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Chevy Volt: Fact vs. Fiction

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Chevy Volt: Fact vs. Fiction



Just days before the Chevrolet Volt launches, the high-profile electric car remains a mystery to many. Despite intense media coverage, there's confusion and misinformation about everything from how the Volt works to why General Motors is building it.

That's not good for a vehicle that must prove it's not a gimmick if it's to meet its objective to become an icon and transform the image of GM.

There are several reasons for the confusion.

The Volt is the first of its kind. General Motors has done a poor job of explaining how it works. Some people are skeptical that a company that built a lot of lousy cars can deliver a revolutionary vehicle. Others are attacking the Volt and GM to score political points against President Barack Obama.

Here's a reality check on some of what's been said about the Chevrolet Volt.

MYTH: It can only go 40 miles.

Reality: The Volt's battery will carry it 40 miles or so. Beyond that, the car keeps going because a gasoline-powered generator makes more electricity. That makes the Volt the only electric vehicle that can go as far as a conventional car -- 350 miles or so -- before refueling.

MYTH: If some drivers get less than 40 miles from a battery charge, the Volt is a fraud.

Reality: Just as with gasoline cars, driving style, weather and other variables affect fuel efficiency. I've driven fully charged Volts three times. The battery took me 40, 46 and 35 miles. After that, the generator turned on and the car kept going.

MYTH: It won't work in really hot or cold weather.

Reality: Extreme temperatures may affect how far the batteries take the car before the generator starts, but neither heat nor cold will stop the Volt.

MYTH: It's just another hybrid.

Reality: The most advanced hybrids can go short distances at moderate speeds -- let's say a couple of miles at 20-40 m.p.h. -- on electric power alone. The Volt goes much farther and faster on electricity.

MYTH: It's too expensive.

Reality: Compared to what? There's nothing else like it. The Volt's $41,000 price tag is high, but a federal tax credit knocks $7,500 off that, and states may offer other incentives.

The Volt's lease price of $350 a month is just $1 more than Nissan will charge for its Leaf electric car, and the Leaf has no generator, so it's dead when the batteries are drained.

MYTH: The government forced GM to build it.

Reality: GM began work on the Volt in 2006, long before the financial crisis and the government assistance that saved the company. The presidential auto task force wanted GM to scrap the project, because the Volt won't make money for at least the first few years. GM convinced the government the technology was too important, and that the Volt had to go on.

MYTH: The batteries will die after eight years.

Reality: The warranty covers the batteries for eight years or 100,000 miles, but they should last much longer. Companies make sure parts -- especially expensive parts like batteries -- last well beyond the warranty, because it's really expensive when they miscalculate and have to eat repair and replacement costs. The batteries in the original Honda Insight hybrid still work after more than 10 years. The Volt's batteries should still have plenty of power after the warranty expires.

MYTH: The batteries are made in Korea.

Reality: The batteries are put together at a GM plant in Brownstown Township, between Telegraph Road and I-75 in suburban Detroit. The individual pieces are made in Korea now. That work moves to a new factory in western Michigan in 2013.



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