Any of you who watch Hulu (and that’s probably a pretty big chunk of you, ’cause free on-demand TV rules) might have seen those mysterious “230” ads with the smiling outlet doubling for the zero. Yesterday, we finally got our answer – and unsurprisingly, it had to do with the Chevy Volt plug-in series hybrid. (I mean, they were using the same font they’d always used for the Volt advertising. You don’t have to be Batman to figure that out.)
The big news, however, was what that 230 represents. General Motors announced they estimate the Volt will receive an EPA rating of at least 230 miles per gallon for city driving.
Now, before you poop your pants, let’s take a second to read the fine print. First of all, this number doesn’t directly refer to the amount of miles the car will go on a single gallon of gasoline – it’s a conversion of the amount of electricity it will use.
The EPA judges the efficiency of electric cars not in mpgs (unsurprisingly), but in kilowatt-hours per 100 miles. According to GM, the Volt will use 25 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles during urban driving, which translates into around 230 mpg.
Secondly, that number is only for city driving. Unlike conventional cars, electrics tend to be more efficient in the city, because they don’t waste energy idling or have nearly as many of the bad habits associated with oil-powered vehicles. Chevy says they anticipate a combined fuel economy of 100 mpg or so for the Volt. Out on the highway, you’re gonna see your “fuel economy” drop – especially once the gas engine kicks in to generate more juice.
Thirdly, this number is based on a draft report from the EPA about rating plug-in hybrids. Draft. As in, unfinished. A lot of things can change between drafts. The first draft of this very article had forty-three uses of the word “booger,” for God’s sake. Until the EPA actually tests a production Volt, this is all conjecture.
Now, this isn’t to downplay GM’s accomplishment. The fact that the good General is giving us the first mass-produced series hybrid is impressive enough, and doubly so in light of their recent financial…clusterf**k. But let’s not go counting our chickens before we can plug them into our garages every night to let them recharge for tomorrow’s commute.
The Volt will probably have plenty of bugs when it comes out, and there are plenty of questions still to be answered. How effective will the engine be at recharging the battery? Will anyone actually pay $32,500 for a compact Chevrolet, no matter how “green” it is? Where did I put my wallet?
But if nothing else, GM is taking a bold step in the right direction, and they deserve kudos for that. So, Kudos, GM! Now how ’bout letting us borrow a Camaro for a review?