• Feb 24, 2011
2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

How do you determine how environmentally friendly an automobile is? Certainly, fuel efficiency will be factored in rather highly, as will all manner of tailpipe emissions. But that's only part of the story. Consider that there are many ways to power a vehicle; gasoline, diesel, electricity or any combinations thereof. Plus, you have to determine what actually goes into producing the vehicle and getting it into the hands of the consumer.

As you can see, assigning environmental grades to our current crop of cars and trucks is anything but an exact science, and the results will no doubt be swayed by how much emphasis is put on any given factor. And so it comes as no surprise that there are a number of differing opinions concerning the latest green machines to hit the market, and that may apply to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt more than any other.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy publishes a list of green vehicles every year. For the last few, the Honda Civic GX has parlayed its compressed natural gas running gear into a victory on the ACEEE's report. We won't argue with that determination, and we also don't see any issues with the all-electric Nissan Leaf earning the silver position... but that's where things get murkier. The Smart Fortwo comes in at number three, followed by the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda Insight. The next five slots are filled with compact and subcompact sedans and hatchbacks.

Are you asking yourself where the Volt fits in? So was Chevrolet. Speaking to Forbes, GM spokesman Rob Peterson had this to say:

Their logic would escape the majority of consumers. If you look at the EPA ratings for the Smart fortwo at 33 city and 41 highway, it's actually less than the Volt's after the electric range is exhausted. We're being penalized against the Smart because our car is a four-seater with a battery pack and therefore weighs more. And we lose against the Leaf because we have a gas engine. But you really have to look at how the car is actually used - their methodology doesn't add up.

No matter your personal opinion, one thing is for certain: As more and more category-bending vehicles hit the market, this topic isn't going to be resolved any time soon.



[Source: Forbes]


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  • 41 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hello,
      Who is backing and funding this group. The Gas and Oil industry. Of course they would pick the Honda Civic CNG as number one. Duh!!!
      GM should be upset and this is just another scam.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think what ACEEE want to tell GM is build a car that doesn't you gasoline at all. The Civic no gas and Leaf also no gas even though both still doesn't have the infrastructure for refill. Maybe by showing people that those two are the solution for the oil dependent in the future people will change and build more refill station for natural gas cars and electric cars. For Smart two? err I have no idea why its there because they have the electric version?
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Obama Regime (Gov't Motors overlords) will not be happy about this...
      • 3 Years Ago
      GM is disappointed concerning the Volt? Now they know how we feel. Remember that cute little 230 MPG smiley face?
      • 3 Years Ago
      One more thing, look the reason GM filed for BK is because they made bad cars. Some say they have turned the ship around, but is another example, their car once again gets a low grade. They issue is not with ACEEE or the way they test or what have you, the issue is that GM did not do good enough of a job to win the top spot.

      Stop the excuses already.
        • 3 Years Ago
        They filed for Burger King?
        • 3 Years Ago
        "GM did not do good enough of a job to win the top spot."

        GM never set out to make a car that would be tops in ACEEE's ratings. ACEEE looks strictly at a car's green credentials. Things like Li-ion batteries can be a negative for ACEEE because they are not overwhelmingly environmentally friendly. An ICE running on petrol can also be a negative when compared to diesels or CNG. I car's size factors in because it also has an effect on its environmental impact.

        I'm far from a GM apologist and I don't think GM needs to bother getting its panties in a ruffle over this. ACEEE did what it sets out to do, GM did what it set out to do. The two paths are parallel but not the same.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Nice to see you are back to being a total asshat! For a while there it seemed like you were actually using logic instead of bait.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sad.
      • 3 Years Ago
      GM's got their panties in a bunch because they don't like someone else's view. Of course GM will want their own car at the top and of course they'll get upset when their new showcase car isn't rated highly.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think many are missing the point of these ratings. Fuel economy is only one factor in detemining green-ness. The ACEEE's ratings take into account the cars effect on the environment from "cradle to grave" Every ascpect of producing the car. Everything from steel for the bodies, glass for the windows, nylon for the seatbelts, Lithium or Ni-cad for the batteries, everything from bumper-bumper and roof to road. They also look at the fuel source and how its obtained manufactured, delivered etc. Every step of the process has an impact. It makes sense when all these factors are taken into account that hybrids would have a larger impact in some instances than a single power source vehicle. The impact a fossil fuel engine and the fuel to run it is well established. The use and production of hundreds of pounds of lithium ion batteries for each car is not exactly environmentally friendly either. The environmental impact of disposing of these batteries at the end of their life cycle as well as other vehicle components is also taken into account. This is compounded further when you figure in plug in hybrids because then you throw in how the electricity to charge is generated.
      If GM really wants to hit a homerun they should make a CNG powered Volt or better yet diesel.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Well put.

        I think GM (and every other manufacturer) should build a diesel or battery powered vehicle and design it from only recyclable, recycled and compostable materials. Design it so that at the end of its life, you send it back to GM and they can re use the materials to make a new vehicle. And, get rid of any toxic paints, dyes or glues. That's how you would get the highest score. And, create a sustainable car industry.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wouldn't a tiny car car for only 2 people and even less cargo space that still only gets as much gas mileage as a Toyota Prius be considered inefficient? Consider that if we all drove a Smart Fortwo, there would be less people per car, thus more of them on the road. It's like saying a Corvette is more efficient than a Suburban because it's a fraction of the size yet if we all drove them, our skies would most likely be black with sport exhaust fumes. Carpooling, what?

      Sure most of us drive alone everyday but even then, the thought of taking 2 or more micro cars to just one compact (2x3 seating on many), even on occasion, seems ridiculous. I suppose it's probably more complicated than that but at a glance that's really how it looks.
      • 3 Years Ago
      ACEEE has got it right.
        • 3 Years Ago
        You're right that ACEEE does have it right. It's no surprise the marketing crooks of GM are whining.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Get a room you two...
        • 3 Years Ago
        No, ACEEE has it wrong. A Volt can drive from Chicago to St. Louis, and probably beyond, on one tank of gas and a full charge. The Leaf, while completely electric, can't go that far. And would you want to drive on I-55 in a Smart Car, particularly if you hit rush hour in Chicago or St. Louis?
        • 3 Years Ago
        trustedcarsalesman, it IS the government's fault that gas will be $5 a gallon.

        http://blog.heritage.org/2011/02/23/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-high-gas-prices-and-obama%e2%80%99s-oil-policy/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Morning%2BBell

        This week the media’s attention is finally focused on oil prices. After two years of continually rising consumer gas prices in America, the oil futures market has captivated the Mideast storyline. And attention is much needed. December 2010 saw the highest gas prices for the month of December in our nation’s history. This month, we’re setting similar records with the national average of $3.14/gallon–fifty cents higher than it was a year ago. If this trend continues, the summer of 2011 will hit consumers much harder than in the summer of 2008 when prices soared above $4/gallon.
        But if you only read, hear or see this week’s news reports, you would think that oil and gas prices were doing just fine until the historic events in Egypt, Libya and across the Middle East unfolded this past month and caused spikes in the futures market. Unfortunately, that is not the case. President Obama has been unilaterally taking steps to increase the cost of gasoline for two years. Here are ten things you need to know about gas prices that you may not hear reported elsewhere:
        Gas Prices Are Skyrocketing Under President Obama: The oil futures market is just that, a futures market. The price-per-barrel spikes in oil this week have not affected the domestic market yet. In fact, former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister made the prediction in December 2010 that America would face $5/gallon gasoline by 2012, a full month before the revolution in Egypt began. At the end of President George W. Bush’s two terms in office, prices were 9% lower than when he took office (adjusted for inflation). The day before President Obama was inaugurated; the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.83. Today, that average is $3.14.
        President Obama Has Crippled Domestic Oil Exploration: Putting aside calls from some who want to increase domestic exploration to areas in Alaska and elsewhere, President Obama has completely shut down the existing oil drilling infrastructure in the U.S. At least 103 permits are awaiting review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The federal government has not approved a single new exploratory drilling plan in the Gulf of Mexico since Obama “lifted” his deepwater drilling moratorium in October 2010. Obama also reversed an earlier decision by his administration to open access to coastal waters for exploration, instead placing a seven-year ban on drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and Eastern Gulf of Mexico as part of the government’s 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf Program.
        The Obama Permitorium is Costing the Government Much-Needed Revenue: The Gulf accounts for more than 25 percent of domestic oil production. With production in the Gulf expected to drop in 2011 by 220,000 barrels per day, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the U.S. will suffer $3.7 million in lost revenue per day as a result of lost royalties. If that holds, the federal government would lose more than $1.35 billion from royalty payments, just this year.
        The Obama Administration Has Been Held in Contempt of Court: Federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman held the Obama Interior Department in contempt of court on February 2, 2011, for dismissively ignoring his ruling to cease the drilling moratorium which the judge had previously struck down as “arbitrary and capricious.” Judge Feldman has since given the Administration 30 days to act on permits it has needlessly and purposefully delayed saying inaction was “not a lawful option.”
        Jobs Are Being Killed by Obama’s Oil Policies: As a direct result of Obama’s oil policies, companies that help supply our domestic energy needs are going out of business. Most recently, Houston-based Seahawk Drilling filed for bankruptcy. The Chief Operating Officer of the offshore drilling company, Randy Stilley, stated: “The decision by regulators to arbitrarily construct unnecessary barriers to obtaining permits they had traditionally authorized has had an adverse impact not only on Seahawk, but on the sector as a whole.”
        And More Jobs Are Being Killed: Vendors, suppliers, even restaurants and retailers are losing ground o
        • 3 Years Ago
        Wow guys, get your heads out of the sand. I bet in a few more years you'll be the same whiners complaining that it's "the goverment's fault" that gas is $5 a gallon.

        "If you look at the EPA ratings for the Smart fortwo at 33 city and 41 highway, it's actually less than the Volt's after the electric range is exhausted"

        So even if you DON'T use electricity, it's more fuel efficient than a glorified 2-seat golf cart. With logic like this, i makes one wonder if the ACEEE is as stupid as the two guys who posted above...
        • 3 Years Ago
        Amen, at a paltry 37 MPG the Volt is a huge failure in the "green game", especially since most electricity in the US is generated by burning coal so even when you are operating in electric mode (rarely as the car's range is pitiful in normal driving) the car is not truly "green".

        ACEEE better watch their back, Obama and his cronies are not going to like this.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @FT

        Our government has no control over the oil industry. If gas ever becomes $5-a-gallon, it's due to a variety of factors such as economic globalization and the commodities' market deliberately jacking up the cost of oil due to massive speculation.

        Obama has absolutely no relevance to the oil trade. Go back to school and learn how economics work.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't see why this is so difficult to understand. This is a "green" rating not a fuel efficiency rating. It takes into account the overall environmental impact of a car, not just the fuel use.
      The Volt may get slightly better fuel economy than a Smart but it has a much larger impact during the manufacturing process.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I can't see how the Leaf is all that green when nearly half the U.S. power plants are coal burners. Or are electric cars exempted from that consideration because the power source is doing the emitting, not the car itself?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Finally someone who gets it.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I guess GM found another site that just doesnt like them. How many smarts were sold this year, I think GM moved more Volts than Smarts were sold already. Here's a perfect example of why I dont use reports to make decisions, most reports are paid for my someone!
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