(Photo by igloowhite on Flickr)
The Chevy Volt has been heralded as the first entry in the General Motors (GM) vanguard of cleaner vehicles. The Volt promises 40 miles of all-electric driving and 300 miles of overall range to daily commuters. The Volt’s drive system features a 240-volt charging system, 16 kWh lithium-ion battery and flex-fuel capability. The missing element in the Chevy Volt story thus far is the vehicle’s efficiency compared to traditional GM vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using a new MPG methodology that places the Volt at 230 MPG according to GM calculations.
The EPA’s fuel mileage standard works well for traditional vehicles but hybrids, all-electrics and alternative-fuel models require different methods. The aforementioned methodology is more exact in its measurement of city and highway MPG for vehicles like the Volt. The EPA’s draft methodology looks at regenerative braking, individual fuel chemistries and battery life to create a more accurate MPG equivalent. The new methodology would combine electrical and fuel consumption into one figure to eliminate consumer confusion.
General Motors is extremely excited by the latest methodology because it increases anticipation for the Volt. The automaker claims that the Volt costs approximately $2.75 per 100 miles to fuel based on today’s electrical costs. GM representatives have emphasized the triple-digit MPG figure in the past week to show the Volt’s prospective role as the leading hybrid vehicle made in America. The Chevy Volt’s release in the summer of 2010 cannot come soon enough for consumers who want to buy Americans but keep fuel mileage down.
The major sticking point for the 230 miles per gallon figure is that the EPA methodology has not been approved by the federal agency. The draft methodology was used by researchers from GM rather than the EPA, casting some doubt on the validity of this MPG figure. GM does not have a final version of the Chevy Volt to test, which contributes to uncertainty about the vehicle’s fuel mileage. We should not accept the astronomical MPG figure produced by GM as fact. Since consumers use the EPA’s fuel mileage guidelines when researching new vehicles, we should wait until the EPA provides its estimates before judging the Volt’s clean-vehicle credentials.