Volt Fuel Economy A Rather Unique Beast

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), having recently rated the Nissan Leaf with a 99 MPG equivalent rating, has now released the official fuel economy information for the other hot green car of the moment. The Chevy Volt from GM gets 93 MPG, or is it 37 MPG? Huh? Which is it? Oh wait, what about this 60 MPG number?

Unlike the Leaf’s straight up rating, which is devised upon the fact the vehicle is all electric, the Volt’s case is a little different. As Wired explains, the Volt runs on electricity only for the first 35 miles or so but, as has been a matter of contention among some, “when the 16-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery runs down, a 1.4-liter gasoline engine drives a generator to keep juice flowing to the wheels.” That is therein where the difficulty lies in how to compare this vehicle to others, though many compare it to a type of plug-in hybrid if you must be technical about it.

Chevy Volt MPG

image via GM

In electric mode, the Volt is rated by the EPA as getting 93 miles per gallon equivalent, which puts it under the Leaf’s 99 MPG equivalent. Once over the first 35 miles, and for the remainder of the estimated 379 mile range when in extended mode, the vehicle drops to a decent but regular old 37 MPG. This certainly puts it above many other cars in America, but still under the likes of a Prius hybrid in terms of traditional gas driven vehicles (even though the Volt doesn’t entirely fit into that type of category). Also, if you consider it against other compact cars, and other vehicles in general, it gets a 60 MPG equivalent “combined composite,” which refers to a “blend of electric and range extended driving.”

Confusing? Yes, we agree.

GM said that, since this vehicle works quite like no other car before, it had to work with the EPA to “design a new label to help consumers understand what to expect when they drive the Volt.  Before plug-in cars like the Volt, calculating fuel economy was simply a matter of filling the tank with fuel, driving the vehicle and dividing the distance by the amount of fuel consumed.”

Does all of this technical stuff really matter to you, the would be Volt driver, at the end of the day? Probably not. The car looks to get great mileage when in electric only mode and still good mileage after the fact. The point of the matter is this: it is still greener than most cars on the road today, which is what you are after probably, along with good fuel economy, if you are considering this ride.

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I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.