37 MPG in Gasoline Mode, 60 MPG CompositeLast week it was the Nissan LEAF's turn to get its EPA sticker, and now it's the Chevrolet Volt. GM's plug-in hybrid is officially rated at 93 MPG-equivalent in electric mode and 37 MPG in gasoline mode, for a composite number of 60 MPG. But that number doesn't mean much, since so much will depend on usage (short trips or long trips, how often you recharge, etc).
Photo: Public domain
My criticism of this approach for the LEAF still applies to the Volt:
The problem with this approach is that while a gallon of gasoline is a gallon of gasoline (depending on the source, the impact can be higher or lower, but there's still a clear range), the electricity used to charge the LEAF's battery can come from a wide variety of sources with a HUGE range of environmental impacts. If the LEAF is charged from a coal plant, it might not be much better than a gasoline car (and maybe even worse if it's a very old and inefficient coal plant), but if it's charged from wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, etc, the impact from each mile driven could be extremely small.
This just highlights how it's important to electrify transportation and clean up the power grid at the same time. One without the other is good, but not sufficient. It's even better to walk, bike, or take transit, but as long as there are cars around, they might as well run on clean electricity rather than dirty fossil fuels.
The difference is that in this case, we're talking about a plug-in hybrid, so the difference in impact can potentially be even higher than with a purely electric vehicle. Some people might almost never do trips that are long enough for the gas engine to turn on, while others might do these types of trips daily.
Via EPA, ABG
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