The Chevy Volt’s 230 MPG Rating. What Does It Mean?

Chevy Volt Under 230 MPG Banner

(Updated August 12) General Motors announced on Tuesday that the Chevy Volt could get a government in-city fuel economy rating of “230 miles per gallon.” While the potential for a three-digit mpg rating is grabbing headlines, figuring out what it means is another matter. What’s the significance of MPG in a vehicle which seldom or never uses gallons of liquid fuel?

“The main message is, oh my God, this is different,” Chelsea Sexton, a leading electric car educator and advocate, told Sexton is enthusiastic about the ability for plug-in cars to significantly reduce the use of petroleum—but said it’s hard to know what kind of efficiency any particular vehicle will achieve until the vehicle gets put to use in the real world.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s methodology for rating electric-drive vehicles is not finalized, and the official testing for the Volt will not occur until much closer to the vehicle’s launch in November 2010.

Potential Backfire

Nonetheless, General Motors launched an advertising campaign to promote the “230” figure, and was behind an unbranded website— (which now redirects to GM’s main Chevy Volt page)—and the distribution of hats and T-shirts on streets in several major cities. Fritz Henderson, GM CEO, said that the website and street campaign was an effort to win a new generation of buyers. “We need to relate to people between 16 and 30,” said Henderson in a live webcast on Wednesday . “They communicate differently and we need to make sure we plug into that. It’s going to change advertising and it’s going to change marketing and, over time, how we sell cars.” It’s uncertain if the Chevy Volt, expected to cost $40,000 (minus a $7,500 tax credit), will appeal to younger buyers.

Furthermore, there could be a potential backlash if final EPA numbers are signficantly lower than 230 mpg. To determine the 230 mpg number, GM loosely used the EPA’s preliminary plans. Those plans apply a complicated calculus of multiple methods for all-electric cars, plug-in series hybrids (also known as extended range electric cars), plug-in hybrids which blend gas and battery power, and conventional hybrids. Specific cars will also be measured multiple times for various modes of operation. GM used the most optimistic driving scenarios, in which the Chevy Volt was evaluated as an extended range electric car and was driven short distances and frequently recharged.

No Single Number

The multiple methodologies will yield multiple figures on the sticker, including kilowatt-hours per mile, miles per gallon equivalent, and in some cases, a straight mpg figure (as it is now for conventional hybrids). The numbers will also be adjusted for various energy efficiency credits—and as is currently the case, a different set of numbers will be used for the purposes of meeting federal efficiency standards. The numbers could easily confuse consumers—a critical risk in terms of consumer acceptance of plug-in cars.

Inside sources told that General Motors was concerned about making the announcement and experiencing a backlash from promising numbers which may not prove out in real-world driving.

The most accurate number for measuring plug-in car efficiency could be kilowatt-hours per 100 miles—although consumers have little experience with this metric and it’s uncertain how one plug-in car will compare with another for kWh/100 miles. GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles in city driving. Sexton believes that driving range, or the number of miles driven between charges or exclusively using battery power, is key.

Other all-electric cars, including the Mini E and the Tesla Roadster, are also claiming triple-digit mpg equivalent numbers. Using the preliminary EPA methodology, Nissan believes its all-electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, will achieve 367 miles to the gallon.

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  • bill cosworth

    Well there goes the prius people.

    Now GM will have the spotlight as the best car in the world.

    Good for GM

    Its about time we start looking after America.

    Now that we are once again back on top .

  • Eric

    Sorry GM, your too late…I’m waiting for the Ford Focus EV or Nissan Leaf at this point.

  • Anonymous

    bill cosworth the ignorant strikes again. It’s funny because you represent GM perfectly, more style than substance. Let’s see the car in dealerships before making any advertisements and conclusions.

    BTW in theory my bicycle has infinite mpg.

  • Anonymous

    Let buy American; Go GM go

  • jonak

    As a driver, I am interested in
    Electric only range
    Highway MPG (once the electric range has been used up)
    Efficiency in electric mode only (energy/distance)

    EPA needs to credit consumers with some intelligence…..

  • Samie

    A side comment on kWh/100 miles (161km) is confusing & is not a easy conversion if you think about it. That is why we should convert everything to metric over a 30 year period. How hard could that really be except scaring some old people. Maybe more younger people would understand basic science easier ok that may just be me but conversions are a unnecessary pain if you think about it & creates a barrier to basic educational skills that has been diminishing as other countries are advancing in basic education. I know nobody cares but I’m just saying what if….

  • Dj

    To all the people who don`t know that rating is gas and electric
    together for that many miles…..if the Volt can go 40 miles on electric and the rest will be gas people…..I am not saying it is bad
    just the facts and the Volt has not pass the Prius because the Volt
    isn`t out yet.Remember just the fact people!!!!


  • bluemonkey

    This car has an Electric motor and a battery that must be recharged after 40 miles.
    If you will be the lucky one to kip this battery for 300 charge/discharge cycles you need a new battery set after driving 12000 miles (40miles x 300 recharge cycles). If the cost of the battery is $5000 , then you spend $0.4 per mile only in battery cost. Kilowatts, recharging the battery are extra.
    Oh, by the way, this car has a gasoline engine 40MPG.
    I bought a used Toyota Corolla, manual, on 2002 with 35000 miles. Now the car has 120000 miles and still makes 34MPG (Summer).

  • PW

    I guess GM (Government Motors) had to go to their buddies at the EPA to make sure they get a high mileage rating. Since the government is now selling cars (Government Motors) and want to make some nice profits. The perfect place to get inflated lies is from politicians who now run GM. The Volt doesn’t even exist and they will probably have some typical GM excuse as to why they are late getting it to the market when they said they would. They will probably have another typical GM excuse as to why they don’t get the 40 mile all electric range when and if it ever gets released. When it comes to GM seeing is believing and looking at their past I don’t see anything to believe.

  • crookmatt

    Blue Monkey,

    Just wondering where you got the 300 charge/discharge cycles number from. That seems very low.

  • Anonymous

    the chairman of GM says the Volt battery will be guaranteed for 150000 miles or 10 years

  • Olin Dale

    If not for people like you Sammie, this country would be completely full of worthless idiots. Keep up the good work at pushing for a more intelligent Nation.

  • Pat

    Well I have not see a volt on the road yet!!!
    It is easy to sell a dream than a real thing.
    If GM can successfully built VOLT, what make U think Toyata and Honda Can’t!!!!
    Who has been winning comsumers in the last 10 years?
    Wake up people!!!

  • DC

    The 230MPG is a much vaporware as the VOLT is itself. Has everyone forgotten GM itself produced a demonstrably superior EV not that long ago that could go 200+ miles on a single charge, and now, has the gall to trot out this Non-existant quasi EV with its worthless 40mile range, THEN on top of all this, claims this phantom car is going to get 230 MPG /cough Bullstein! But the money sink that is GM loves flashy press conferences, never mind that no one seems bothered by the fact the care does not even exist, thus makeing the 230MPG claim less credible than the vehicle itself. Unfortunately, GM will probably get a lot of un-deserved feel-good buzz from this for a little while. I am also at a loss to understand how someone that is describled as “A leading EV advocate” would get behind this worthless PR shell game that GM is playing with the so-called volt. The alleged volt, does not represent innovation, if anything, the represents a technilogical regression, (a deliberate one at that), PR campaign and smokescreen all rolled into one. America, the world and EV advocates should denouce the volt-scam along with its 230 MPG claim. Its worth about as much as GM’s Stock.

    On the more basic question of how to rate EV’s, a basic problem is imediately evident. EV, consume energy yes, but they dont ‘burn’ fuel (well ok the worthless volt does, but then again its not an EV is it), so why the effort on the part of EV makers, and vaporware EV makers(GM) to retain a power rateing based on fossil fuels? People may be used to it, thats true, but why not make a break from fossil fuels and use a rateing system that does not refer to MPG at all, which is virtually meaningless to an EV in any event. Of course, part of the problem is simple inertia. People dont really relate there ICE by MPG, americans certainly dont. All they do is look at cost of gas at the pump that particular day. Notions like efficency and MPG are only dimly thought of, if at all, price at pump rules 95% of most consumers attention, and even then, only to complain about it over coffee. For an EV, one thing I might suggest that would get people to relate, is rate its cost per mileKm based on avg electricty rate of X. Or if that is too technical for most americans, rate Avg estimated cost based on its range. ie $5/100 miles. But these ideas aside, I think the most important metric for EV will simply be there range, not the cost to get that range, though an estimate could be tacked onto that easily enough on a cars spec sheet. From my perspective, EV makers claims of 100’s of MPG on there cars is in a way, disengenuous. There is no agreed upon standard at this point for rating EV’ s “mpg” and manufactures are taking advantage of that to simply to make there products look good in a way that really is not all that relevent. GM is certinaly playing the game, though the validily of there claims could easily be disputed.

  • SteveC

    Something I’ve never seen is how do you get heat in the Volt. I live where we got cold winters. Say I leave to drive 10 milles to a store. Will the interior be heated by an electric heater? I wonder if GM has even thought of this.

  • David

    Oh dear lord.. WHERE are these EV-1 acolytes coming from?

    With every passing story about electric cars, someone comes up and claims the EV-1 was so great. And with each telling, the EV-1 has more and more attributed to it. Now someone claims it *had* a 120 mile range when it never did. Before long, the EV-1 will have been powered by solar cells and have had active radar to avoid hitting kittens in the road.

    The EV-1 *NEVER* lived up to it’s 100-mile range. It’s costs were so exorbitant that even the $400+/mo lease payments couldn’t cover the *maintenance* expenses.

    Each EV-1 ended up costing OVER A MILLION DOLLARS – that’s from the billion dollars spent in 4 years of the program divided by the 800 cars they produced. Now, eliminate the sales/marketing costs and GM estimates that they spent $500M so you can cut the $1.25M down to a more ‘reasonable’ $625K. The battery packs didn’t last (even the later-used NiMH has it’s limits on recharge cycles, Lithium-Ion wasn’t out there yet). Real-world ranges were reported as low as THIRTY miles and if you didn’t have the fast recharger system in your garage (which meant you were S.O.L. if you lived in an apartment) it took forever to recharge on 120v.

    The crime was not in killing the EV-1. That car was about as practical for everyday driving as the Lunar Lander is for helicopter trips.. The crime was in using the parts of that program that failed as a tool to justify not continuing the research and development of electric vehicles.

  • Scott Z

    Wow Bill Cosworth do you get paid by GM or an Oil company?

    Lets keep it simple. Drive a Volt and Prius 300 miles. I will bet you Exxon’s 2008 net income that the Prius will have the higher MPG. Don’t get me wrong. I would love for GM to pull off a huge success but I have little faith in the company.

    I hope the Volt can deliver on 30% of GMs claims. That would be a huge milestone for the company.

    Getting the efficiency of plug in hybrids across in a meaningful way will be a challenge

  • Paul Chicago

    I have read that the volt will be able to do 50mpg when driving on the range extender engine which is not bad.

    I do not like the new mpg rating because it makes it difficult to include the cost/polution factor of the electrical part of the trip. How do you compare an ev with a 200 miles range, a series hybrid that can do 40miles on electric and 50mpg on a range extender and another series hybrid that does 100 miles on electric and has a 30mpg range extender?

  • John D

    The first factor to be considered in determining the range of an electric car would be speed. The drag forces due to wind go up as the square of the speed, so at 70 mph., drag forces are probably 16 times the average you might experience in stop and go city traffic. And the drag forces probably represent about 80% of the work being done by the car. So 40 miles range in city driving might be less than 4 miles range on the expressway.

    I wouldn’t buy one of these cars until I had personally tested its range on a highway.

  • Paul Chicago

    I am saving to buy a Volt. I am tempted by the new Prius but EV with range extended is really the way to go for me. On the other hand if Prius come out with a decent plug in then it will make it a lot harder to decide but it sounds that their plug in implementation will be very weak.

    It is a shame that the car Tesla is planning to release does not have a range extender. I will not feel comfortable driving a pure electrical car knowing that I can get stuck somewhere without power.

  • Skeptic

    People are saving to by a Volt? Really? How long did you save for your personal back-pack helicopter before you realized?

  • Steve C

    I have a question. If I have this correct the Volt runs on electric motors only. The engine is only to produce electricity and charge the battery when you run the battery down. You can drive on a low battery because the “range extender” is charging the battery as fast as you run it down. You can get 50 MPG running an engine which charges a battery which supplies electricity to an electric motor which turns the wheels.

    If all this is true then why aren’t there cars out there with only an engine for producing electricity and electric motors to drive the wheels. I seriously question the claim you can drive on a low battery by running the engine to charge it and get 50 MPG.

  • guyron

    Buy American….period! We WILL be the leader in this field…we invented the internet and so many other things that have helped to make this world a better place…but still the doubters and haters are out there…a lot of them are foreigners who are living here in our United States, but always have something negative to say…I say go live in Tokyo or Stuttgart or some other foreign nation…this way you can drive all the rice burners and saurkraut krap you want. Hate to be that way but thats what I’m feeling from some of you…Go GM !! get back on track and lead the auto industry again….BUY AMERICAN!! (and that does not include foreign car companies in the US)

  • Tony

    Steve C:

    “I have a question. If I have this correct the Volt runs on electric motors only. The engine is only to produce electricity and charge the battery when you run the battery down. You can drive on a low battery because the “range extender” is charging the battery as fast as you run it down. You can get 50 MPG running an engine which charges a battery which supplies electricity to an electric motor which turns the wheels.”

    Yes, that’s correct. It’s called a “series Hybrid”.

    “If all this is true then why aren’t there cars out there with only an engine for producing electricity and electric motors to drive the wheels. I seriously question the claim you can drive on a low battery by running the engine to charge it and get 50 MPG.”

    Well, there’s about to be one. It will be called the Chevy Volt. I’m not sure where the confusion comes from.

  • Tony

    I first saw this yesterday on Slashdot. If you dig a little deeper, there’s something that (to me) is far more significant than the complexity of how to interpret the 230MPG number. Yes, it’s confusing — the only reason to even try to specify an MPG for the Volt is to give some way to compare it to other vehicles, and a less ICE-centric metric such as miles/kWh, adopted across the fleet, would probably be a good idea.

    What I notice that struck me however was the figure for efficiency in battery mode. The article I saw said that the Volt could go 40 miles on a full charge of the battery, without ever using the engine, and that the charge required to drive those 40 miles would cost only $0.40 at current utility rates for the area in question (Detroit I believe was the location cited).

    That’s $0.01/mile, and at current gasoline prices, that translates into the equivalent (on a cost basis) of 250 MPG. I don’t know how the $0.40/40 figure was measured, whether they overestimated the efficiency or understated the rate, or it was actually dead-on. But this is much much MUCH higher efficiency than I think anyone (or at least, I) ever thought an EV could possibly achieve, even without dragging around a backup ICE.

    Basically what I’m saying is that 230 MPG is an attention-grabbing stat that at the end of the day most people (including me) are probably going to assume is bogus, especially since it’s meaningless for a vehicle like the Volt, and the myriad possible ways of deriving it from actual data mean that you simply can’t rely on it.

    The notion that you can get 40 miles on $0.40 worth of electricity, however, is a directly measurable metric and one that is far beyond expectations, at least my expectations.

  • TD


    So in your mind a Ford made in Mexico or Canada is more American than a Honda made in Tennessee?

  • Tracy Sainte

    I think you’re smart to save up for the Volt. With the $7500 federal credit it will be very reasonably priced for all you’re getting: a fuel-efficient 4 cyl engine PLUS a pretty powerful battery plus a nice-looking exterior, and I suspect GM is going to put some nice electronic and/or entertainment features in if they can afford to.

    I think GM will hit the sweet spot with the Volt. They have done away with range anxiety, and built a super-fuel efficient car that can do anything you need it to do. I hear it’s fun to drive, too.

    There are a lot of people out there who enjoy bashing GM and its products for the pure destructive pleasure of it. Much of the criticism these days is just mean-spirited and often wrong.

  • BlackLight

    I need a vehicle that can go 60 miles on electric alone in the middle of a snowstorm. If I want to go 300 miles, I would use the minivan or fly…
    Oh, and it should not be made by Ford, GM or Chrysler.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Sorry about us EV1 acolytes but I suspect we know more about what it did do than you do about what it didn’t do.
    DC is a bit ambitious with his 200 mile number but I personally drove ‘my’ EV1 from San Luis Obispo, CA to Salinas, CA, a distance of 135 miles. On other occasions, I exceeded 140 miles although I’ll admit I was driving well below 65 mph on both of those occasions. 100 miles per charge was easily achievable at 75 mph on the freeway, I did it many times.
    You may be confused with the Gen1 EV1 that had Pb-A batteries and could only go between 40 and 90 miles depending on driving style and the generation of batteries we’re talking about.
    The price of any car where they only make 800 of them (they actually made more like 1200 EV1s) is going to be prohibitively expensive.
    I never heard of any significant battery problems with the NiMH batteries. In fact Toyota’s RAV4EVs that escaped the crusher are doing well at over 100,000 miles on the packs. Many do need some battery pack overhauls between 80K and 120K miles. That overhaul can vary from pack conditioning, replacement of some cells or modules, or in rare occasions, full pack replacement.
    Of course you’ll need power to charge an EV1. IF your apartment doesn’t provide it you’re out of luck, just like if you want a jacuzzi and you live in an apartment that doesn’t have one – duh.
    Of course, the year that I lived in an apartment, it happened to be 1 block away from the city hall that had a public charger so it wasn’t a problem.

  • David

    @ex EV-1 driver: I’ve seen some the more exceptional testimonials. The longest ‘test’ I could find on the web was someone who drove around LA for 163 miles on one charge of the NiMH batteries. I was speaking more in generalities and how the car performed under more common circumstances. Now, mind you, where I live (southern New Hampshire) there are different concerns than in the LA-based example I mentioned above. Headlights knocking off 10% of your range? We get a lot less sunlight this far north so that’s a concern. In the middle of winter I can go to work in the dark and come home in the dark.

    My own experience with NiMH batteries in other applications isn’t comforting. People were screaming that Prius batteries would need replacing after 100K miles (even though there were Prius’ out there that already had more miles than that on them). They’ve had a lot more engineering put into them but NiMH, to me, is an abbreviation for “lasts a couple years if you’re lucky”.

    This is one reason I’m rather enthused about the Volt. GM trying to leapfrog the competition, not just play catch-up. A long time ago, a certain industry learned the most fuel-efficient way to power ground transportation and that was an engine turning a generator powering electric motors. Today we call these marvels of advanced technology “trains”. The Volt is the drivetrain I’ve been waiting for – wondering all the while why it hasn’t been done (more a reason of electric motor technology needing to be miniaturized and toughened for the kind of abuse it would get on the road).

    The EV-1? Yeah, might have worked in urban areas in the south – but I wonder what the real-world range was with the heater and headlights going. Or in, say Arizona or Nevada with the air conditioning going. This doesn’t take into consideration the fact taht it was just way too small for a family that can’t afford a dedicated “commuting” car and needs something more general-purpose.

    Don’t get me wrong, the EV-1 was an important step and it’s criminal that research took such a long hiatus after that program. I’m similarly curious about Toyota’s miscues concerning the RAV-4 EV programs or their seeming unwillingness to apply their Prius technology to it (which hands that market to Ford with their Escape Hybrid and I’m sure they’re happy about that).

  • Mr.Bear

    I think the 230mpg number s an outright lie. If you run the whole charge down that’s 40 miles. If you run a gallon of gas to recharge the battery or in an ICE, that’s going to get another 190 miles?

    I don’t think so.

    And I think I see another flaw with their plan: they are marketing to 16 to 30 year olds. How many 16 to 30 year olds are going to qualify for a $40,000 car?

  • Need2Change

    Please don’t pick on the Volt’s 40 miles range. That’s an artificial number selected because it covers a certain percentage of normal commutes. It’s not related to battery capacity.

    GM could allow the Volt to go 80 miles, but the deep discharge would harm battery life. If a new battery came out tomorrow that had twice the capacity, GM would probably keep the 40 mile range and expect the battery to last longer.

    The current Prius only has a one mile electric-only range. It could probably go over 10 miles, but Toyota wants to minimize deep discharges/charges to ensure greater battery life.

    So those who pick on the Volt’s 40 miles range, should also throw stones at the Prius’ one mile electric only range.

  • Anonymous

    I’m waiting for the hybrid minivan.

  • Anonymous

    Tony, You don’t understand my question.
    A car with a 1.8 L engine hooked up to the wheels via transmission will get around maybe 30 something MPG.
    A car with a 1.8 L engine powering only a generator which provides power to electric motors which turn the wheels gets 50 MPG.
    If it were this easy to increase gas mileage there would be many cars powered by electric motors with only gasoline generators for power. You wouldn’t need a battery. Just engine, generator, electric motors. This would not be a series hybrid but more like an electric car w/ its gas powered generator in the trunk.
    Thank you for trying to be so cool with your simple comments. You appear to be a big fan of the upcoming Volt. I hope that someday you will be able to buy one.

  • anonymous

    Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is “GM”. Quality is something that they have been lacking for about the past 20 years, which is why they have nearly run themselves into extinction. I’m not sure I would trust a seat cushion from this company, let alone a hybrid car with claims of 230 mpg. They rush everything to get a product out…and skimp on quality checks. It sounds like they are rushing to get this out, to save their tails. I think it may turn out to be a major let-down.

  • RIP

    Do you actually know anything about GM or their vehicles?

    From owning several – not bashing – I can tell you first hand. GM is like most of America nowadays. These companies rush to get out the next biggest and best product without fully testing…without quality checking what they are producing and providing to the consumer. Take a look at the condition of the company overall and what they have done to themselves.

    GM used to be a company you could trust. But, we are talking about 20 years ago and farther back. Anyone not knowing that…doesn’t know anything about vehicles.

    Seeing is believing. GM can say anything to sell their product. When it comes out and people verify what is true or not true – THAT will be what we can believe. I don’t have a speck of trust for GM. But, I have seen what they have produced. I have driven them. I have owned them. It would take a lot of convincing in the form of hard proof, for me to believe what they claim. I think we may discover that this is all merely an attempt to save them from the extinction they were already headed for.

    I hope to be wrong. I would like to see them do SOMETHING right and redeem themselves after all this time. I just don’t see it happening. The pattern has been very long term with them. But, we will see.

  • cindy

    The issue is gas

    The Leaf and the Ford will not run on gas.

    So you cant say they get MPG they don’t use G

    Gallons !!

    Come on people give the volt a break it is a hybrid and it does get 230.

    Just face it GM won what is so hard to accept. Its your car company.

  • Ford guy


    People think its cool to drive foreign until it shows up making your stocks dive on your 401.

    We arnt making houses anymore so we need to get back to making goods. Cars products etc.

    I have done extensive research and both ford and GM now produce cards better than Toyota and Honda.

    To be stupid is to buy a foreign car just because the Jones do.

    I really think most Americans are ignorant not buying there own products when we produce better ones.

  • Phil U.

    I was discussing some of GM’s hybrid merits on an earlier post. Of course discussion about the Prius and Volt ensued. I had stated that I thought the Volt would be a worthy competitor to the Prius. I quickly learned that from a cost perspective, the Volt as it is currently estimated to be priced would never achieve a cost savings vs. a base Prius. And now I’ve looked on wikipedia (trust as you will) to see that the PHEV version of the Prius is expected for consumer sales in 2012 at an estimated price of $48,000. Well above the price of the Volt. So I have to now consider that we are at a point where cost of these PHEV really can’t be taken in an apples-to-apples comparison just yet since so much R&D and manufacturing costs are being rolled in to the early models. The Prius has been on the market for over ten years. So, assuming the Volt is actually put into production and it can hit the market soon, I think GM will be in a decent position. I really wouldn’t consider an all-electric vehicle at this point because I have concerns about cold-weather operation (I commute and park outdoors), availability of charging while away form home (will I be able to plug-in on a road trip?) and the time it takes to charge (if I forget to plug it in overnight, I might have to wait a long time before going somewhere). So a hybrid of any kind including ones with the option to plug-in are my preference. I think every car should have this option.

  • David Raikow
  • alancamp

    GM should really be careful with their ‘fuzzy’ facts, since they are still trying to gain or regain the trust of the American consumer.

    Previously GM reported that driving the car after the first 40 miles of electric, while the engine is charging the batteries offered 40 mpg.

    That meant that there must have been a small 6.5 gallon gas tank on the car(260 miles / 40).

    With an extended range hybrid like this, you can’t ‘blend’ the cost of electric power with fuel cost for a miles per gallon, since there are no ‘gallons’ of electric power being used. This is where GM starts to lose credibility.

    All GM can HONESTLY say is that the car has an electric range of 40 Miles, and 260 miles at 40 MPG.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I dont know where your “lasts a couple of years if you’re lucky” comes from. The parking lot of my company is filled with Priuses (what do you expect for a conservative aerospace company), most of which are well over 2 years old and the NiMH batteries are doing well. The Mars rovers are going well past their design life because the Li-ion batteries so significantly outperformed all of the conservative estimates. It turns out that, if cared for by modern controls, batteries can last a long time. You have to move away from old fashioned crude handling of batteries as is found in laptop computers, cell phones, and automobile starter batteries. Its truly a new world out there today.
    You’re right that heaters and A/C do affect battery life (a 30 KWhr battery will run a 1400 watt heater or air conditioner for 21 hours or about 10% of a 2 hour discharge). Headlights, on the other hand, are pretty insignificant (a 30 KWhr battery will run 120 watts of headlight for 250 hours or about 1% of a 2 hour discharge). No one is saying that the EV1 was perfect for all circumstances but there are plenty of small, high performance 2-seaters that sell well on the market that account for a lot of today’s passenger miles and gasoline consumption. I contend that it was a good, viable product for that real-world purpose.

    You get the first part: electric motors are far more efficient for handling the dynamic environment that an automobile lives in. Its true!
    I can’t offer you any proof as to why the auto industry has so vehemently refused to adopt this clearly better technology. Maybe it is the same reason that an old president of telegraph giant, Western Union (The telecommunications leader at the time) was quoted as saying “Nobody really wants to talk that much” as new upstart companies were developing telephone service.
    Or maybe it is the same reason that Baldwin Locomotives never developed a diesel locomotive and finally went out of business, still insisting that Steam was king and diesels were just a passing fad that would never go anywhere.

  • TD

    “And I think I see another flaw with their plan: they are marketing to 16 to 30 year olds. How many 16 to 30 year olds are going to qualify for a $40,000 car?”

    I think what they are hoping for is to benefit from the halo effect of having a very green car for sale. They don’t expect that demographic to actually purchase a Volt. They are just hoping that GM is seen as hip and cool by having the Volt. I’m not sure their thinking is correct. How many young people think Toyota is cool because of the Prius? Not that many I’ll bet.

  • Lewis Downey

    I became interested in comparing the distance with I could drive a Volt for the cost of a gallon of regular gas purchased locally. I am arguably comparing the Volt to a Prius (using 50 MPG as a benchmark for comparison).

    I show the essence of the calculations here but the bottom line is that on a dollar-to-dollar basis, it looks like in Raleigh, NC the Volt will go about 56 miles on the amount of electricity that can be purchased with the amount of money required to buy a gallon of gas.

    I think of the figure as the ‘Local-MPG-$-Equivalent’. Maybe the figure is poorly named and maybe it is not of interest to others, but it is of considerable interest to me!

    I ran similar calculations for other locations (Durham, NC 76.7 miles; NYC, NY 35.33 miles; Seattle, WA 172 miles [using the minimum possible charge for electricity — 110 miles using a more realistic figure for the cost of electricity], Burlington, VT 48.98 miles)

    The figures rely on at least these assumptions: the batteries never need to be replaced and the electricity necessary to recharge them is transferred from the electric grid to the battery with perfect efficiency. That is all fine to me; I just wanted to know on a day to day basis how far could I go on the amount of money it would take to buy a gallon of gas.

  • RKRB

    -This recalls GM’s Vega 2300, Citation, Cadillac diesels, Chevette, Fiero, EV-1, Hummer, Saturn, Solstice, Cobalt, GM’s recent series hybrids, and all the other eagerly anticipated “new GM” designs that have either dismally failed to live up to standards or set new records for product recalls and time in the shop.

    -To read how the EPA arrives at its numbers, check out the September Car and Driver, “The Truth A8out EPA Numb3rs.” The article indicates how the EPA manages the difficult task of mileage figures. For instance, how do you rate a car that has “Economy” versus “Sport” settings on the gearbox, and how do you manage the plethora of new models, settings, and options that are available? The article makes the EPA figures considerably more intelligible.

    -For those who choose to Buy American, US workers already build good hybrids with the Fusion and Camry.

  • Halo9x

    I drive an ’07 Prius and with my 11.9 gallon gas tank I can get over 600 mile range on the highway with 51 MPG. The best the Volt can do is 350 assuming 50 mpg and its tiny 7 gallon tank. Add 40 miles for the pure electric and the total is 390 miles driving range before you runout of gas and electricity.
    The 50 miles per gallon was based on an earlier article I read. I have looked and still can’t find how they came up with the “230” mpg number. Maybe that is the range number they came up with.
    The Prius battery has been demonstrated to last at least to 250,000 miles with no significant degradation. Andrew Grant did this using an original Prius as a Taxi Cab in Canada. If the Volt battery is only good for 100,000 miles or 10 years then the Prius still has an advantage.
    Here’s a reality check. One, at $40K you would have to hang on to the car for at least 10 years just to recoup the cost of the vehicle. If you trade in the car how much are you going to get for it? No one is going to buy a used car where the battery is only going to be good for a few years.
    Two, how many 16-35 year olds are going to be able to afford a $40,000 car? At that price you are nearing Mercedes Benz territory. Another question to ask is how long are you going to half to drive the car in order to make it economically feasible to drive.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of going electric, but the reality is that it is going to be the rich who drive this car. Now, if you could trade in the battery and get a new one (financed of course) then that might prove cheaper than buying a whole new car. However, other things wear out: seats, LCD screens and other items that would be expensive to replace. So you would have to factor that in. Even the third most expensive Prius is much more affordable than the Volt and it has a solar panel available ($3K option) to air condition your car for you.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    @Lewis Downey
    Excellent calculations from a financial sense. As you see, the Volt only barely exceeds the economy of a Prius today and clearly, the additional price of the vehicle probably won’t offset the fuel costs very soon. Of course, if you take vehicle cost into account, you should buy a very old, used Honda Civic for $500 and it will blow the Prius away, as will even a new Kia or Chevy Aveo.
    If, however, you look at other benefits of the plug-in capabilityof the volt, you’ll see that it is attractive for many (although not all):
    – Most will rarely suffer the inconvenience, that most take for granted today, of driving to a gas station
    – Very infrequent oil changes for most people (probably once per year because you’re still carrying that nasty ICE)
    – Much less frequent brake repairs (maybe every 200,000 miles)
    – less environmental impact to the planet (only good if you care about such things)
    – You’ll have a choice of fuel, ie gas or electricity boycotts because of prices will actually work.
    – With the additional purchase of solar cells on your roof, you actually can be energy independent and not care if the price of gas or electicity jumps up.

    When was the last time you drove 390 miles between stops for a few hours? During those stops you could easily have added about 3-6 miles of battery range for every hour you were stopped. 390 miles at 60 mph is 6.5 hours. Even on our infrequent long-distance trip, most of us like to stop at least every 4 hours to tend to our biological needs. If we chose to add 20 or so additional miles of eV range at these stops we increase our range for these very infrequent trips anyway.
    The point of the Volt, however, is to optimize fuel economy and convenience for the majority of our needs while still being very good for our regular needs.
    Additionally, if GM does it correctly (which is yet to be seen), they should be able to get much better than 50 mpg with their drivetrain, even on gasoline alone. With a small ICE running only in its most optimal conditions and using the electric motor to absorb the dynamics of the road, 100 mpg should be achieveable since the ICE can be essentially Pulse and glide hypermiling without inconveniencing the driver.

  • Lewis Downey

    @ex-EV1 driver
    It is not my intent to besmirch the reputation of the Volt. My intent is pretty much the opposite; I am throwing the Volt into the mix of cars I will consider purchasing as a replacement for our 15-yr-old Saturn SC2. I am also pulling for the the Aircar to do something in the U.S. market.

    The ability to install solar panels or a windmill and refuel an EV with home-generated electricity would be a great plus for me. As photovoltaics advance that option might even become practical to implement on my budget.

    However on the financial end of considerations, I was struck by the variations in relative cost efficiency of driving one car or the other in different geographic locations — even nearby locations such as Raleigh, NC vs. Durham, NC. (The table below is simply nicer formatting for the same numbers as my previous comment, plus a national average. )

    Approx. MPG-$-Equivalent for Chevy Volt
    National Avg 57.10 MPG-$-Equiv
    NYC, NY 35.33 MPG-$-Equiv
    Burlington, VT 48.98 MPG-$-Equiv
    Raleigh, NC 56.26 MPG-$-Equiv
    Durham, NC 71.02 MPG-$-Equiv
    Seattle, WA 110.42 MPG-$-Equiv

    Here is a question. Starting from scratch, how much would it cost to buy the minimum photovoltaic system that would generate and store enough electricity to refuel the Volt everyday? If I can come up with a reliable number, I’ll amortize the cost over 5 or 10 years and regard that as a rough cost of fuel for the life of the car. I am curious how that number might compare with buying electricity off of the grid. PV generated electricity should be a low-carbon-footprint fuel. I could be persuaded to pay a bit extra for that — but how much extra are we talking about? The goal would be to refuel the car — not much more; thanks for any insights or guidance in that regard!

  • Anonymous
  • alancamp

    The EPA needs a new rating for Electric Cars, Extended Range Cars and Hybrid Cars. Using a MPG for electric power or ‘equivalent’ is illogical. We will need a separate Miles Per KW(MPkw) for electric and MPG for petro. Regenerated electricity from braking would only reduce the kw needed, without the need to calculate the difference between regenerated and plug in electricity. All we care about is what it will cost to drive X number of miles on electric OR using petro in the city, or on the highway.

  • Common Sense…

    I know this is an Old thread.

    But the $40K car appeal to Young Drivers? 16? Minium wage it would take 5 Years of saving all of his income (minus) taxes to buy it…

    So at 21 He/She can buy a Volt? (of course the price will go up in 5 years so maybe at 24 years he/she can buy it?)

    Maybe young they mean, Spoild Brats, or Young as in over 45?
    I know the term young is relative…

    And I love the Numbers can Confuse buyers?
    If you have 40K to buy a car, you are either smart enough to figure it out, or the money given to you, which you wouldn’t care about numbers anyway.

    I personally would love this car, but at 40K vs a Prius at 25K? hands Down Prius WINS! 15K Extra 15 YEARS Plus Mainteance on the Prius. Sorry Chevy, Need to Lower the Price about 12K at least and if you want a “YOUNG” Driver to look at it you need to lower it by 30K…


    It’s really funny how people have the audacity to even judge and act like they knew a thing about this vehicle before it even came out and now that it’s out all the facts are proven and it runs off gas after the electric battery runs down so a person is not stranded.Also to charge this vehicle you just need a standard outlet rather than a “charging station” With a $7,500 tax credit the vehicle actually isn’t a full 40k but it looks and rides a whole lot better than the other electric cars and actually has room if you have a family. This vehicle doesn’t look like some want to be space vehicle. I totally agree with buying American products. Support YOUR country!

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