So we all know that GM is calling the Chevy Volt an extend-range electric vehicle. But that sort of glosses over the point that there is an internal combustion engine which does indeed use gasoline.
I just came across this article on US News:
General Motors and the Environmental Protection Agency have apparently begun an argument over just what, exactly, GM's upcoming plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt is. The point isn't just academic -- it could determine whether the Volt receives a jaw-dropping EPA rating of over 100 mpg -- -- making it by far the most fuel-efficient car sold by a major automaker -- or a rather Prius-like 48 mpg.
GM considers the Chevy Volt an electric car. The EPA wants to classify it as a hybrid.
PC Magazine explains, "Its drivetrain is entirely electric, since the companion gas engine powers a generator, not the car itself. The Volt is not a hybrid in the usual sense, in other words. GM claims it can run 40 miles before the gas engine even kicks in."
The car uses its batteries to provide most of its power, activating the electric generator only when they are depleted to a certain point. According to GM-Volt.com, "The car is designed to arrive to destination at roughly 30%-35% of the battery's state of charge."
According to Motor Trend, "Reports suggest the Volt can make it through the EPA test cycle -- which from 2008 includes high speed running, air conditioning load, and cold start tests in addition to the city and highway cycles -- with the internal combustion engine running about 15 percent of the time." That result would give the Volt "an EPA fuel consumption rating somewhere north of 100mpg. But the EPA apparently wants to certify the Volt differently." Because it includes a gasoline engine, the EPA considers the Volt a hybrid -- even though that gasoline engine doesn't power the transmission, acting only as a generator. EPA hybrid testing rules require that the cars finish the full suite of tests with their batteries fully charged -- not at the 30 percent the Volt is designed to retain at the end of most drives. If the Volt were required to finish the tests with its battery fully charged, its fuel consumption rate would instead be "just under 48mpg, because the internal combustion engine would have to be run essentially all the time to keep the batteries near full charge." (More at US News)
So what is it? Electric car or plug-in hybrid?