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As we're sure you've noticed by now, General Motors has been making lots of waves over the past few days with the pricing announcement (finally!) of its 2011 Chevrolet Volt. And, as you're surely aware, GM's plug-in hybrid is capable of traveling at least 40 miles per charge without using a single drop of gasoline. But what happens when the time comes to pump some good ol' crude into the tank? You'll be using premium.

Yes, you read that right. Premium gasoline only in GM's mostly gasoline-free automobile. It seems a bit odd that The General would force its customers into using higher-priced gasoline if there wasn't a good reason for it, but it certainly wouldn't seem that the engine is highly stressed – 80 horsepower from 1.4 liters isn't exactly bleeding edge.

There is a possibility, however, that the car's engineers were able to wrestle a bit more efficiency from its constant-load engine/generator setup by using higher octane fuel. In any case, the automaker has not offered up any specific explanations on why premium is required or, for that matter, what kind of fuel mileage the Volt will attain when the gasoline-powered engine is in operation.

We feel compelled to point out that it probably doesn't matter much that the Volt requires premium fuel considering how little gasoline the average user is likely to go through any given month. But naturally, your mileage will vary.


  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman
  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman
  • The Chevrolet Volt "Freedom Drive" across the country concludes at Pier 92 during the annual Macy's Independence Day fireworks display over the Hudson River in New York, Sunday, July 4, 2010. The "Freedom Drive" began four days and 1.776 miles ago in Austin, Texas where Chevrolet announced New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas would join Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. as launch sites for the Volt later this year. (Photo by Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt "Freedom Drive" across the country concludes at Pier 92 during the annual Macy's Independence Day fireworks display over the Hudson River in New York, Sunday, July 4, 2010. The "Freedom Drive" began four days and 1.776 miles ago in Austin, Texas where Chevrolet announced New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas would join Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. as launch sites for the Volt later this year. (Photo by Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet)
  • Chevrolet announces Thursday, July 1, 2010 it is adding Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the launch markets for the Volt electric vehicle. The retail launch in Texas and New York will begin with Austin and New York City in late 2010. The balance of Texas and New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, are scheduled to begin receiving Volts in early 2011. The Chevrolet Volt (pictured here) in front of the Texas State Capital in Austiin, Texas Wednesday, June 30, 2010. (Photo by Steven Noreyko for Chevrolet)
  • Chevrolet announces Thursday, July 1, 2010 it is adding Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the launch markets for the Volt electric vehicle. The retail launch in Texas and New York will begin with Austin and New York City in late 2010. The balance of Texas and New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, are scheduled to begin receiving Volts in early 2011. The Chevrolet Volt (pictured here) in front of the Texas State Capital in Austiin, Texas Wednesday, June 30, 2010. (Photo by Steven Noreyko for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt passes a trolley while navigating the steep climbs of the San Francisco Bay area while on an engineering development drive Saturday, April 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt drives near the Golden Gate Bridge while on an engineering development drive in San Francisco, California Saturday, April 25, 2010. The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt navigates the steep climbs of the San Francisco Bay area while on an engineering development drive Saturday, April 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range on display at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range drives through campus at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range drives through campus at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range travels around Pier 92 during a media test drive in New York, NY on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet) (3/29/2010)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range travels around Pier 92 during a media test drive in New York, NY on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet) (3/29/2010)
  • The first pre-production Chevrolet Volt rolls off the line at the Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant Wednesday, March 31, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The pre-production versions of the Volt will not be sold at dealerships, but will be used to assure all steps in the production system will meet the quality targets set by the Volt engineering team. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet) (04/01/2010)
  • A Chevrolet Volt battery at the General Motors Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, Michigan Wednesday, June 30, 2010. The Chevrolet Volt will offer customers an unprecedented standard 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on its lithium-ion battery. GM engineers have completed more than 1 million miles and 4 million hours of validation battery testing since 2007. Each Volt battery pack has nine modules and 288 cells. GM designed and engineered 99 percent of the 155 components in each battery. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet)


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 89 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why is this a surprise?

      This is a turbo'ed engine isn't it? Needing to use premium for a turbo car is not that uncommon.

      But even more so, the gasoline in the Volt's tank might not be used all that much. Premium tends to have more detergents and stuff in it that might keep it from going bad as quickly. I know that was a fairly big concern early on in the development of this car because it could easily go weeks and months without even kicking that ICE on if the user drove less than 40 miles a day.


      But as usual AB decides to make a bigger deal than it really is, or makes it sound like it's some kind of stupid conspiracy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Will premium gas last longer? A lot of people won't use the range extender very often so you could have gas sitting in the tank for quite a while.
        • 5 Years Ago
        yes, it might get you more mileage, if the engine adjusts timing(and whatever else it can adjust). however, if it could it could adjust those for non-premium fuel too, so why doesn't it run on both? because it's a gm, that's why.

        but really, I thought the volt was an all-electric, before reading a nissan leaf review. now i'm all "wtf" at gm again. ridiculous pricing, hybrid, stupid mpg claims, ugly... seems so much more like lip-service for investors rather than actual effort at cornering market. certainly not a product worth all the hyping gm has put to ride on it so early before release even, in 2011 it'll be even more boring and awkwardly priced.

        plug-in electric that hauls the lump of a 1.4l around at a price you'd get two decent mileage gasoline burners for today. or you could have gotten a prius ages ago(plug-in variant has been at least in testing for a while now, no idea of actual availability since it's a pretty boringly obvious thing to add charging to a hybrid).
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think your question really boils down to two parts. Stability of gasoline and evaporation. Gasoline sold these days (at least name brand ones with additives) will last about a year so even Volt users should be fine. If you really drive that little I feel that this car would be a waste of money. With evaporation, unfortunately RVP is not published (as far as I know) on gasoline. However city gasoline has a lower RVP (partially why it's more expensive too) than conventional gasoline so that should help city dwellers more likely to purchase this vehicle.
        • 5 Years Ago
        How many people are going to know to add Sta-Bil? I can see fuel injectors in some Volts eventually gumming up due to stale gasoline.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is what I'm wondering/thinking. (Warning I don't know anything for a fact here) I'm thinking the engineers may have figured with the longer amount of time the fuel could be sitting in the tank, that a higher grade of fuel may not degrade below a critical point for a much longer period of time. I could be very wrong, but it is a thought.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No it does not. And as for fuel longevity add Sta-Bil fuel additive when you fill up. The Marine Formula (STA-BIL Ethanol) will keep gas fresh for up to 2 years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why anyone wouldn't want to put premium fuel in their brand new $41k car is beyond me. What's the markup? $5 a fill up? You could find that on the ground...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Premium, in fact, sometimes is worse fuel than regular. It resists knock because it's harder to ignite than lower-octane fuels. As a result, some engines won't start as quickly or run as smoothly on premium, notes Gibbs, the SAE fuel expert.

        High-test does have a potential fuel economy benefit. It is slightly denser than lower-octane gas, meaning there's a little more energy in a gallon. But the small difference is hard to measure in real-world use, and that same density can contribute to undesirable buildup of waste products inside the engine.

        No data show that engines designed strictly for regular run better or longer on premium.

        The Federal Trade Commission, in a consumer notice, emphasizes: "(I)n most cases, using a higher-octane gasoline than your owner's manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit. It won't make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner."

        There is "no way of taking advantage of premium in a regular-grade car," says Furey.

        "There is no gain. You're wasting money," insists Jim Blenkarn, in charge of powertrains at Nissan in the USA.

        "No customer should ever be deluded into thinking there's any value in buying a higher grade of octane than we specify," says Toyota's Paul Williamsen, technical expert and trainer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Premium would be a dealbraker in a standard ICE car for me, but not a big deal in the Volt since it uses an incredibly small amount of gas.
      • 5 Years Ago
      93 should be the lowest octane fuel available in the country. In strictly highway driving I used to see 80-100 kms more per tank as opposed to reg fuel. That is worth it to me, plus better quality fuel in my engine.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I bet I know what it is. The 1.4l engine used as a range extended was engineered in Korea specifically for economy cars in EU and Asian markets where higher octane is standard. Given the relatively low volumes of this engine being sold in the US (as, to my knowledge, the naturally aspirated version is not being sold in any other vehicle here), they probably did not want to re-engineer the engine for low octane fuel. Since in 2012 the Voltec powertrain will be sold globally and it will not make any difference to most of the other markets, it only effects the ~10,000 US Volt buyers.

      Considering the high price and limited production, GM probably figures it will be sold out anyway and will not make much difference to those with enough money to buy it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I can actually see this becoming a little bit of a loophole in CAFE. If the manufacturers starting tuning to optimize mileage using premium 93, they will end up with higher numbers than on 87 (Colorado)/ 89 octane.

      even if its 2-3%, its a manufacturing cost-free advantage. the cost comes at the pump.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Shocked and even a bit dissappointed the Volt uses premium, but then anyone who can put down $41 for the Volt shouldn't have a problem with spending a bit more for premium, especially if the Vold gets 40 miles on electric power only.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This just proves that the GMC engineers are lazy, stupid, and incompetent.

      First, there is no way that in this application a 1.4 liter engine with 4 cylinders is necessary. Having done some preliminary research in college for an electric vehicle with fossil fuel backup replenishment just like the VaporVolt's system, a two cylinder application would have been sufficient - and it certainly would not have required premium fuel. In the application we were studying, it would have had a diesel/biodiesel engine, not a petrol one as GMC uses.

      Second, GMC is using an off-the-shelf engine from the Snuze - rather than truly developing a truly EFFICIENT system, they went lazy in order to rush this thing to market and to keep costs down (typical of GMC they don't think about achieving goals other than hitting market times).

      Third, using premium fuel mitigates any advantage you might have had over a $20k conventional product using the $21k you saved. Factor in a typical 5-10 cent price disadvantage of Premium fuel over Regular, there is no economic case to be made for the VaporVolt against a convention $20k or less automobile achieving 30 mpgs; having done the calculations using regular fuel ONLY comparisons, at $3 per gallon, it would take 250,000 miles of travel just to break even; $4 per gallon, 180,000 miles, $5 per gallon, 150,000 miles. If you throw in the price differential of regular v premium, it will take longer to pay this off. This does not take into account the difference in cost of maintenance. The calculations also do not include the cost of the $7500 tax credit and its associated interest cost to the American taxpayer which will still have to be paid by someone. And this does not include any rebates or other discounts the $20k car could receive from its manufacturer at the time of its purchase - interest costs are not paid by other owners.

      There simply is no case that makes the VaporVolt a good buying decision - especially since it can only carry 4 passengers. Unless you intend to keep your VaporVolt for nearly 300,000 miles, you'll NEVER NEVER NEVER save enough fuel to make the case economically and if your state derives electricity from Coal, you'll be polluting MORE than any new car on the market that isn't a diesel.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Actually, the volt's generator likely runs on a modified version of the Atkinson cycle instead of the more common Otto cycle used in gasoline engines. As such there is more compression but less horsepower generated per unit displacement, these engines are more efficient despite being less powerful, and are often found in hybrids, so 80 Horsepower from a 1.4 Liter isn't as unimpressive as you might suspect.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, it's true. The IC engine in the Prius is an Atkinson cycle engine.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkinson_cycle

        Add a supercharger and you've got a Miller cycle engine, like the one used in the Mazda Millenia S.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Atkinson cycle engine in Prius use regular gas. Using premium gas in Prius gives less MPG as it contains less energy.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, likely? Seriously?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Premium shmemium...not a deal breaker

      At this point I think the prius is still a better buy for most people when you consider the price difference

      whats the latest on the plug-in prius?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's not that the price of the premium gasoline is questionable. It's just that GM has been tooting their horn about economy and how economical this Volt is. It doesn't matter if it's 2 gal, 20 gal, 40 gal. Economy is economy and premium is not economical.
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