Chevy Downsizes Volt's Gas Tank, Range, Expectations

Posted: July 9, 2008

General Motors has a lot riding on the Chevy Volt, the brand's highly-anticipated midsize hybrid car.  Accordingly, the General has kept the automotive press informed of every change in the Volt's engineering (currently a hybrid, probably a plug-in hybrid by 2011), its production schedule (they're planning to sell it as a 2010, but might have the first model ready for their 100th anniversary celebration in September), its price ($40,000, perhaps less if they can talk Congress into tax breaks).  Usually, GM sends us good news.  Today, though, they're making an effort to lower expectations.

Kicking Tires reports, "General Motors has downsized plans to equip the Chevy Volt plug-in electric car with a 12-gallon fuel tank. The original idea was to give the vehicle an extra 600-mile driving range once the lithium-ion battery pack ran out of its initial charge."  Today, GM engineers admitted they've had to shrink the tank, and with it, that remarkable driving range. "GM won't say exactly how many gallons it will now hold, other than a source saying, 'We're working on that.'"  They will say "The target now is to travel 360 miles after the initial charge wears off rather than 600."

Autoblog Green notes that the move may actually increase the car's mpg rating.  "While the aerodynamics of the Volt have proven to be much more important than weight when it comes to increasing the miles per gallon number, every bit counts."

The move probably won't affect most Volt buyers at all.  Most cars travel fewer than 40 miles each day, and are never too far from a gas station, so while a 600 mile range is impressive on paper, there's not much point in it.  Most potential Volt owners would probably rather save the weight and increase the mileage. 

This does, however, mark the first time GM has sought to lower expectations about the high-tech car many hope will save the struggling automaker.  Let's hope the next big update doesn't tell us the ejection seats or the invisibility setting have been cancelled.

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