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GM awaits fuel ratings on Volt

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GM awaits fuel ratings on Volt

Talks between automaker, EPA continue; final mpg decision expected by year's end

David Shepardson / The Detroit News

Traverse City -- General Motors Co. is anxiously awaiting how the government will rate the fuel economy on its extended-range Chevrolet Volt, which goes on sale late this year.

GM said it is still in talks with the EPA about the final fuel economy ratings for the vehicle that will run on both battery power and a gasoline engine. The automaker expects a final rating later this year, before the Volt goes on sale.

GM said last summer that it expected to label the Volt with a 230 mpg city rating and even launched a website touting that number.

But Larry Nitz, GM's executive director for hybrid and electric powertrain engineering, said Tuesday that the company no longer is planning on that figure.

"It will never show up on the label," Nitz told reporters on the sidelines of the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars annual meeting here.

GM has submitted a confidential rating proposal to the EPA, but Nitz declined to disclose it.

"The (EPA) is not close to finalizing the label. They say the end of the year, but that's the general label. What they've agreed to is to work with us on a specific label" for the Volt, he said.

The EPA said it may release a draft proposal this month on calculating plug-in electric vehicle fuel economy ratings, but might not finalize it until year's end.

GM wants to make sure drivers get the most out of the vehicle, taking full advantage of its electric power.

"Let me put it simply: If you don't have a way to plug in this vehicle, don't buy it," Nitz said.

The Volt will get up to 40 miles on a single battery charge, and a gasoline engine that generates electricity adds another 300 miles of range to the vehicle.

The vehicle's $41,000 price tag raised some eyebrows at a panel discussion Tuesday.

Barb Samardzich, Ford Motor Co.'s vice president for global powertrain, questioned its affordability and said the Volt was a "small volume exercise."

"We want to be able to provide a solution that works for all of our customers, and at $40,000 or $41,000, you are taking a lot of customers out of that equation," Samardzich said.

GM isn't worried about those who criticize its price -- and notes it is also offering a $350-a-month lease -- nearly on par with Nissan Motor Co.'s electric Leaf.

"We think that there will be a plentiful supply of customers at that price," Nitz said. "We're not selling 2 million of these things."

Nitz noted that GM will expand production volume in 2012 from 30,000 to 45,000 Volt vehicles.

Nitz took some shots at the Volt's chief rival, the Nissan Leaf, which is $8,000 cheaper and will have up to a 100-mile range on battery power.

The Leaf doesn't have a gasoline engine, so a driver with a dead battery can't quickly extend the range.

"(The Volt) is a practical EV for America," Nitz said.

"The idea that I could come from work and I got a sick kid I can't take to the doctor because I need to plug the damn thing in just doesn't play in this country, I'll tell you that right now," Nitz said. "We live in a drive-through society that has to have flexibility."

Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary said more than 90 percent of all drivers travel less than 100 miles a day -- the Leaf's range -- and she noted the intense interest in the Leaf, with more than 17,000 people reserving a vehicle with a $99 deposit.

She declined to criticize the Volt, saying the companies opted to build different vehicles.

Zachary said Nissan also is waiting for a rating from EPA. That's more difficult since it uses no gasoline at all.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100804/AUTO01/8040320/1148/auto01/GM-awaits-fuel-ratings-on-Volt#ixzz0vdxN1tsu

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