volt.bmpSorry, I couldn’t let this one pass!

General Motors recently claimed, with the convenient connivance of the EPA, that its new plug-in electric vehicle, the possibly $40,000 subcompact Volt due out in 2010, gets 230 miles per gallon of gas. GM, however, provided little illumination on how that information was calculated.

Turns out the reality is much more mundane: 48 mpg is the Volt’s true mileage when operating on its gasoline engine.

The 230 mpg number? Oh, that number? That is based upon some mythical “normal” numbers of miles per day that an “average” American drives, plus the hope that the Volt can go 40 miles on its batteries before having to switch to its gasoline engine (or be plugged in for a number of hours). So if you drive 50 miles, exhaust your batteries, but burn only .2 gallons for the 10 mile portion you drove on your gas engine, in the fantasyland of Washington and Detroit you got 230 mpg. And of course that 40 miles on batteries is under ideal conditions and conservative driving habits; we have all learned that EPA mileage numbers need about 20% to 30% downward adjustment to meet real-world conditions.

Given that almost 50% of the electricity in America is generated from coal, the Volt is really a coal-powered car.

Cost per mile for fuel is the real number to which we should be shifting our focus. I am all for innovation, but I’m also very much for honesty, transparency, and full disclosure.