Gm: Volt To Get 230 Mpg In City

Highway Mileage Probably Would Be Lower For Hybrid

August 12, 2009|By Martin Zimmerman | Martin Zimmerman,Tribune Newspapers

General Motors Co. said Tuesday that its long-awaited Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid is expected to achieve fuel economy of 230 miles per gallon in city driving.

That would give the Volt, which is expected to arrive in showrooms late next year, by far the highest fuel efficiency rating of any car rated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The current EPA mileage leader is the Toyota Prius hybrid, which is rated at 50 mpg in combined city-highway driving.

The Volt is designed to run on electric power only for about 40 miles, after which a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the battery, giving it a range of more than 300 miles. The battery can be recharged by plugging into a home outlet.

GM's estimated mileage rating for the Volt is based on city driving. Highway mileage probably would be lower because it would require more work from the gasoline engine.

"From the data we've seen, many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas," GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said. "EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare the fuel efficiency of vehicles. So, a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer."

The carmaker's fuel economy estimates must be confirmed by the EPA, which is developing a new method for calculating fuel economy ratings for cars that can go significant distances powered only by electricity. GM said it used the EPA's preliminary guidelines in developing its mileage estimates for the Volt.

The Volt's best fuel economy will be achieved in city driving, where it can take full advantage of its all-electric capability. GM said it has calculated a highway mileage estimate but didn't release the figure. The automaker said it was confident the Volt's combined city-highway fuel economy "will be in the triple digits."

Electric vehicle proponents, though encouraged by the Volt's preliminary numbers, cautioned GM not to overstate the car's capabilities.

"The phrase 'Your mileage may vary' is particularly true with plug-in hybrids because how you drive will have a significant impact on how much gasoline the vehicle consumes," said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "It would be a real shame if such a promising technology got a bad rap because they raised expectations too high."

The company said it had produced about 30 Volts and was making 10 a week at its facility in Warren, Mich. GM is expected to announce this week that the Volt's nearly 400-pound lithium-ion battery will be assembled at a plant in the Detroit area. The production version car will be built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

As the pre-production vehicles are road-tested, estimates of their all-electric range and fuel economy rating could change. Volts are being road-tested in Yuma, Ariz., to gauge their performance in hot weather.

Though GM has not released pricing information, industry analysts estimate the Volt will list for about $40,000. GM spokesman Rob Peterson said owners would be eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit on electric vehicles.

Other automakers, including Chrysler, Nissan, Ford and Toyota, are working on plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles that are expected to reach the market in the next few years.

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