I’ll See Your 230 MPG


That didn’t take long.

On Tuesday, Government Motors CEO Fritz Henderson crowed that the $40,000 plug-in Chevy Volt would get an “unprecedented 230 mpg under new EPA mileage standards.” The Volt wore its crown for 24 hours before Nissan announced Wednesday that its plug-in Leaf would achieve an unprecedented 367 mpg.

That’s 60 percent better than the Volt. For just $25,000.

Welcome to yet another sequel of “Car Wars: Attack of the Blowhards.”

Remember 1990? “Early attempts to produce viable electric cars were met with concern about driving range,” announced GM in a press screening that captivated the auto world. “But from the beginning, the Impact would be different. (So we decided to) make a viable electric car that goes over 100 miles.”

The Impact would eventually go on sale as the GM EV1 in 1996, and its claimed 100 mpg range shrunk by 25 percent in real world conditions. Burdened by costs and a limited market the EV1 was discontinued three years later.

Like the EV1, the Volt and Leaf are politically marketed vehicles first, consumer-marketed vehicles second. When the EV1 debuted, automakers were under pressure from California — their largest market — to produce mandated zero-emission vehicles. Twenty years on, it’s Washington’s turn to force vehicle fleets to average 35 mpg by 2016.

Government heat inevitably means cooked mileage numbers, and despite company assurances that the Volt and Leaf meet “EPA mileage standards,” they don’t.

“The EPA, in fact, won’t back up GM’s number,” reports U.S. News.  “Instead, the agency released a statement reading, ‘EPA has not tested a Chevy Volt and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM,’ though they added, ‘EPA does applaud GM’s commitment to designing and building the car of the future.’”

Nanny Government is pleased by her precocious child. Have another subsidy.

But the Car Wars sci-fi fantasies are not limited to electrics. At the same time the EV1 was prematurely claiming victory in the late ‘90s, Volkswagen was showily revealing Europe’s first “3 liter” car — that is, an econobox that would achieve the holy grail of traveling 100 km on 3 liters of gas (about 80 mpg).

Yet, even with $6 a gallon petrol, the Lupo too failed in the real world. Its remarkable direct injection diesel technology cost more than consumers would pay for a small car.

So now we get the Volt v. Leaf plug-in battle (soon to be joined by the plugin version of the Prius — an unprecedented 500 mpg perhaps?). The numbers will astound. The media will gasp. The technology will boggle.

But as in prior sequels, the public will eventually have to buy it.


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