11
Oct
10

30-odd MPG Chevy Volt: This is my shocked face

(Get it?  Shocked? Electric car?  Oh the lulz!)

We find this piece of archly amused commentary at the ever-entertaining Jalopnik:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: GM released a presser (via the usual swanky concept-car launch) claiming to have developed a 230mpg (“city driving”) extended-range electric vehicle which’d go on sale Real Soon Now, leapfrog the hybrids and clean diesels from Evil Foreigners, and restore The General to its former glory.  This EREV — the Chevy Volt — was to be a paradigm shift, a clean-slate design that would change the way we thought about cars.  It was to be GM’s Personal Jesus.

Here’s erstwhile chairman Bob Lutz on the Volt’s purported capabilities:

“The Chevrolet Volt is a new type of electric vehicle. It addresses the range problem and has room for passengers and their stuff. You can climb a hill or turn on the air conditioning and not worry about it.”

The Volt can be fully charged by plugging it into a 110-volt outlet for approximately six hours a day. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged, the Volt can deliver 40 city miles of pure electric vehicle range. When the battery is depleted, a 1L, three-cylinder turbocharged engine spins at a constant speed, or revolutions per minute (rpm), to create electricity and replenish the battery. According to Lutz, this increases the fuel economy and range.

“If you lived within 30 miles from work (60 miles round trip) and charged your vehicle every night when you came home or during the day at work, you would get 150 miles per gallon,” Lutz said. “More than half of all Americans live within 20 miles of where they work (40 miles round trip). In that case, you might never burn a drop of gas during the life of the car.”

That sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it?  (It does give one to wonder where that electricity comes from, but let’s not quibble.)

Didja know that GM’s selling coal-powered cars?

Of course, press releases are one thing; third-party tests are quite another.  And there’s a bit of a problem with those third-party tests, now that the Volt’s actually in series production.  From the first article:

Let’s see what they’ve found out. Popular Mechanics saw just 37.5 MPG in city driving. Car and Driver apparently didn’t choose to use their wheel time for any city driving — but found with all-electric driving

“…getting on the nearest highway and commuting with the 80-mph flow of traffic-basically the worst-case scenario-yielded 26 miles; a fairly spirited back-road loop netted 31; and a carefully modulated cruise below 60 mph pushed the figure into the upper 30s.”

Motor Trend, like the rest of the trade press other than Popular Mechanics, didn’t appear to do any testing in city conditions, but did find that

“Without any plugging in, [a weeklong trip to Grandma’s house] should return fuel economy in the high 30s to low 40s.”

Whoops.  That nifty new Jesus Car returns significantly lower gas mileage than a bog-standard Prius — and you gotta believe that the first thing any potential Volt buyer is gonna do is compare its gas mileage to that of the Prius.  Shit, if you troll around the Ecomodder forums you can find full-sized trucks that return about the same MPG as a Volt.

Good job, GM.  I expected nothing less.

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6 Responses to “30-odd MPG Chevy Volt: This is my shocked face”


  1. 1 aczarnowski
    October 12, 2010 at 05:09

    I’m impressed that a health insurance and pension company, owned by government, can turn out cars which are even that good.

    • October 13, 2010 at 20:00

      The truly disappointing thing about the Volt is the Corvette C6 ZR1. And if you protest that the ZR1 package had its genesis before the buyout (C6 ZR1s entered production in 2009), I give you the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and Sport Wagon (both 2011 models). Those three cars are genuinely world-class Fast Automobiles, and heaping piles of sexy to boot.

      They can do better. They choose not to.

      • 3 aczarnowski
        October 14, 2010 at 15:47

        For different definitions of they.

        Something tells me the guys from the Corvette and CTS teams weren’t stampeding through management offices looking for the Volt corral.

        • October 14, 2010 at 16:14

          Turns out that Bob Lutz was heavily involved in the development of both the CTS-V Coupe and the Volt. That’s not a rebuttal of your claim, but it shows that there was at least a path between the Volt team and the effective part of the company.

  2. October 13, 2010 at 14:52

    My 14-year old Hyundai Station wagon gets about 7-8 litres/100KM (29-33 MPG) depending on driving conditions. It’s nice to see that we’ve improved things in the last 14 years.

  3. October 17, 2010 at 21:03

    On the one hand, I don’t think these are a fair test of the Volt’s intended use–it isn’t optimized for long highway trips.

    On the other hand, I’m puzzled by the relatively large and powerful engine chosen for the Volt–it seems that since torque and peak power is determined by the electric equipment, and that the gasoline engine doesn’t have to idle smoothly, a sub-1 liter 3 cylinder would make more sense.


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