Chevy Volt Uses Combustion Engine to Drive Wheels… So What?

The speed at which people latch on to a story via the Internet never ceases to amaze me. This week’s automotive outrage once again revolves around the Chevy Volt. Apparently the car community is all aflutter because GM “lied” about the Volt. Every blogger and auto journalist is shocked, shocked that a company like GM may have withheld pertinent information about how the Volt works up until the metaphorical last minute.

So what did GM lie about? Well apparently, the range-extending internal combustion engine on the Chevy Volt can, at speeds over 70 mph, “assist” in powering the front wheels of the Volt. OH NO THE END IS NIGH.

First off, that any massive corporation deliberately left out information about a product should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, GM is the same company that promised us “230 MPG.” Also, at no point could the Chevy Volt be considered in any way an electric vehicle, at least in this writer’s eyes. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it has potential… but it has a gas-powered engine that charges the battery pack. It also has a 25-50 mile range on electric power. Basically, this is a $40,000 scooter with four wheels if you removed the ICE engine. GM did a better job with the EV1… which it also barely marketed and basically lied about up until they day they confiscated and crushed almost all of them.

Yes, I know, GM has again and again said the the combustion engine on the won’t power the wheels, and that this was an electric vehicle—including comments like “all-electrically driven vehicle” and that there is “no mechanical connection linkage from the engine, through the drive unit to the wheels.” The gas engine apparently only kicks in at speeds upwards of 70 mph after the battery is depleted. Again, I ask, so what? Ultimately, consumers will decide whether or not the Volt succeeds in the marketplace. GM has shot themselves in the foot around every turn with this car, and yet it is still coming to market. At this point, if GM told me the combustion engine was actually powered by gerbils, I wouldn’t be surprised.

This late in the game, the Volt has a lot of shortcomings to overcome if it is going to succeed. A high-price, horrendous marketing (again, the 230 mpg claim comes to mind), and a tight-lipped GM who still won’t reveal MPG figures (though we’re getting reports somewhere in the 30’s… not very impressive) all mean that, just a month or so away from launch, we still don’t know everything there is to know about the Volt. It has so much to overcome, that this is small-potatoes compared with the rest of the issues with the Volt.

I just refuse to get upset that GM lied again. This is the company that lied itself into a financial hole and bankruptcy, that made parts designed to fall apart after a certain amount of miles… and a company that can still build great cars despite itself. Chevy has sold well over 100,000 Camaros to date despite a non-existent ad campaign. It is a great car. Can the Volt be a great car too?

The most important question of all though is will consumers buy it? At this point, the LEAF seems to make a lot more economical sense, and GM isn’t making a compelling argument to me to buy the Volt. And I tend to strongly side with American car makers. That should tell you something right there.

Source: Edmunds Inside Line

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.