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Critics Say GM Lied About Chevrolet Volt

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On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 12:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Critics Say GM Lied About Chevrolet Volt

Just one month before the official launch of the Chevrolet Volt, there is a controversy brewing over whether or not the Volt is truly an electric vehicle. General Motors claims on its website that the Volt is not a hybrid, but an "extended-range electric vehicle", but many are saying that the car’s engine uses gasoline as the primary energy source for an electric generator subsequently turning the wheels of the vehicle—exactly how hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius engine, operate. GM has been representing the Volt for the past 3 years as an all electric vehicle, not a hybrid like the Prius.

According to Jim Hall, of 2953 Auto Analytics Inc.: "You have a PR problem with any one of these vehicles." Hall also stated, "GM had this sort of schizophrenic thing about doing its best to manage perception and at the same time going off into traditional old-style GM hype."

General Motors has promoted the Volt for 3 years as a green vehicle that would run on electric power and get 230 miles per gallon. The $41,000 Volt was assigned a unique marketing strategy in hopes that the Volt’s image would be differentiated from the Toyota Prius, giving the vehicle an edge in the market.

The EPA has not released an official rating on the Volt as far as fuel economy, and GM has released a statement that some consumers may realize lower fuel ratings.

Auto critics from  Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics are saying that the Volt uses its combustion gas-powered engine to charge an electric generator which powers the wheels—just as a hybrid operates. They deem the Chevrolet Volt to be an electric plug-in hybrid, NOT the all-electric vehicle that General Motors has claimed for years the Volt would be.

A recent Edmunds review of the car contains the headline that reads, “GM Lied: Chevy Volt is not a true EV.”

According to Automotive News.com: Nick Richards, GM spokesman, says that the Volt runs on electricity, and “has no mechanical link from the gasoline engine to the wheels.” The Volt’s vehicle line director, Tony Posawatz, explained that the combustion engine doesn’t directly power the car, but instead fuels a secondary electric engine which then powers the wheels to turn. “I keep telling people that this is a smart solution,” Posawatz said. “It drives very different from a hybrid.”

But many auto experts see it differently. Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics finds congruence between the Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius hybrid.
“In a Prius, there is no mechanical linkage between the engine and the wheels, it goes through a motor,” Hall said. “They use the engine to drive a direct-drive generator to drive the motor. The Volt does the same thing; it's just that the Volt can run with electric power without an engine longer than pretty much any hybrid right now can.”

Initially General Motors reported the Volt could travel 40 miles on a fully charged battery, then the gasoline engine would recharge the battery providing an additional range of 300 more miles. Today GM changed that range to 25-50 miles in electric drive and only 310 (instead of 340) total miles on one charge and one full tank of gasoline.

Driving ranges will vary quite a bit in most hybrids depending on many factors, such as city versus highway driving, as frequent braking in city driving will recharge the battery. Hall claims that many Volt and Nissan drivers won’t get the fuel economy that GM and Nissan have claimed for the Volt and the Leaf.

An auto consulting firm in California states that consumers won’t really care whether the Volt is an all electric vehicle or a hybrid, but rather how many miles the car will realize on a full tank of gas and a full charge. Analysts stated: “Consumers don't care what we call it, in our research, most of the questions from consumers are about battery life and recharging.”

Another important factor for many consumers is emissions, according to Dan Becker of an environmental lobbying group called “Safe Climate Campaign” in Washington: “I don't think purity is the issue. What comes out of the tailpipe is the issue. If it's a little, it's green. If it's a lot, it's not.”

Given the fact that it would appear that General Motors may have attempted to manipulate the facts about the Volt, consumers may question how accurate any information that the Detroit automaker has reported about the Volt really is. It seems that in making an attempt to boost the Volts’ image, GM may have created uncertainty in the consumers’ perspective.

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