• Nov 24, 2010

After yesterday's 99 miles per gallon (equivalent) EPA rating for the Nissan Leaf, General Motors had to be eager to get the numbers for the Chevy Volt from the government – if for no other reason than because these efficiency stickers are the last thing holding up deliveries of the first production vehicles.

Today, GM shared the official numbers with the world, and they range from 37 miles per gallon to 93 mpge (equivalent) combined to 60 mpg "composite." Sixty mpg composite is a "combined, combined" number, and will be completely different for everyone. You might want to think of it as a lifetime figure, since it accounts for both electricity and gasoline consumed. Oh, and it's also best in class for compact cars. The Volt's official electric-only range will be 35 miles, but GM, like Nissan, has been giving a range recently of 25-50 miles. The Volt now has an official total range of 379 miles, with 344 miles of that being extended range (i.e., gas) driving. As Tony DiSalle, Chevrolet product marketing director, said, "If you try to boil it down to a single number, it gets quite difficult."

Doug Parks, Chevrolet Volt Global Vehicle Line Executive, said he is "quite pleased" with the numbers and understands that it is a complicated story to tell. GM and the EPA worked together to come up with this label to figure in all of the different modes that impact the vehicle's efficiency. We've heard that the 2011 Volt will have a temporary EPA label, but Parks told us that what you see above will likely be what we see in next year, saying "Our intent was not to do something that was a one-year deal. Our hope is that this is very similar to the path that everyone will go down in the future. We tried to make the label look as similar as it can to next year."

So, what about that "230 mpg" GM touted last year. Well, that was a different way to calculate things. "230 by itself was never intended to be a composite number," Parks said.

[Source: General Motors]


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  • 64 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Really $0.06 per kWh? I think you better check your bill again. The quoted rate is just the generation component and doesn't include tax, transmission charges, and other generation related components. Nobody pays the quoted rate for electricity on the stickers.

      Most Californians pay around $0.27 per kWh once all charges are figured in. People in NYC pay almost $0.40. I wish people would stop using the $0.12 per kWh national average figure since it is very misleading.

      Now we have the EPA setting 33.7 kWh as the equivalent of a gallon of gas. How did they come up with that number? Did they use one gallon of gas to run a generator and that is how much power the generator created? Using the national BS average price of $.12 per kWh that ends up costing a consumer $4.04 for 33.7 kWh. 33.7 kWh is about 2.5 charges of the Volt so that will theoretically get you around 90 miles on $4.00. At $3.00 a gallon a 30mpg car will cost you $9.00 to go the same distance. So using some fuzzy math you can say the Volt more than doubles the efficiency of a gasoline car. The problem is that number has no basis in reality.

      It actually takes around 14 kWh to charge a Volt to go 30-50 miles. The real cost range of a single charge is from $2.50-$5.50 depending on where you live in the USA. Some people might get 50 miles on $2.50 and some people might get 30 miles on $5.50. If you drive a 30mpg gasoline car you are going to get 30 miles for around $2.90. Too bad gasoline isn't selling at the price it should be if the market actually followed supply and demand. A case can't be made for an electric car with gas under $2.00 a gallon.

      Using any real math nets you a figure where the cost to charge the Volt to go 35 miles is just about the same or more than what it costs you to go 35 miles in the gasoline car it is based on. Once the battery power is used up the Volt still only gets around the same MPG as the car it is based on. The MPG rating on the Volt is filled with even more BS than the number on every other car.

      Believe it all you want but there is no such thing as 93 mpg in the Volt. At the end of the day the real equivalent is what comes out of your pocket to pay for the miles you drive.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your figures for California electricity prices are nonsense.

        The only way you get to those values is if you get into the heavy penalty rates.

        Here's my electricity usage last month.

        399.30000 Kwh @ $0.11877
        12.70000 Kwh @ $0.13502

        Net charges $49.14

        Stated below this:
        The net charges shown above include the following component(s): Generation, Transmission, Distribution, Public Purpose Programs, Nuclear Decommissioning, DWR Bond Charge, Ongoing OTC, Energy Cost Recovery Amount.

        Now, below that:
        Taxes and other:
        Energy Commission Tax ($0.09), Utility Users's Tax (5%), $2.46, city franchise surcharge $0.07

        Total electric cost:
        $51.76

        $51.76/412 kWh = $0.125 per kWh.

        Take a look at the PG&E tariff book.

        http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_E-1.pdf

        Again, if you are going to have an EV, you will have to get on a TOU rate plan to make it make sense. If you are in California, get on the E-9 (electric vehicle plan), which cuts the off-peak rates (total including all fees but not the 5% tax) to $0.05/hour in summer $0.06/hour in winter and $0.15/hour in the 130-200% usage amount range and $0.19/hour in the 200%+ usage range.

        If you are dumb enough to overpay for your electricity you run your EV on, then it's your own fault really, not the EPA's.
        • 4 Years Ago
        To take that a little farther, charging a Volt 14 kWh would cost me $1.38, not the $2.50 figure you quoted. I have a regular consumer residential electricity contract, no special rates, it's available to anyone in my market and in fact slightly lower rates are available than were when I signed my contract.

        I submit that if gasoline prices were truly market-driven, given the same level of taxation that's applied to fuel now but taking away the tax gifts the US government gives to the oil and gas industry every year, the price of fuel in the US might be higher rather than lower. I'm not expert in the field, and the voodoo accounting that corporations of that size and degree of influence do is somewhat opaque even to experts, so there's a lot of guessing going on. You could speculate on the possibility of the government lowering the taxes drivers pay for the purchase of fuel, but I think that would be a fantasy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Happily some of us live outside of CA and NY. Last month, my net rate including all fees was 9.84 cents/kWh. My nominal rate is 9.2 cents/kWh and the rest is fees, so my net rate is higher in the winter months when I use less electricity (and therefore the fees are a bigger percentage of the bill) but it's well below the national average. This is in the DFW metro area, by the way, so the low rate is not because I live in the back woods.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Extremely confusing. Can't they just put a big label on it that says "Yes, better than a Prius and won't get you stranded like a Leaf?"
        • 4 Years Ago
        They actually did just that:

        93 mpge is better than the Prius mpg, and
        396 miles beats the Leaf range.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How did they come up with 93 MPG equivalent number?
      It says 36 KWH per 100 miles, in CA, it costs about 15 cents per 1KWH and $3.1 for a gallon of regular gas.
      100 / 36 / 0.15 * 3.1 = 57.4 MPG equivalent in California when it's purely on electricity.
      Considering it gets 37 MPG on gas only, I'd say Prius would be a better choice for someone who constently needs to drive farther than 40 miles.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes it says right in the fine print. 33.7 KWhrs = energy in one gallon of gas. Then they do how far it goes on 33.7 KWHrs. But it is pretty much a useless measure.

        • 4 Years Ago
        If you do something radical like look carefully at the picture of the EPA sticker (this one or the Leaf's sticker) it says at the bottom "MPG Equivalent: 33.7 kW-hours = 1 gallon gasoline energy" in the fine print at the bottom. MPGe has NOTHING to do with cost, it's a physical constant so that it doesn't vary based on the price of a gallon of gas or a kWh of electricity.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh I get it. :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think it's an energy-driven number, not a cost-driven number. And that makes sense....cost fluctuates day to day.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "If you try to boil it down to a single number, it gets quite difficult."

      Except that we shouldn't be trying to boil it down to a single number anyway, just as you shouldn't read the "composite" city/highway mileage number as a vehicle's undisputed fuel economy. Mileage will change based on conditions.

      Basically, what I take out of this is that you can drive anywhere from 25 to 50 miles on pure electric, at about 93 mpge. After this time, all the rest of your travel is on gas, where you'll be getting 37 mpg. So you can assume that if you're running electric you're getting in the nineties mpge. If at any time you begin using gas you'll be getting 37 mpg.

      If you run 25 to 50 miles a day, you'll get 93 mpge most of the time. If you tend to use all the gas and electric and travel 300 miles, you'll get more like 60.

      Either way, that's pretty good mileage. Why so many people split hairs with this? The greenies got back the EV-1, as good as anybody is able to make it at this time, not a pipe dream, not a lease, and they even have two choices, an all-electric and a part-time gas for more range. An actual, purchaseable vehicle running on fully electric power for a significant portion of its running lifespan. Mileage and range can only go up from here.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So $41,000 for a car that gets barely better mpg than a prius for twice the money?

      NO THANKS.

      Wow. What a joke. Glad we bailed these idiots out. At least it has a gas engine and you could drive it for a few hours without it needing a charger like the Leaf.

      Still got to go prius with it's solid 50mpg. Toyota has to be laughing it's butt off. This a typical American answer - too complex, too costly. We used to be the simple ones, not any more.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the sticker is pretty good. I agree the figures in the lower right are the key. Those plus the all gas figure. And 37mpg on all gas isn't as bad as I feared, getting the highway figure to 40 is a big psychological step.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yea, I was pretty surprised by those mileage figures. For some reason I thought we were told it was going to come in at 33mpg or something, which never made sense, since you'd expect it to have mileage comparable to something like a Civic hybrid once the initial charge had drained.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I smell a grid use and battery recycling Tax just around the corner.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "230 by itself was never intended to be a composite number,"
      ALL LIES
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh, quit being such a tool.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It makes sense the numbers are worse than the Leaf, but then again it's definitely not bad. The big problem will be the price compared to the leaf, which gets better range on paper.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you care more about range than pure electric driving then neither car really makes sense. Even in the best case scenario the volt's fuel bill of 601 it's only 263 cheaper than the regular hybrid Prius-and you can basically buy both a Prius and a leaf for the price of a Volt. And if you're closer to the worst case scenario it actually seems like you'd be paying more for fuel vs a Prius and not less. On average it'll probably be close to a draw for fuel costs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @shiftright: Wow, that's an argument I've never heard before! Listen, the Leaf is meant to be a good second car compared to say the Cruze or Civic. If you drive 45 miles daily for 5 years, you'll save around $2000 over a similarly equipped Cruze with the Leaf. If you drive 60 miles daily, the savings are even greater. You cannot do that with the Volt.

        Sure, the Leaf isn't viable as the only car for some people who take road trips often, but neither is the Volt! The Prius would be a better choice in that case since you can save $1500 over a Cruze with a Prius if you drive 45 miles daily for 5 years. You can't do that with a Volt.

        So the only reason to buy a Volt, as I've heard from Volt fanboys here, is that the Prius uses gas whereas the Volt potentially uses no gas. Wait a minute, I thought we hated smug hippies here. At least it can make financial sense to buy the Prius, so is the Volt the new smugmobile?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Cost per year for not getting stranded on the side of the road when your battery dies: priceless.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ nardvark:

        and gas cars can run out of gas too.

        You know the difference though? A quick fill up with a small gas can or a jump from a helpful driver can get you back on your way quickly.

        What option does the driver of an EV with a dead battery have?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Still going to let my Motor Trend Subscription expire.
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