Ever since the Chevrolet Volt appeared as a concept last year, debate has been hot and heavy over exactly what it is. Although many call it a hybrid because it has a battery and an engine, GM prefers to call it an extended range-electric vehicle (ER-EV). That poses a problem for GM when it comes to emissions and fuel economy testing. With its 40 mile electric only range the Volt could complete the US06 test cycle that is part of the current EPA test regimen without ever running its engine. So far this doesn't sit well with the EPA which considers the Volt a hybrid and expects it to complete the test cycle with a charged battery. GM and the feds have been going back and forth on this for months. Reports out this morning on Bloomberg
and the Detroit Free Press
indicated that GM and the EPA had reached an agreement that would potentially see the Volt as the first car classified with a 100 mpg rating are erroneous. We called spokesman Rob Peterson to get the scoop, and it turns out that GM has reached an agreement with the California Air Resources Board, (CARB) on a unique classification for the Volt. Peterson told ABG that this classification would reflect the Volt's true capability, essentially treating it as an EV. According to Peterson, "the classification helps us to optimize the Volt for what it does do, instead of being put into the category with a normal hybrid." This will potentially allow GM to run the Volt with the planned charge sustaining mode rather than having to run the engine to fully recharge the battery at the end of the test.
The agreement with CARB gives GM a bargaining chip in its talks with the EPA, but Peterson cautions that the automaker and the federal agency "still have a long way to go" to finalize any agreement. The Volt may yet get that magic 100 mpg rating, but it's not there yet.