Owners Help GM Clarify 'Misconceptions' About the Chevy Volt

General Motors launched the “extended-range electric” Chevrolet Volt in December 2010 but apparently misconceptions about it are so common the company has been compelled to run commercials to help get the message out.

Along the lines of other ads in which Volt drivers offer personal testimonials that they are among the “happiest drivers on the planet,” the adopters of the still-nascent technology shed light on some of the more common confusion they hear as Volt owners.

It’s all being presented in good humor, but no doubt honest misconceptions among consumers compound deliberate attacks also being bandied about by certain critics against the car.

If you have any misconceptions, here’s how it works in simplified terms: The Volt Is basically an electric vehicle with gasoline backup, but can operate like any gasoline car if you really want it to. Actually, it’s meant to be used like a mid-range electric vehicle and offers somewhere between 25-50 all-electric miles (mid-30 miles to low 40s is most common and the 2013 model promises a few more miles when it comes out in August).

The Volt recharges its battery via an included special cord from ordinary 120-volt house current or you can buy and install a 240-volt charger if you want faster battery replenishment. On the road, it drives like an ordinary car – albeit very quietly and smoothly thanks to electric drive, instead of a conventional powertrain. Although a compact class car, it fits full-sized people, as some in the video explain – at least up front, although rear seat leg room may be insufficient for taller people.

Once the batteries run out of juice, the gasoline-powered generator automatically kicks on, and you keep going seamlessly. The fuel tank holds a little less than 10 gallons of premium gasoline (yes, premium is required), and at 37 mpg EPA rating, you have over 300 miles range.

As mentioned, the Volt could theoretically never be plugged in, and one could just run it on gasoline alone, not that that would make much sense.

Obviously, the real idea is to minimize use of gasoline, and given most peoples’ daily driving needs are within the Volt’s all-electric range, tales of some people going hundreds and even thousands of miles without stopping for gasoline are not uncommon. As long as they stay within electric range, they just plug in regularly, while reserving the gasoline in the tank for when needed.

If the gas sits long enough, a computer monitoring the special pressurized tank will turn the engine on to burn off the aging fuel before letting it turn stale, but this is not before many months of potentially gas-free, or gas-minimal driving.

The Volt was recently rated by Consumer Reports as number one in owner satisfaction, and there seems to be no shortage of Volt drivers – taking sides against known critics, and willing to help GM overcome genuine misconceptions – as GM and its growing fan base promote its new kind of car.


  • Van

    I agree, folks seem to think it is an EV with a 25-50 mile range, then bricks. How this misconception got started I do not know.

    Because it seats four, and the rear seat head room and leg room are lacking, competitors have tagged it with “small.” Note how the Prius adds usually say “seats 5.”

    The 2013 twinks will help to off set the impression the Volt under-performs. It was heavily advertized to deliver 40 miles of EV range and so when the 25-50 number replaced it, it created the impression the car did not measure up. So another vote for under-promising and over-delivering.

    I have not seen any explanation of why it gets only 37 in hybrid mode, when Ford, Kia, and Toyota all sport 40 plus MPG. They need to work hard, and perhaps the new ICE will do it, to get the hybrid number to start with a 4, like the Chevy Cruse.

    It is a real shame that the most radical step toward the future of automobles suffers from a lack of buyer enthusiasm.

  • Joe Prius

    Yes, the Volt sounds appealing but regarding this 30-40 mile range in electric. Is this range utilizing city driving or are there commuters who drive at interstate speeds (excluding LA, CA where interstate traffic creeps) still using electric only or is the gas assist kicking in at 60 mph plus?

    For example, my ’04 Prius will go electric only as long as I don’t gun it or go faster than 35 mph. What kind of MPG numbers are Volt drivers getting driving a majority of highway miles in their daily commutes?

  • Markw

    We all Know how this nasty bit got started…. Fox news and a certain news anchor that faked getting stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel…. And then told us to buy Japanese And Saudi crude! Were is mcarthy and his un-American committee when we need him….

  • wbiber

    The Volt runs completely on electric at all speeds

    My range is 39-45 miles on electric now and 29-32 in winter (Michigan)
    My mileage after 9100 miles is 147mpg

  • wbiber

    The Volt runs completely on electric at all speeds

    My range is 39-45 miles on electric now and 29-32 in winter (Michigan)
    My mileage after 9100 miles is 147mpg

  • Al Bunzel

    Here is what Chevy needs to do:

    * Enter the Chevy Volt in motor sport events so its credentials are well advertized;
    * Get more Volt owners give more testimonials and heavily promote those testimonials;
    * Get rappers to use the Volt in their music video clips;
    * Get rental companies to have the Volt available so more people can experience the benefits of driving a Volt;
    * Sell the Volt in more markets around the world.

  • Mark S.

    @Joe Prius
    >still using electric only or is the gas assist kicking in at 60 mph plus?

    As mentioned, regardless of speed (0 to 100 mph) the Volt runs pure electric until the battery is depleted to “charge sustaining mode”. It then shouldn’t be too hard to get ~40 mpg for the the remaining 350 mile range, under most conditions. (I really cant be sure though, because I don’t use gas at all anymore)

    Just like any car, efficiency is best at 50 mph or lower and worst at 75 mph or higher, due to the increasing wind resistance.

    I can’t speak to pure highway mileage efficiency, but in my daily commute/driving which is typically 40-60 mph roads, I always have an estimate range of 45-50 miles per charge.

    I also own a Prius, which is a very nice hybrid car, especially for long trips. But a Volt eats a Prius for lunch, in many ways. Take a 24 hour test drive (ask your employer where you can “plug in!”) if you have any doubts.

  • Van

    As I understand it, the Volt will stay in EV mode up to about 70 MPH, then the ICE will start and help drive the wheels. So as long as the battery is in depletion mode and the speed of the Volt is less than about 70 MPH, it operates on electricity only and burns no gas at all.

    So if you daily commute is less than say 35 miles round trip, and you kept the speed below 70 MPH you would burn no gas at all.

    However, when in the extended range mode, i.e. hybrid mode, it only gets about 37 MPG according to the EPA.

    Contrast this with the Prius PHV, it can stay in EV mode up to a speed of about 60 MPH, then the ICE starts and helps drive the wheels. It has a very small battery so it only goes 10 to 15 miles in EV mode before the ICE starts up and it drives like a hybrid. However, in this mode it gets 50 MPG.

    What is needed is a car to split the difference, perhaps the Fusion plug-in due next March, will have a price less than the Volt, an EV range greater than the Prius PHV, and a top EV mode speed in excess of 65 MPH. Time will tell

  • Stan Smart

    “New” technology in automobiles takes 10 – 20 years to catch on with Joe or Jane Motorist. For example, people in my age bracket (60-65) still think cars have carburetors.

    Folks still change oil every 3,000 milers although my 7-year old Honda Accord Hybrid recommended 7,500. My new Lincoln MKZ hybrid reminds me to change oil at 10,000 miles!

    The Prius was in the U.S. 10 years before folks seriously considered it as reliable … still “new” to most people. Now it’s the #3 best seller here!

  • schanie

    Van, the 70mph switchover is a mis-reading of how the hybrid system works. If the battery still has power, the car is electric. Always, at all speeds. If the battery is dead the car runs as electric through the engine/generator until 70mph or so. At that point it engages gears directly to the engine and takes power directly from the engine. I remember when this came out everyone was confused. This only happens with an empty battery and only above 70 mph.

  • Van

    Hi Schanie, just to be crystal, when the Volt is in charge depleting mode above 70 MPH, the ICE does not start. But when the Volt is in charge sustaining mode, i.e. after the first 35 miles or so of EV mode, then if the car exceeds 70 miles per hour, the ICE helps drive the wheels. In addition, in charge sustaining mode, the ICE runs to sustain the battery charge by driving the generator.

  • Roy_H

    “As I understand it, the Volt will stay in EV mode up to about 70 MPH, then the ICE will start and help drive the wheels.”

    You understand wrong. There was a test that showed under certain conditions that the ICE would help drive the wheels. In this test it was at 70mph, but that speed is dependent on how hard one is accelerating. This ONLY applies when running in Charge Sustaining Mode, that is after the battery has been depleted. In normal EV mode the ICE does not come on at all at any speed or acceleration.

  • Van

    Even if not accelerating, at speeds above 70 MPH, the ICE helps drive the wheels in charge sustaining mode. Now in charge sustaining mode between say 35 and 70, the ICE can also help drive the wheels during acceleration, or at least that is my much maligned understanding. :)

  • MrEnergyCzar

    The most common question I get is what happens after the battery runs out?

    MrEnergyCzar

  • ReVolt

    On my first drive out of the dealership when I purchased my Volt, I drove 50 miles and the gasoline engine never came on, and I still had enough capacity in the batteries to go a few more miles… But, my experience with electric vehicles started in 1995 and I was ahead of the learning curve in how to maximize battery reserve..

    I bought a Volt because I am tired of making rich, people who don’t like us (the USA that is). We export $600 BILLION each year to foreign countries (OPEC) and I wanted to do something to get off of foreign oil…

    Here is my story on my Flickr account… and please consider adding photos of your Volt to my group on Flickr called “Chevrolet Volt.”
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/southwestusa/7366181594/in/photostream

  • ReVolt

    On my first drive out of the dealership when I purchased my Volt, I drove 50 miles and the gasoline engine never came on, and I still had enough capacity in the batteries to go a few more miles… But, my experience with electric vehicles started in 1995 and I was ahead of the learning curve in how to maximize battery reserve..

    I bought a Volt because I am tired of making rich, people who don’t like us (the USA that is). We export $600 BILLION each year to foreign countries (OPEC) and I wanted to do something to get off of foreign oil…

    Here is my story on my Flickr account… and please consider adding photos of your Volt to my group on Flickr called “Chevrolet Volt.”

  • Dave123

    Maybe gas-mode efficiency is mediocre because it has to lug around a big heavy battery.

  • David

    All that technology and they require PREMIUM gas? If true, that would be the first disappointing piece of TRUE news I’ve heard on the Volt.

  • schanie

    I believe the premium gas was called for partially because of fear of stale gas, given the likelihood that gas might stay in the tank for weeks or months at a time without being replaced.

  • Sterling

    Gas-mode efficiency is “mediocre? Do you own a Volt?

    I find my Volt is very good at running a long way on gasoline… 9 gallons and in excess of 300 miles! Not bad in my book.

    See my “blog” with pictures of my 2012 Volt on Flickr. Google “Chevrolet Volt High Above Texas” and you will find a way to get there, or go through my homepage HighAboveTexas

  • Sterling

    You are partially right. This is a slightly higher refined fuel and can last a tad longer than regular. In my airplane, running 100 octane aviation fuel, I can go several months easily. For the Volt however, I suspect premium is needed because the small gasoline engine has a much higher compression rating than one requiring only regular gasoline…