Despite what GM wanted you to think when it first launched its brand new 2011 Chevrolet Volt, its four-seat extended range electric car or plug-in hybrid does consume gasoline. 

But it turns out that despite the protestations of dyed-in-the-wool electric vehicle advocates, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt isn’t just another gas-guzzler. 

According to data collected by the largest U.S. automaker from its early adopters, an average Volt drives up to 1,000 miles before it needs to visit the gas station. 

Given that the $41,000 car only has a gas tank big enough to provide around 344 miles of additional driving after the 35 mile electric battery pack has drained, we’re lead to one simple conclusion. 

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

Volt drivers are plugging in rather more often than we thought they might. 

A whole lot more. In fact, for every mile of gasoline assisted travel, the early adopters of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt are driving between 1.5 and 2.5 times further on electric. 

It’s hardly surprising though: with gasoline well over $4 a gallon in most areas drivers are trying to find the most cost-effective way to drive their expensive mid-size sedan. 

If that sedan happens to have a plug, there’s no competition. After all, with level 2 charge stations popping up in major metropolises everywhere from New York to Oregon and and only a shade over 2,100 plug-in cars sold since December, there’s hardly an issue finding a spare place to charge in the key rollout areas. 

2011 Chevrolet Volt EPA sticker

2011 Chevrolet Volt EPA sticker

Will this pattern continue? 

It’s tough to say. Right now, those buying the plug-in car are early adopters who understand the technology and are drawn to its features and drivetrain mix. 

As the Volt becomes more mainstream we don’t expect much of a change. After all, if GM’s initial findings are anything to go by most trips will continue to be well within the 35 mile EPA-rated range of the Volt. 

If anything, we’d expect the distance driven between gasoline fill ups to increase, as oil prices soar and owners try to make every last mile possible on electric power. 

At that point, expect hundreds of hard core electric vehicle advocates to realize one simple thing: like it or not, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is turning a whole section of the gasoline-guzzling population electric.

[GM via Bloomberg]