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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Let the Electric Vehicle Bragging Begin

Chevy says its Volt users are getting 1,000 miles between fill-ups. Bring on the boasting: it’s good for the environment.

  • May 2, 2011

It’s been several months since the launch of the Chevrolet Volt, and so you know what that means: it’s time for bragging. Chevy has rounded up statistics of pleased Volt drivers who want us all to know how their electric car is performing. To be honest, though, the numbers are worth boasting over. In March, Volt owners got 1,000 miles between fill-ups, says Chevy. They only made one trip to the gas station all month long.

In the months prior, Volt drivers were reporting something on the order of 800 miles between fill-ups. It seems, now, that many users are challenging themselves to go as far as possible without having to make that trip to the gas station. “It’s become a game to achieve as many miles as I can in EV mode,” said a Volt owner in Boca Raton, Florida, named Steve Wojtanek. He reported 3,417 miles on the vehicle so far, of which 2,225 were done in EV mode. He’s getting something on the order of 122 miles per gallon. (OK, Steve, we get it!)

He wasn’t the only happy customer. Volt owner Gary David of Greenville, South Carolina, boasted about not having to visit the pump at all between January 9 and April 11. He’s getting 547 miles per gallon.

If the Chevy Volt is an EV, you might wonder, why does gas enter into the equation at all? Getting sufficient range has long been a barrier for the EV industry. Chevy got around this with the Volt, which it calls “an electric vehicle with extended range capability.” When the Volt’s battery is low, it can tap the gas tank to generate new electricity–for those days when drivers have to go on an extended trip. On a full battery and a tank of gas, though, the Volt gets decent range–379 miles before sputtering to a stop. Since most U.S. drivers only commute 40 or fewer miles, total, per day, it’s quite possible to use the Volt and almost never have to refuel.

Whether there’s an element of gloating or not here, it’s heartening to see EVs make good on their promises and for users to be enthusiastic about them. A spirit of competition may be exactly what’s needed to make electric cars go mainstream.

In that respect, the real face-off may not be between Gary David and Steve Wojtanek, say, but between Volt drivers and drivers of strict EVs like the Nissan Leaf, which don’t use gas at all. When the denominator becomes zero in the miles-per-gallon ratio, the equations look pretty different: the MPG on the Leaf, you might say, is infinity.

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