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The EPA fuel-economy sticker you’ll see on the window of a Chevrolet Volt looks like an Excel spreadsheet, but the key figures are 35 miles of electric range, 93 miles per-gallon equivalent under electric power and 60 mpg under gas-electric power. But there are a whole lot of asterisks involved.
The feds released the specs today, and General Motors was quick to tout them in a conference call.
The brass painstakingly explained every possible permutation of range and fuel economy you might experience once the car goes on sale next month. It gets confusing because the Chevrolet Volt is unlike any other car. It runs on electricity, but when the 16-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery runs down, a 1.4-liter gasoline engine drives a generator to keep juice flowing to the wheels.
“The Volt is unique,” said Tony DiSalle, Volt marketing director. “Its technology defies easy description.”
So does its fuel economy, but here goes.
The electric battery has an official range of 35 miles. When you’re driving solely on electric power, you’ll get the equivalent of 93 mpg combined city and highway.
“Most consumers will be driving during the day, charging at night and driving gas-free for most of their daily driving needs,” DiSalle said, offering what will surely be a tagline for the car. That range falls short of the 40 miles General Motors had long touted, but it’s within the 25 to 50 miles the company has been citing more recently. Range is dependent upon several factors, including speed, driving style and weather.
“I don’t think we were surprised,” DiSalle said of the vehicle’s official range. “I’m confident a lot of people will get 40 or above based on the climate and how they drive. Other people will get below it. I think 40 was a good single shooting point.”
If you never charge the battery and only drive around using the gasoline engine to generate electricity, you’ll get 37 mpg combined city and highway. But no one expects Volt owners not to charge the battery — something the EPA says will take four hours at 240 volts. The whole point of a plug-in hybrid (yes, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid) is to plug it in. That’s where things get a bit tricky when you’re looking at the EPA window sticker (.jpg).
If you drive 45 miles between charges, meaning you’re doing about 10 miles with the gasoline assist, you’ll get 168 mpg. Drive 60 miles between charges and you’re looking at 89 mpg. Drive 75 miles between charges and you can expect 69 mpg. Of course, the typical driver will go all kinds of distances between charges, and the EPA’s got a number for that, too: 60 mpg equivalent “combined composite.”
“Our overall combined average is 60 mpg,” said Doug Parks, Volt global vehicle line executive for the Volt. “That’s best in segment for compact cars.”
At the bottom line, there’s something for everyone on this label. Volt fanboys will hail the 93 mpg equivalency under electric power. Critics will seize on the 35 mile range and 37 mpg figures. GM’s PR flacks undoubtedly are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to spin it all.
“If you try to boil this down to a single number, if becomes quite difficult,” Parks said.
And that 230 mpg figure GM cited a year or so ago? The brass offered some vague explanation today that we couldn’t really follow, but the bottom line is just about everyone always knew it was marketing BS.
UPDATED 4:30 p.m. Eastern to revise headline.