GM's 230 mpg claim for the Volt was extremely wishful thinking

(November 25, 2010) It's far from the 230 miles per gallon General Motors claimed last year for the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt compact sedan.

In 2009 GM proclaimed to great fanfare at a press conference that the Volt would realize the almost unbelievable 230 mpg. GM didn't explain how the Volt, that gets a boost from a small 1.4-liter gas engine, was going to achieve this astounding number.

On Wednesday we discovered just how much hype was involved in GM's proclamation.

The EPA has rated the Volt at 93 mpg on pure electricity, which will last from 25 to 50 miles, depending on driving habits. The remaining 325-plus miles of the EPA-claimed 379-mile range will come with the aid of the gas engine dropping gas mileage to 37 mpg.

Depending on how you drive, mileage can vary from 93 mpg for those who never drive their Volt more than 25 or 30 miles a day to — who knows? — somewhere around 45 mpg for the person who takes a 350-mile trip. Obviously, the mileage will slide downward the more the car is driven at any one time.

The EPA estimates that the average driver will get about 60 mpg.

So this begs the question, is the Volt worth more than $40,000 for long-range mileage no better than the 25 grand Toyota Prius or the mid-sized no-compromise sedan like the Ford Fusion Hybrid for under $30,000?

The federal government as most know is enticing people into the Volt with a $7,500 tax credit. But how many of the new unique Chevrolets would leave showrooms without an incentive?

In addition, a $2,000 charging station is necessary for an overnight battery recharge.

The standard no-plug-in necessary Prius gets nearly 50 mpg simply by cranking up the car in the morning and driving away. No need to use electricity. No need to purchase a recharging station. No need to plug in.

Granted, the Volt is a unique vehicle that offers high mileage depending on driving habits. And we acknowledge the fact that high mileage can be obtained without the range anxiety brought on by a pure electric vehicle that can't operate without the juice. But we think the new GM invention is being oversold as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread, we think, was a much greater invention.

— Jim Meachen