The 2011 Chevy Volt's MPG rating could suffer a serious blow (GM).

    by: Reilly Brennan | AOL Autos

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will soon draft a new regulation for the way it calculates fuel efficiency for electric cars, potentially deflating the stratospheric fuel economy numbers trumpeted by automakers in recent months.

    In August 2009, GM announced that its new 2011 Chevy Volt hybrid would achieve a stratospheric 230 "miles per gallon," using a calculation that took into account how the vehicle would fare given its sometimes-battery, sometimes-gasoline engine power source. Nissan responded with its own number for its new Leaf electric car, 367 MPG, setting off something of an arms race for efficiency. Without actual guidelines from the EPA, however, the public will be left wondering where these numbers come from -- and whether they’re believable. The EPA is unlikely to weigh in until after GM and Nissan launch their new vehicles, which has left the automakers to craft their own efficiency ratings.

    "They're not going to have actual rules until model year 2012, which is a little late for the Volt," said Pete Savagian, GM's engineering director for hybrid powertrains. As far as how GM will tell consumers what sort of fuel economy they'll see on the Volt? "We're on our recognizance. I don't exactly know. We'll have to be real careful."

    This ambiguity isn't the best for consumers. GM's calculation takes into account only the gasoline used, while Nissan's number was merely an equivalent since its Leaf only runs on electricity. Compounding the problem is that consumers aren't used to fuel economy figures for anything other than miles per gallon.

    GM came up with the Volt’s number using a guideline from the Society of Automotive Engineers, one that ran the car through a city driving simulation. GM did the same simple calculation for fuel economy that we use for traditional vehicle, dividing the total distance travelled by the amount of gasoline burned. But for a good portion of the test, the Volt was operating on battery power alone, having started the test with a full battery. This effectively adds the 40 miles of battery range to the distance travelled, hence the big mileage number.

    Did you believe GM when they first boasted the Volt's 230 MPG rating?

    "230 [MPG] is not a equivalent," said GM's Savagian. "It's just the gasoline. It does not include the electricity consumed. It only included the amount of gasoline used and the number of miles driven."

    The fact that the Volt engine burns gasoline will come into play when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determines its rating, as well. The Volt will likely not be labeled as a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV), but rather as a partial zero-emission vehicle (AT-PZEV) for using gasoline after the battery power is depleted.

    For now, the company's focus on "230" has faded. GM pulled the plug on many of its media efforts that featured the infamous number. In August, the company had launched a television campaign that dovetailed with social media efforts on YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and a blog. All of those accounts have since been discontinued. The domain name "whatis230.com" is still registered to GM, but now redirects to a page about the Volt on Chevrolet.com.

    No Current EPA Standard

    Confusion over the issue isn't so much political as it is chemical. Gallons and kilowatts aren't easily compared. But political forces are also at play. Right now Nissan, GM and a host of other manufacturers continue to provide their recommendations to the EPA on how the new ratings should be calculated.

    Nissan is pulling for a new standard that looks at electricity use not in terms of a miles-per-gallon equivalent (although the company admits it did do this with its 367 MPG claim), but something that takes into account grams of C02 or kilowatts.

    "We believe it's probably going to be a new definition," said Tracy Woodard, Nissan's director of government affairs. "I don't know whether you're going to get into grams per mile or kilowatt hours per mile, but I think you're going to see a shift away from miles per gallon."

    Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that the EPA was "rethinking" the way they thought about fuel economy, but the agency disputed that claim.

    "I think that threw some people off," said an EPA spokesperson in an interview with AOL Autos. "We're not 'rethinking' because we're still thinking. In August, we simply said we're developing it. We haven't yet published the new rule."

    "We are waiting for the EPA to tell us how we're going to formulate that," said Nissan's Woodard. "We're all just kind of waiting."

    Quick Shopping Tools:

    Research New Cars

    Cars for Sale in Your Area

    Get Repair Estimates

    1 - 20 of 203 Comments
    rbm0458 Apr 24, 2010 1:23 PM
    The current calculation needs to be overhauled and replaced with joule unit, a unit of energy. One gallon of gas contains 1.3x10^8 joules while 1 KWh contains 3.61 10^6 joules. By calculating the distance traveled by the energy used, we get a more accurate number
    Report This
    wmathess Apr 24, 2010 10:36 AM
    This thing will be junk. And nothing can get that mpg. Electric vehicles suck. Go diesel. Like a diesel truck or something. If I was going "green" (of course I never would) I'd buy something like a Ford Focus, or maybe the upcoming 2011 model American Ford Fiesta. I own 3 vehicles right now. '04 Ford Explorer, '07 Ford F-350 XLT Diesel, and an '07 Ford Fusion AWD V6. My buying of Fords will never stop.
    Report This
    papam11 Apr 23, 2010 11:32 PM
    Is it really that difficult for the wennies in Washington to come up with true MPG figures. How about trying something like this. How about driving the friggin cars around the city, then a mix of city and high way, then just highway. Think maybe that would give people a true MPG calculation? WHy is this si freaking difficult?
    Report This
    sgbvxbsz Apr 23, 2010 11:06 PM
    The answer is: http://is.gd/bxuJN We are not the point to earn money We are long-term trade marketing We are for the benefit of customers%u3001 Why our customers will be so much? Are the prices we meet their needs. Such as: http://is.gd/bxuJN COACH Bag (Market Price:$69 Our Price:$31.00 ) Ed Hardy hoody (Market Price: $89 Our Price: We need your support and trust!!! Dear friends, please temporarily stop you
    Report This
    denisedibuono Apr 22, 2010 11:20 PM
    As is usual for Aol Autos a sensationalist headline with negative connotations reveals a benign and not very useful back story. Just because there is not universal agreement on how to calculate MPG for electric/ extended -range vehicles does not equate to the car being " not as good as hoped" or devalue it's status as a breakthrough design. Derived MPG will still be way higher than the Prius as will any electric car. Remember that it is in the EPA's interest to somehow construct a formula that really lowers that 230MPG rating since even modest Volt sales will skew GM's CAFE and allow many more conventionally powered cars to be sold which would impede the current EPA's political agenda.
    Report This
    apeter4133 Apr 22, 2010 8:53 PM
    By the way, the car looks great!!
    Report This
    apeter4133 Apr 22, 2010 8:52 PM
    This article and the mean spirited headline serve no purpose other than to beg "Read Me". I will regard AOL Autos as just another bit of simple-minded teaser journalism.
    Report This
    qcluu Apr 22, 2010 4:40 PM
    Report This
    qcluu Apr 22, 2010 4:39 PM
    Report This
    thinksmart0ne Apr 22, 2010 4:00 PM
    It's not rocket science calculating how far a car goes when a gallon of gas is put in the tank.. The Epa part of chaos control and the tax masters should look closer at how they are going to protect their worthless jobs which mostly consists of wiping out other peoples jobs and productivity. Has anyone calculated the cost of plugging in thes junkers into your electric bill.and how many more nuclear electric plants would have to be built to warm up the air and water. Just some more Green BS.
    Report This
    chvy70camaro Apr 22, 2010 3:58 PM
    Atleast this thing looks decent, not like the God awful cheese wedge prius'!!
    Report This
    chvy70camaro Apr 22, 2010 3:56 PM
    sxr4, SOME toiletota's are just ASSEMBLED here in those 7 plants!! crapota employ directly and indirectly close to 35K Ameerican workers, or LESS THAN 1% OF ALL AMERICAN AUTO WORKERS!! 3 TO 3.5 MILLION TOTAL!!
    Report This
    kendalldek Apr 22, 2010 3:15 PM
    With all these cars plugged into the grid I see a future in power plants. Being an electrician that means money for me. Thank you all. I need to make more than I do. Maybe they will finish the two Coal fired powerhouses that got shut down in Wyoming.
    Report This
    bobsai1s Apr 22, 2010 3:05 PM
    "Power plants going into overtime at night?" Actually, jaguignon, you've got it backwards. That would increase the power plants' efficiency. The daytime electricity load far exceeds the nighttime in most places. Power plants are running at low, inefficient power levels at night. Charging automobiles would help "smooth out" the load over the day/night cycle and add to the efficiency of the power producing operation. More electricity with less standby power is cheaper.
    Report This
    toothii Apr 22, 2010 3:05 PM
    Clearly the rules for evaluating the technology don't exist just yet. Let's not dun a car because guidelines are fuzzy at best! I doubt very much that anyhone who buys a Volt will only drive on electric power. The system is set up so that while driving with gas ebgine, the car is also recharging it's batteries. People who might be driving the Nissan "Leaf" had better bring along a very long extension cord for those time they run out of juice! And who is gonna just let them plug in on someone else's power supply? Clearly, having a gas engine on board is sort of like the redundancy in spacecraft systems. A good idea, don't you think?
    Report This
    js314bs Apr 22, 2010 2:31 PM
    Oh, and to add to my comment most new vehicles are only good for 8 years and 150k with a small minority lasting to 250k+. If the Volt does not deviate from that pattern it will not be economical to own, it will only make you feel better about the environment.
    Report This
    jaguignon Apr 22, 2010 2:28 PM
    What gets me about these electric cars is the big cost of recharge! If you were to look at your monthly electric bill and compare it to gasoline savings with an economy car, it would cost more to own the all electric car by far especially if you do a lot of commuting. There is definitely a major electrical drawdown in the day light hours. I can see the power plants going into overtime trying to keep up with the car charge drawdown in the night hours! Where are we going to get all this oil and other forms of power to keep these millions of cars charged up?
    Report This
    js314bs Apr 22, 2010 2:24 PM
    If the price was right I might drive a volt, but 40k is not the right price. Average electricity cost per kwh in the us is $0.12 but it takes 36.6 kw to make up the energy in one gallon of gas (which means per unit of energy it costs more). We need to know exactly how much per unit (1 mile or 100 miles) this vehicle costs to drive. Then and only then can serious consideration be given to this vehicle. I drive about 140 miles a day 5 days a week, no way is this car going to cost me $8.4 a week to drive. And even at that price per week compared to an econo-box that averages 25 mpg and assuming 700 miles a week it would take 8 years to break even, assuming a more conservative 250 a week it would take 22.5 years. A step in the right direction but far from a solution.
    Report This
    annikaj31 Apr 22, 2010 2:24 PM
    The biggest obstacle for me is not whether it really gets 230 mpg or not, but the price. Upwards of $40,000 just isn't feasible for me, and if the Nissan Leaf sells for $25,000, guess which one will sell more. I see some people on here complaining that in order to charge an EV you have to burn fossil fuel in order to make electricity, but that's not true. First of all, not all power plants are coal-fired; in my state over 85% of electricity comes from hydropower. Second, instead of burning coal, states, especially those rich in sun, need to build power plants that use the sun'd energy (through solar panels or heat-generating mirrors) to provide true clean power. And lastly, why not be proactive yourself and install a solar panel on your garage's roof? Not only do you get tax breaks for it, but you can create all the power your car needs for free. Let's stop this pessimistic "it won't work" outlook and start looking for solutions that will keep us on the road. Europe is ahead of the US in this department by miles, and when have Americans become so complacent that they will let everybody else beat them?
    Report This
    jmartinezlinan Apr 22, 2010 2:08 PM
    Gm (everyone else) is testing the Bloom cell now. So you use LPG to run Bloom cell to produce the KW to charge the DC cell. Maybe even run the DC motor directly off mini-Bloom. Set the Bloom up at a home (probably a multi-home co-op cause the Bloom isn't cheap) & charge the cells at night (unless you can afford a solar-oil steam generator, then you you do it during daylight). Semantics. DOD just predicted a world wide petro shortage with next generation. Internal combustion will be outlawed except for commercial use. The only gas engines running will be 3 or 4 cylinders & they will heavily taxed. Eventually UN will have to address the most basic problem. Finite natural resources for an exploding world population. State mandated population control is our only hope for a future past 100 years (sorry Catholics). Homo sapiens will have to roll back world population to something like pre-antibiotics era. That is what nature intended all along. Pre-industrial revolution world population, Wal-Mart is going to love that one. That would be a world population of 600 million by the way. Just 1/10 of today. Every nation would have to start to roll back (for us- a target of 30 million USA population). Mandatory sterilization of toddlers. Even those of "Einstein" quality in business,science etc limited to 1 child. Of course, existing population would no longer be able to "cheat" life-expectancy curves. No more extraordinary medical care. Mandatory hospice care for AIDS,cancer,end of life. Can't have a young population 1/10 the size trying to sustain a massive aged hold-over population. Once a controlled world population is achieved, reproduction limits could be eased (kind of like current China). The Earth recycles by nature, but it has it's limits. We do the same damage in USA with our "modern" lifestyle that an Indian family does by having a family of 14. Both lifestyles are unsustainable in the longterm. Happy Earth day!
    Report This
    1 - 20 of 203 Comments
    Leave A Comment?
    Please keep your comments relevant to the 230 MPG For Chevy Volt? Not Likely article.
    Mapquest Gas Sweepstakes

    Featured AOL Autos Editors

    Fetching latest post ...
    Fetching latest post ...
    Fetching latest post ...

    Great Auto Loan Rates

    Low Rates on New and Used Autos

    Presented By Apply In One Easy Step »

    AOL Autos Facebook Activity


    Order Carfax Report
    Powered by
    Get a free CARFAX record check for a used car
    Go >>
    Follow AOL Autos on Twitter
    The EPA will soon draft a new regulation for the way it calculates fuel efficiency for electric cars, potentially deflating the fuel economy numbers trumpeted by automakers.


    Your Comment:
    Send Report Cancel