By on August 26, 2010

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does journalism. GM has been trumpeting the Volt’s 40 mile target AER (all electric range) since it was first announced on January 7, 2007. From that very day three years and eight months ago, journalists and enthusiasts have been asking The Big Volt Question: what is its fuel economy in CSM (charge sustaining mode)? There has never been an answer, except that at the 2007 announcement Bob Lutz “reasoned that…(after the battery was depleted) the engine sipping fuel at a rate of 50 m.p.g.” An early target or a Lutzian wild speculation that GM soon refused to verify or qualify. Ever.

Fast forward to August 24, 2010: gm-volt announces that an astute reader has made a screen capture of an Aol Volt test drive promo video, that indicated that the Volt traveled 16.1 miles after the battery depleted and used .59 gallons, equaling 27.3 mpg. Did anyone really think that was a truly representative fuel economy for the Volt, not knowing precisely the conditions under which it occurred? Note the word “Hints” prominently in TTAC’s story. So far, it’s been the only shred of evidence to The Big Volt Question. But rather than use this fantastic PR opportunity to state a target CSM mileage figure, which could only (presumably) look good compared to that 27 mpg number; GM’s Volt Communications person Phil Colley (pictured above) states it delicately:

Yours (plugincars,com) and the other stories yesterday and today show a complete lack of understanding of the process and are quite frankly, lazy reporting.

The “process” that Cooley refers to is that the EPA and and GM are still hashing out the methodology and labeling of the EPA sticker, which may likely not happen until after the Volt hits the streets. Big deal. How about an educated guess or target? GM has been driving fleets of Volts for tens of thousands of miles all over the country, and it can’t come up with a ballpark number? GM can, but it chooses not to. Here’s why:

Back in August of 2008, GM announced that the 2011 Cruze would get 40 mpg or better, on the EPA highway cycle. The EPA tests for the Cruze are still not final or announced. But obviously, it suited GM to have the press endlessly regurgitate that 40 plus mpg number, which it faithfully has done for two years. And GM had the info on the Cruz’ anticipated mileage way back then.

Yes, the Volt involves some new technology, but there’s absolutely no doubt that GM has a very good idea of the Volt’s  mileage in CSM, and/or what its fleet of testers are averaging. And here’s what GM needs to say now right now:

because the methodology of the final EPA sticker is not complete, we’re not going to guess or project what that will say. But the CSM component of it will probably be between X and Y mpg, based on our experience.

How hard would that be?

GM is holding back, because even if the CSM mileage is on the low side, it wants to score a BIG number on the EPA’s new standards for plug-in vehicles, likely to be the SAEJ1711 methodology. That will be a blend of electric and gas modes, and therefor look BIGGER than what a straight CSM (gas only) number would be. And lazy journalists might just spread information about the Volt’s actual fuel consumption that might contradict that.

GM took a lot of heat for their silly 230mpg draft methodology in 2008. Now it’s the other extreme: Volts will likely be sold without an EPA sticker until the favorable new EPA numbers are finalized. And so the world’s largest manufacturer releases a new car without a fuel mileage target. In lieu of that, “lazy reporting” will just have to do. Unless GM is willing to let us, or any other lazy journalist drive the Volt in CSM for a full tank of gas. We’re not too lazy for that; just tell us where and when.

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78 Comments on “Volt Gas Mileage Flap: GM PR Blames “Lazy Reporting”...”

  • avatar

    No negotiations between GM and EPA needed. That sticker should simply read: “40 miles on battery power/27.3 MPG thereafter”.

    • 0 avatar

      27 mpg with battery power depleted seems perfectly reasonable, given that it’s a small car hauling 400 pounds of dead weight in batteries, plus enough weight to protect them in crashes.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the point of all this, and least of all selling without a sticker. Once Volt hits the streets, there will be mileage numbers on True Delta and elsewhere even if terms of lease forbid sharing them.

  • avatar

    Whaaa?? Are you telling me that it won’t get 230mpg like GM claimed?!? Well then cancel my order for one!

    GM and North Korea should have a personnel exchange with some of their public relations folks. I wonder if anyone would even notice?

  • avatar

    Kudos to TTAC for finding a photo that makes Colley look every bit the sniveling D-bag one might reasonably expect him to be, after reading his snide Government Motors-approved rebuttal.

    “WAAAAAAH! Stop picking on my car! WAAAAAAAAH!”

  • avatar

    My reasoning is that the CSM mileage is completely irrelevant. This is a backup facility, not a regular operation mode.

    • 0 avatar

      With a 40-mile range, most people will be using the “backup” mode fairly regularly. E.g., you go on a long trip, have to go to an alternate location for work, stay with a friend/family and aren’t able to plug in to recharge, etc…

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      CSM fuel economy is not at all irrelevant. Most people do not have the luxury of buying one car for local use and another for longer trips. It is quite reasonable for the potential buyer to want to know what fuel economy to expect during longer trips.

      Many people have a relatively short, battery friendly daily commute AND also like to go out of town to see grandma, go fishing or what not on the weekend. It is just silly to say that those uses don’t matter.

    • 0 avatar

      @segfault and JH
      This issue has been debated to death. I believe the consensus is that the Volt works best as a second car in a household. This way you both have an extended range EV and can take the other car to go fishing or see grandma or what have you. Or, if you’re single and work for Google Inc., you can buy the Tesla Roadster. Not quite sure about its utility for fishing trips, but the grandma will be positively impressed.

  • avatar

    is it even legal selling a car without EPA number?

    they should have 9 numbers on the EPA sticker:
    – kWh / mile in EV mode (city/highway/combined- same driving cycle as any other car)
    – range in miles in EV mode (city/highway/combined- same driving cycle as any other car)
    – mpg in CSM (city/highway/combined- same driving cycle as any other car)

    Everything else is cheating.

    If someone thinks CSM mileage is not relevant, please let the buyer make that decision, not GM nor the EPA. That is the same like saying for a Porsche city mileage is irrelevant since it is a sports car… it still gets city mileage on the sticker (whether the buyer cares or not)

    • 0 avatar

      Since when does the government have to obey its own laws? Cops speed. Try to sign up with the Military or the CIA if you’re 45 years old. So Government Motors is likely exempt from EPA mileage reporting requirements.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed 100%. This is the only honest way to do things. It’s absurd that they’re “negotiating” with the EPA to come up with some contrived, BS MPG number that is completely dependent on how far you drive. I mean, lets make the number how much gas it takes to go 40.01 miles and have an mpg of 15,000 mpg. This is absurd. The important numbers are

      Electric plug-to-miles efficiency (how far you can go on a kwh, as measured on the power meter on your house. Have to account for charging losses, since those aren’t free)

      Electric Range

      CSM MPG, measured as in any other car

      Anything else is pretty much lying.

  • avatar

    Big shock… an ICE driving through the extra conversion losses involved in converting mechanical energy to electricity and back is actually… GASP… less efficient than a regular ICE?

    It has always been a given that the range extender would not be economical. (despite what GM claimed) Much in the same way as a Corvette can EITHER get you to 60 in 4 seconds OR get you 26 mpg… the Volt can EITHER get your (mumble-numble-230-mpg-or-something-of-the-sort) 80+ mpgequivalent OR a range of 200+ miles. You can’t have both.

    At this point… 40 mile electric range… horrible economy with ICE… GM handling the criticism poorly… why is this a better idea than a Plug-in Prius, again? 13 mile electric range, and withe ICE, can hit 80+ mpg on a great day and 60 mpg on a good day.

    • 0 avatar

      it is not inherently less efficient since the ICE can operate under its optimum conditions when de-coupled from the wheels. Trains, submarines, cruise ships, tanks etc. all are driven by electric motor and the ICE drives a generator. And they don’t do that because they are stupid or don’t care about fuel (imagine the $-savings for 1% fuel economy improvement for a cruise-ship – multiple people could retire from that!!!)

      Of course, it has to be implemented correctly. and GM hasn’t even been able to produce good regular ICE cars. so i have my doubts, but await official numbers as state by me above (not the EPA hocus pocus)

    • 0 avatar

      Tanks have horrible economy… though, given their size, however they drive the wheels, economy will be bad, anyway. All of the other installations have one thing in common: size: what works well in large installations doesn’t always work as well in small packages.

      That’s why, despite using power derived from the burning of bunker oil or coal, an electric car still gets more miles per gallon than an ICE car… economies of scale. The smaller your generator, the more expensive each electric mile gets… until… poof. You have an onboard micro-generator. That’s why it’s only used as a range extender, and not the primary means of propulsion. And that’s why rotaries and microturbines are being seriously considered… despite the lack of economy, even after fettling, at least they don’t take up much space or add too much weight for the electric motors to lug around.

      An ICE can be optimized to get better economy over a narrower powerband when using it as a generator, yes. But… you can do the same with a planetary gearset, as in the Prius, with its Atkinson cycle engine… or with more gears (the Fiesta is bringing the 6-speed autobox down to the proletariat!)… and with variable valve timing, ultra-lean burn, direct injection and other clever strategies, electronic throttles and whatnot, engines are much more flexible than ever before, and can optimize their power delivery in order to provide the best economy possible in any situation.

    • 0 avatar

      good points, niky.
      True, for the large applications the gears would be monstrous and the electric drivetrain is more practical and that might not hold true for a car.

      However, I still think EV with range extender could have mileage somewhere in between a full-hybrid like the Prius and a regular ICE car. 40 mpg should be feasible if GM doesn’t screw it up

    • 0 avatar

      The one tank I know of that had electromechanical transmission was… Porsche. Ferdinand tank destroyer used Volt-like layout (except for batteries), and was notorious for getting 3 gallons a mile, on a good day. To my knowledge all production tanks today use mechanical drive.

      I’d expect city mileage of the Volt to fare better against Prius than its highway mileage. Too bad that the main reason one would need a range extender is to travel on the highway…

    • 0 avatar

      You are missing one simple fact. There is significant drive train loss in a car. Many people estimate that it is around 15%. This setup has the potential to be much more efficient than an ICE with a transmission and differential, which by the way both induce energy loss.

      I am actually willing to bet that there is less energy loss converting it to electricity, and using more efficient electrical motors than driving it straight to the wheels using a transmission, drive shaft, and differential.

      If the Volt is getting poor mpg, it wouldn’t be from this conversion. It would be to poor weight.

      Also, the plug-in Prius… some are expecting it to cost MORE than a Volt. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    • 0 avatar

      Good points all around. Don’t forget that GM declined to design a new engine for the Volt, so is engine probably is not optimal for its role as a generator. If the real mpg numbers we (eventually) see aren’t impressive that doesn’t necessarily mean the range-extender concept is a bad idea, only GM’s implementation. And much as I’d like to beat on them for cheaping out yet again, I can’t really blame them for not betting even more money on this dark horse.

    • 0 avatar

      Alex: the M1 Abrams has a jet-turbine.
      I don’t know about other tanks, but there may be some more that have gears, some more that have E-motors.

      obviously not an example of fuel-efficiency, but you won’t find a fuel efficient tank with or without gears :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Why does any one think the Volt’s engine “will always operate in its most efficient mode”, ie. lowest bsfc? For a typical automotive gasoline engine this means about 75% throttle and 2500 rpm. All reports say the Volt engine just turns the generator to supply the power for the electric motor; no battery charging. So there will be a variable load depending on conditions. I’m guessing that going up a long hill at 70 mph means 5000 rpm and WOT, and driving 25 mph through the school zone means 1500 rpm and barely open throttle.

    • 0 avatar

      You are correct, the engine doesn’t always operate at the same RPM. But, the battery also helps on acceleration, so it will be a limited RPM range that the engine works in.

    • 0 avatar

      @HerrKaLeun: Tanks are direct drive with mechanical transmissions. Trains and some heavy equipment use diesel electric in order to have max torque from a standstill. A mechanical transmission that could provide similar performance would have to have an enormous number of gear ratios, and a dramatically slipping clutch or torque converter.

      Diesel engines make sense in non-nuke subs, and you need an electric motor for submerged propulsion anyway, so that’s a gimme. Many nuke subs are steam-turbine direct drive.

      On cruise ships, it often takes more power to run all the ammenities and rooms than it does to propel the ship, so a giant electric plant needs to be there regardless. Might as well use it for propulsion. This also allows architectual flexibility, allowing the engines to be placed anywhere, and it allows propulsion via azimuth pods, providing vastly superior manuverability. It is also a quieter drive system than having a big gearbox.

      Some other large ships, particularly military vessels, use diesel electric for the same reason as trains: max torque from a standstill, and power to run radars & stuff.

      Another advantage of diesel electric is that, in multi-engine ships, when you don’t require full-power you can shut off some of the engines. This is especially beneficial in port. I hear they’re lower maintenaince than gearbox ships, too. It also enables counter-rotating props much more simply.

      The vast majority of advantages I just listed don’t apply to the volt.

    • 0 avatar

      Except, apparently, GM has decided that, for purposes of ergonomics (or some similar concept, like “familiarity”), the ICE will “follow” the accelerator when it’s running. At least, that was reported about 8 months or so ago.

      So, it won’t be in its most efficient zone whenever it’s running. Maybe.

      Of course, one wonders if the EPA cars will have engines that only run in the zone when they run to maximize fuel economy whereas the customer cars will “follow” the accelerator and could not possibly produce the same fuel economy as the EPA cars.

    • 0 avatar


      15% drivetrain losses are typical for older cars. Newer cars see less, thanks to more efficient designs. Nissan wasn’t kidding when they claimed its new GT-R had losses in the 10% range (of course, the transmission fluid they used was so thin that it would shear down over time on multiple drag-strip launches… most you can ever expect out of the GT-R is about a hundred launches before it grenades due to the accumulated wear…).

      We’ve seen consistently lower drivetrain losses on the dyno from many modern transmissions compared to older ones.

      Mechanical-Electric conversion incurs you possibly a 20% efficiency loss. Electric-Mechanical, another 20%. Maybe more in “mountain mode”. You can’t beat the laws of thermodynamics.

      And maybe even more due to the size. The smaller you package your motors, the less efficient they become and the more heat and friction losses pile up. Which is why these things matter less in bigger installations.

    • 0 avatar

      “Mechanical-Electric conversion incurs you possibly a 20% efficiency loss. Electric-Mechanical, another 20%. Maybe more in “mountain mode”. You can’t beat the laws of thermodynamics.”

      The laws of thermodynamics apply only to heat engines. Conversions between mechanical and electrical power can (and do) approach 100%.

      Converting from a fuel to mechanical energy is where the laws of thermodynamics impose a heavy tax. Usually well over 50% of the fuel energy is wasted as heat.

    • 0 avatar

      “The laws of thermodynamics apply only to heat engines. Conversions between mechanical and electrical power can (and do) approach 100%.”

      Gearboxes? Shaft bearings? Inefficient ICEs? Heat-build up in the generator? Electrical transmission losses (due to heat)?

      The laws of thermodynamics apply to everybody. It’s the law. Until we see superconducting electrical coils and completely frictionless bearings, having the power go through one ICE and two electrical motors is never going to be as efficient as having the power go straight from the ICE to the road… which is why the Prius and all other hybrids still use mechanical drive through the wheels, even if they do utilize electric drive and allow all-electric use.

      MInd you… I’m still allowing for the Volt to be quite economical (maybe mid-30s)… but in charge-sustaining mode, I doubt it’ll approach the economy of a conventional hybrid.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to disagree with you as to why the Prius has a mechanical linkage to the wheels. It is simple, it has only a limited battery supply that it doesn’t want to run down. The Volt takes a different approach, which a large amount of electrical storage, it can use electricity solely for propulsion. Even when it runs low on charge, it still uses the batteries to power the vehicle from a stop, the time when most energy is used. The ICE will trickle the power back into the battery to a certain amount and power the vehicle. You have to change the way you think about how the vehicle is working. It is using the batteries to accelerate, and slowly trickling in power at a more optimal rpm over time to refill the batteries.

      The generator in the Volt won’t likely be operating at wide open throttle often, if at all. Well, maybe if you are climbing several miles of mountains. The point is this, what causes the most energy loss during driving is accelerating. This ICE will replenish the energy over time at optimal rpms. This design difference alone could dramatically increase the CS mpg over the Prius since the Prius cannot capture all of the extra energy from the ICE and store it in its battery.

      I will have to disagree with you on the conversion from mechanical to electrical and back. It seems that you are ignoring advancements in generators and electric motors and only acknowledging the advancements in an ICE, transmission, drive shaft, differential, and if present, torque converter. It isn’t like the conventional drive train doesn’t have its own problems with efficiency. There is a lot of rotating mass there. A few fluids to heat up. Plenty of places for friction.

    • 0 avatar

      I think we have to be clear as to how the Prius works. With light accelerator pedal application, the Prius accelerates mostly on electrical power. At low speeds, it hardly ever runs on gasoline power alone (and you’ll know when the gasoline engine is on… it’s a tuneless thrashing). That planetary gearset transmission doesn’t really allow for efficient acceleration on gasoline at low speeds… and limits the Prius’s top speed arbitrarily… it’s tuned to operate within the typical speed range Prius drivers will see on the highway.

      Thus… the Prius actually uses the ICE most in steady-state driving, and relies more on electric motivation at low speeds. The older Prii ICEs turned on pretty early in the acceleration cycle. In the third generation model, the engine doesn’t go on as often, thanks to a stronger electric motor. Not quite convinced the bigger engine is a good idea, though…

      Thus, like the Volt, unless you’re asking for heavy acceleration, your motivation is coming from the electric portion of the drivetrain. The important difference is that when you get to steady state driving at speed, the Prius’s ICE directly powers the wheels… whereas the Volt’s doesn’t.

      That’s not to say the Prius is perfect. While economy in traffic is great, it’s not much more efficient than diesels at highway speeds, and some smaller engined diesels can exceed the Prius’s fuel economy on the highway (in practice… whether or not government ratings show this). And with a smaller ICE, the second generation car was actually a smidge peppier and more economical… though the third gen definitely has a better electric motor.

      Mind you, I was hopeful about the Volt… as it, technically should be the better hybrid package… eliminating drivetrain losses and the vagaries of variable engine speed. But the Prius does a decent job of addressing both issues, already.

      We will see which is better when the Volt finally comes out. Though as has been said… the fact that GM has been very mum about the Volt’s fuel economy in Charge-Sustaining mode suggests that the picture isn’t very rosy for the Volt in this regard.

    • 0 avatar

      I am very interested as well to see how well the Volt does in CS mode. Will it be better than the Prius on the highway, I don’t know. The smaller engine might allow for that, but it might not, especially depending on driving styles. In the city, it should be great, probably a little bit better than the Prius in CS mode. But, this is GM’s first go round with the Volt. I am interested to see how it goes.

      I also am aware of how the Prius works. But, it doesn’t have near the battery capacity of the Volt to help with the acceleration, so it will be using the ICE sooner and much more often.

      I also have to agree about the odd choice to put in a bigger engine into the 3rd gen Prius. That is a bit surprising.

  • avatar

    It must be comforting to know that the EPA and GM are on the same team. I’m sure informing consumers will be the first consideration of the EPA when they adopt GM’s prescribed methodology for producing an MPG equivalency formula for GM’s plug in hybrid. And if you believe that, you probably think the what’s good for the UAW is good for the USA.

  • avatar

    So, the Volt will be released years behind all the competitors.
    It will cost more and perform worse.

    Why are we damnable consumers so unable to get past our silly perception gap? And these press people – the nerve.

    The nerve I tell you.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Isn’t the idea of the EPA test to show what the maximum mileage a driver would get under typical conditions? What is that exactly? Because if it’s 60 miles per day, then it’s pretty freaking easy. It’ll go about 40 miles using zero gas. And about 20 miles using .70 gallons of gas. So the total mileage is 40 miles plus about 30 more miles using gas. That’s 70 MPG. Then you plug it in at the end of the day and start all over. It’s really not that hard to figure it out.

    • 0 avatar

      and electricity is free?
      and the typical driver drives 70 miles between plugs?
      for ICE cars they don’t take into account how many miles that person might be driving. Why make it different for EVs?

      you have to consider, people will forget plugging in at home and might use the gasoline engine more often than in the test. Also, batteries age, and have shorter range when AC or heating are used. since that 40-miles EV range is not proven yet, any fancy calculation based on it will lead to 230 mpg.

      It shouldn’t be up to the EPA or GM to decide what I do and how I weigh electricity against gasoline. It is up to me. Give me all the information from standard tests (my 9 numbers from above) and I decide for myself what is relevant, not the EPA.

    • 0 avatar

      If it’s not hard to figure out, why all the cat and mouse games? And why is GM PR calling bloggers lazy? Doesn’t stink yet, but boy, it sure is smelling something fierce.

      Everyone remember, until the government sells it’s shares, we’re all helping to pay this dolt’s salary. How great is that?

    • 0 avatar

      @blue adidas: that’s how the widely-ridiculed 230mpg figure came about. The Volt just happens to kick ass on the current EPA cycle.

      Here’s the problem: NOBODY knows how these cars are going to be used, and I don’t think you can generalize much until we see some consumer-use data, if even then. There certainly is potential for some wildly divergent data. Chances are very, very good that one consumer is going to drive 12,000 miles and use only three tanks of gasoline per year, and his next door neighbor is going use his Volt a little differently and will get no better than hybrid-style economy. I don’t think there’s any question that some Volt drivers won’t have to use their gasoline engines much if at all. That’s sure going to skew the data compared to the long-commute folks.

    • 0 avatar

      that’s why they should give us the raw data and the costumer can think for himself if he drives more short or long distance.

      that’s why the EPA also gives me city and highway numbers, and I figure out for myself what I drive more. the EPA doesn’t decide ” the msutang drives more highway, the camry more city..”. they test them all the same and publish both numbers.

      for the EV they just need to add some more numbers to publish to let ME decide what it would be for me.

  • avatar

    I got a Chevy marketing magazine in the mail today. On page 33 there is a screen shot of the Volt multifunction display:

    distance 80 mi
    fuel used 0.5 gal
    avg 160 mpg

    So even the car is going to lie about the mileage. Shessh

    Too bad the 4 door hatchback looks like a great design. Is there going to be any way to swap in a small block?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Strangelove

      Well, the calculation is correct – so the car didn’t lie about the mileage.

      Assuming an electric range of 40 miles, the other 40 miles would have cost only half a gallon. So either the ICE gets very good mileage, or the electric range is greater than 40 miles.

      Looks pretty good to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Well my LS400’s computer lies to me about the mileage it gets, consistently reporting 2 mpg higher than I actually get. So it’s not like it would be unusual.

    • 0 avatar

      “Assuming an electric range of 40 miles, the other 40 miles would have cost only half a gallon. Assuming an electric range of 40 miles, the other 40 miles would have cost only half a gallon. ”

      Well that’s what I thought at first also, but it is probably not correct. It could have been 70 miles on electric (with recharges) and only 10 miles on gas, which means in this case the real ICE mpg is 20. In fact, assuming that the car is sold fully charged, the displayed mpg would be “infinite” until the ICE is first used.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the real issue here is that there’s no such thing as “mpg” when you’re driving on battery power. Maybe “mpkw”, but not “mpg” And obviously the “mpge” term is strictly bullshit. What GM is trying to do is make it look like charging batteries costs nothing and that somehow the miles covered in electric-only mode should be included when calculating mpg, which of course they should not. They should just say, “the Volt gets and average of ___ mpkw and ___ mpg thereafter”. Any other way of expressing the fuel/power costs is a deception. The fact that they are being so cagey about the real mpg in CSM is not at all a good sign…

  • avatar

    Phil is “Assistant Manager, Technology and Environmental Social Media at General Motors” (per LinkedIn). It’s not his job to understand the car, explain the car, publicize the car or maintain good relations with the press to get them to say nice things about the car.

    As an Assistant Manager in Social Media, it’s Phil’s job to be hip when upper management can’t. Ever see 50-plus-year-old men dance to contemporary music? It’s not pretty. You want to turn those guys loose on the Internet? No! Remember when Wally (of Dilbert fame) pulled his hair back into a ponytail? You want to see Tony Posawatz do that? No!

    So, they hire somebody to be hip for them. Where I work, we’ve pretty much made a conscious decision that hip is beyond our organizational capabilities, so we didn’t hire Phil, although we might try outsourcing hip to India, where it’s cheaper. It still won’t work, hip really is beyond us, but at least it won’t cost much. But I digress…

    It’s also Phil’s job to blog and twit into various Social Media streams. He will try to identify bloggers and twitters who are disposed to be friendly to GM and the car (i.e., seek out and identify GM and Volt Fanboys) and to stoke them with blogs and twits so that they will blog and twit up the car, too.

    The take-home message here is: be nicer to the Christy Garwoods and the Mikeys or the only GM people contributing to TTAC will be the Phil Colleys. Nobody wants that.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks…You make a good point. TTAC has lost a lot of the “pro domestic” crowd for that very reason.

      Guys like me don’t count for much. I’m just a cheerleader on the sidelines. People like Christy Garwood with good educations,and some real insider knowledge,will just move on.

      The hardcore core GM/UAW bashers will find themselves,preaching to the choir.

      As far as the Volt goes? Remember all the crap we read, BEFORE the Camaro ever saw the showroom? TTAC even ran pre production photos,and an all time low,IMHO.

      All the GM bashers were wrong about the Camaro{6000 vehicles a month} and I hope thier just as wrong with the Volt.

    • 0 avatar

      Colley has no one to blame but himself.

      Had he responded to the stories with a more measured statement — rather than attacking those who dared question the Government Motors line, such gall! — I’m sure he’d have received a different, more respectful response.

      As it stands and until he proves differently, he’s just another GM publicity drone with an undeserved sense of entitlement. And for what it’s worth, I stand by the “d-bag” characterization of same.

    • 0 avatar

      “All the GM bashers were wrong about the Camaro{6000 vehicles a month} and I hope thier just as wrong with the Volt.”

      Wrong about the sales maybe, not wrong about the car itself.
      The Volt will probably sell just fine, in spite of the obvious lack of logic in buying a $41k “economy car” that’s only economical for short trips. P.T. Barnum would be proud of GM…

    • 0 avatar

      Oh I see! Its just the “suckers” that buy Camaros/Volts? What about the chosen ones? They buy a Jetta or something eh?

      Sorry… I really should know my place. I forgot that only the intelectuality were welcome here.

  • avatar

    The Volt’s fuel economy is a hyperbolic curve:
    Only the end points should be reported; everything in between is too high and depends upon the particular use case.

    GM is only making things worse for themselves. Any mpg figures are sure to be shot down once the car hits the streets, because most people will exist at some other point on the curve than that whic is reported. The general public will understand the meaning of mpg at the end points, but nothing in between.

  • avatar

    whoever has the most money will win the EV race………

    GM is already too late to the EV blocks, has been lapped in fact, several times over………..

    the marketing feedback loop is not really going to help GM’s attempt at making a honda civic…

    the japanese have already buried american manufacturers…

    Consumer credit growth in the United States will continue to lag and is probably going to go into percipitous decline as underlying operating costs for bloated local, state, and federal governments outpace the legacy burdens in both government and business.

    However novel the Volt might turn out to be, we can only suspect that they wont get far with market adoption before the floor falls out beneath the market and prompts a more pronounced paradigm shift away from western consumers and fast forwards the chinese to likewise conditions. With all the benefits of industrial capacity and marketing, we can only expect the life cycle of the Chinese market to be less than half the time it took for the american segment to mature and decline.

    the writer of the above article gets an A- for syntax…..thanks

  • avatar

    Can’t we all just get along?

  • avatar

    It IS lazy reporting. There is a standardized EPA test that all manufacturers must follow to get the offical number. Unfortunately, for GM and the EPA, this standardized test does not conform to the Volt. The 230 mpg claim, made last year by GM, was kind of tounge-in-cheek poke at the EPA that their needs to be a rework of the test procedure to match the new extended-range technologies.
    This is why the EPA has yet to certify an official mpg range for the Volt. GM will not release an offical mpg quote before the EPA agrees to a number and certifies it because GM does not want, or need, a lawsuit if the their claim does not match the EPA certified number.
    You can bet that once the EPA agrees on a number that the Volt will meet, and even exceed in most local commuting, the certified number from the EPA.

    • 0 avatar

      “standardized test does not conform to the Volt.”

      Rather, the Volt does not conform to the standardized test. That’s one of the costs of “leapfrogging” the competition.

      However, I’ve looked at some of the presentations the government standards people have been giving to each other and to the SAE and industry and the NIST and EPA appear to have a perfectly reasonable way to measure the “fuel economy” of the Volt… AER and then CS Mode fuel economy. Two metrics that completely describe how the vehicle works and give the consumer a basis for comparison. Some of these presentations date back 3 or 4 years.

      The problem isn’t with the EPA. The problem is with GM (which has representatives on the SAE committee). What the NIST and EPA want to do does not show the “triple digit fuel economy” that Maximum Bob and Fritz promised.

      So, now the talk is around “utility factors,” which may lead to a number on the sticker that is in triple digits.

      This is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be a negotiation between a company with a marketing agenda and a standards body and government agency that’s trying to give the customer enough information to make a value judgement but that’s what’s going on.

      AER + CS Mode mpg tells me all I need to know. The standards body should kick GM aside and get on with what’s real.

      Well, actually, all *I* really needed to know was “$41K.”

  • avatar

    The video in question that showed the 27 mpg IS misleading. Check out this article from Autoblog.

  • avatar

    I have to agree that this was lazy reporting. It appears that no one attempted to verify the stats on this. Instead of printing a retraction specifically on this, the tables are turned and blaming GM for not saying what the number is. Mind you, when GM did say the 230 mpg number, it was hit VERY hard by several sites stating that the 230 mpg number was a joke, which honestly, I have no problem agreeing with. It was a terrible joke. It was based on a draft at the time from the EPA. Now, you are looking for another number based on a newer draft from the EPA?

    But, aside from that, GM Engineers have stated 50 mpg in CSM as recent as April.

    I would have to agree, that this has been lazy reporting.

    • 0 avatar

      No, it’s not “lazy reporting.” GM has steadfastly refused to release a number that is of great interest to a number of people. Most of the EV bloggers and Volt Fanboys have asked for this number. I have asked for this number. GM sometimes ignores the question, sometimes refuses to answer the question and sometimes answers evasively. In my case, they “misunderstood” the question and gave the answer to a different question.

      So, when some inquisitive bloggers find a scrap of information that sheds light on a question that they’ve been asking GM for about a year, they publish it. It’s a perfectly legitimate and true story the way it was published. “Here’s the AOL team in the car, here’s a shot of the dash, here’s the Dead Battery Fuel Economy, as near as we can make out.” Perfectly legitimate and a direct consequence of GM not answering the question.

      I find the reaction of GM’s Social Media Assistant Manager to be most interesting; he lashes out at the bloggers supposedly in his care. This isn’t right (see above) and it strikes me as a bad plan to irritate the bloggers. People can be fickle… slap them and they may turn on you. This was a risky thing to do. And some of these bloggers have really put some energy into boosting the Volt and they really don’t deserve the treatment they got.

      On the other hand, maybe this tells us a lot about the relationship that Colley thinks GM has with the Social Media types… “We’re treating you like the press…” They are getting wined and dined and rides and drives in the Volt and perhaps Colley is thinking, “How dare you write anything that could screw this up for us? We OWN you!”

    • 0 avatar

      Not verifying the source IS lazy. Judging by what I have read, it sounds like the car didn’t have the mileage reset at the beginning of the cycle. Second, the car was run through some very rigorous test including mountain mode, which actually takes the car and holds more reserve in the battery. If the battery is below 45% at that time, it turns on the ICE to get to 45% charge. These facts make this lazy reporting. Just because someone hasn’t posted an official mpg on their website doesn’t justify not verifying the source. Not verifying the source is lazy. What if posted on a blog a photoshopped picture of the readout saying it only got 20mpg or 60 mpg. One would think that they would verify either way that the number made sense and that I wasn’t just making it up.

      Also, GM through the 4 links I provided, has said, 50mpg last April. You probably won’t see anything official because releasing something else would be confusing to the customer. GM learned from the 230mpg debacle. Releasing a number now, that is different from when the EPA decides on how to rate the vehicle is only asking for more trouble.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with KixStart. Lazy reporters are those who simply report what GM tells them. It’s not lazy — in fact it is the opposite of lazy — for reporters to try to find out important numbers GM is not telling. Any way they can.

    • 0 avatar

      If the numbers can’t be verified as accurate by anyone, that doesn’t make them lazy? Now, the numbers have been proven to not be accurate. What does that make it?

      Read this.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s lazy about reporting that number? Whether the number is accurate or not is debatable. GM and Autoblog have said it is not. Fine. Have the debate. Let people decide.

      Here’s the way I see it. GM has embargoed all technical information on this number. GM tells us 50 mpg and expects us to take that on faith. (As you have.)

      Information slips through the embargo suggesting that number may be false. Someone reports that information — what little they have. The debate begins. We all learn more.

      To me, that’s not lazy reporting. That’s good reporting. That’s journalism.

      As I say, the lazy reporters, in my opinion at least, are those that you cite. Those who parrot the GM 50 mpg figure as though it is news, not propaganda.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a lot lazy about reporting a number that clearly isn’t right. And this isn’t something that you can just let the people decide when you are presenting this as facts, and there is no way for the average Joe to verify them.

      In the original article, it assumes that this Translogic team drove 43 miles on battery and 16 miles on gas. This simply isn’t true. No one is sure how many miles were driven on battery before or how many were driven on gas before the Translogic team got in the car. We don’t know how long the team drove. We don’t know how they drove it except that they used all modes, eco (I think), sport, and mountain. We also know that they did at least one 0-60 test in it. We do know that it was driven at a track that is essentially a torture test for cars.

      If Translogic had come out and said we reset the mileage, had a X amount of charge, did X, Y, and Z in the car, and these were the results, reporting it wouldn’t have been an issue. There would be context. You don’t have this, not even close. You don’t know how many takes were done in the 0-60 for example. You don’t know how long it was in mountain mode (which is charging the battery). You don’t know where it was before.

      One last thought, if someone took a big truck, say a Tundra, Silverado, F150, you pick, and restart the fuel economy gauge while cruising on the highway, downhill, foot off of the accelerator, and the computer reads 80mpg, is it a valid data point to “let people decide?”

    • 0 avatar

      I left out the part on the 50 mpg thing.

      I was simply stating that GM had in fact given some numbers out, unlike the article that said GM hadn’t given out anything, which was wrong. Information had come out. Many people choose not to believe it, but they do believe this number as the CS mode real world number that is what people are going to get.

      Here is the real problem for GM and announcing a number.

      If they come out with a number that is too low, people will say it is a flop before it is released. This is why you can’t take the under promise approach with this car.

      If you take the actual number that you are expecting, but the EPA decides to do something differently with its testing, and that number changes… again, you could have another 230 mpg fiasco, but on a smaller scale. But, many people will say that GM has no idea what the car is going to get. They keep having to revise the numbers.

      Honestly, it is in GM’s best interest to wait and see how the Volt does with the finalized EPA test and then release the numbers. Further more, this number is of the least importance for the car. 80-90% of the time, you drive less than 40 miles and charge it. This mode gets you home after that and isn’t likely to be a deal breaker from an actual buyer.

  • avatar

    As Volt-type cars get into consumer hands, people will use various smart phone mileage apps (written by Consumer Reports, Road and Track, German TUV, etc.) and eventually we’ll coalesce on one primary algorithm that yields a miles-per-gallon and miles-per-watt rating.

  • avatar

    The Volt is expected to approach 4,000 lbs and is running the same engine and platform as the Cruze, which is closer to 2,500lbs. I think its unreasonable to expect the Volt will not get 40 mpg, the same as the Cruze, in charge sustained mode (CSM).

    Also, EPA calculations are unfortunately irrelevant. I don’t understand why the EPA can’t merely say “‘x’ mile range using batteries and ‘y’ miles per gallon using gas”?

    Most people care about mileage rating due to practical and economic reasons, not because they care about the environment. When you say “MPG” they want to know how much miles they can drive on that gasoline they just paid for.

    If the EPA gives a 70, or 230 mpg rating it tells the consumer absolutely NOTHING. They don’t care what calculus is used for carbon emissions and its relativity to electric power generations. That can be separate statistic, but reporting this car gets ~ 30 mpg in CSM is not ‘lazy journalism’, we are all well-aware that this car can also go 40 miles on a charge.

    • 0 avatar

      Fact for fact, the Volt isn’t using the same engine. The 1.4L in the Cruze is turbo charged, it isn’t in the Volt. And the Volt’s version isn’t tuned the same either.

      But I disagree with it not being lazy journalism. Autoblog explains why it got a low number here.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 for Autoblog, that was a good read. Would have been good to see that kinda Truth on TTAC. More about facts and less about marketing politics.

    • 0 avatar

      -1 for Autoblog.

      Autoblog explains why the CS mode fuel economy MAY be misleading. It does not verify that it IS misleading. Watch the original AOL tape. The tester does flip modes from “Normal” to “Sport” to “Mountain” but the video is edited… we do not, in fact, know that the test was conducted in “Mountain” mode. I think it’s likely that he flipped it back to “Normal” or “Sport.” However, there’s no way of knowing. The Provocative Screen Capture didn’t show any little icon suggesting any particular mode. Maybe that screen mode wouldn’t… again, too little information.

      So far, what we have is:

      Blogger: Hmmm… looks like we have 27mpg showing in CS mode.
      GM: It’s not! It’s not! It’s better! It’s Better! Bad blogger! Bad blogger!
      Blogger: OK, what is it?
      GM: It’s Better! Bad blogger! We didn’t reset the screen! Bad blogger! The car was idling! (*) Bad blogger!

      (*) – Which is really funny, because the Volt shouldn’t idle. And “idle” is not quite what GM said. GM-Volt reports that Doug Wernert actually said this: “Also, the extended-range MPG “calculation” didn’t include the significant time the vehicle spent running while the AOL Translogic film crew was setting,” If the Volt’s not moving, it might be running the A/C but it shouldn’t be taking off much charge or using much fuel. I thought this excuse really pegged the Lame-O-Meter.

    • 0 avatar

      I watched the tape. We simply don’t know what he did or what condition the car was in when he got it either. All we saw was an edited video. We don’t know when the screen shot was even taken and how long they had the car at the time. To me, this shows that it isn’t a reliable number. A car driven by an unknown numbers of drivers going an unknown distance by each in unknown conditions and unknown modes and in unknown ways means that this is a good number? If Translogic had it the whole time, it would carry some more weight. But this car could have just gotten off of the car equivalent of a stair climber. We also don’t know how many 0-60 runs they did in the car. What more do you need to know that this number isn’t likely close to real world CS mpg?

      I couldn’t find any information about the car idling. But, the car will use gas if the battery is too low when idling with the AC on. And idling gets you 0 mpg. Not that I know what was going on here, because no one does, but several factors and driving the car like a mule could get you some bad mpg. How can you not state that the mpg shown here isn’t misleading?

  • avatar

    The EPA number is going to be pure marketing. Fuel economy numbers only work when the only external energy source is gasoline. EPA numbers for the Volt, it being a vehicle to which energy can be added and stored other than filling with Gasoline, are being negotiated simply based on the expected behavior of the users. It is not a scientific number like MPG (well as scientific as EPA numbers are) since the energy source is really unknown. Electricity is the medium, not the source of the energy.

    In electric mode the MPG is infinity, and the at the other end is CSM which is the worst it gets, we think 27 mpg. Of course the marketing dept doesn’t want that number thrown around too much.

    From a factual standpoint I think it would be nice to know what it will really get running totally on gas, and when the cars hit the streets that info will be known. I do see how the marketing dept doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea like a “revolutionary Chevy gets 27 mpg” soundbyte on the news, before they can get their fantastic EPA number out there.

    They sure didn’t handle that very well though. It smacks of a distrust of the intelligence level of GMs own potential customers.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Everybody seems to be dancing around the most important point of this discussion: using any kind of “MPG” figures for comparison shopping these kinds of vehicles is impossible. It doesn’t matter where the number comes from: EPA, Consumer Reports, GM. Because, unlike most ICE-powered cars, the fuel consumption of these cars is extremely highly variable depending upon how they’re used. For example, I have a 3 mile commute to work. I could use one of these for a year and never use a drop of gasoline (if all I did was use the car to get to work and do local shopping). Infinite MPG! But, if I lived in Annapolis, Maryland (about 40 miles from DC) and commuted to work in DC (as many people do)with this car, I would definitely use some gasoline, every day. And, if I lived in Potomac, MD (a low-density suburb of DC, about 20 miles away) and used this car, I would burn some gasoline. But my “MPG” though not infinite, would be way higher than it would be if I used this car to commute from Annapolis.

    I guess no one wants to admit the apparent truth here: that for this kind of car, MPG ratings are close to meaningless.

    If the GM marketing guys were really smart (which I doubt), they would say that, not just the usual fine print “Your mileage may vary” but in big, bold letters: “because the amount of fuel this car burns varies over an extremely wide range, depending upon how you use it, “predicted fuel economy” could be much less or much more than you will experience in actual use. This car provides the most value to consumers who will use it to drive 40 miles or less every day and will be able to recharge it every night. Under those circumstances, the car will use almost no gasoline.”

    If they say anything else, there will be a large number of disappointed consumers who fail to achieve anything like the claimed fuel economy in actual use.

    Another reason why GM may be embargoing the CSM mileage is that, no doubt, it is greatly inferior to the Cruze’s mileage and the company doesn’t want people pointing that out, given that the Cruze is a much less expensive car of the same size.

    • 0 avatar

      The mpg numbers are not meaningless. L’avventura called it, they should just give us the range of the battery, then run the standard EPA drills with the engine supplying the juice. Yes, I understand that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with a normal ICE vehicle. But that’s the best you can do, anything else is just guesswork about how the “average” driver will use the car. And that’s useless to me, give me the data and let me make comparisons based on MY driving habits. GM could even write an iPhone app for that to woo all the cool hipsters.

      Yeah, the real data might scare off some people with 200-mile-a-day commutes, but you don’t want them buying Volts anyway. In 6 months they’ll be screaming about how GM lied to them and they’re not getting the 230 mpg they were promised. And the press will eat it up. Trust me, GM, you don’t want to go there.

  • avatar

    The problem is the damnable press and foolish consumers.

    If only you people paid attention.

    We’ve told you that we’ve changed, and unlike the last 30 years of lies, that all is well this time. Really.

    Once these damn reporters quit printing these silly “fact” thingies, we can eliminate this perception gap that has taken us from 50% of the market to our current status.

    If we don’t eliminate this perception gap, how will our top executives ever make tens/hundreds of millions selling the company to the Chinese?

  • avatar
    George B

    I’d be interested in some information from someone familiar with how fuel economy is tested. Guessing that moving a Chevy Volt down the highway in charge sustaining mode is mostly be a matter of overcoming wind resistance for that size and shape of car. Similar for both the Volt and the Cruze. Does the highway test also simulate hills? The other factor mentioned above is the relative efficiency of a serial hybrid vs. a conventional mechanical transmission in overdrive. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Volt CSM fuel economy was slightly lower than the Cruze for a long highway trip.

  • avatar

    Okay I know it will do 40 miles on a battery charge. How many KWH does that represent. I know that around here we pay about 9 cents per KWH. Now tell me how far it goes with a full charge and a full tank of gasoline on some sort of highway cycle. With the a/c on. Now repeat with some sort of city cycle.

    With the range and how many gallons of gas in the tank I’ll be able to get a fair idea of what kinds of mileage it will return depending on how I choose to use it.

    I suspect any battery failures outside of warranty will dwarf the cost of gasoline at any MPG.

    I want this car to succeed but I’m still not ready to buy it from GM. GM has told too many lies over my driving years.

  • avatar

    Here’s the punchline to yesterday’s story. Chelsea Sexton, writing on,

    had this to say:

    “I think we have to be careful not to confuse eagerness for information with entitlement- sure, we’re all curious, but after watching the beating that GM took on the last MPG announcement, I gotta side with Phil that it’s in their best interest not to release a number they’re not confident about. (And truly, it would be in all of the automakers’ best interests to lowball whatever the EPA does come up with.) Given the history, there’s a special layer of cynicism around GM and EVs, which is both understandable and unfair, given that all of the automakers took basically the same course, and GM has worked the hardest to shed that with transparency on the Volt. But I’d rather have them exercise caution, given what’s at stake.”

    “And frankly, if these sorts of details are the last ones we’re still waiting on, I’m ok with that. To Tom’s point, cars will be in showrooms in short order, and all of these things will get answered in the next new months one way or another. And if the difference between 30 and 50 mpg on an engine that will rarely get used at all is a main factor in a Volt purchase decision, all of us behind this technology have bigger problems.”

    I think that reads like, “yeah, shame on us.” YMMV.

    “evchels” ( also had this to say on

    “As for Phil, I happen to like the guy. Dude works his butt off for the Volt, and I’ve gotten responses from him at all hours. Besides, PR folks who will call it like they see it instead of relying on a polished corporate line are a rare breed, and I’ll take ‘em over the alternative any day.”

    I think that’s Chelsea Sexton, again, but try proving any identity on the net.

    Lyle Dennis, of GM-Volt, appeared perfectly willing to cut them some slack. In response to two notes saying, “No, it’s better,” Lyle had this to say:

    “The key information from these staffers then is the Volt’s true CS MPG is “much better” than 27 and that GM will discuss that number when the EPA produces a final label for the Volt.”

    I’m glad Lyle’s day job is neurosurgery because I don’t think there’s a Pulitzer prize in his immediate future.

    A significant number of the other posts were along the lines of, “Who cares? The engine will {rarely|never} get used, anyway.”

    Well, guys, there’s people that do care and the Volt ICE is going to run more often than you think.

    On the other hand… what do I care? It’s $41K, so it’s absolutely not for me unless it also comes with a kitchen remodel at that price. Well, I guess I care because $7500 of that $41K is partly my contribution. I don’t mind government interventionism but I’d like it to deliver some real value for the dollar, when compared to other alternatives towards the same policy goal. And I don’t believe this does.

  • avatar

    Dear Phil, this is how it works:I have an 80 mile per day commute, no possibility to charge at work. Getting home is all gas, so at 27 mpg that is 1.45 gallon for 80 miles. Forget the BS about charging or not, I only know I want to go home, period. At $2.65/gal. and 20k per year the Volt saves me $361/year in fuel compared to Cruze at 40 mpg. At $41k and $17k respectively the pay-back period for the Volt is 66.5 years or 1.3M miles. Case closed.

  • avatar

    So Pleiter, the Volt makes no sense for you. But if your commute was 15 miles of bumper to bumper traffic (as I spent 12 years doing), the Cruze would get terrible mileage with lots of brake and engine wear, while the Volt would use no gas and likely be quieter and easier on its drive train.

    The only people I know who buy dull 30-40K sedans are families with kids who don’t care much about cars. They usually have one dull commuting sedan and one SUV or minivan. Space concerns alone mean they use the bigger vehicle for long distance travel, so the Volt would live in town, make commutes, and be kept 10 or more years – basically until they wore it out or gave it to their kids for college. I also seriously doubt they would cross shop a Cruze, as they would view them as different classes of vehicle, no matter how similar they are in size and appearance. Whether its true or not, they would perceive one as cutting edge and the other as cheap and basic.

    I’m not saying it makes sense for everyone, but the market case does exist.

  • avatar

    I know this is overly-simplistic… though having said that, I fail to see why it shouldn’t be as simple as this:

    1) Have EPA start with a “full” Volt — battery charged, gas tank filled.

    2) Drive the standard cycles (city/highway) as long as it takes for the battery to discharge, and the engine to be unable to provide regenerative power — because the tank runs dry, or is otherwise unable to keep up with the load. In other words, drive the blasted thing until it’s dead on the road. That could be 300 miles, 600 miles (or 20, given GM’s storied history of craptacular vehicles.)

    3) Measure the miles driven against the amount of fuel used — it is GAS mileage we’re talking about, after all — and presto, there are your ratings.

    4) Realize it would be far less expensive, nevermind more satisfying, to buy a Civic, Focus, or Corolla. (Last step optional, and depends on whether owner is able to perform simple elementary-school mathematics.)

    Like I said, simple. Though I wonder if such a simple test (the same kind of test owners will no doubt use to ascertain their own mileage) wouldn’t cast GM’s $41,000 “econocar” in a negative, albeit realistic, light. We certainly can’t have that!

    Like any other government bureaucracy, EPA exists to make the simple needlessly complicated. Oh, and in this case, to prop up the “house” automaker.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve found the big-picture truth to always be simple.

      The Earth is round, the sun will rise tomorrow, Sarah Palin will never be a guest speaker at a Mensa meeting.

      Sure, there’s always little caveats like it’s not a perfect sphere, billions of years from now our sun dies, and maybe your Mensa chapter has ‘bring a mentally challenged friend day’.

      But still, MPG is freakin’ MPG. When someone puts the caveats front and center, I know they are trying to get me to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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