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230 Miles Per Gallon Vehicle?

I hate fuzzy math. We have all seen fuzzy math with statistic polls, financial stats, etc… In almost every case, it’s always been an industry or company trying to push a product to consumers. I have recently met a number of people who are excited over GM’s latest claim of the Volt’s 230 mpg. If we take a few seconds to review the numbers provided by GM for its widely anticipated Chevy Volt, due to hit market in 2010, some things get lost in translation or in this case, lost in calculation. In order to clarify things a bit, let’s take a real look at the number “230″ thrown at us by GM.

For simplicity, we’ll use 50 miles as the magic number that the average vehicle owner commutes daily in the United States and assume that a gallon of gasoline costs on average $3. The Volt has an effective range of 40 miles on a full electric charge, after which the gasoline engine kicks in. GM claims the gasoline engine generates electricity that is used to recharge the battery, but does not provide how much of the gasoline is used to drive the Volt. Getting to that number should be a matter of running the car in a test lab and compiling some data. GM has this capability and either has not done so or at least is keeping this number from the public. I tend to believe the latter.

So, let’s assume that the vehicle gets 50 miles a gallon and omit the cost of recharging the battery using your home standard 110 volt outlet at night. Ten (10) miles a day is driven on gasoline power. In a five-day workweek, the average commuter drives 50 miles on gasoline which consumes one (1) gallon of gasoline. Now, remember we also drive 40 miles a day on electricity, which is the volt range on a single full electric charge, according to GM. Thus we get 200 miles of electric driving over 5 days. Finally, add the 200 miles and the 50 miles, we can easily conclude the Volt goes 250 miles on a gallon of gas. Substract 20 miles for idle time, that would use either electricity or gasoline, and we have 230 miles.

Or we can arrive at the conclusion that it costs 40 cents to recharge the Volt’s battery when using your home power outlet and the cost of gallon of gasoline averages $2.30. Driving 40 miles or less a day, the cost of a gallon of gasoline would let us drive our Chevy Volt for 230 miles.

Now that GM has started this trend, we can expect every auto manufacturer to come up with such bogus number. Nissan is already claiming 367 miles per gallon with the Leaf, which is by the way a true zero emission car (no gas tank) but not much of a looker in my opinion.

So, if you fill up your tank and embark on a cross-country trip, will you get 230 miles a gallon and be able to drive from New York to Los Angeles on a full tank of gas, (assuming a 15-gallong tank)? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Is the Volt the right step for GM? DEFINITELY.

Although, not a zero-emission vehicle, it surely looks Green, Cool & Hip.

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10 Responses

  1. Bruce McIntire Says:

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, I

  2. Del Spiva Says:

    Isn’t the average daily commute more like 30 miles per day, which falls within the 40 miles electric of the Volt?

    Then your argument falls on its face for most commuters.

  3. Bruce Says:

    My argument is not whether one drives x miles a day, but how GM arrived at 230 miles per gallon.
    The Volt still does not drive 230 miles on a gallon of gasoline.

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  5. Troublemaker Says:

    I live in Washington state. SnoCo PUD electrical rates are $.08/kWh - $.085/kWh. It sounds like Plug-ins might consume about .2 kWh/mile.
    ($.085/kWh) * (.2 kWh/mile) = $.017/mile
    I’m paying about $2.50/gallon for gas
    For that same $2.50 $.017/mile would get me 147 miles
    $3.00 $.017/mile would get me 176 miles
    $3.50 $.017/mile would get me 205 miles
    $4.00 $.017/mile would get me 235 miles
    This is assuming you never use gas in it.
    I further hope gas never reaches $4.00/gallon in the forseeable future.

  6. Troublemaker Says:

    I didn’t factor in there may be a correlation between rising gas prices and electrical rates.

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    Great article. I am dealing with some of these issues as well.


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