Get any good e-mails lately? Maybe a chain letter that alleges how pathetically expensive the Chevy Volt is supposed to be?

Well, there's one going around--it's called "Cost to operate a Chevy Volt"--and yesterday, the investigative site dived into the ugly politics around the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car to refute it.

These e-mails tend to ricochet around the country as they're CCed among friends and contacts--no matter how incorrect they may be, since few people ever fact-check.

In this case, the Volt cost e-mail is wildly, astoundingly incorrect. The math in it, in fact, is off by a factor of 10. Ten times!

No one in the U.S. pays $1.16 per kilowatt-hour, the number used by the e-mail. No one. If you're paying that sum, GreenCarReports will come and generate electricity for you

Instead, the average cost per kWh in the U.S. is less than 13 cents. It varies a lot, and some lucky folks in the Pacific Northwest (which has lots of hydro) pay as little as 3 cents per kWh.

But the comparative calculations in the letter simply don't add up. 

Snopes, which fact-checks and often debunks urban myths, chain e-mails, and popular cultural memes, smartly demolished the Volt-cost e-mail yesterday.

Its pithy conclusion:

According to the criteria used by the author of this item, rather than being a car that "costs more that 7 time as much to run and takes 3 times as long to drive across country than a gasoline-powered 4-cylinder car, the Volt costs about one-third less to run (in electric mode) and takes the same amount of time to drive across country.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

And there you have it.

Snopes' conclusion uses very conservative assumptions, and it still proves the e-mail wrong.

Some Volt owners routinely report gas mileage of more than 100 mpg--because they run more of their miles electrically.

And if their electricity costs notably less than the national average, their cost per electric mile can be as low as one-fifth the cost per gasoline mile.

GM felt the need to jump in and explain the math errors as well, on its VoltAge blog, though we think the Snopes piece is pithier and graphically easier to understand.

The e-mail stemmed from a segment aired two weeks ago by Fox Business reporter Eric Bolling. After watching it, we could only conclude that Eric Bolling doesn't understand how the Volt works--even after driving one for a week.

It appears, by the way, that Bolling and his cohorts on his Fox show, "The Five," continue to repeat the mantra, "The Volt broke down in the Lincoln Tunnel."

That's not true.

What happened is that the battery depleted and the engine seamlessly switched on to generate electricity to power the car. Unless a driver pays attention, the process is smooth enough that drivers may not even known it has just happened.

As electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton said at the time, it's remarkable that a news segment "could trash a car for working exactly as advertised."


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