By on April 13, 2010

Production of Chevy Volt “integration models” began last week, as Hamtramck tools up for final production of GM’s wundercar, but GM still isn’t saying anything about the car’s two most important features: the pricetag and EPA rating. The General has hemmed and hawed on the Volt’s price over the last several years of hype, but it hasn’t ever been shy about touting an “expected” 230 MPG rating. Because apparently it’s the EPA’s job to clear up GM’s misleading marketing claims. So what is the deal with that 230 MPG number, anyway?

Inside Line reports the latest on “negotiations” between GM and the EPA over the Volt’s testing paradigm and eventual MPG number.

“The 230 mpg number talked about a few months ago was based on some preliminary discussion with the EPA,” said Andrew Farah, the vehicle chief engineer on the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera, when asked if the number is still relevant. “Those conversations have been continuing and have not yet come to a conclusion.”

After the media conference call, Inside Line asked Rob Peterson, GM’s Volt spokesman, if the Volt’s fuel economy is still up in the air.

“I couldn’t have said it any better,” he replied.

“The discussion continues to go on between the EPA and GM,” Peterson said. “[We’re] working together to come up with a number that works best for the consumer.”

Now, try to imagine the case for the 230 MPG number being a good thing for consumers. Sure, miles-per-gallon is the standard measure, but the idea that consumers will ever be able to drive 230 miles on one gallon of gasoline is simply laughable. But the Volt project has always started with a big eco-marketing number (it started with “40 miles without burning a single drop of gasoline”) with the car being built to suit. So, will the EPA stick to its guns? One thing is for certain: if the Volt goes on sale with a 230 MPG window sticker, the Government Motors conspiracy theorists are going to have a freaking field day. Especially considering that the Volt’s rating appears to come down to “negotiations” between GM and the EPA.

UPDATE: The Detroit News paraphrases Chief Engineer Andrew Farah as saying that “road testing shows the Volt is meeting its targets, including achieving a 40-mile range on batteries alone and the goal of 50 miles per gallon when the range-extending gasoline engine kicks in.”

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45 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 185: EPA Still Not Buying 230 MPG Number...”

  • avatar

    If memory serves me, this was one of the first Volt ads. Hope you like dogs and feet!

    • 0 avatar

      How about they just run the loop a few times and publish the numbers?

      1st City: At start, Battery fully charge, electric-only mode

      2nd City: At start, Battery is depleted to ICE engagement level

      3rd City: At start, Battery fully charge. Run the city loop on battery until the ICE comes on, and publish the number of miles completed on Battery only.

      4th Highway: At start, Battery fully charged. Run the highway loop until the tank is dry.

      Those numbers would mean a hell of a lot more than “230 mpg”. Something along those lines would work for all hybrids, and it’d be up to shoppers to compare the EPA values. Those values mean more in comparison to other vehicles than as ironclad guarantees of real world fuel economy anyway.

  • avatar

    I’m hardly a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorist, but…

    Even the faintest indication of collusion between two arms of the federal government that have a more-than-vested interest in the well-being of Gov’t Motors should be enough to raise some eyebrows. No conspiracy needed.

    That said, if anything it seems that EPA is holding GM’s feet to the (battery?) fire here, and I hope that continues.

  • avatar

    I’m not even going to acknowledge the existence of the Volt until someone like oh “Car and Driver” completes a 40,000 mile long-term test. What do you think the chances are of GM allowing that? Probably as likely as them giving Jack Baruth the first press fleet car.

  • avatar

    What about Tesla? They outdid this Volt add by claiming 256 mpg. After what was probably a shitstorm they pulled the number out of their website. This goes to show the level of greaseball scumbags both GM and Tesla are.

    The Volt is of course also pure bullshit. Drive 30 miles with 1 gallon of gas and then a huge battery drives the other 200 miles. Result = 230 mpg wooopie-dee-doo!!! By that analogy one could drive 200 miles on battery only and claim and infinite mileage.

    Hey, check this out dude! My car does one gazillion miles per gallon! I am saving the planet! Yay me!

  • avatar

    If you think about it, all electric car, and even to a certain degree hybrid car “miles per GALLON” numbers are false. If you aren’t burning something measured in gallons (or liters, or however you measure your liquids) then those miles don’t really count.

  • avatar

    So the Nissan Leaf gets infinite MPG?

    The real issue here is the EPA needs to redefine it’s test for vehicles where the IC engine is not the mode of propulsion. There needs to be separate standards for vehicles of this class.

    If I suddenly completely lost my mind and bought a Volt, I would expect to be able to measure close to 230 mpg. If not, I am going to be a very unhappy former customer (I already am for other reasons). The proof will be real life driving. I am sure that GM has test cars on the road that could provide real world mileage results. If I were the one responsible for saying 230 mpg, I sure would be looking at those numbers, having them independently verified, and making them public……that is unless they are no where near 230 mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      No, you’re completely ignorant of how this all works. Let me explain:

      Phase 1: Drive 40 miles without burning a single drop of gasoline
      Phase 2: Collect Underpants
      Phase 3: ?
      Phase 4: Drive 190 miles on one gallon of gasoline

      All of that inevitably leads to
      Phase 5: Profit!

      It’s all very complicated, but here’s an early Volt planning video that may help:

  • avatar

    Giving the Volt 230mpg is absolutely the wrong impression to consumers. From the perspective of average consumers, “mpg” represents how far they can travel on a gallon of gasoline, its not about an ecological issue, so much as an economical and practical one.

    The EPA would quite quickly lose any credibility to the consumer if they allowed this obvious ‘false advertising” and fuzzy mathematics.

    The average consumer can understand it if you told them, “40 miles of batteries in EV mode, and 40 mpg using gasoline”.

    It may not give GM an adverting tag-line, but its a lot more honest to the consumer. Just as silly, the EPA would also open the door for the Nissan Leaf to claim “367mpg”, which would just make everyone sound preposterous.

    Quite simply, it is NOT the job of the government to act as advertisers for domestic car companies.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you. 40 miles of batteries charged for 8 hours or 40 mpg using gasoline.
      The mpg rating for a Nissan Leaf would be be even more problematic – the driver doesn’t put gallons of anything into it – just electrons;.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Why is this so hard?

    A plug-in hybrid can’t be represented by one single number.

    It needs miles per kWh city/highway in all electric mode using the same test procedure driving cycle, and miles per gallon when it is running in charge sustaining mode city/highway. It would be good to have the range available in city/highway on the federal test procedure, too.

    I wonder if GM is resisting this because the charge-sustaining-mode MPG numbers aren’t all that impressive …

  • avatar

    And if there are any confused souls out there trusting the EPA to get this right, I would remind them that one of the EPA highups (an engineer himself as I recall) started the discussion saying that they were looking at a “miles per kW” number (i.e. equivalent to “miles per hp”).

    Only after an extended discussion did he acknowledge the right metric would be “miles per kWh” (i.e. equivalent to “miles per BTU” or “mpg”).

    With that little understanding going in, all of the political implications of bailouts, and outrageous marketing claims doing the rounds, the results of these discussions are eagerly anticipated!

  • avatar

    So, the government’s not buying into its own BS? Oh the irony!

  • avatar

    Edward, thanks for the UPDATE at the top. I’m still not buying the 40/50 mpg numbers until there’s some independent verification, but that’s a lot more meaningful than GM’s tripe. I don’t think the 2012 Prius is worried.

  • avatar

    I think this is reason number 1 that Fritz was let go. The number was based on a preliminary test, one that isn’t going to see the light of day.

    I think that for EV cars, a new method of comparison will have to be used. MPG doesn’t really work for a Leaf. It only really works for the Volt for 40 miles. My guess… you will get 2 numbers on the car. EV range, then mpg for city and hwy driving. For the Leaf, EV range only.

  • avatar

    For a car like this, the most helpful number to me, the somewhat educated consumer, would be how far can it go on a full charge, city cycle and highway cycle(if a volt can do highway speeds electric only), before the gas engine kicks in and what the mpg is with the gas engine running (basically equivalent to a mild hybrid with regenerative braking I assume?), city cycle and highway cycle.

  • avatar

    EPA is a crock of shit…

  • avatar

    “but the idea that consumers will ever be able to drive 230 miles on one gallon of gasoline is simply laughable”

    While I doubt that I would buy a Volt, I can personally imagine how this could happen. I work less than 40 miles round trip from my home. I already plan errands around my commute. Many other errands that I run on the weekends are less than 40 miles round trip, as are family members that I visit. I could easily do my driving for a couple of weeks without ever kicking in the ICE. As a result, I could very possibly achieve 230 MPG in a given time period if I didn’t have to make any long runs into the city.

    My electicity usage is another matter, however. These ICE/EV chimeras will require an entirely new metric.

    • 0 avatar

      While I doubt that I would buy a Volt, I can personally imagine how this could happen.

      Not really. Juice up the Volt, pour a gallon of gas in it and try to go 230 miles without stopping. That’s what MPG represents for other cars, so why should the Volt get to stop to load up on electrons?

      Figure out how far a Volt can go on a full tank + charge and divide it by the liquid fuel capacity. That’s what the MPG ought to be for something resembling an apples to apples comparison with conventional vehicles, dagnabbit.

      And you kids get off my lawn.

  • avatar

    50 mpg in range-extending mode? If that’s the case, why has GM been so evasive about talking about it? 50mpg is Prius territory. You’d think marketing would be unable to shut-up about that.

  • avatar

    No number will be correct unless some sort of usage matrix is provided to customers.

    Without that, all critics – and defenders – of the Volt will have ammunition when it comes to MPG.

    Here’s my metric – would you buy the $40k Volt if it used no gasoline at all? 230 mpg is essentially infinite, so 12k miles of that is only $150/year. Big deal – the actual number is a red herring designed to obscure the high price and the need to plug it in every day, in addition to periodic fuel fillups.

    And there is no way that heavy car gets 50 mpg on the highway.

    I’d much rather have the cheaper, single-fuel (electric) Leaf.

    • 0 avatar

      “And there is no way that heavy car gets 50 mpg on the highway.”

      I think your looking at this from the wrong perspective. The volt is not using the ICE like a conventional car, rather as a generator, maintaining the charge on the batteries. The car however is powered by a high torque electric motor. The ICE is running in it’s most efficient mode only.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree that Volt and 50 mpg is questionable.
      Prius can do that or close because it is a parallel system with mechanical drive efficiency.
      Volt is purely electric drive and less efficient freeway travel.

  • avatar

    Clutchcargo – by your logic I could drive around 230 miles with a gallon of gas in a jug and get the same result.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, if for short trips you’re pedalling the car around town or using an alternate power source like electricity or a flywheel or rubber bands. But under certain real world scenarios, triple digit MPG is possible. It just doesn’t relate well to MPG in a purely ICE car. That’s why an alternate metric is required to make any meaningful comparison. But that won’t stop GM marketeers from throwing around numbers like 230 MPG to grab short attention spans.

  • avatar

    The Volt – Vaporware at it’s finest (methinks that claim is running on fumes…)

  • avatar

    Miles per [email protected] for a full charge. That gives you your range AND your cost. ICE and hybrid get mpg. Plug-in hybrid gets [email protected] on battery and mpg in hybrid mode. Volt gets [email protected] on battery and mpg in range extend mode.

    ICE/Hybrid/Plugin hybrid in hybrid mode/Range-extended on ICE:

    26/[email protected] ([email protected] capacity, city/highway)

    BAT/Plugin hybrid on battery/Range-extended on BAT:

    100/[email protected] ([email protected] capacity, city/highway)

    At $3 per gallon of gasoline, a full tank for a 26/[email protected] mpg rating will cost $39, and will carry me between 338-403 miles on average.

    At $0.12 per kWh, a full battery for a 100/[email protected] mpc rating will cost $3.17, and will carry me between 80-100 miles on average.

    Consumers purchasing an ICE machine will care more about how far they go per gallon, and will compare that way. Consumers purchasing a BAT machine will care more about how far they go per charge, and will compare that way. Therefore, the numbers will regularly get shorthanded thus:

    ICE: 26/31mpg

    BAT: 100/80mpc

    Range-extended BAT: 40/30mpc, 50/44mpg

    And so on.

  • avatar

    Clearly the sign reads 23 MPG. Someone found the clipart of a plug and just had to shove it in there.

  • avatar
    Lug Nuts

    GM forgot to mention it only gets 230 mpg in free fall from low Earth orbit.

  • avatar

    If the 230 MPG claim is true, shouldn’t the Volt have a 2 or 3 gallon fuel tank instead of a 12 gallon tank? The range would be 2,760 miles on a tank of fuel. Sorry, I don’t think so.

  • avatar

    You know what guys, I pour a liquid into my TDI Jetta, and it reliably averages 49.X MPG, mile in, and mile out… for the past eight years. No fancy math, sleight of hand, or smoke and mirrors to get that number. I pour X gallons of fuel in, drive it XXX miles, and presto.

    Tell me again why Diesel won’t work?

    • 0 avatar

      Which is why I’ve always raised an eyebrow to hybrids. Longterm, the battery is definitely not going to be a treehugger’s fantasy, and compared to a greasel vehicle, a hybrid looks even worse. A comparison of diesel, greasel, and hybrid emissions would likely be an eyeopener if it included tailpipe, smokestack, and battery pollution.

      I’ve never owned a diesel, but if I did, I’d look into something like this:

    • 0 avatar

      Honest, the battery is completely recyclable.

      While I’m not a huge hybrid devotee either, the battery is really nothing to worry about. Too much valuable stuff in there to pitch it.

      It makes economic sense to recycle lead-acids, and lead is just this side of free.

    • 0 avatar

      @ porschespeed:

      I know batteries are recyclable, but completely recyclable? I figured the electrolytes and other not-so-nice chemicals involved wouldn’t be easily greened up. I did a quick search on battery recycling and found a mishmash of information that didn’t necessarily apply to hybrid automotive batteries. Do you have any links that discuss current hybrid battery recycling programs?

      I’d still like to see the breakdown I described done by credible researchers. Shifting the ecological and economical burden to power plants is definitely part of the hybrid mystique, and I’d prefer having better data than GM’s “230 mpg” to decide future purchases.

    • 0 avatar


      Fair enough, perhaps that was a bit hyperbolic. The final yield on Li-Ion is somewhere in the 60+% range as far as I have heard.

      There is some non-recoverable material. There are ways to utilize that remaining material, so that’s where I use ‘totally’.

      Like I said, I’m not a bit electric hybrid fan – pneumatic hybrids are far cheaper and easier. And don’t require battery recycling. But they aren’t as politically/socially sexy, so they are a tough sell.

    • 0 avatar

      No problem. I wasn’t trying to bag on you in the least. It’s clear GM is very interested in not telling us the truth about the Volt, so it’s up to us to find out its true economy and ecological impact.

      I’ve seen a few pneumos sputtering around on TV and they look interesting. “Fuel” storage is about as green as can be, and the distribution infrastructure is largely in place. The potential energy of pneumo systems might be the major drawback, but the concept is worth further development.

    • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    This car is going to take over the auto market in such a fast time frame, all doubters will be too ashamed to admit the doubts they forecasted.

    GM is onto something very big here- the Nissan Leaf won’t even touch the Volt in terms of range, and the price of the Volt will drop to the low 20s within a few years, if one includes subsidies, etc.

    Way to knock it out of the park, General Motors!

  • avatar

    It’s a simple “slap in the face” to the EPA’s standardized test. Every vehicle is to follow this standardized test, given by the EPA, and the final mpg number is calculated.

    Over the years, the EPA standardized test for mpg has been criticized by the industry for not being applicable to real-world driving. By following the standardized test, with the Volt, and legitimately reporting the number (230 mpg), it forces the EPA to finally reconsider its standardized test.

    Since the Volt is so new in concept, and with the Leaf (among other electrics) coming to market, the EPA has to reevaluate its testing procedure for mpg and realize that there really is no such thing as a “standardized test” for all vehicles.

  • avatar

    To all those that think 230 mpg is too high: If I drive a Volt 30 miles a day for a year and never refill it, what is my mpg? The problem is not the number. It’s the EPA thinking it needs a single number.

    • 0 avatar

      A single number is good, if it’s the right number. Problem is that the EPA is the wrong part of government. Protect the environment by buying a car full of batteries that moves the pollution from 10 feet behind me to a power plant 10 miles away? Please…

      I want a single #. “Total Cost per mile”

      Include depreciation, unplanned maintenance based on history of the vehicle, insurance costs, gas, routine maintenance based on the owners manual, tires, brakes, etc.

      Anyone of us could build the spreadsheet in an hour and would just need some raw data from Consumer Reports run the model.

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