Our guest blogger is Kate Tecku, Energy Policy Intern at the Center for American Progress
On Tuesday, after weeks of buzz from a viral media blitz, GM finally answered its own marketing spin, “What is 230?” Apparently, the new Chevrolet Volt – set to hit show room floors in 2010 – will achieve an astounding city fuel economy of 230 miles per gallon.
GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson exclaimed in a press release on Tuesday that the Volt is sure to be a “game changer.” He went on to note that “based on the results of unofficial development testing of pre-production prototypes, the Volt has achieved 40 miles of electric-only, petroleum-free driving.” This, taken in conjunction with the Department of Transportation’s findings that nearly 8 in 10 Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, means that “many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas” – unlike other hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.
The Volt, however, could cost about $40,000, putting it out of reach of many middle income consumers. GM believes that government incentives and battery warranties can make this new PHEV model an appealing option to climate- and cost-conscious consumers, despite the Volt’s high production costs. Prime among these government measures is a $7,500 consumer rebate in the 2009 stimulus package for purchasing qualifying electric plug-in vehicles such as the Volt. The Volt will become more economically attractive when oil and gasoline prices rise during the worldwide economic recovery. In contrast to their conservative predictions in 2008, the Energy Information Agency now expects oil prices to increase to $110 a barrel by 2015.
Critics say the 230 mpg claim for GM’s new plug-in is misleading – and even if it does live up to the hype, the Volt’s fuel range will pale in comparison to Nissan’s new plug-in model, the Leaf, due out in 2012. In a show of industry competition for most fuel economy supremacy, Nissan’s EV Twitter feed posted this yesterday: “Nissan Leaf = 367 mpg, no tailpipe, and no gas required. Oh yeah, and it’ll be affordable too.” Read more