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The Volt's gasoline capacity is being cut back

The Chevy Volt plug-in electric car from GM is one of the most desired new cars coming to the market.  Everyone is talking about the car's stylish design and relatively affordable price tag of around $40,000; not bad compared to past electric cars totaling over $100,000 like the Tesla Roadster.  With sales planned to commence in 2010 and with a production model possibly being unveiled later this year, the buzz surrounding the new vehicle is intense.

One fact many people didn't know is that while the Volt is an electric car, relying first on charge, it also sports hybrid capabilities.  It features a 12 gallon gas tank, which will only kick in after the lithium-ion battery charge is depleted.  This could take the car 600 miles, thanks to an impressive 50 MPG projected fuel economy.

However, recent reports have revealed that GM, in a surprising development, has decided to cut down the fuel tank for the Volt.  They won't say what the new capacity will be, with the source only saying, "We're working on that." 

The original goal for the Volt was to equip it to drive 40 miles on a charge, without using any gas.  This goal remains, and appears to be within GM's reach.  Additionally, since 40 miles isn't long enough for road trips or longer business travels, GM planned on adding the gas tank.  The gas does not power a traditional engine, but rather a generator, which provides enough charge to keep going, and actually performs more efficiently than most gas-engines.

GM has revised the target range to 360 miles, which would seem to indicate a fuel tank of 7.2 gallons.  The reasoning behind the cut is research that cars, on average, travel less than 40 miles a day.  While GM wants to provide a comfortable extension to this range, it decided that 600 miles was a bit excessive.  Many older sedans don't get much more than 300 miles on a 12 gallon tank, so the new range seems relatively reasonable.

Jim Hossack, vice president of AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting firm states, "Most cars today have a range of more than 300 miles and less than 400 miles before refueling.  GM didn't need a longer range because most bladders can't go 600 miles.  By going with a smaller tank it means GM can take weight and price out and make Volt a little lighter and a little cheaper, and that's what you call making an improvement."

While GM's move should help it cut costs and cut down slightly on the weight of the vehicle, it may come as a disappointment for fans of ultra-long treks across the country.  Still, it is dubious that such minor gripes will be able to do anything to quell the PR frenzy surrounding the Volt.

At its price tag, even with possible subsidies, the Volt will likely fall into the luxury car class.  However, with its wild popularity and sleek looks, it seems likely to thrive in this class, or whatever class it may enter as prices drop.

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RE: Somewhat understandable
By JasonMick on 7/9/2008 11:12:33 AM , Rating: 5
You'd like this article:

Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 just to carry the additional weight of Americans, the federal agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

But in all seriousness, 360 mi +40 miles =400 mi range. That means if you were traveling at 60 mph, a pretty standard highway speed, you could drive for 6+ hours without refueling. To put that in context, that means if you leave at 6 AM, you have to stop at noon. Most people would anyways for lunch. Sure you could road warrior it with the former design and go for 10 hours (6 am till 4 pm) ... but how many people are really going to do that??

And if you don't want to stop for long, it takes about 5 or less minutes to fuel up, so what's the big deal?

Hopefully GM using the space savings wisely, though.

RE: Somewhat understandable
By othercents on 7/9/2008 11:39:15 AM , Rating: 2
Personally I would only put one or two gallons of gas into a Volt if I had one and rely on charging it every night. I also don't expect this vehicle to be the one I would use to drive across country. The only choice GM could make is allow for both tank options. Even without filling the tank up you still have the added weight of the metal for a larger tank. GM is working on making the dry weight of the vehicle as light as possible.


RE: Somewhat understandable
By Oregonian2 on 7/9/2008 2:23:51 PM , Rating: 3
GM is working on making the dry weight of the vehicle as light as possible.

Alternatively it gives a bit more room for the batteries (or whatever as they try to design a production version).

RE: Somewhat understandable
By 67STANG on 7/9/2008 12:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
Nice I was downrated for calling Americans chubby I suppose?

In all reality, who drives 60mph on the highway? In California, our highways are 70mph, and unless you do 80-85... you'll get run over. So, at 80mph you can drive at the most, 5 hours (assuming the 360mi isn't already including the 40mi electric range and that economy doesn't fall drastically at a speedier pace).

Not that big of a deal, but take my commute for example. I drive a Honda Accord 170mi per day round trip. I have to fill up every 1.5 days because the tank doesn't hold much fuel. On the weekends I put maybe 30mi putt putting around town.

I am no fan of GM, but I was actually hoping to get one of these specifically for their range. I could fill up twice a week instead of 3 or 4 times and run on electric all weekend around town. Now, the Volt is barely an upgrade in range over my Honda...

RE: Somewhat understandable
By Suomynona on 7/9/2008 12:19:58 PM , Rating: 5
A 170-mile commute is extremely rare. For the vast majority of people, this will be a benefit.

RE: Somewhat understandable
By Spuke on 7/9/2008 1:02:32 PM , Rating: 3
That is a fairly rare length of commute even for Californians. My commute is 60 miles so I would be running the gas engine on the way home. At 360 miles, it's not much more than my present car (330-350 miles) but I imagine that 40 miles of that is on electric.

At 7.2 gallons, it would only cost me $33 to fill up versus $55 now. I wouldn't buy it for me but my wife could sure use a car like that. The only problem is the car costs ~$40k and, at that price, my truck would be cheaper to operate even at the present price of gas.

RE: Somewhat understandable
By Jedi2155 on 7/10/2008 12:25:19 AM , Rating: 2
A lot more people than you think nowadays. I drive in SoCal for my commute (typically the 5,10,22,57,60,91,210 freeways) and I've noticed that pretty much all of them except for the 57 and more eastern parts of the 91 drive more less around 60-75.

I'm starting to notice a lot more drivers being more conscious of their speed as they've probably heard that speed affects their gas consumption and as result is slowing down. On the other hand....most drivers in the LA area don't really have choice with all the traffic....

I've spent a lot of my time on the road just examining the habits of drivers and I would wager that maybe 20% of the drivers at most consistently drive faster than 75 MPH, while most would just follow the speed of traffic than go significantly faster than it.

RE: Somewhat understandable
By kmmatney on 7/10/2008 2:19:02 AM , Rating: 2
That's pretty much why I don't want to live in Califrnia now, even though I grew up there for 25 years. Who wants to commute that far - I have a reasonable 8 mile commute in Colorado, as do many other people who live in other states.

RE: Somewhat understandable
By RU482 on 7/13/2008 2:48:42 AM , Rating: 2
So you want GM to design the car to accommodate the 5% (170mi/day commute) of the market you reside in? This will add cost and decrease electric range for the other 95% of us that have sub 50 mile/day commutes

RE: Somewhat understandable
By Some1ne on 7/9/2008 5:36:20 PM , Rating: 2
Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 just to carry the additional weight of Americans, the federal agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Those numbers are a bit sensationalist (and also they aren't adequately quantified, is it an extra 350 million gallons per year, or an extra 350 million gallons over the entire decade...I'm going to assume it's per year). To frame them in a different light, 350 million gallons of fuel is less than 2 gallons of gas per person in the U.S. (really it's closer to 1, but let's round up to 2 since not every person has their own car). So even at $5 per gallon, the smaller tanks are only saving each Volt owner $10 per year per 10 pounds of weight removed. Assuming each gallon of fuel weighs roughly 10 pounds, and that roughly 5 gallons are being removed, that's a net savings of < $50 per yer.

Personally, I'd rather have close to double the range than an extra $50. If you'd rather have the $50, you could always keep your 12 gallon tank only 7 gallons full.

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