Posted 09.14.2009 in Articles by Christopher
The Chevy Volt's "series" approach to gasoline-electric hybrid power allows it to claim an astounding 230 miles per gallon. Although the figure does not include the cost of the electricity used to travel the first 40 miles of every trip, GM's fair and accurate modeling of the real-world conditions in which the car will be driven showcase the merit of electric-only propulsion capability rather dramatically: A typical driver will put 230 miles on the vehicle before a full gallon of gasoline is burned.
Putting aside the environmental advantages of being able to use hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, tidal and other renewable sources to power personal transportation instead of burning gasoline, the more immediate economic argument trumps almost all others. Cars that don't burn oil-based fuels don't contribute to the United States' catastrophic $324 billion annual balance of trade deficit. One of the most fundamentally unsustainable facts of our economy is that each year, almost two trillion dollars are spent overseas, $324 billion more than other countries spend in the US. Oil imports, primarily from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, make up approximately half of the import trade imbalance. Renowned investor Warren Buffett has observed "The U.S trade deficit is a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt..."
As the economic near-cataclysm in 2008 demonstrated, gravity may only be defied for a short period of time. Smiling as you drive past the pumps is not just a matter of personal frugality, or of environmental consciousness, but a national economic and security imperative.
Current generation hybrids like the Toyota Prius will get you off the starting line on electric power, but the Chevy Volt will get you all the way across town and back home to the electricity socket, whose product is primarily domestically produced.
G.M. cites Transportation Department data showing that approximately 75% of Americans drive less than 40 miles a day. Because the Volt can travel 40 miles on a daily charge, most Volt drivers will travel exclusively on electric power. But even if a commute is 50 miles, the Volt will still only travel 10 of those miles using gasoline.
The Volt's propulsion system is unlike other current commercially available electric hybrids. The actual locomotion of the Volt is accomplished exclusively by the electric motor. The gasoline engine never actually propels the car. It is used solely as an on-board generator which sends power to the electric motor and charges the batteries simultaneously. The efficiency of a genset, running at an optimum fixed RPM gives the Volt a range of as much as 640 miles on a single tank of gasoline.
The Volt's well-engineered power train also delivers an uncompromizing zero to sixty in 8 seconds and a top speed of 120 mph.
Warren Buffett quoted in the Associated Press January 20, 2006