European Market Volt Gets EV-Only "Hold Mode," Should The US Version?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

In an era of increasingly-globalized automobiles, the “market-to-market adjustments” which modify a global vehicle to “local tastes” are becoming an interesting source of insight into a company’s perspective. And Chevrolet Europe boss Wayne Brannon revealed one of the more significant adjustments in recent memory (because nobody reads the press releases), when he told Automotive News [sub]’s Dave Guilford

I just switch it into extended range mode, and I drive on fuel until I get there. When I drive in the little villages and towns, I drive in electric mode.

The reason it was important here is we have cities — like London — where you don’t have to pay a congestion charge if you’re running purely on battery. You save the battery for when you need it.

Gosh, that’s an interesting idea. It would certainly help clear up some of the confusion in the marketplace about why the Chevy Volt is the way it is. Imagine the tagline: “Gas or electric? You decide.” So, how about it, GM? Will that feature come to the US?

According to GM’s Volt spokesman Rob Peterson,

There are no plans to add this feature in the U.S., as regulations require the vehicle to operate in its most fuel-efficient/ lowest emission mode first.

But as Guilford points out, Fisker’s Karma can switch between all-EV and range-extended modes (more on the Karma’s efficiency shortly)… and the EPA can’t think of any reason why GM couldn’t include this mode. The problem, it seems, is that it would lower the Volt’s already weak-for-a-green-halo-car range-extended efficiency. European fuel economy numbers for the Volt aren’t yet available to confirm that theory, but Chevrolet Europe claims “over” 500 km from the Volt’s 9.3 gallon gas tank, working to about 7 l/100 km, or 33.4 MPG. That seems roughly in line with EPA numbers, but even when official European numbers are released, differences in testing methods will make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult.

At its heart, the Volt is a car that appeals to an emotional conundrum: the desire for gas-free driving without the range limitations of EVs. Instead of relying on computers to continually adjust the gas-electric mix as a Prius does, it empowers drivers to use it as efficiently as possible, plugging in as often as possible. And yet, as this European-market feature reminds us, that uncoupling of pure-EV and gas-dependent modes is actually an illusion. This reality, along with a grandstanding media culture, explains why so many people freaked out when they found out that the Volt’s gas engine gets more involved in “EV mode” than GM had let on.

Here’s the point: nobody is going to change their mind about the Volt over a few range-extended mode MPGs. But giving the power of pure-EV driving (or not) to consumers can’t help but help the Volt’s marketing effort with the “I want an EV, sort of” crowd. The Volt has never been about pure efficiency, it’s a source of psychological satisfaction. The choice of gas or electric power seems to play right into that positioning. And now we know it’s possible. Over to you, GM…

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Pgmikes Pgmikes on Oct 20, 2011

    What is meant by " ...the Volt’s gas engine gets more involved in “EV mode” than GM had let on."?

  • Steven02 Steven02 on Oct 20, 2011

    "Volt’s gas engine gets more involved in “EV mode” than GM had let on." That is incorrect. It should be in extended range mode.

    • See 1 previous
    • Herm Herm on Oct 20, 2011

      @pgmikes In BEV mode the engine will come on if its very cold, to warm up the battery.. but otherwise it does not get involved until the Volt switches from the BEV to the Hybrid mode. Perhaps he is alluding to the serial vs parallel gearbox switch that happens in the Hybrid mode at high speeds, its a subtle thing for the fanboys.

  • Wjtinfwb "If I had asked idiot traitors what they wanted, they would have said faster horses".... What they wanted, vs. what they'll actually pay for are clearly two different things. It's not hard to want the vision of EV's the Biden admin sold everyone; inexpensive, fast charging with long-range, charging on every corner, minimal impact on the environment. The government delivered none of that. They threw automakers under the bus at the last minute after many of them made huge investment in tech, plants, R&D. Then Biden and his hapless bunch just walked away, built no charging stations, no support for natural resources and doubled down by stoking the labor fires increasing automakers costs substantially. EV's are absurdly expensive for the utility they provide and time is demonstrating their resale value to be in par with a 80's GM diesel wearing a Yugo badge. Sorry, it's not the consumers job to make a fairy tale come true. Making and selling cars is extraordinarily capital intensive, the automakers aren't throwing good money after bad betting on a senile old man who has delivered on none of his promises and is rapidly making himself irrelevant in the national conversation.
  • Fred As a British Car Fan I liked them, but then I sat in one and changed my mind. I like the unique looks of the newer ones.
  • FreedMike Not much to look at, but these were sweet to drive.
  • EBFlex Ford finally making a good decision although they should shut down their EV operations and investment all together. Why lose that money too?
  • Mike Lol. This is the king of suvs. And its made by GM.Why is everyone trashing it?Top of its its class for a quarter century.