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2011 Chevrolet Volt Rated at 37, 60 and 93 Miles per Gallon

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author photo by Autotrader December 2010

That information sticker in the window of a 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be a little more involved than the stickers in most other cars. Because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is giving this compact, four-seater, plug-in-hybrid-with-an-onboard-internal-combustion-engine vehicle three separate miles per gallon ratings: 37, 60 and 93.

The first figure is the easiest to understand. It’s the mileage when using the Volt’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, whose primary function is to act as a generator for the electric powertrain but does actually have a connection to the driven wheels.

The last figure is not really about gasoline at all. This is a miles per gallon equivalent (mpg-e), something we should be seeing a lot more of as vehicles with alternative methods of propulsion reach the mainstream. In the Volt’s case, it returns the equivalent of 93 mpg while running solely on battery power.

The EPA has worked out that 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity is the equivalent of one gallon of gas (taking the burning of fossil fuels into account). Utility companies charge for electricity by the kilowatt hour (kWh), the average price being about 12 cents. Which works out to around $4 to cover 93 miles. But, according to the EPA, the Volt only has a range of 35 miles on battery power alone. After that, the engine kicks in, extending the range to 379 miles.

This brings us to our middle number of 60 mpg, the happy medium. It’s what the EPA expects the Volt to average out at when using both electricity and gas. But the story doesn’t end there.

The trouble is, the EPA cannot put “It all depends” on those stickers. “The range is variable on how you drive,” said Doug Parks, vehicle line executive responsible for the Volt. And he doesn’t just mean how heavy a driver’s right foot is.

One Volt owner may use the car for short commutes during the week and the occasional running of errands on the weekend, always charging the car at night. By doing so, that person may not need to visit a filling station for months on end – 93 miles at $4 is a definite possibility. Another owner may have to make frequent longer journeys, perhaps to visit parents in the next state, for example.

Even so, Chevrolet seems happy with the EPA’s numbers and the sticker data, especially since no other vehicle offers the same kind of technology at the moment. “The label helps customers understand the uniqueness of the Volt and how it applies to their routine,” said the project’s vehicle performance manager, Scott Miller.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2011 Chevrolet Volt Rated at 37, 60 and 93 Miles per Gallon - Autotrader