “I wish I could talk about it,” he said, “but we will have solutions in place to address the aging-gasoline situation. It’s a great problem to have . . . [and] the engineers are addressing that situation.” Darovitz says the issue came up in product planning, and that GM wasn’t disclosing its workaround for “competitive reasons.” Not that consumers need convincing, or anything.

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20 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 127: Another Minor Volt Annoyance Evaded...”

  • avatar

    A little Sta-Bil should solve that problem – I’d be more concerned about losing engine cylinder lubrication – the engine should be started periodically in that case.

  • avatar

    I’m no Volt cheerleader, but in this case, wouldn’t this be solved just by starting the engine from time to time? It doesn’t sound like a big deal to me, no more an annoyance than an oil change.

  • avatar

    Gasoline that contains ethanol ages much faster than pure gas, I hear. (Menno, is that true?)

    Sta-Bil might be to the Volt as urea is to BlueTec diesels.

  • avatar

    Per the Volt owner’s manual: “Even under electric power, the engine may run periodically to maintain all components in good working order.”

    It is an interesting question, though – as hybrids get better at running electric-only, could you have engines, exhaust systems, filters, sitting there for months unused? You want to get things up to temp once in a while to burn of condensation, etc…

  • avatar

    I don’t think this problem will be pronounced with regular gasoline, but Sta-Bil should probably be added with any gasoline containing ethanol, as ethanol seems to absorb moisture better than most dehumidifiers (in my experience).

  • avatar
    Martin B

    If my 2-stroke weedeater is any guidance, the more volatile fractions of the petrol disappear over time, and what’s left doesn’t vaporise well, making the engine difficult to start, and smoky.

  • avatar

    Volt owner’s manual? Anyone have a link?

  • avatar

    I was just kidding about the owner’s manual….

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    This will only be an issue if a Volt is actually built and sold, something more unlikely by the day.

  • avatar
    Ken Elias

    To be a problem, you have to believe the Volt will go 40 miles on electric only. I have my doubts. But even if it does, how many folks will forget to plug it in at night on occasion? Lots.

  • avatar

    Ken Elias
    how many folks will forget to plug it in at night on occasion?

    i was thinking the same thing. I saw one over the weekend at the DC Auto Show. A nimrod there that was talking it up told me that you HAD to plug it in to charge it up, that it’s not meant to run otherwise. That the gasoline engine was just there as a sort of emergency back up. I told him i thought he was wrong. Anyone know? B+B? Bueller?

  • avatar

    Volt, who needs a volt to be concerned about this issue.

    I’ve gone two months on a tank of gas in a car I drive to and from work on a daily basis. How good is the gas in my car after it sitting for a month or two?

    And if I get a Prius that’d just be twice as bad an issue if I were dumb enough to get a full tank (I’d just have to start buying gas 1/4 to 1/2 a tank at a time).

    Going up to the next level how about a plug in Prius? I’d have to make sure I never put more than a 1/4 tank at most during my normal driving patterns.

  • avatar

    According to motocross racers gas that has been sitting for as little as a week can start to deteriorate. My generator starts itself weekly. I assume the Volt will have to do something similar.

  • avatar

    Ya know, maybe much of the country has access to a garage and a plug. Near the city, people have street parking only and parking garages. I just got a garage myself and I made that an important feature in my home buying checklist. Most people I know wouldn’t have access to a plug anyway.

  • avatar

    I had a junk car sitting out side for over 10 yrs. when gas got to $3.00 I thought about that 10 gal. and put it in my tractor, no problem. Just my experence. Ethanol would probably cause a different outcome.

  • avatar

    According to what I’ve read, the idea of starting the genset periodically had been floated around, so I would not be surprised were this the case, or at least part of the overall solution.


    It’s a question of perspective. It sounds like the person you were talking to only had rudimentary knowledge, but in truth, if you want to run off of grid electricity as much as possible, obviously you have to plug it in. However, the Volt will run just fine even if it is never plugged in, it will just run off of the genset all the time, kinda like a diesel/electric train, though this defeats the purpose somewhat. What it does mean though, is that if the Voltec platform ever becomes the defacto standard drivetrain for all of GM’s products, those without consistent access to plug will still be able to drive one much like you drive a normal car now, only with hybrid efficiency.

    Ken Elias & brentalan:

    The consensus among EV owners, who have all had to deal with this very transition, is that you get used to plugging in your car very quickly. It actually becomes easier and more efficient than having to go to the gas station. It’s a blessing, not a curse. The “forgetting to plug in” issue, in reality, really isn’t an issue. At most, a person will typically only forget once.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    It is only a problem if GM is telling the truth about the 40 mi. all electric range. Please raise your hand if you believe anything GM says?

    You, over in the corner, you don’t really believe anything GM says do you?

  • avatar

    I don’t remember them having that trouble with the EV1.

    Maybe they could have just pulled the prints and started to build the EV1 again. Just a thought.

  • avatar


    The EV1 didn’t have a range extender, it was a purely a battery EV. Thus it would never have had any gas related issues.

    As for dusting off the EV1, that design wouldn’t meet current safety regualtions, let alone be competitive with current technology. It’s interesting to note though, that GM was working on a 4 seater variant of the EV1 with a range extending genset at the time, so in a way, the Volt is in fact a sucessor to the EV1, if only in spirit. Much of what GM learned then was likely used as a jumping off point for the Volt though. Technology has changed a great deal since the EV1, so a clean design is the only reasonable route at this point.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t sound like a big problem. I leave the fuel in my old 4-cycle lawnmower over the winter and it starts on the first pull in the spring.

    The bigger problem is how a bankrupt company can sell an unprofitable $40k economy car that only a small portion of the population can actually use (no apartment dwellers, sorry), in only 2 cities at first (SF and DC), all the while hoping and praying for infrastructure changes deemed by GM to be “key” to the product’s success.

    And they never talk about actual economy numbers, and they never talk about actual performance after Mile 40.

    The Volt is smoke and mirrors, nothing more; they’ll never sell any, or else they’ll only survive on government subsidies.

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