Is Chevrolet ashamed of their new plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle? Their marketing slogan is “More car than electric.” It seems an odd way to sell a car to people interested in buying an electric vehicle.

Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt is a powerful, stylish sports car. Clearly they opted for performance over energy efficiency. “More muscle than milage.”

The company caused quite a stir last summer when they claimed the Volt would get 230 mpg“More hype than hurrah.” They will be revising that number downwards, with guidance from the EPA, which is working on a method of calculating milage on hybrid-electrics to provide more realistic numbers for the average consumer.

Popular Mechanics’ testing leads them to conclude the car gets an “unremarkable” 31.6 city /36.0 highway mpg. That includes the overnight charging to top off the batteries for the next day’s drive. PM’s tests demonstrated the car could go, on average, only 33 miles all-electric before the gas engine kicks in. The car weighs in at 3790 pounds, which may be part of the problem. “More weight than wattage.”

By way of comparison, check out Grist’s test drive of the Nissan Leaf, a zero-emission all-electric car with a compact light-weight body made mostly of recycled water bottles. The Leaf reportedly has a range of about 100 miles. All-electric is the way to go if you really want to help move the U.S. towards energy independence. Unless you install solar panels on your garage, much of that electricity will come from burning coal.

At 14¢ per Kwh, running your car on coal rather than oil is way less expensive. Say you get the Leaf’s 100 mile range, and let’s guess you can do that on ~10 Kwh of electricity. That’s $1.40 for electricity, compared to the Volt’s $7.50 for gas. Do that every day for a year and the Leaf saves you $2,227 over the Volt. Do that for ten years and you’ve saved up enough cash to put the solar panels on your garage and power your all-electric with free all-solar power from the Sun. “More sustainable than coal or gas.”

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