How badly does the public misunderstand the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car?
Pretty badly indeed, if the comments received by Volt owners are any indication.
2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]
Last week, we wrote that Chevrolet admits most consumers fail to comprehend how the Volt works, why any car with a 38-mile electric range could possibly be appealing, and so forth.
Now we've done an informal survey of Volt owners, to come up with the major misunderstands and rebut them.
Here are the top five things Volt owners hear that are just flat-out wrong.
(1) It runs out of charge and dies after 30 to 40 miles, leaving you stranded at the side of the road.
Nope. Once the battery pack is depleted, the range-extending engine kicks on to turn a generator that provides electricity to power the wheels for another 300 miles or so.
The confusion may reflect Chevy's inability to explain the "range-extended" part of the name--or its refusal to call the Volt a plug-in hybrid, which may be more easily understandable to car shoppers who already have some grasp of what a hybrid is.
2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012
(2) Owners have to replace the battery every three or four years.
Chevy warrants the Volt battery for 8 years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles (depending on the state it was sold in), and early indications seem to be that battery-capacity loss has been almost nonexistent.
It's worth noting here that GM's Voltec engineers took a very, very conservative approach to the battery, using less of its total capacity than in almost any other plug-in car.
They also equipped it with liquid cooling, a step that adds expense and some complication but probably offers the best possible way to keep the battery at the optimal temperature for long life.
(3) Recharging the battery costs the same as filling a gas tank--but every night--and will bring down the electric grid.
No and no. The average U.S. household pays 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, so recharging a Volt battery costs less than about $2 to go 35 or 40 miles--the equivalent of an 80-mpg car if gas costs $4 a gallon.
2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit
And electric utilities are quite confident in their ability to handle the slowly increasing draw from electric cars, especially if they're recharged overnight when power demand is lowest. They say the effect of electric cars will be far less disruptive to the grid than was the quick adoption of cheap home air-conditioning in the 1960s and 1970s.
(4) President Barack Obama forced General Motors to build the Volt and then subsidized each one with $7,500 of Federal tax credits.
This is one GM likely doesn't want to touch--but that doesn't make it any less wrong. In fact, Chevrolet showed the first Volt concept in 2007, and the company made the decision to build it well before Obama was elected.
Following GM's 2009 bankruptcy, in fact, the White House Auto Task Force tried hard to kill the project during the restructuring process, since it wouldn't make money for several years--if ever.
GM's then-product czar, Bob Lutz, fought hard (and successfully) to save the Volt on the grounds that the company needed a technology-driven halo car.
Finally, the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit was signed into law by Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush.
(5) "Government Motors."
To this one, all you can say is: Yep, that happened. Five years ago. Get over it.