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2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

For the past three years, General Motors has consistently described the 2011 Chevrolet Volt as a pure electric vehicle with a range-extending on-board gas engine/generator. Today we learned that, in fact, there are instances where the gas engine will contribute motive force to move the car along, which technically makes the Volt a plug-in hybrid, not a pure EV. The question we'd like to ask is, how big a deal will this range-extended EV versus plug-in hybrid debate be for The General?

Already, several media outlets such as Inside Line have expressed frustration and disbelief over feelings that they've been "lied to" for the past three years in regards to whether or not the Volt's engine can power its drive wheels. The boys from Jalopnik have gone so far as to Photoshop Chevy's Volt as the devil. GM, meanwhile, claims this news didn't come to light earlier because the company was protecting its patents on the Volt drivetrain, which have since been approved.

You can bet you'll be hearing plenty more on the topic from those of us who Obsessively Cover the Auto Industry, but for now, we're more curious about what you think.

Has General Motors knowingly lied about how the Volt operates or is the explanation less sinister? Or do you simply not care as long as the final design is as efficient as possible? Take our poll below and then weigh-in with your more detailed thoughts in the Comments.

Did GM lie about the Volt?
Yes, it's not a pure EV if the engine can power the wheels. 10193 (53.9%)
No, it's still fundamentally an electric vehicle. 2127 (11.2%)
I don't care as long as GM engineers used the most efficient design. 6593 (34.9%)

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think having both type sof engines, regardlesss of what turns the wheel, this is a hybrid. The Leaf on the other hand is a real EV.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I always thought it was a plug-in hybrid of sorts.........
      • 4 Years Ago
      OK...this issue is settled.
      According to http://gm-volt.com/2010/10/11/motor-trend-explains-the-volts-powertrain/

      During EV mode: Engine does not provide power to wheels
      During Range extended mode: It providfes power


      EV mode: Pure EV
      Range extended mode: Series-Parallel Hybrid
      • 4 Years Ago
      Unmitigated BS!! It's the best mass marketed EV in the world.
      • 4 Years Ago
      A good question might be was it always designed to have the gas engine assit in powering the vehicle or did they find a failure mode in which it became a necessity to assit the electric motor in powering the vehicle (would they, in the name of efficiency allow the battery to get so low it couldn't muster the power to keep the vehicle going that speed unless the gas motor intervened)?

      I can see that happening. You don't want the gas motor to charge the battery until it's absolutely necessary to do so, otherwise, someone on the tip of hitting the max range of the battery would lose efficiency.

      Still, it would have required a complete re-engineering to make a mechanical link from the engine to the motor so they have most definately been lying. If they were protecting patents, the simple answer would have been "we can't say".
        • 4 Years Ago
        quote from Mike: - "(would they, in the name of efficiency allow the battery to get so low it couldn't muster the power to keep the vehicle going that speed unless the gas motor intervened)?

        I can see that happening. You don't want the gas motor to charge the battery until it's absolutely necessary to do so, otherwise, someone on the tip of hitting the max range of the battery would lose efficiency." -

        I don't see it happening. Even when the ICE does come online, the batteries still have about 30% charge remaining. Additionally, the ICE only helps out at speeds above 70mph and when in CS mode.

        I think they just determined that at those higher speeds, the higher power necessary to maintain speed is great enough that it makes sense to have the ICE help out in a more direct fashion. Time is also a factor. When you drive normally, your power demand spikes up and down as you go due to varying speeds, stop and go driving etc. On the highway though, you are generally at a constant speed for long periods of time. In that setting, it makes sense to give the ICE a more efficient means of powering the car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't think it should be called an EV, then. It's a hybrid like the Prius and as a result, should be compared to the Prius/Prius plug-in...not so much the Leaf.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Volt has always been called an EREV, not an EV. This gear only kicks in at high speeds in charge sustaining mode which is most efficient and never powers the car alone. So it is an EV 99% of the time until this gear kicks in under certain specific conditions with the electic motors still powering it. It is still very different from the Prius or Leaf. The Prius is gas powered car with battery assistance and drives mainly on gasoline. The Leaf is an electric only car good for city driving. The Volt is an electric car with a gas generator to extend its charge range.

        As for GM not telling anyone about this is up for debate. No one can buy the car yet so no consumers were lied to. The car is in EV mode 99% of the time even when the motor is charging the battery. The details of the car have been slowly coming out as more people get to test drive them. MotorTrend is lucky to have had the chance to discover it and other media outlets must be burning as MT got the scoup. Sensationalism is what will hurt the Volt here - not sure if it is a PR stunt, but it has everybody focusing on the VOLT. GM's PR department will have to explain it to everyone and this will create a better understanding of the product. Genius? Maybe. Risky? Definitely.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't think anyone is calling it an EV. It's always been a hybrid, just a different type.

        I still consider it much more like an EV than a hybrid though since 99% of the motive force is done by the electric motor(s). The ICE will only contribute to the motive force occasionally as per the story, and only at high speeds. If you do a lot of highway driving, it could be more, but for the majority of drivers, it's still essentially an EV with a generator.

        In a Prius(or other current hybrid) on the other hand, the ICE is used far more often and their EV only modes are used only sporadically and for short distances. In the Volt, all driving below 70mph(and even above unless you are in charge-sustaining mode), will be done using the electric motors.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, it's not a "hybrid" like a Pious. A Pious still has a transmission.

        If you're mixed-commuting to work, the Volt might not burn more than a smidgen of gas all week, whereas the Pious will almost certainly burn a lot more gas in the process.

        As far as I understand things, the Volt is an EV with an on-board generator that has a 1:1 lockup converter to the drive shaft for high-speed driving.

        Compared to the Leaf, not only does the Volt have vastly superior range, it can also *sustain* highway speeds which would burn the Leaf battery down in minutes.

        In a real world example, the Volt can probably drive the 250+ miles from LA to Vegas at "normal" highway speeds of 70+ mph, non-stop. The Leaf would need to stop to recharge its batteries twice (or more), depending on how fast it was being driven, and how much juice it took to go up the mountains to the Cajon pass.

        Technologically, the Volt is more like a Leaf than a Pious, but it has many Pious-like features to make it more livable. It's a legitimate advance in technology, and that's reflected in the price.
      • 4 Years Ago
      will this impact the tax credit? i seem to recall pure EVs getting bigger credits...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Autoblog is full of it for bringing up such an idiotic question, it's their intention to want a negative response from the public and it fits in for the idiots who respond negatively . This is the most cut GM down for ANYTHING place on the internet......It does not matter that this vehicle has been praised by so many, they insist on bringing it down.........the @#$% with autoblog.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's even worse on autobloggreen.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The length various automotive sites go to, to get more page clicks and views.
      • 4 Years Ago
      From what I understand, Chevrolet Volt in general could be called an EV.
      • 4 Years Ago
      wow, who cares if they lied or not. if you don't like the car, don't buy it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      No, the real lie is when these things don't get 240 mpg. The real lie is when these things don't save you any money, but in fact, cost you much more than an equivalent automobile would had it been equipped with one of those evil internal combustion engines. The real lie is yet to be revealed. I can't wait for these things to get onto the roads. The disillusionment will be sweet schadenfreude.

      I'm shopping for a used Smart car now and saw one for less than $6000 CDN. Amazing fuel mileage. Sure it only has two seats, but most people, like myself, drive alone. So something like that makes sense. Electric vehicles and hybrids, with their high prices, and low battery lives, do not. The cult following will be short lived once reality sets in.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "The 700 cc diesel version get 3.8L/100 Km highway. Imperial gallon."

        Not sure where the imperial gallon applies to a L/100km calculation...

        But in any case, the diesel Smart is not available in the US. Even if you could locate a diesel Smart in Canada, you can't register it in the US because of emissions issues.

        And as for Gearhead's point, the US Smart fortwo is rated at 36 mpg combined, or around 6.5L/100km - something that is outdone by both the Prius and the Civic hybrid - both of which sold in much greater numbers in the US (about 10k Smarts were sold in Canada from 2004-2008 - which included the diesel version, while Toyota alone sold 45k Priuses in the US during the first 5 months of recession-plagued 2009.)
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm with Gearhead... there are other vehicles that get MUCH better mileage than the Smart, and do it without some of the compromises.

        And on top of this, although "most people drive alone", they don't do that 100% of the time which relegates a Smart car at best to a second vehicle for most families.

        Ultimately, if the functionality of the Volt appeals to you, then buy it. Otherwise, don't.

        Besides, people get hung up too much on labels anyway. Another case-in-point of where it doesn't matter is a "geothermal" home heating system, which is more properly thought of as a geoexchange heat pump... traditional geothermal energy is based around heating water near lava tubes, etc., which is impractical for home installations, yet they are still called "geothermal" even though the system still requires additional gas or electric heating to work.
        • 4 Years Ago
        THere are no other vehicles that get much better mileage than the Smart. Please name one. The 700 cc diesel version get 3.8L/100 Km highway. Imperial gallon. The diesel VW golf might get about the same, but it costs a lot more, even used. The Smart has two seats, which is one more than I need. $6000 for a 2006 Smart CDi beats the hell out of $30- $40,000 for a hybrid or an EV. And you are reusing an existing vehicle, not spending tremendous resources to manufacture a new, complex machine. So in terms of "green" and in terms of dollars and sense, EVs or the Volt make no sense. It's strictly emotional.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Smart with the diesel engine gets amazing fuel economy. For me, I don't care about utility. It is a second car. I already have a van. I want something that sips fuel that cost almost nothing to buy. And a 700 cc diesel engine will get unbeatable mpg. And as far as being green, nothing is greener than using an existing automobile. You're right though. Anyone who thinks a Volt will save them money, simply hasn't bothered to think about it for more than 6 seconds.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Funny you'd talk about a Smart car AND efficiency in the same screed. The North American Smart has terrible efficiency for the amount of utility it provides. You're better off with a Fit or a Yaris, getting similar fuel mileage in a more capable/comfortable vehicle.

        No normal consumer who does the math buys a hybrid to save money. There are a few people who use their cars in such a way that a hybrid saves them money, but other than urban taxi services and maybe delivery/courier services in dense-traffic cities, most people buy a hybrid to "be green" or because they just assume it'll save them money without actually doing the math.
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