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GM Says Chevy Volt Will Get 230 MPG

General Motors claimed its Chevy Volt will get an incredible EPA-estimated 230 mpg in city driving, a marketing claim that GM CEO Fritz Henderson said will be a "game-changer" for GM.

The Chevy Volt goes on sale late next year. "Having a car that gets triple-digit fuel economy will be a game-changer for us," Henderson said in a press conference today.

Henderson said the EPA has drafted a proposed methodology for estimating mileage for cars like the Volt. That draft methodology includes driving on electric power alone, and also with the onboard gasoline engine running, Henderson said.

GM based its 230-mpg figure on the proposed EPA methodology. Henderson insisted that it's a realistic estimate. The EPA has been criticized in the past for coming up with unrealistic estimates for real-world gas mileage.

GM has been running teaser advertising anonymously with the number "230," plus today's date. The zero in the "230" is a smiling electrical outlet.

Properly speaking, the Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle, which is to say it is always driven by electric power. For the first 40 miles, the Volt can run on stored battery power alone. When the battery gets depleted, the gasoline engine kicks in, acting like a generator to recharge the battery. But even then, the car still runs only on battery power.

In contrast, today's hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, run off battery power; off a gasoline engine; or both. The gasoline engine sometimes serves to drive the car, and it is also the only way to recharge the battery.

The Volt, which is often referred to as a plug-in hybrid, is different. It can also be recharged by plugging it into ordinary household-type current. Henderson said it could be recharged overnight at off-peak electricity rates for only about 40 cents.

In response to a question, Henderson acknowledged the Volt will be expensive for a relatively small car, because it's a first-generation EREV. His questioner speculated that the Volt would cost at least $40,000. Henderson would not confirm a price for the Volt. He said the price will be set much closer to market launch.

Photo: edmunds.com