Taking its place right next to other great existential riddles—such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”—GM’s claim that the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid will get 230 mpg left journalists bewildered about its meaning.
GM executives said they used a preliminary EPA methodology to determine the MPG of the Volt which uses only electricity for approximately 40 miles, then uses gasoline to recharge batteries until the vehicle can be recharged with more electricity. But the EPA has not finalized its procedure, has not tested the vehicle, and is not claiming responsibility for the 230 mpg figure.
Here are our favorite candidates for the best explanation of a number that defies explanation. We hope it clears up everything.
More Than Infinity
“Under the rational that GM says the EPA applied to the Volt, an ell-electric car such as the upcoming Nissan Leaf or existing Tesla Roadster would have an official rating of ‘infinity miles per gallon.’”
- John O’Dell, Edmunds.com Green Car Advisor
“If the Volt were powered mostly by a windmill or a nuclear reactor, it would also get great gas mileage, since the fuel would be coming from some other source.”
- Rick Newman, US News and World Report
Back on Gas
“The 230-mpg number, according to GM’s Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for the Volt, is a measurement of the car’s ‘city-driving cycle.’ If the Volt got out on the highway—where it’s powered largely by gasoline—and traveled 200 miles, the mpg would drop like a stone.”
- Robert Chew, Time
The Point of Diminishing Returns: 51.11 Miles
“The charming dorks at Environmental Economics point out that the Volt gets 230 mpg when the trip length is exactly 51.11 miles, but for a trip of 200 miles the car gets 62.5 mpg, which is not much better than my diesel VW Golf, purchased used for around $15K.” (Note: The Volt will cost approximately $40,000 minus a $7,500 tax credit.)
- Lisa Margonelli, The Atlantic via Environmental Economics
Charge More, Get Better Mileage?
“Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Volt, notes that since the Volt results are based on a single charge per day—and that given the recharge time of 6-8 hours on a standard 110V outlet or half that on a 240V charger, the Volt has the potential to deliver better than 230 mpg performance if it can charge multiple times per day.”
- Mike Millikin, Green Car Congress
And The Winner Is…
“In the future, ‘MPG’ ultimately will be moot.”
- Tony Posawatz, GM’s vehicle line director for the Volt