The Chevy Volt – Say WHAT?

General Motors Corp.  recently announced that its Chevy Volt, a much-anticipated electric car, would get 230 miles per gallon of gasoline in city driving – more than four times the Toyota Prius.  Wow!  Now that’s a serious game-changer.  But is it really?

After the announcement, various news outlets, and our very own Public Affairs Director, Dr. Michael S. Lubell, questioned GM’s calculations.  It seems that GM was being rather creative and premature in coming up with that number.

According to Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal, GM’s use of the traditional miles per gallon measurement for an electric car isn’t quite right.  For example, GM’s number “doesn’t incorporate the energy and cost of recharging the Volt’s battery,” wrote Bialik.   Another electric car executive noted recently that there is no agreed upon way to measure an electric car’s performance.  In fact, using a Department of Energy methodology, the Volt would get around 130 city mpg.  And GM’s Tony Posawatz said that “different methodologies generate different results.”  Clearly.

What’s more, GM claimed to have used a draft  EPA Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) testing methodology to come up with the 230 mpg number. The problem is that it remains a DRAFT methodology.  As a result, EPA would not validate GM’s number, saying instead that it had “not tested a Chevy Volt, and therefore, cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.”

So what’s the deal here?  Marketing.  Putting that remarkably high number out there upped the ante for competitors like Toyota and Nissan.   And let’s face it, GM desperately needs a success story to keep itself afloat.  I applaud GM for pressing ahead with what could be a terrific, gas-saving, environmentally sound vehicle.  But, as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.”

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