• Aug 11, 2009
Neither General Motors nor the EPA are making declarative statements about how, exactly, the 2011 Chevy Volt will achieve it's much-touted 230 mpg rating that was announced today. GM's most clear statement (available in full after the break) says that some consumers "may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas" and that "key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day."

Without access to the actual method that the EPA is tentatively going to apply to plug-in vehicles (we have requests for clarification out to the EPA), all that GM's Dave Darovitz would tell us is that the number is "based on city cycles and we're not really talking in detail yet." Instead, the press release says that:
Under the new methodology being developed, EPA weights plug-in electric vehicles as traveling more city miles than highway miles on only electricity. The EPA methodology uses kilowatt hours per 100 miles traveled to define the electrical efficiency of plug-ins. Applying EPA's methodology, GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in city driving. At the U.S. average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile.
Frank Weber, vehicle chief engineer for the Volt, told AutoblogGreen that the EPA's method takes into account the two extremes: People who plug in every chance they get and therefore barely ever need gasoline and people who never plug in (if you're buying a Volt and never plug it in, we'd like to offer you a bridge or two. Call us). By figuring out what the average driver will do with the Volt, the EPA has declared that 230 mpg is reasonable. Weber said, "The number is in the ballpark, it is not unrealistic. The moment you are driving shorter trips, or you go on longer trips and look at your average fuel economy, this number is achievable."

Keep in mind, that 230 mpg number is only valid in city driving, though GM claims that the Volt's combined mpg rating will still be in the triple-digit range. Though the EPA has yet to finalize its methodology, we have come across a calculation that makes sense. According to a commenter on TTAC.com, the EPA would first drive a PHEV with a full charge until it reaches a charge-sustaining mode, after which it completes a normal cycle of 11 miles. The Volt, therefore, would presumably go 40 miles before activating charge-sustaining mode, and then travel another 11 miles for a total of 51 miles. Thus, GM can claim the Volt will achieve 230 mpg based on 51 miles of driving during which only .22 gallons of fuel would be used. Likewise, if we know the Volt would use .22 gallons of fuel while traveling 11 miles in charge-sustaining mode, we can calculate that it would achieve 50 mpg while traveling with the generator on.

However, as you can read in this detailed PDF from NREL, there is much more to think about in calculating the fuel economy of a PHEV than simply how far it can go on a single charge and then what its "regular" mpg rating is. We'll just have to wait until the EPA finalizes its methodology for testing these types of vehicles before we can say for certain how GM arrived at the magic number of 230 mpg.

[Source: GM, NREL]


PRESS RELEASE:

Chevrolet Volt Expects 230 mpg in City Driving

* First mass-produced vehicle to claim more than 100 mpg composite fuel economy
* Tentative EPA methodology results show 25 kilowatt hours/100 miles electrical efficiency in city cycle
* Plugging in daily is key to high-mileage performance

WARREN, Mich. - The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, based on development testing using a draft EPA federal fuel economy methodology for labeling for plug-in electric vehicles.

The Volt, which is scheduled to start production in late 2010 as a 2011 model, is expected to travel up to 40 miles on electricity from a single battery charge and be able to extend its overall range to more than 300 miles with its flex fuel-powered engine-generator.

"From the data we've seen, many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas," said GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson. "EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare the fuel efficiency of vehicles. So, a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer."

According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, nearly eight of 10 Americans commute fewer than 40 miles a day http://tinyurl.com/U-S-DOTStudy .

"The key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day," Henderson said.

Volt drivers' actual gas-free mileage will vary depending on how far they travel and other factors, such as how much cargo or how many passengers they carry and how much the air conditioner or other accessories are used. Based on the results of unofficial development testing of pre-production prototypes, the Volt has achieved 40 miles of electric-only, petroleum-free driving in both EPA city and highway test cycles.

Under the new methodology being developed, EPA weights plug-in electric vehicles as traveling more city miles than highway miles on only electricity. The EPA methodology uses kilowatt hours per 100 miles traveled to define the electrical efficiency of plug-ins. Applying EPA's methodology, GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in city driving. At the U.S. average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile.

The Chevrolet Volt uses grid electricity as its primary source of energy to propel the car. There are two modes of operation: Electric and Extended-Range. In electric mode, the Volt will not use gasoline or produce tailpipe emissions when driving. During this primary mode of operation, the Volt is powered by electrical energy stored in its 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

When the battery reaches a minimum state of charge, the Volt automatically switches to Extended-Range mode. In this secondary mode of operation, an engine-generator produces electricity to power the vehicle. The energy stored in the battery supplements the engine-generator when additional power is needed during heavy accelerations or on steep inclines.

"The 230 city mpg number is a great indication of the capabilities of the Volt's electric propulsion system and its ability to displace gasoline," said Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for the Volt. "Actual testing with production vehicles will occur next year closer to vehicle launch. However, we are very encouraged by this development, and we also think that it is important to continue to share our findings in real time, as we have with other aspects of the Volt's development."

About Chevrolet
Chevrolet is one of America 's best-known and best-selling automotive brands, and one of the fastest growing brands in the world. With fuel solutions that go from "gas-friendly to gas-free," Chevy has nine models that get 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway, and offers three hybrid models. More than 2.5 million Chevrolets that run on E85 biofuel have been sold. Chevy delivers expressive design, spirited performance and provides the best value in every segment in which it competes. More information on Chevrolet can be found at www.chevrolet.com. For more information on the Volt, visit http://media.gm.com/volt/.

General Motors Company, one of the world's largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 235,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the new General Motors Company can be found at www.gm.com
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  • 80 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      so it can only go 40m without the Gas engine kicking in?
      • 5 Years Ago

      How will these batteries be recycled/trashed at their end of life in 5/10/15 yrs? We already have a huge issue diposing of small AA cells. How much does it cost to get new ones?

      • 5 Years Ago
      "At the U.S. average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles"

      This says to me the Volt gets ~100 MPG if a gallon of gas cost $2.75, which it is currently (where I live). To really compare electric propulsion to combustion propulsion we need to switch to MP$ to show the relative incremental cost of driving.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Obviously the mileage is completely dependent on how you use it. One person could see 1,000 miles per gallon by plugging in every night, another could see 60 mpg by driving in extended mode often. MPG is a useless rating for series hybrids. We need to move to something based on energy efficiency, which might make it look even better considering the horrendous efficiency of internal combustion engines.

      Why do people always reduce a car like this to simple equation gauging how long it will take to pay off the price difference based on the efficiency? A Kia and a Porsche will both get you to the grocery store, the Kia will do it at 1/10 the cost, does that make the Porsche a piece of garbage and you'd be a moron to buy one? Unless you're buying a used Hyundai, you're paying a premium for your transportation. You're paying for space, or speed, or comfort, or technology, but you're always paying a premium.
        • 5 Years Ago
        With the Porsche, you are paying a premium for performance, luxury, and handling. That is the basic marketing message and justification for the Porsche. That is why there are all the arguements about the cost of the GT-R compared to that of the Porsche, etc.

        The purpose of this car is efficiency and economy, so it is fair to judge it by these comparisons to other economy type cars and cost to fuel the thing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly, you're paying a premium for efficiency and you're getting a more efficient car. It doesn't need to make up for it in gas savings, the same way a Porsche isn't judged by "smiles per mile" vs a Honda Civic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess when computing the 230mpg time is not a factor. In order to technically hit the 230mpg mark, you would need to recharge the batteries at least 4.5 times. That way you drive 50 miles on a single gallon of gas plus drive the other 180 miles on the battery. Therefore, while you can conceivably go 230mpg, it may take you 4 days to do it.

      It doesn't follow any logic to say the car goes 51 on .22 gallons and then spread that average for the whole gallon. We can only hope they don't forecast their earnings using the same logic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      except for the fact that you are literally just replacing ur gas bills to ur electricity bills?
        • 5 Years Ago
        or if you did your research...charging the volt would take as much energy as an air conditioner, and even that is much better than relying on oil based fuels. ...I really think your missing the point.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Considering mass produced electricity from power plants costs pennies compared to gasoline, it's basically like getting a free 40 miles.

        Think about it: it'll cost 50 cents per 40-mile charge, versus $3.00ish in gas for that same 40 miles.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just think if you have solar panels on the roof of your house and are able to drive the VOLT in the electric mode only, you could take yourself off the energy grid and live a life of not stopping @ the gas station ever week.....NICE.....
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Rock Singer

        The problem is that those solar panels with not pay themselves off over a 25 year lifetime, just like the premium on the Volt will not pay itself off over the typical vehicle lifetime compared to something like a Honda Civic.

        Of course, if you live in the midwest like I do, you might as well glue $100 bills to your roof instead of solar panels. It would be just about as cost effective.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You know we all have to start somewhere, don't you think so, maybe the next generation won't have to pay though the nose like we do.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thanks for your input Rock.

        I hate to be a curmudgeon, but it seems like people are getting carried away with electric vehicles. They just don't make such sense.

        Whatever happened with all of the stories in the news a couple of years ago about the strained electric grid? Now we are going to pile onto that? I think its funny that they keep assuming the price of gas will keep rising but the price of electricity is somehow static.

        Especially here in MI, where we have mandated 10% "green energy" on electricity generation, which is expected to cause the cost of electricity to increase significantly.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hey Ed,

        Here in sunny Cal, I have a friend that has panels on his roof that with the money he got back from the Gov cost him 5G's and the electric company pays him for his energy because he makes more than he uses. At 40G's the Volt isn't really cost effective but at least you don't have to visit Shell Exxon etc every week.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hmmmm.............. one little thing to add to the cost comparison scenerio.

      When Cap and Trade passes, what will electricity cost per kwh?? I guarantee that it will go up significantly.

      This is just one more little thing, that can greatly skew the costs of a vehicle like the Volt.

      That said, a Volt that is only driven 40 miles or less, and is plugged in, every night, will NOT get infinity mpg. That is impossible, as it has already been stated that the engine will run to keep the batteries at their correct operating temperature, and the engine will run to keep everything lubed and the fuel from going bad (modern gasoline goes bad in a very short period of time).

      Thus, there will be gasoline being used, no matter what.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So because it might use a tiny amount of gas it's garbage and I should go buy a F450 Super Duty? Your (lack of) logic escapes me.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The big news today is how GM messed up EPA for the rest of us. Now we as consumers don't have a reliable, believable agency to protect us. This move will comeback and hunt them, people do not like being deceive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The reasonable thing to do is rate it based on input energy, which would make it look even better considering the horrendous efficiency of an internal combustion engine. So yes, a new rating should be used, which would make the Volt look even better.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes unfortunately, GM has been working with (lobbying) the EPA for these kinds of meaningless standards for EREVs. GM won, reason lost.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Let's hope it does get 230 MPG...at least it'll try to make up for all the years of wasteful 15 MPG POS cars they made for the last 20+ years and more.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Let me see if I understand this. I should give up my $2,500 car that is all paid up, that costs me $1,500/yr for gas and about $1,000/yr for minor repairs so I can buy a $40,000 car so I don't spend $1,500/yr on gas. Humm, I'm not that bright, but the way I see it the numbers just don't add up.

      I'm sure the VOLT is a nice car, maybe a great car, but not alot of people have $40,000 lying around nor are many people inclined to spend over $400/mo on a lease/purchase. Of course there are a lot of people whith a lot of money. This car is geared for people who shop Macy's not Walmart; a household income of over $75,000 as opposed to $40,000.

      A "regular Joe" has lots of bills and is trying not to loose his home and keep up with bills - survival mode. Now if this VOLT cost $20,000, now your talking mass appeal.
      • 5 Years Ago
      they can't advertise it if it weren't true.
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