Chevy Volt Emits Significantly Less Smog-Forming Pollution Than Other PHEVs

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The Chevy Volt is in a class of its own compared to other plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). The Volt emits significantly less smog-forming pollution than other PHEVs, according to a GM study presented to the Society of Automotive Engineers. Furthermore, GM-Volt reports that the engineering analysis for the new 2016 Volt that will be on the market soon shows Chevrolet’s new Volt will outperform the 2011–2014 specification Volts studied.

GM-Volt explains the study and reasons the improvement is the Volt has a battery 2 to 4 times larger — rated at least double the all-electric range of any conventional plug-in hybrid. Thus, in this remarkable system architecture, even with a higher top battery-electric speed, the engine stays off longer. The Volt’s routine trips every day are thus cleaner.

The paper, “Chevrolet Volt Electric Utilization,” by A. Duhon, K. Sevel, S. Tarnowsky, and P. Savagian, reports that the Volt can offer 40 times or more all-electric trips compared to “competitors.” With such distinction, the Volt stands out far in front compared to PHEVs by Toyota, Honda, and Ford — which have batteries ½ to ¼ the Volt’s size.

The study focuses on the Volt’s primary strength: the Volt’s powertrain, and the decidedly solid efficiency in daily trips that results. GM-Volt explains: the study cites “SAE precedent to justify its assertions, the paper distinguishes between an ‘extended-range electric vehicle ‘(‘E-REV’) and generic ‘plug-in hybrid electric vehicle’ (PHEV).” In the past few years, critiques point to the “E-REV” as a marketing ploy by GM, but the SAE offers separate definitions for each:

E-REV: “A vehicle that functions as full-performance battery electric vehicle when energy is available from an onboard RESS [rechargeable energy storage system] and having an auxiliary energy supply that is only engaged when the RESS energy is not available.”
PHEV: “A hybrid vehicle with the ability to store and use off-board electrical energy in the RESS.”

Thus, considering the Volt uses two power sources, it can be defined also as a plug-in hybrid, GM-Volt points out, but “the SAE makes a finer distinction in how the car actually functions next to other competitive PHEVs.”

This real-world data, collated anonymously, is from more than 60,000 2011–2014 Volts analyzed in the study. The data is via GM’s OnStar telematics service engaging owners from October 2013 through September 2014. Thus, all four seasons were interpreted. The study’s other data samples include 621 vehicles monitored by the Southern California Association of Governments, as well as data from the National Renewable Energy Lab, Idaho National Laboratory, and more (for the other PHEVs).

The Volt is an EV with gas backup, running gas-free exceptionally more than other PHEVs. GM-Volt continues:

The study found “trip initial engine starts” for the generation-one Volts were reduced by 70 percent compared to conventional vehicles under the same conditions:

By comparison, also, the paper observed “a PHEV’s lack of full-performance all-electric capability results in engine operation under everyday speed and/or load conditions, regardless of available battery energy.”

“The dominant factor in EV trip capability of a PHEV is determined to be the amount of power available from the battery or electric motor before an engine start is required,” continued the paper. “With full vehicle performance capability as an EV, a 35 mile E-REV is found to provide up to 40-times more all-electric trips than a PHEV over the same data set.”

A “35-mile E-REV” would be none other than 2011-2012 Volts. The 2013 and 2014 Volt models increased to 38 miles rated range with an increase from 16.0 kilowatt-hours for 2011-2012s to 16.5 kilowatt-hours for 2013-2014s. Not studied were 2015s which have 17.1-kwh batteries.

Expectations are that the 2016 Volt will be even more superior: “Based on the first-generation Volt’s ‘ in-use operating data,’ the paper projects the second-generation Volt will be able to complete 80 percent of total miles driven using electricity.”

Anticipated is a 25% improvement further than first-generation Volts with similar driving and charging styles studied. “The paper points out the 2016 Volt is rated 50 miles EV range and 41 mpg compared to 38 miles and 37 on premium for the 2013-2015 Volt.”

As far as air pollution, the paper analysis shows that EPA Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle labels with a numerical smog score from 1 to 10 meant to grade degree of smog-forming emissions have an outcome of being “less clear for the consumer.”

“This rating may vary by state, and typically reflects the smog-forming emissions of the base engine without regard for the all-electric capability,” says the paper.

The paper adds, “States that modify the label smog score for advanced technology vehicles will change the rating based on a PZEV or AT-PZEV certification, which requires SULEV engine exhaust emissions as a first pre-requisite. Existing smog score label methodology does not reflect the infrequent engine starts on an EREV vehicle.”

The substance of the paper is that the Chevrolet Volt surpasses other PHEVs… by far. As EV Obsession reminds us, the Chevy Volt was the most loved car in the United States for two years in a row before the Model S came along, based on surveys of owner conducted by Consumer Reports. It also landed “Best Green Car 2015″ on Consumer Reports Top 10 List. Surely, this is due to the combination of two factors that no other electrified vehicle has offered to date: a quite useful all-electric range, and a gas extender that lets you get along as if in a conventional car of the battery runs out of juice.

If you want some more details of the coming 2016 Volt, Gas2 has more on the energy-saving, emissions-reducing car with a walkaround that reveals key hidden improvements. Customer feedback drove some changes, such as a lighted charging port, which remedies charging a Volt in the dark and offers feedback on the charging status.

Related Stories:

First Generation Chevy Volt Production Ending Soon

Chevrolet Releases Specs Of 2016 Volt, But Not Price

2015 Chevy Volt Clearance Sale, In Anticipation Of 2016 Model — Leases As Low As $249 A Month

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

Cynthia Shahan has 946 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan

118 thoughts on “Chevy Volt Emits Significantly Less Smog-Forming Pollution Than Other PHEVs

  • The Volt is a wonderful concept and if only they could get the cost down it would be *huge* seller. The 3rd chart down seems to be saying they go from about 80% of trips requiring no gas to 88% with the Volt-2. They have essentially reached the point of diminishing returns with current battery technology.

    I know purists here sneer at anything not 100% EV but eliminating 80% of GHG emissions from passenger cars is fantastic. If only other mfrs would copy-cat them since some people seem reluctant to buy GM.

    • Entirely agreed, but for one nitpick: doing 80% of trips on battery does not mean 80% less GHG. Electricity generation has a considerable GHG footprint too, except if you live in one of those 100% hydro areas like Norway or parts of Canada.

      • Nit agreed to. In Vt. or with home PV, EV-mode is 100% green, but in states with mostly coal-fueled electricity it is not so good. Even ‘nittier’ – 80% of trips all electric doesn’t mean 80% of miles, since non-electric trips are longer. GM’s data from users is 70% of miles all-E and I should have noted that. Thanks for bringing it up.

        But as always, the question is compared to what?

        • It doesn’t matter what power source immediately powers it.
          If one place uses an alternative energy source it’s power which isn’t being fed elsewhere.
          I really feel you have to be horrible at math to see a Volt as green, they travel 2/5th the distance an EV does with the same battery. That’s waste no matter how you spin it. It’s too heavy.
          As Mercury from Coal has tripled in the ocean’s top 150 meters since the industrial revolution I don’t think driving an electric Tank is the solution. The Volt was a horrible design right out the gate, no ands ifs or buts. It may better an SUV in emission types, but it’s not doing the planet any favors.

          • Have some carbs, take a deep breath, relax.

          • I’m always relaxed 🙂 and I just happen to down some carbs. Left over Aussie fries(outback) and some cold pizza(sam n louies).

          • LOL, sounds great, I think I’ll carb up myself!

          • “they travel 2/5th the distance an EV does with the same battery. That’s waste no matter how you spin it.”

            EVs only travel 40 miles per day on average too. Just because they can travel further without stopping to recharge doesn’t mean that they are necessarily cleaner than a BEV.

            If a BEV and a PHEV both operate for 30 miles each day… so what if one is carrying around the extra dead weight of an engine, or a huge battery…
            The only thing that is working harder for the PHEV, is the plug socket getting used every night, while the BEV uses every 3 nights.

          • Well there is a 1,207lb gap between the volt and miev, the difference of 62-71 and 35-38 miles on the same battery.

          • Weight isn’t the only factor. Much of the Volt’s pack is not utilized to increase longevity and reliability.

          • Well, they both carry the same 8 year 100,000 warranty.

          • Warranties do not indicate precisely when the battery will be unusable.

          • Correct, but they do cover for standardized determinations of lacking functionality, commonly 70-80% of original capacity.
            Though, as the Volt words it;
            “Depending on use, the battery may degrade as little as 10% to as much as 30% of capacity over the warranty period. A dealer service technician will determine if the battery energy capacity (kWh storage) is within the proper limit, given the age and mileage of the vehicle. Your Volt battery warranty replacement may not return your vehicle as an “ as new ” condition, but it will make your Volt fully operational appropriate to its age and mileage.”

            So in that context as long as it runs over 71% by 100,000 miles they’ll say ‘Hey it’s within in the parameters, best of luck.’ I’m sure the MiEV words similarly.

          • First of all, you’re comparing the Volt to a Kei car (Japanese for golf cart, j/k). I’ve sat in one several times. If you want to know how much people like each kind of car, look at used cars. iMievs are going for less than 8k with barely 10k miles. People can’t wait to get out of them.

            Secondly, the electric efficiency is 98/112, which is 87.5%, not 40% as you suggested.

            Third, if you were talking about range and not efficiency (you munged your two arguments so they’re difficult to separate), then you’re talking 38/52, and I say 52 and not the rated 62 because you can’t actually use 100% of your battery in an iMiev without also using a tow truck.

            So basically, the advantage of an iMiev over a Volt is that you can go and extra 14 miles on electric range, and you’re 15% more efficient, but if you want to go any further, then you need another car and are substantially less significant. Also, you’re driving a golf cart that tends you leave you stranded.

          • 98/112 is their gasoline equivalence MPG by the EPA not their EV range with the same 16kWhs.
            As to the 38/52, no, just no, I was being generously low with 62 cause they’ve been known to get 88 miles on a charge(on a test drive I read on autoblog green 3 years back), and 38 is the latest volts EPA with a 17.1kWh battery, but once more I was being generous to not note that.
            So now I’ll not be as generous, the MiEV maxes out at let’s say 72-78miles on 16kWh, and the Volt maxes at 42 on 17.1kWh.
            So to correct you, you can go an extra 30-36 miles. So 42-47% it is, thanks for forcing me to solidify my point.

          • “98/112 is their gasoline equivalence MPG by the EPA not their EV range” – Yup, that’s why I said “electric efficiency”.

            “they’ve been known to get 88 miles on a charge” – Some Volts have been known to get 70 miles on a charge but I’m not going to claim that all Volts will get that. Let’s stick with the EPA estimates here. The numbers are 38 for the Volt and 62 (-10 for a net 52, since you can’t drive until empty) for the iMiev.

            Also, you seem to be frequently confused by the size of the Volt battery. Not to worry, that has confused other people as well. GM used a much bigger battery, at greater expense, in order to make the Volt last much longer than the competition. You see, with Lithium Ion batteries, if you fully charge or discharge them they degrade faster. The Volt battery was given several extra kwhs of battery that sits in reserve, not being used, in order to prolong the life of the battery. The Volt only uses about 11kwh. That’s why Volts with 200k+ miles on them show almost no battery degradation in the real world, while Leafs with 50k show substantial degradation. I don’t know how much battery degradation the iMiev has, because nobody has been willing to drive one long enough to find out.

            So basically with a Volt you get a fully capable car that has ~14 miles lower real-world electric range than a iMiev. However, you can take trips longer than 52 miles with it, you can use it in the winter (well, you could use the iMiev too, if 30 miles of range was sufficient), it’s comfortable, and it won’t leave you stranded. Seems like a no-brainer to me. On the other hand, people are unloading the iMiev for dirt cheap prices, so if you’re desperate it might be an ok car for a 10 mile commute.

          • Nobody wants the MiEV. People are afraid of being stranded. So the extra little range is not fully used. In fact the care is not used in some trips because of range anxiety. I drive by a MiEV used for sale, every day going to work. Nobody is buying it. The Volt is better in every way.

          • I would think that Volt engineers would be more worried about power density loss, rather than capacity. It makes sense to pay special attention to longevity, and over build the pack… if the car relies on the battery to move and accelerate up hills without the assist of the engine.
            An i-Miev could lose plenty of capacity (and still be suitable for many drivers)… while the remaining capacity is still plenty of power to move. But the Volt cannot afford to have a small margin, since degradation of power, means that the gas engine may kick on even for short trips.

          • 71% will give the exact same range as new, since it only uses 10.8kWh of the 16kWh pack!

          • Weight does not matter as much as you think. The Tesla carrying around all that battery capacity seems just fine. You know a negative thinker can find pollution from someone walking. Look at all the calories burnt and extra food required and pollution created to process and deliver this food.
            Back to weight, I have loaded my Volt with so much stuff, even left the hatch open while driving and still getting nearly as good of range.

          • The Volt uses 10.8 kWh of the battery!

    • The cost is quit low at this point. List is $34,999 I think and right now you can get it for around $32K with various deals. Add in the tax-credit and that lowers it to $25K for a car that will be nearly free to fuel! The problem is not the current price, the problem with the mindset of consumers that fail to adequately account for the amount of money they waste on gasoline every year.

      • Not just the gas savings, savings on brakes etc as well.


      • I don’t disagree about many consumers not interested in saving gas money (or they wouldn’t be buying those *HUGE* SUVs). The avg. cost of a new car is $30K which means half the new cars sold are less than $30K. That $ range is where there are plenty of consumers interested in saving gas and money. They tend to be shopping in the Corolla-Civic price range (or below – Yaris-Fit).

        Also, 2/3 of cars sold in any given year are used cars, so really, we need to make it cheap enough to buy and maintain that people who have to stretch to buy a 10 year old Civic can seriously consider a used one.

        • Sure . . . but after Fed and state incentives, some people can pick up the Volt for $22K. But many people don’t know about the incentives and don’t know how cheap driving on electricity is.

        • Having owned a Volt, I have to agree that it is a wonderful car! Silent, nimble, almost luxurious ride, particularly in “Sport” mode. The main drawbacks were my daily commute being slightly longer than it’s silky smooth EV range, causing the harsh hum of its engine/generator to engage (and start consuming a bit of gas) and its carrying capacity of only 4. I’m very interested in seeing the 2016 Volt in person since both have increased. If the above considerations are not important to a potential buyer, I can’t think of a better, more affordable car to buy. I had one for 1.5 years and 19,000 miles, and still had 75% of its original oil life when I sold it. And I live in cold, snowy Michigan! Only a Tesla Model S could pry me away from the Chevy Volt.

  • Overweight, Coal Spewing, POS.. Volts are trash. Their overall emmisions are far higher than say a prius, like double.
    Of course they emit less on the road, they’ve got a 18kWH battery..
    Unlike the MiEV that 18kWh carries them 40 miles instead of 100, because they through an engine in that 4,000lb zamboni of a car.

    • One shouldn’t expect people to see something that’s incorrect. The Volt is fairly heavy, no question (the new one is 250 lb lighter), but that doesn’t automatically translate into greater emissions. Emissions depend entirely on the electricity source, it’s a 16 to 17 kWh battery, and the i-MiEv goes gets 62 miles, not 100.

      • 62 on the american EPA cycle, 99mi on the Japanese cycle.. and I doubt the Volt consistently hits 40miles on a charge as well.

        • The Volt hasn’t been tested on the Japanese cycle so it’s not possible to compare them. And it does, actually, average 35 (2011-12 models) or 38 miles per charge (2013-15).

        • The Japanese cycle is a complete joke and everyone knows it. No real world driving gets you 100 miles. That would require 25mph with no starts & stops.

        • My 2012 Volt consistently got >40 miles in the warmer late-spring, summer, early fall months here in Michigan. My all-time high was 47, again, just normal driving (not hyper-miling). If you live in the southern half of the U.S., you can expect to get 40 miles or more per charge, and that’s with the smaller battery used in 2011-12 models. AND you can still drive it to your kid’s college in the next state if you have to. Great utility.

    • The Volt does not use 18 Kwh to go 40 miles. Much of the pack is unused to preserve cell life. The Gen 2 Volt will use 15 kWh to travel 50 miles.

    • “Overweight, Coal Spewing, POS… ” . . . I assume you are talking about yourself?

      You can’t be talking about the Volt. Our grid is less than 39% coal and even when powered by coal, a PHEV is no worse than a typical gasoline car.

  • My old car got totaled earlier this year. I replaced it with a 2015 volt in February. Normally this time of year I don’t go on any long trips. Just around town driving. So far I have gone over 900 miles and have consumed 0.1 gallon of fuel. It is costing me about a dollar a day to drive. That is only about 25% of what I was paying for gas. Mass transit would cost about double that.

    I live in California where over 20% of electricity comes from renewables. the state requires 33% by 2020 and it looks like the requirement will be raised to 50% by 2030. With renewables growing in most states CHG emissions should gradually drop every year.

    • By the time we get to renewable equalibrium you’ll have replaced that 18kWh battery twice.
      Til then, each kWh will use 1.05lb of coal.
      You’re far better than a 5,000lb escalade or 6,000lb durango, but a Volt isn’t green to me.

      • My utility PG&E didn’t by any coal power last year and it doubtful that they ever will again. Renewable growth in California is very fast.

        • You were talking 2030 and 2050, not exactly within 8 years.. And yes there are probly 0 failures atm it’s a 4 year old car. Regardless of how you purchase your power it’s power that could be used elsewhere, power is never free, just displaced.

          • The first Volts were sold in December 2010.

          • As it’s not yet December would that not be under 5 years?

          • I gotta add it up, I’m not good with figuring out time. As you can see by my presence here!

          • The goal for 2020 is 33%. 50% by 2030 or 2040 (depending on what the politicians decide. California hit 20% ins 2010 and is close to 30% now. If current trends continue we will exceed the 33% goal in 2020 and likely hit 40% by 2030. California uses mostly nuclear and natural gas for power. Natural gas has a far lower CO2 emmissions than coal.

          • It’s really hard to say where California will be in 15 years, they have major drought onset, the way the global weather patterns are shifting that may turn quite dire as moisture continues East.. might not be the best spot for a permanent sustainability objective(in it’s southern portion at least).
            Natural gas comes with it’s own set of ramifications for sure though.

          • The drought provides even more incentive for renewables. Solar PV, onshore wind, and offshore wind use pretty much no water at all. The drought is sure hurting hydropower though. 🙁

      • The Volt battery has been conservatively engineered. More than it should be IMO, so that GM does not have much liability at all in terms of replacement. GM has designed it to continue to perform for many years in the hands of the farthest ranges of the outliers. Any Volt batteries, which are not determined to be factory defects, will likely never be replaced. At least during my lifetime.

        Even if a Volt’s range is reduced to 25 or 30 miles, it still functions as a hybrid with about 40 MPG. And when new they get about 40 miles of electric range, which if driven daily, yields 14,000 EV miles. Much more efficiently than the same distance covered by an all electric Tesla.

        According to MIT Sloan studies cars use most of their energy requirements for propulsion, not during production. And Volts that have been flogged to an extreme with very little charging, are still getting better mileage than the Prius. And the are no non plug in Prius that are getting over 150 MPG, like many Volts. All in all this produces a car that is far more green than a Prius

        • The comparative MPG of EV is skewed as all hell, so it’s not at all apples to apples.

          • Very skewed. I was mainly looking at MPG in hybrid mode here though. But the overall MPG of the Volt does at least tell you how many miles it goes for every gallon that goes through the tank – if anyone wants to know.

          • Well I have the Prius plugin, get about half of miles in electric mode. The problem with Toyota is the management wants to do fuel-cell cars, and isn’t advancing electrics. If they simply
            doubled or tripled battery capacity they could put the Volt to shame -but they appear to have zero desire to do so. Note the gas only mileage of the Prius is 50% better than for the Volt, so it would be a much much better powertrain to build a world-beating PHEV with.

          • “Note the gas only mileage of the Prius is 50% better than for the Volt, so it would be a much much better powertrain to build a world-beating PHEV with.”

            Well yeah, except for the 70% of time the Volt isn’t using gas. And the trips where the Prius engine kicks in to pre heat the cat converter but otherwise was unneeded. And the times the engine kicks in for an assist at higher speeds. So, yeah they could “build a world beating PHEV,” which the Volt is also.

            But the Prius is not an EREV, which again the Volt is. The Prius is a gas car designed to have an electric assist. The Volt was designed as an EV, which has it’s range extended by a generator.

            The Volt runs fine to 100 MPH wiithout an engine. Without an engine a standard PHEV is hobbled.

          • The engine won’t kick in on the PHEV to preheat the system, unless the car has seen a need/desire for the use of the ICE. Which reason can be either of; Pressing too aggressively on the gas, selecting cabin or defrosting heat, or selecting hybrid mode. Irritatingly it then will run the engine until the computer thinks the engine is warm. All they would need to do is upgrade the battery and EV motor capability. But, that’s academic as it looks like they have no interest.

            I’m not impressed with the Volt. The only thing they did right was battery size. Battery size can cover for a lot of other weaknesses.

          • Clearly someone not interested will not try to discover what the machine’s design actually entails.

          • How is the EV mpg skewed? What do you mean? EPA mpg?

      • BtotheT . . . STOP LYING. You are spewing crap you know nothing about. PG&E uses less than 2% coal in its mix. Go look it up on their web site and stop spewing garbage before you get banned.

        • Lol, Did I say otherwise of PG&E? Nope, what I did say is that just because you purchase clean power doesn’t mean fossils aren’t being used for another supply due to it.
          Let me explain, if company X buys up all the clean energy company Y has to use more coal for it’s lessened portion of said clean energy, it’s all one big pie and if all of the state’s clean energy is channeled through a given financial tributary it’s not going though another which will therein have less input and need to produce it’s own output.
          And if Cleantech want to ban a green minded commenter for his opinions they’re welcome to. But all things taken into account I might be one of their most widely informed commenters in the renaissance man global perspective accountability sense. It’d be pretty hypocritical for any green tech site to ban me and they’d be the first.
          I don’t have to agree with every aspect of every post as with a wide enough angle both parties may be granted a different vantage point.

          • Lying is not useful posting.

            California is not ‘displacing’ coal . . . it is just not using any. There are not X coal plants magically in existence that are always there. They are only there when we build them and they go away when when we decommission them. And we’ve been closing down coal plants at a good clip while building almost no new ones. Most of the new generation is solar PV, wind, and natural gas.

            So again . . . you are just wrong.

          • This discussion originated of a statement that his Volt was powered by PV, which if you are able to critically think is not true. The PV displaces coal plain and simple. Unless you have a state/locality wide coal free grid where his 16kWh as it may be directly absorbed to solar is not inversely. Shall I explain what an inverse relationship is? That is wherein his logic and yours is unsound.
            If his 16kwh wasn’t taken, it would serve another function, and if the grid then somehow came to surplus it would feed into a coal/nuclear power stream displacing such types of power, but as his power, whether provided by solar or anything else is not displaced.
            Until we are 100% that’s how it works, any gap which renewables don’t fill is filled by fossil/nuclear, his power large or small takes a piece of the pie, whether the distributor is financially separate or not it’s all one big grid feed with lateral transactions.

          • Except I haven’t said a word about his car being powered PV. You seem to be having hallucinations about what is right in front of you. Tell me exactly what you think I wrote which is ‘unsound’. What you wrote is borderline incoherent.

            Neither I nor he wrote anything about there being zero GHG emissions. But there are less GHG emissions both from driving on electricity instead of gasoline and from having a proportion of renewable energy in the grid mix. Can you understand both of those?

            And you might want to learn about peaker plants. Power plants do not all sit around running at 100% capacity 24 hours a day. That’s just not the way the grid works.

          • You replied to my reply to steven, in which he was insinuating using only the electric battery was sound and would rest upon the renewable end of the power sector.
            I was explaining to you that fossil/nuclear adjust to lacking renewable, where in that do you assume I think they run at 100% capacity 24hrs a day. I go to these power plants daily, see them wind up, wind down, do repairs, change load? Who are you educating? Not me surely. I was explaining that exact point within the context of supplementing renewable and how PV easing power draw doesn’t make it free but displaced from other functions within the grid… Anyways, We’re done communicating as it’s evident you don’t know how to have a discussion without being Smug as hell and condescending, even while being inaccurate, which I must say doesn’t look good of you or directed towards me.

          • Ah . . . so you reveal your vested interested in fossil fuels. No wonder renewables make you so mad.

          • LoL troll, I’m so anti fossil it’s not even funny. Just one of dozens of industries I deal with.

          • ” he was insinuating using only the electric battery was sound and would rest upon the renewable end of the power sector.” . . . he said no such thing. He said “With renewables growing in most states CHG emissions should gradually drop every year.” and that is true. The GHG emissions ARE dropping as we shift away from coal and more to solar PV, onshore wind, and natural gas.

          • Who said their Volt is powered by PV?

          • Has someone pointed out the fact that when the Volt is running on electricity there is an oil well and a refinery and a gas station using less electricity?

            A kWh used by a PHEV or EV frees up some portion of a kWh that would have been used to get oil from under the ground to a fuel tank. The PHEV/EV load is only a partial increase in demand.

          • You said “Til then, each kWh will use 1.05lb of coal.”

            That was a LIE. He told you he lived in California and you just spewed a lie since you had no basis to make that statement.

    • In your state, over 30% of Volt drivers deploy solar panels.

        • True, the numbers I saw for Tesla owners was approaching 50% – at one point in time anyway.

    • Feels good, doesn’t it?

    • California grid is actually a lot greener than the official renewables numbers suggest. The state has a lot of old hydro plants, that aren’t counted as renewables, a still a decent amount of Nuclear. Figue about 50% natural gas powered, and 50% renewables plus nukes. LA is still importing some coal power, but that will be over in a couple of years.
      Even on pure coal electrcity EVs still are less carbon intensive than ICE cars.

      • Yes, it is cleaner than the numbers indicate. For example, the 20% RPS goal does NOT include small residential/commercial rooftop solar PV. The RPS only covers what is generated by the utilities themselves with wind farms, utility scale solar PV, the big CSP plants, hydropower, geothermal, etc.

  • I realize this article is mainly about emissions but my motivation for buying a Volt was to avoid supporting big oil any way possible and this works for me. Although over the last 14 months I did (sadly) have to buy about 15 gal of gas but I also have 4 gal. left if the tank. I love my Volt!

    • I’m all for not supporting big oil which is often fueling global conflicts. Coal isn’t a solution though..

      • Then why do YOU keep bringing up coal? Coal is dead. We don’t need it with solar PV, onshore wind, geothermal, nuclear, offshore wind, CSP, hydropower, natural gas, tidal, biomass, etc.

  • This is quite credible. In addition to a bigger battery than the Prius say, the architecture is different, As I understand it, a Prius engine drives the wheels directly when in use. The Volt engine is a pure battery recharger, and the drive power to the wheels is always electric. So the Volt engine can be optimised to run at its best speed and load all the time, with lower pollution.

    • That is true, but the Prius also uses 0 coal so the optimised generation is beyond negated.
      The Prius also has a 6x smaller battery made with rarer metals to compensate for this less consistant electric transfer rate. But being fully regeneratively fueled tips the scale by a wide margin of greeness.

      • Regenerative fuel in a Prius is from kinetic energy that is 100% derived from gasoline. 30% of Volts in California have their EV miles offset by PV panels. Refining and delivery of a gallon of gasoline takes about 5kWh of energy which the Prius must use each time it reaches 30 MPH. Refining gasoline takes billions of kWh of electricity, requiring a fair share of coal for gas driven vehicles. Including the Prius.

        That 5kWh of energy could be used by the Volt to travel 15 miles, before the Volt driver had to touch a drop of gas. On average 75% of drivers go less than 40 miles per day, meaning most drivers with Volts would make 75% of their trips without using a drop of gas.

        • Offsetting doesn’t change a thing, it’s power that could be re-purposed for serving other functions. I doubt many of them power their house and their Volt on pure PV.

          If said Volt owners only need the 40 miles of transit, I guess they don’t need an engine, so there’s another 30% efficiency by getting a MiEV or Leaf.

          • It changes a lot. A gas motor is 22% efficient, and an electric one 95%. Much of the wasted energy use in the economy is from transport. See EIA figures. Converting to PV offset for transport is not only cleaner, but takes a huge amount of the wasted BTUs out of the energy supply system.

          • If the PV purchase follows the Volt purchase I can see your point, but that’s a lot of damn money.

          • Initially yes. Very few will even try it. But that is the unfortunate part of having fewer resources. The people who do it, the early adopters, will lower their energy costs drastically. And generally within 4 to 7 years they will be even farther ahead financially…if they took advantage of low interest loans, they’ll be ahead in money out of pocket from the first month on, from lowering monthly energy bills.

          • Yep.. And what does a top heavy society do for overall efficiency as the butter get spread thinner on the rest?
            Economics is all one big pool, a drop into one pond is a loss to the other.

          • Statistically 1% owns it all, and 99% fight for what’s left over. What motivates them to be more efficient?

          • Less than 1% 😉
            The monopoly game’s to and fro is the real enemy of Humanity and nature, we speed towards a wall.
            We compromise our future for a culture of Erase and Replace, chasing our tails exhausting our resources, depleting, self defeating.
            It won’t yield til it’s on it’s back, which more than likely will be before 2070, so all of our half measures like the volt will do little more than leave complex/toxic materials for breakdown.
            We got desertification, ocean salinity compromises, radiation which won’t dissipate for 1,000s of years, a bloated atmosphere which will bake us, etc etc.
            I honestly think by 2022 we’ll have a global famine scare which will form desperation exasperating the whole problem.
            We got 3 ft of hail in Bolivia, 201inches of snow in 18 hrs in Italy, the natural cycles are starting to buckle, we have a solar minimum trend which should last another 8 years downward and 9 back upward to the norm and I’m not sure we’ll reach it’s end with over 7 billion people. I prefer to keep optimistic due to the fact we’ve made it this far against all odds but the math says otherwise..

          • Big questions.

          • With huge answers.

          • Well we can stay optimistic, but if we (mankind) do not change it will be game over! :((
            Now if we can most other people on our plant to learn that it will be the first step into the right direction!


          • The Prius engine is claimed to be 34% efficient. But of course a lot of energy is consumed drilling/transporting/ and refining the oil to make the gasoline too. Well to wheels efficiency is a lot lower than gastank to wheels efficiency.

          • The Prius pioneered using electricity in passenger vehicles. And has likely saved many billions of gallons of gasoline. However, that is max test efficiency. Not even close to average on-the-road numbers.

  • Wow, this site has a LOT of advertising, and especially analytics programs / scripts running. There are 34 things running when you load this page.

    You can change that to as little as ONE (disqus for comments) if you install Firefox / Chrome, and get the Ghostery addon!

    Really good stuff.

    • You can, but remember this site depends on advertising.

      Now you’ll no doubt say that since you don’t click on those adverts anyway, you don’t cost CT anything. But that’s false: many online advertisers pay per 1000 views, not per click.

      Perhaps CleanTechnica should offer an advert-free version of the site for paying subscribers though. I fully understand why one would want to install NoScript, Ghostery or a similar selective script blocker.

      • You’ve made an excellent point.

        I’ll allow just the adverts then but block all the analytics!
        Thanks for replying!

  • GM really knocked it out of the park with their first effort and the Volt does not get nearly the respect and sales that it deserves. They need to put the tech into bigger cars. Ford, Honda, BMW, Toyota, and others have built crap PHEVs with too short ranges.

    I cannot for the life of me understand why everyone doesn’t put at least 16KWH into their PHEVs at least as an option. The government will pay for that big of battery with the tax-credit!!!!

    • I think they tried to optimize the overall economic performance when they designed them. I think the greatly underestimated how quickly traction battery costs would drop, so a correct tradeoff today would be to have larger batteries than we are getting. I suspect the sweet spot is closer to 10KWhours than 16 even today.

      • Yet they went to 18 for 2016 – silly GM!

  • So all this spin and fancy graphs to come to one fascinating revelation:

    Burning less gasoline ==> less pollution.

    … Who would have thought?

    • Well energy efficiency does pay for itself, in several ways, in every aspect of our lives. 🙂


    • It needs to be remembered that more cars produced = more pollution.

      Manufacturing a car is so energy intensive that some ICE cars have just as much CO2 output during their construction as they do during their lifetime on the road.

      • I look at it as, more cars driven = more pollution. The distinction is important in looking at plug-ins and high mileage cars as replacements for older cars. If you look at the fleet mileage, some cars do much more of the driving, accumulating the bulk of the fleets miles. Those should be the focus.

        How many of the cars considered on-the-road are really part of collections (granpas old commodore that is rarely driven), weekend drivers and up on blocks in someones front yard even?

        • We need to melt down those old cars. Turn them into materials we can use for construction, save on mining pollution.
          Nothing prior to 1970 should be street legal unless it’s engine has been made to achieve over 20mpg and meet emissions standards.

          • Why would we melt down the ones that are serving as lawn ornaments, garage keepsakes and museum pieces?

          • So functional right 😛

      • Mr L0g1c, we partner to conquer ignorance abroad.
        Rationality United

        • And the bar chart shows the Nissan Leaf still having 60% of the carbon footprint of an ICEV, kind of proves my point.

          Ride a bicycle or an electric bike = massive CO2 savings.

          Electric motorbikes had come a long way last time I looked.

  • I read discussions here and I notice that people do not understand that if you are charging the batteries of the car after midnight (example 0:00h-5:00) you might be using kW hours from dirty coal, but you are not contributing extra coal burning and emissions. They can not lower the parameters of the coal and nuclear power plants for several hours and increase thrum quickly in the morning. (Natural gas is different.) Somebody has to make use of this excess in a way to prevent another pollution (for instance to prevent burning gasoline).
    The problem is that with the flat electricity rate most people have (as it is here) a wrong impression is created that all kWh are the same in all aspects. If the people are paying more-realistic time-of-day multiple rates, they will feel the difference. It could be the best to have your PV system, but to charge the car after midnight and to pump energy back to the grid during the day, when it is needed at many other places.
    The power companies are complaining that the PV households are “feeding back”, but this is not their real problem – it is a way of saying (euphemism) that the net kWh consumption is falling. Secretly the power companies must be glad to get kWh during the day and sell them after midnight at the same price.
    Somebody might ask what happens when the boiler if the coal power plant is burning coal in the same way, but less power is sent to the grid? There is only one physically possible explanation – more heat is being dumped through the cooling towers.

  • According to EPA range and Battery size Specification;
    Volt 2.222repeating mile/kWh
    Tesla Model S 3.117
    Nissan Leaf 3.5
    MiEV 3.875
    It takes  .8-1.05Lb of coal per kWh
    So now let’s take that into a comparison to drive 50miles in each.
    50 miles in a Volt requires 22.5 kWh according to the 17.1 kWh 38mile range, 18 pounds of coal.
    50 miles in the MiEV requires 12.9 kWh according to the 16kWh 62mile range, 10.32 pounds of coal.

    • “50 miles in a Volt requires 22.5 kWh according to the 17.1 kWh 38mile range, 18 pounds of coal.”

      The Volt uses 10.8 kWh of it’s 16.5 kWh pack, with 38 miles of range for the 2013 MY.

      • I put 100% on coal/fossil/nuclear. If the power isn’t surplus non-renewables is making up for what renewables lack, it’s all lateral.
        Till 100% renewable, added demand goes straight to the plants that wind up and down to meet demand, which are fossil/nuclear.
        Also with my math on the 50miles,18lbs of coal, that not accounting for the transfers losses between the plant to the house, and battery intake rate, which amount to a 15-20% loss in efficiency in the transition.

        • That is a remarkably interesting paragraph!

          • Sarcasm? Meh.

    • “The truth is it’s best efficiency is through gasoline charging, 33.7kWh per Gallon of premium gasoline(so they say), multiply that by the 2.222 miles/kWh and you get 74.8mpg.In reality gas generation to charge the battery is it’s most ecological way to use the Volt.”

      With what you have read above, 5 kWh of energy to refine and deliver gas, over 30% of Ca Volt drivers deploy solar panels, 39% of US electricity, and falling, is from coal – that comment seems to border on insanity, LOL!

      Why is it that putting a windmill in front of a BEV won’t get the driver greater miles? The same perpetual motion idea that spinning a gas generator to run a PHEV is more efficient? Energy from the mains will always beat the energy from gas for efficiency.

      In any case, your primary efficiency numbers are off, see below.

  • Speculation – yes.

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