GM: Chevy Volt On Schedule, Dodges 230-MPG Claim

With the countdown to the introduction of the Chevy Volt now at seven months, General Motors held a one-hour technical update Monday on the vehicle’s progress. The engineering team focused on actual test numbers, and steered away from broad marketing messages—as if to say that it’s time to get real about what the first Volt customers might experience when they get behind the wheel.

According to chief engineer Andrew Farah, the pre-production Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid is achieving the much-publicized goal of 40 miles of electric-only driving—although the number of pure EV miles could be 20 percent higher or lower depending on driving conditions. After the batteries are depleted, and the gas engine is used to extend the vehicle’s range, the Volt travels at approximately 50 miles to the gallon, according to GM testing.

The engineering team has so far logged about a half-million miles of test-driving. Farah said the vehicle is on time and is performing well—adding that engineers continue to make modest tweaks on aerodynamic and “customer convenience items for 2012.” The Volt is scheduled to start regular production in the fourth quarter.

Total MPG Still In Question

The Volt team avoided its grandiose claim of 230 mpg from last summer. At the time, many observers warned that exaggerated and irrelevant miles per gallon numbers would come back to bite General Motors.

“The 230 mpg number talked about a few months ago was based on some preliminary discussion with the EPA,” said Farah. Last August, then-GM President and CEO Fritz Henderson announced the 230 mpg number, as part of a short-lived marketing campaign that featured a “230-mpg logo” and street-level buzz generation. At the time, Henderson said, “Are we overpromising? No. That’s what the customer will see in the city.”

The EPA has been exploring how to rate the efficiency of vehicles that use little or no gasoline, but has not issued its rules.

And The Price…

The big unanswered question, of course, is the price tag for the Chevy Volt. Nissan’s recent announcement that the pure electric Nissan Leaf will be sold for $32,800 (not including tax credits) will put pressure on GM to keep the Volt’s price below $40,000.

Pricing is tricky for these first-generation electric-drive vehicles, because carmakers are expected to lose money with each sale—but anticipate turning a profit in future generations with economies of scale. GM forecasts as much as a 50 percent in cost reductions on the third-generation battery pack, the vehicle’s most expensive component. Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of global electrical systems, said the team continues to study what other future vehicles might use a Volt-like propulsion system, but no details were provided.

GM gave indications that the company has a long-term commitment to plug-in series hybrid technology—what it calls “extended-range electric vehicles”—when it separately announced Monday that it plans to invest an additional $8 million to double the size of its automotive battery lab in Warren, Mich.

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  • Lost Prius to wife

    Personally, I think EPA has a bigger problem than GM. They have to come up with some sort of MPG for the Volt. If they base it off the car going a full tank with no electric “refill”, the MPG will be around 50 MPG. But if they base it off a person only going a total of forty miles a day, it will never use any gas! It will be only the cost of electricity out of the wall. How does one, or in this case EPA, rate electricity out of the wall in MPG? And then there is everything inbetween these two possibilities. Good luck EPA!

    GM’s main problem is going to be cost. Because the Volt can go further without recharging when one wants it to may make it a more useful car than the Leaf, especially if the Volt is bigger than the Leaf.

  • Yegor

    Quote: “How does one, or in this case EPA, rate electricity out of the wall in MPG?”

    I think that there should be several numbers to rate one car:
    MPK (Miles per kWh) City,
    MPK (Miles per kWh) Highway,
    Range on a battery City,
    Range on a battery Highway,
    MPG City,
    MPG Highway.

  • TD

    After Honda was the subject of a class action suit GM, and other car makers, have to be careful about their MPG claims. Just be honest guys and say “your mileage may vary”.

  • Greg

    GM is claiming 40 miles per charge, 8 – 10 hours to recharge, (standard 110 volt outlet) and 50 MPG once the batteries are discharged and the car is running on gas. Assuming their standard outlet is on a 15 Amp circuit, the charger at full load would have to be less than 1500 watts. In my area we’re paying about $.12 per kwh for electricity (including all of the assorted taxes and whatever other fees they can come up with). So if I’m doing the math right, at full load, I would be paying around $.18 per hour to charge the car. Assuming the max of 10 hours, that’s $1.80 per charge. Keep in mind that this is a worst case scenario, a 15 Amp circuit loaded to 100% capacity for 10 hours. I’m sure the actual load would be less, but even if not, 40 miles for $1.80 charge and 50 MPG after discharge is quite impressive.

  • Kei Jidosha

    I’m with Yegor, I’d like to see separate gas and battery numbers for miles per gallon/watt, as well as battery only range. City/Highway split is also useful, if it reflects actual driving results, not calculations.

    The Volt is the LEAF plus a generator, and inherently more expensive and complex. But it will work for those with unpredictable commutes, street parking, and weather extremes that would disadvantage the LEAF. Charging infrastructure will reduce the difference, but benefit both long term.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    You’re pointing out one of the reasons I like electric vehicles. They are cheaper to operate.
    There are dozens of other reasons as well.

  • Anonymous

    no no no…. everybody misunderstood, the banner says “23 mpg” and a plug to show that it is a plug-in vehicle 🙂



    In terms of miles per replenishment…

    I am still wondering why would it take the Volt 8 to 10 hours to charge. Do they mean to say there is no fast charge option for the vehicle?

    By the way, has anybody heard about Tesla Motors?

  • Lost Prius to wife

    ELEMENTAL, you are right that the Tesla is a longer range, fast recharge, higher performance vehicle. Nothing is wrong with it. But it could not be titled “a vehicle for the masses” since it cost too much for most people. Even the newest base model is at $50K and too much for most people’s wallets. Will there be an all electric vehicle produced with a driving range of the Tesla, a fast recharge rate, and a cost between $20K and $35K? I am sure there will be one in the future; we just do not know exactly when. Until then, we need the Insights, Prius, Fusions, and Volts to get us to that future. Maybe the Leaf will be given a battery that goes beyond the present 100 mile limit in the near future. One can only hope for and work towards a better future.

  • FamilyGuy

    I still like the concept of starting with an empty battery and an empty gas tank. Charge and fill the fuel. How much did it cost to plug it in and change it? How much did it cost to fill it up? Drive the car until it dies on the side of the road and needs a tow home. How far did you go on just the electric? How far did you go once the gas kicked in? X miles at Y cost for electricity can give you Z miles per kWh. A miles at B cost for gas can give you C MPG. Do this test 1,000 times and get the average.

    You can present the numbers so many different ways. City vs Highway, and city-highway combo. Pure electric vs gas. Since it’s an infinite number of MGP while the battery is in use, you could provide a chart for overall numbers.

    (using 40 miles of pure electric and 50 MPG)
    Range (miles) // Miles Per kWh // MPG
    20 // X // infinite
    40 // X // infinite
    60 // X // 150
    80 // X // 100
    100 // X // 83.33
    120 // X // 75
    140 // X // 70

    and so forth…..

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I agree with Family Guy’s assessment that the efficiency depends on the range between fillups.
    Just to add some data:
    Miles Per kWh should be between 3 and 5 for a modern EV, depending on (in decreasing order of affect): vehicle aerodynamics, speed, driving style, and vehicle weight. The Tesla Roadster (not great aerodynamics) at 65 mph cruise controlled on the highway gets a little better than 4 Miles Per kWh. The EPA rating for the Tesla Roadster is about 5 Miles Per kWh but that takes an unrealistic average speed around 55 mph with no A/C or heating. The Volt has better aerodynamics but is a bit heavier so I expect about the same.
    Family Guy can use X = 4 for the Miles Per kWh and won’t be too far off in real-world economical driving, X = 3 for leadfoots.
    MPG in charge-sustaining mode (Gasoline motor on) has generally been reported to be about 55 mpg.
    Reports I heard from people who test-drove the Volt earlier this week were that it automatically goes into charge-sustaining mode when the battery reaches some level of discharge.

  • Scott Z

    The EPA should keep this simple for now. If you fill up the Volt and drive it till the car is out of fuel on a corse that can simulate most real world driving in the US what is the end MPG? I hope the Volt will be some where in the 40-60 MPG zone.

    I do not trust GM to bring a good product to market but I sure hope I am wrong.

  • Shines

    So the Volt is a mid-sized hatchback (bigger than the Prius?!?) 40 miles all electric – I’m liking it more and more as it comes closer to reality.
    However, if it costs $8000 more than the Prius – even with incentives and we guestimate gas at $5.00 a gal. let’s see:
    8000/5= 1600 galons of gas and Prius gets about 50 MPG 1600X50 = 80000 miles to break even. Then there is the reliability factor after 80000 miles which vehicle will still be worth owning?
    The Volt is larger and then after 80Kmiles the Volt (if it holds up OK) starts saving money over the Prius…
    If the Prius becomes plug in with a lower price than the Volt then this whole calculation changes…

  • FamilyGuy

    ex-EV1 driver, thanks for filling in the X in my chart.

    I should have used my own gray matter. If the car gets 40 miles on the initial charge and it takes 10 hours to charge, then it’s 40 miles per 10 kWh, or as you put it, 4 mles per kWh.

    In my last electric bill, my kWh charge was $0.17095. So, it would cost me, $1.7095 to drive those first 40 miles. That’s cheaper then a gallon of gas and further then alot of other cars will get you on only one gallon of gas. Thus it helps your individual bottom line.

    The variable in the electric is just like the gas. Gas prices vary and so does the cost of electricity (peak, off peak and so forth). But with electricity, you have a better chance of setting up solar panel system at your home for free, green electricity compared to drilling for oil in your back yard, finding it and then processing it for gasoline.

    Personally, I still like the idea of Hydrogen. It’s the most abundant element in the universe. No emissions compared to the Volt (still buring gas to create electricity). Better range then pure electric and the infrastructure of refilling stations is already in place (they’re called gas stations). Gas stations some times offer as many as four types of fuel (regular, plus, ultra, dissel). With some work, they can offer Hydrogen.

  • Shines

    I remember in my younger days when my friend went camping in the summertime. They hooked a Coleman camper to the back of their Impala and headed for the woods. Most of the year the camper just sat in their driveway… The Leaf or other EVs could compete with the Volt if a generator trailor with its own fuel tank and motor were available. Most of the year driving would be local and the generator would not be needed. Then when you want to take that “trip to the coast” or head out for a long vacation, hook up the generator trailor and extend the range of your EV. You might not even need to own one – rent one for the week or weekend…

  • FamilyGuy

    Does anyone know you can recharge an EV while driving it?

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Family Guy,
    The Volt essentially does this while in Charge Sustaining (gas engine on) mode. It charges the battery up to about half full. I suspect that full charging will only be via plug-in.

  • Mr.Bear

    So my original assesment was spot on: you’ll only get 230mpg if you do +90% of you driving in all electric mode. My assessment: 90 mpg. I you are fully charged, you’ll have traveled 90 miles after you burn a gallon of gas.

    If some regen breaking could be done to extend the electric range, that would be nice.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    of course 230 mpg isn’t at all unrealistic if you consider that most people only drive 30 miles per day on average.
    The volt definitely has regen braking although recent reports I’ve heard say it isn’t nice and aggressive on the gas pedal like the Tesla, eBox, or Mini-e, more like the Prius. Hopefully, GM will have a little guts and at least make aggressive regen a user settable option. It’s a great way to drive, especially for mountain driving or in heavy traffic.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Is this what you’re thinking of:
    Its a great idea, if the EV will permit charging while driving. It could also provide carrying room for luggage and other stuff that you might need/want on a long trip.

  • Shines

    ex-EV1 that’s just what I was talking about. I am sure the electronics can be much improved so that the generator trailor when “plugged in” would automatically cycle as needed. When you get to your destination it could be left running to charge the car’s battery further. It could also be disconnected once you’ve reached your destination so you can drive locally in ev only mode without dragging the trailor/generator around.

  • Anonymous

    So how does Volt compare to the Fusion hybrid and prius in interior room and cargo capacity. Anybody have any potentially accurate numbers?

  • GasGuzzlingSRT8Jeep

    American ingenuity at its best! Go GM! We are with you!

  • Anonymous

    The battery is 16kW so,
    16kW * $0.11/kW = $1.76
    Price per gallon $2.89/g so,
    $1.76 / $2.89/g = 0.609 gal.
    Volt travels 40 miles on full 16kW charge so,
    40miles / 0.609gal = 65.7 mpg

  • JimF

    The Volt never drains the battery dry. If I remember right the generator kicks in at 1/2 way or so.

  • cgallaway

    here’s a thought on how to consider mpg for electric….do it the same way electric forklifts do…by the hour. The idea of MPG doesn’t take into account the cost of gas per gallon, so why should the electric side take into account the cost of electricity? On the other hand, when you buy a car with x number of miles on it, that doesn’t mean the car hasn’t sat in idle for an additional few thousand hours. Think of a traffic jam near Chicago….sure, you might only be going 10 miles, but your car is running for an hour or more. This could be a good time to switch to hours of operation as a more meaningful stat rather than number of miles the car has been driven or even mpg, considering mpg also doesn’t take into account idling.

    For charging purposes:
    Amperage, voltage, time needed to charge and killowatt hours (remember that amps x volts does not equal watts, it equals apparent power; wattage is amps x volts x power factor—another way to put this is the rating on your power company supplied transformer is in volt-amperes, not Watts)

    For gas input, note the size of the tank.

    For using the battery, note how far the car goes without stopping until the gas motor starts. This would be the “normal” mileage Also detail this at top speed and top weight in the car. This would be called the “full load” mileage. Also detail the time it takes for the batter to drain under the above calculations. Finally under “no load” conditions (turning on the car, but not going anywhere, simulating a stoplight, congested traffic, or simply letting the car heat up in the winter or cool in the summer) detail how long it takes the batter to discharge and the gas motor to take over.

    For the gas motor, same thing. Detail the amount of time it takes for the gas tank to empty under “normal load” “full load” and “no load” conditions. Also, with the exception of “no load” conditions, detail how many miles the vehicle went.

  • Tracy_engineer

    Anonymous made a mistake in the units for their example. We are charged for electricity by the kWH, not kW. Therefore you would need to find the exact time required to charge the battery from 0 kW to full charge at 16kW. For example; if it takes 10 hours to fully charge the 16kW battery and your draw is actually 2kW then the calculation is: 2 kW * 10 hours * $0.11/kWH = $2.20. However, the rest of the comparrison is nonsense because you cannot compare a measurement of energy (or power if you include time) to a measurement of volume. The only way to really compare the two energy sources and distance is to compare the total cost to completely fill each energy source and run the car until each energy source is fully depleted, i.e. the battery is fully discharged, or the gas tank is completely empty. And for the sake of reality, the test should be performed in the city and on the highway in a manor that most can agree (and I use this term very loosely) is typical of “average” drivers. At the end of all of these computational gymnastics you still only get a cost per mile in terms of $/mile depending on your source of energy.

  • Sebring

    Using the Chevy Volt as a Hybrid Car you make 37 MPG, but the battery pack might last 5 to 6 years. If you relay on the Battery pack the life shorten 2 to 3 years. The battery pack cost $10000 or more. Technically Chevy Volt is a disaster because is a heavy hybrid. Tactically Chevy Volt is a savior for GM with expense of customers. The depreciation of car will be so quick that the first owner cannot get rid of the car but have to keep till scrap it. Finally using more as electric than hybrid, the owner has to buy a new battery pack in 3 years or deal with a dead car.

  • Sebring

    Using the Chevy Volt as a Hybrid Car you make 37 MPG, but the battery pack might last 5 to 6 years. If you relay on the Battery pack the life shorten 2 to 3 years. The battery pack cost $10000 or more. Technically Chevy Volt is a disaster because is a heavy hybrid. Tactically Chevy Volt is a savior for GM with expense of customers. The depreciation of car will be so quick that the first owner cannot get rid of the car but have to keep till scrap it. Finally using more as electric than hybrid, the owner has to buy a new battery pack in 3 years or deal with a dead car.

  • Chrystopher

    Using the Chevy Volt as a Hybrid Car you make 37 MPG, but the battery pack might last 5 to 6 years. If you relay on the Battery pack the life shorten 2 to 3 years. The battery pack cost $10000 or more. Technically Chevy Volt is a disaster because is a heavy hybrid. Tactically Chevy Volt is a savior for GM with expense of customers. The depreciation of car will be so quick that the first owner cannot get rid of the car but have to keep till scrap it. Finally using more as electric than hybrid, the owner has to buy a new battery pack in 3 years or deal with a dead car.