The Chevy Volt has been hailed as General Motors’ electric savior. Now, as GM officially rolls out the Volt this week for public consumption, we’re told the much-touted fuel economy was misstated and GM “lied” about the car being all-electric.
In the past, and based on GM’s claims, we’ve gone so far as to call the Volt GM’s “Jesus Car.” And why wouldn’t we call it that? We were told the Volt would achieve 230 MPG fuel economy and would always use the electric drivetrain to motivate the wheels — only using the onboard gasoline engine as a “range extender” for charging the batteries. It now turns out that not only were those fuel economy claims misleading, but the gasoline engine is actually used to motivate the wheels — making the Volt potentially nothing more than a very advanced hybrid car and pushing some automotive journalists like Scott Oldham at Edmunds.com to claim “GM lied to the world” about it.
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.