Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chevy Volt's Fuel Economy: It's Good!

People who are reading the write-ups (see here and here) on the worthlessness of Volt's plug-in hybrid concept needs to take a deep, deep breath. The complaints seem to come in two flavors:
  • Chevrolet promised that the Volt was "all electric", in that the once the battery reached zero or close to it, the gas motor would charge the battery, which would in turn drive the car. But in practice, at high speeds, the motor drives the wheels directly. Well, okay, that's interesting, but really, we all knew that the Volt would burn gasoline one way or another, so I'm not sure why this technical detail should get anyone's knickers in a twist. Connecting the gas motor directly at high speeds yields more efficiency, not less.
  • GM also made some very high "MPG" claims about the Volt, but went to great lengths to point out that MPG isn't a useful metric for plug-in-hybrids. And Popular Mechanics' and Motor Trend's tests aren't testing the types of driving where the Volt delivers the most benefit. Popular Mechanics put the car on the road for 600 miles on a single charge—that's a full day of highway driving. Not exactly your typical commute for most people.
The whole point of the Volt is that for most drivers, commuting is the dominant form of driving. And the Volt excels at fuel economy when it comes to commuting. Popular Mechanics found that the car ran on battery alone for the first 33 miles. If your commute to work is only fifteen miles, you won't fire up the gas motor at all. The average working-age driver, putting in 15,000 miles per year, will get an effective fuel economy somewhere between 100 MPG and 125 MPG, depending how much driving happens on weekends versus commuting days.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a damn fuel-efficient car to me.
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