After all the initial automotive press fawning over the Chevrolet Volt, it's time for the more critical voices to chime in. Motor Trend called the car a "sweater and gloves commuter car" in the cold, for example. Now comes the latest from Consumer Reports, which isn't very impressed with General Motors' halo car at all. Their full test drive is forthcoming, but a preview can be found in the April issue, and online now.
CR's biggest gripe is with the Volt's cost – and not just because CR needed to pay a $5,000 dealer markup for their vehicle. On a day-to-day basis, CR calculates the Volt can move a mile on down the road for around 5.7 cents on battery power and 10 cents when using gas (given average costs of 11 cents a kWh for electricity and $3/gallon for gas). That sounds pretty good, but CR figures a Toyota Prius costs just 6.8 cents per mile. Of course, the Prius can't plug in (yet) and gas prices can fluctuate pretty dramatically, so, as always, YMMY.
Speaking of mileage varying, here's what CR has to say about the Volt's info screen:
The senior director of Consumer Reports' auto testing center, David Champion, told reporters yesterday that the Volt, "is going to be a tough sell to the average consumer." The end result? CR says the Volt is "not really much of a money saver in many places." That's not what GM was going for with this car, but wouldn't it be nice if the cost could come down?
It is typical to see artificially high mpg numbers on the car's trip computer. For example, let's say you make five trips in a week. Four of them are 25 miles without needing the gas engine. On the last trip, 55 miles, the car uses 1 gallon of gas beyond the 25-mile electric range. The trip computer would calculate 155 miles on 1 gallon of gas, or 155 mpg. That might contribute to the feel-good factor, but the figure is misleading because it doesn't count the electricity used.