The Volt

CBC News posted an article titled, “Volt to go 100 km on 1 litre of gas: GM.”

General Motors Co. expects its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car will have a fuel consumption rating of around 1.0 L/100 km for city driving, or 230 miles per U.S. gallon, a figure that is about four times better than the most fuel-efficient auto currently on the market, the Toyota Prius.

The comparison with the Prius is expected, but not exactly as appropriate as it seems. The Prius is a gasoline/electric hybrid. All of the energy used to move a Prius comes from gasoline. Whether the gasoline engine is used to charge the battery which then powers the electric engine while the gasoline engine is turned off, or the two engines work together, the energy comes from gasoline.

The Volt is different in two key ways. First, you can plug it in to charge the batteries. The article states that the car can go 65 km on a charge so if your daily drive is shorter than this, you will not use any gasoline that day. If you drive a greater distance however, the Volt has a small gasoline engine to generate electricity. This sounds similar to the Prius, but it is not. The gasoline engine generates electricity to power the electric engine or charge the batteries. It never powers the car directly. This allows for a simpler drive-train and more efficient operation of the gasoline engine.

So about this 1L/100 km figure. It tells me nothing. Presumably it includes charging the batteries from the electrical grid. In GM’s press release, GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson says, “The key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day.” We don’t know the driving conditions from which this figure is derived.

The car is designed to run purely off batteries in it’s electric mode. In extended-range mode, the gasoline engine is used to generate electricity, and GM claims an extended-range driving distance of 480 km. Does this include fully charged batteries? How big is the gas tank?

Without any of this information, all we have is GM’s claim that the car will be really efficient. How efficient it will be is a mystery, and with how companies talk the talk, I doubt anyone will actually see the efficiency they claim. This would be a shame given GM expects the car to sell for $40,000 in the United States!

Do you want an example of how GM is talking the talk?

The opening statement on the page containing GM’s press release reads,

GM CEO Fritz Henderson announced today that the Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car has been given an official EPA rating of more than 230 MPG city and a combined city/highway average fuel economy of more than 100 MPG.

Seems unambiguous. It says, “has been given an official EPA rating.” Yet farther down the page, the opening paragraph of the actual press release says something else entirely:

The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, based on development testing using a draft EPA federal fuel economy methodology for labelling for plug-in electric vehicles.

The Volt has not received any EPA rating. The number is merely what GM expects the rating to be, based on testing, using a draft methodology. I can’t see their claim of having received an EPA rating as anything but a flat-out lie. Who would want to deal with a company so willing to deceive people? Shame on you, GM.

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One Comment

  1. Shawn
    Posted August 12, 2009 at 08:25 | Permalink

    Do you really expect anything else from a company where greed and deceit led them to where they are today?

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