Cars GM announces 900 miles between fillups for Chevy Volt

Published on April 5th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Chevy Volt Pounds Another Nail In The Coffin Of Range Anxiety

April 5th, 2013 by  

When the Chevy Volt electric car first hit the market a couple of years ago with a built-in gas tank to guard against range anxiety, its manufacturer GM had to wade through a torrent of abuse from the usual suspects. Despite the naysaying, the Volt has been a success and GM has been merrily tooting its own horn with reports of customer satisfaction. Not only that, but GM has succeeded in horning in on Tesla Motors’ latest publicity stunt. On April 3, just one day after Tesla CEO Elon Musk finally released his company’s much-anticipated “really exciting” mystery announcement, GM sent out word that Volt owners with regular access to charging stations were going an impressive 900 miles between fill-ups!

GM announces 900 miles between fillups for Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt
by HighTechDad
via flickr.

Why Build An EV With A Gas Tank?

When the Volt was first introduced, we got where GM was coming from. The company was counting on customers who wanted an all-American driving experience with a seamless, worry-free transition from gasoline to EV technology, so they designed a car that always runs off an electric drive, regardless of whether the fuel is gasoline from the Volt’s tank or electricity from its battery.

The Volt’s battery range is decent enough for daily commuting and errands but not particularly noteworthy. On the other hand, with the advantage of a built-in gas tank the Volt doesn’t need a high range (and therefore more expensive) battery, which is a major reason why GM can offer the Volt at a lower retail lower price than, say, the Tesla Model S.

GM also recently announced another couple of developments to attract price-conscious car buyers. Knowing that the typical Volt driver does use the gas tank at least occasionally, GM is working on improving the gasoline fuel efficiency of the car in forthcoming models, and rumor has it that the company also may start offering shorter (or longer) battery range options.

Time Is Money

It’s not quite obvious that GM is in a head-to-head showdown with Tesla for claim to the hearts and minds of U.S. EV buyers, but based on their latest announcements, the two companies appear to be going down that road.

Pick apart GM’s latest Volt press release, which features customer testimonials, and you’ll hear a familiar refrain. Nobody is talking about saving the planet or bragging about how far they can go on a single battery charge. What they’re talking about is time and money: how little time they spend waiting around at gas stations, and how much money they save on gas.

Similarly, after all the build-up to this week’s Tesla announcement, it turns out that the big news was all about money: a new financing plan that can effectively eliminate most or all of the down payment for a new Tesla, depending on state and federal incentives.

As for time, if you check out Tesla’s online cost calculator to figure out the “true” cost of owning a Tesla EV, you’ll see that one of the big factors is time.

The calculator asks you to factor in the time you save by using designated lanes during rush hour (where available), and the time you save from not having to wait around at gas stations.

Tesla time is probably a bit different from GM time, as the cost calculator defaults to $100/hour (not clear whether or not that’s before or after taxes and benefits), but you can adjust it to factor in your actual value.

Two Cars For The Price Of One

That brings us around to the big picture of EV affordability.

A while back it seemed that EVs were destined to be the second or third car in a multi-car household, used only for short drives within a local EV charging network.

Nowadays, manufacturers seem much more focused on ensuring that if you can only afford one car, it’s going to be an EV (and if you can afford more, the EV will still be your primary car).

GM expanded the market with the Volt, which is basically a two-in-one EV that can go indefinitely on electricity drive for local trips, and it can also go on an infinite road trip when called upon, at least wherever gas stations can be found.

Tesla seems determined to anticipate an extensive national charging network that will soon far outstrip the current availability of gasoline stations (we totally agree), so its two-in-one solution is a pure EV with a high-range battery.

Another kind of approach is illustrated by BMW, which has been toying with the idea of a stopgap plan that would provide purchasers of its new i3 EV with access to a rental car for out-of-town trips (no word yet on whether or not the rental would be complementary or discounted).

Probably the most intriguing offering comes from Ford, which has partnered with Eaton, SunPower, Whirlpool, Infineon, and smart thermostat pioneer Nest Labs to develop a system for integrating EV ownership into overall household energy use, just like any other large appliance.

The added benefit would be to cut down on electricity bills by charging the EV battery during off-peak hours when rates are cheaper, and then using the stored energy to power the house during peak periods.

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Readers please note: I made a slight edit in the first paragraph to help clarify that 900 miles between fill-ups is not the same as 98 MPGe. If you read the thread below, you’ll see that several commenters noticed that the original version seemed to conflate the two. For more details you can check out GM’s press release.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Pingback: San Diego Loves Green – Chevy Volt Pounds Another Nail In The Coffin Of Range Anxiety()

  • I’ve done over 20,000 miles in my Volt, which is my only car. I’m getting 270 mpg, give or take 20 mpg…


  • This article’s title says is all.

    I owned a Volt and a Leaf, but ended up selling the Leaf due to the range anxiety.

    The Volt still let’s me drive 90% of the time on electric only except when I take long road trips. And it turns out the Volt is a “very good” road trip car even when running on gasoline…

    Bottom line is that it is less stressful having an electric vehicle with no range limits, even if it uses gas once in a while. It is worth the higher price to eliminate that range anxiety.

  • If you follow Tesla’s Voodoo math and apply it to the Volt, the Volt would be practically free, and you’ll get a bonus load of money from all that time saved!

    Currently, best lease deals for the Volt is $175/month plus tax, $2700 down, 36 month, 10Kmiles/year. And you get $1,500 state rebate. You get savings of $100/month for not buying gasoline and paying for electricity. And if you earn $100/hr, and have been in traffic by not using carpool lanes, the Volt can save you $500/month by not visiting gas stations and saving time in carpool lane. The result is that you will be earning the net equivalent of at least $350/month. With Tesla, you will be paying the equivalent of $500/month. So get a Volt and earn $350/month instead of Tesla that would make you spend $500/month.

  • Otis11

    “900 miles between fill-ups, far in excess of the EPA equivalent estimate of 98 MPGe.”

    I am very rarely critical, but this is either a lack of understanding or very sloppy reporting. The Chevy volt only gets 98 MPG-e if you never burn a drop of gasoline. At 900 miles per fill up with a 9.3 gallon gas tank and 37 mpg on gas means:

    9.3*37 =344.1 miles were driven on gasoline
    900-344.1 =555.9 miles on electricity

    ((555.9*98 MPG-e) + (344.1*37 MPG))/900miles = 74.7 MPG-e actual for 900 miles per tank

    This falls significantly short of the 98 MPG-e predicted by the EPA, not exceeding it.

    MPG-e cannot approach infinity, it is a measure of efficiency on the amount of energy used to move the car and is not affected by the actual gasoline consumption.

    Next, the Chevy Volt is not at all comparable to the Tesla Model S. Period. To compare it to a true electric car you need to look at the Leaf. There are probably even better comparisons out there, but this comparison would be fair. Unfortunately it loses to the Leaf. The Chevy volt in my area is $39K before rebates and the Leaf is $28K before rebates. The leaf also happens to have equal or greater rebates in every market I am aware of. Not to say the Volt doesn’t have advantages, but as stated this article is a lie.

    • Otis11

      That being said, I do like the Volt and wish there were more vehicles like it. They do have some room for improvement, but I have no issue with the car itself, but with the quality of the reporting.

      Again, sorry for being negative, but this was past even my threshold for disinformation. I strongly suggest HEAVILY editing this article or simply removing this post.

    • notGarth

      Otis11, you are assuming that us Volt owner FILL UP the ENTIRE tank each time —that’s not the case. A Volt owner like me, will only put in 3 gallons (not 9.3) every time I go to the gas station. This is what’s recommended in the manual.

      • Otis11

        That was based of the assumption specified in the first line of the article, not something I assumed. You can work it out with any number you like, but if you use any gas at all you will not achieve 98 MPG-e. It’s a physics problem.

  • anderlan

    “Volt owners with regular access to charging stations were going an impressive 900 miles between fill-ups, far in excess of the EPA equivalent estimate of 98 MPGe.”

    MPGe has NOTHING to do with the total electric miles you put on your EREV between gas fill-ups. If people were going 900 miles on a single charge, well then, holy crap, that would be (900 miles fantasy range / 30 miles rated range) x 98MPGe = about 3000MPGe!!! Ermahgherd! Volt EREV MPGe cohrnfuhrzhuhn!!

    • Very good point. MPGe is meant to create a point of reference between Kwh and a gallon of gasoline. The current formula is 33.7kwh = equivilent energy to 1 gallon of gasoline. So the MPGe is a static figure and has nothing to do with the fact that most of us are driving on the charged battery most of the time.

    • Tina Casey

      Otis11 and Anderlan, yes if you look at GM’s press release (link is above) the first thing that hits you is the impressive-looking figure of 900 miles between fill-ups, which of course is not the same as MPGe. The company reports that some drivers are getting far more than 98 MPGe and it seems that I lost some clarity for the sake of brevity. As for comparisons with the Leaf, the best bang for your buck depends on your driving routine and the availabilty of charging stations in your area.

    • Thanks for the extended comment (no pun intended… initially).

      And yes, the Leaf–Volt competition just got a bit more interesting with the Leaf’s big price drop (thanks to in-US manufacturing). Nice to see it rise from those ~650 units a month to over 2,000/month. 😀

  • Make sure that if you get a plug in that you sign up for real time electricity pricing so that you can charge for 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour.

    • this comment should be raised to the top somehow. 😀

    • LeisaD

      How do you do that?

  • I have owned my Volt for about a year and I finally challenged the car this past week. I had to make an unexpected trip to a city about 350 miles away and the car I typically use for long trips was in the shop. Up until then the Volt was my every day around town car, I had put just over 8000 miles on it and was getting about 225 lifetime MPG. During the road trip I put about 900 miles on the car, didn’t charge it once, and except for the first 40 miles it was run exclusively on gas.
    The car performed flawlessly and while on this trip got a respectable 36 MPG. There were some significant elevation changes during the trip but I had no problem maintaining an 80 MPH speed with occasional forays into the 90’s to pass other vehicles. After the trip my current “lifetime MPG” is now at 152 MPG and I am back into my daily routine and will see that build again as I typically drive almost exclusively without having to use the gas.
    My wife really likes my car and she has been bugging me to trade her car in for a 2nd Volt. Before I was not enamored with this idea but I think this trip convinced me that the Volt is a reliable Car for both daily tavel and the occassional long haul trip and truly is “Two Cars for the Price of One”.

    • Tina Casey

      Thanks for sharing your experiences…you’re right, 36 mpg is pretty decent but it looks like the next-generation Volt is going to improve on that.

      • Tom G.

        I would say that 36 mpg is outstanding given a cruising speed of 80 mph with sprints to 90 mph to pass cars. Just think of how much better he could have done at a more reasonable speed of say 70-75 mph.

        Maybe if he had left 10 minutes earlier he could have achieved 40-45 mpg.

        • It is true. Some trips require a little more haste unfortunately when dealing with timelines. Living in the west where that 350 miles was between big cities allows for higher speeds but at the cost of efficiency.

    • PA Lou

      Fantastic news about your road trip. I plan on taking my Volt on a 2,000 mile round trip this summer and expect similar results. My “Lifetime MPG” is currently 192 MPG, it’s always fun to watch it build back up when all said and done.

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