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October 11, 2010

Did GM "Lie" About The Volt?

It seems far less of an all-electric drivetrain vehicle than claimed.

It also doesn't seem to post anything like the mileage and range claimed.

First of all, let's talk about fuel economy. In August of last year, we heard GM's then-CEO Fritz Henderson claimed with all the marketing might it could muster at a Detroit-area press event, that the Chevy Volt would get 230 MPG in city driving conditions. Now, as the Volt's being tested by the auto trade press, we're seeing some surprisingly low fuel economy figures amid the expected lavish praise buff books are heaping upon the Volt.

Let's see what they've found out. Popular Mechanics saw just 37.5 MPG in city driving. Car and Driver apparently didn't choose to use their wheel time for any city driving — but found with all-electric driving:

"...getting on the nearest highway and commuting with the 80-mph flow of traffic-basically the worst-case scenario-yielded 26 miles; a fairly spirited back-road loop netted 31; and a carefully modulated cruise below 60 mph pushed the figure into the upper 30s."

Motor Trend, like the rest of the trade press other than Popular Mechanics, didn't appear to do any testing in city conditions, but did find that:

"Without any plugging in, [a weeklong trip to Grandma's house] should return fuel economy in the high 30s to low 40s."

They also parrot GM's new line of 25-50 miles of all-electric — a far cry from the 230 MPG they originally marketed — that the "Volt provides 25-50 miles of real-world electric operation no matter how hard you flog it."

But while even providing only 10% of the fuel economy initially touted, these more real-world figures are merely an exaggeration. The bigger problem is that, as Mr. Oldham now claims, is that GM lied to them about the powertrain.

The part about the powertrain is a sorta inside-car-baseball question of whether the car runs on all-electric, and only uses the gas engine to recharge the battery, or whether the gas engine runs to drive the wheels, which would make the Volt a bit like most other hybrids, and not really some new thing at all.

It appears the gas engine does run whenever the car approaches 70mph.

Which is good news and bad news for me. The bad news is that the vehicle does not use only its batteries, as promised, when approaching these speeds.

The good news is that I'm surprised it can approach these speeds.

Anyway, it looks like the finest auto engineers available in the White House Strategic Communications Office have produced precisely the sort of politically-engineered vehicle you would have expected.


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posted by Ace at 02:32 PM

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