GM Says Chevy Volt Will Require Premium Gas; Fuel Costs 10% More Than Regular

By Scott Doggett July 29, 2010

Chevy-Volt-in-front-of-steps.jpg

General Motors told Green Car Advisor this morning that the 1.4-liter gasoline engine aboard the Chevy Volt extended-range plug-in hybrid will require premium gas, which currently costs consumers 10 percent more than regular.

"Premium gasoline ensures that the customer gets maximum fuel economy when driving in extended-range mode," Dave Barthmuss, group manager for GM Western Region Communications, said in an email exchange.

"We don't anticipate that Volt drivers will use a lot of gas, but when it's needed using premium fuel increases fuel efficiency by five percent or greater over the use of regular fuel. Simply put, premium fuel optimizes this engine's characteristics."

The Volt hybrid uses a 111-kilowatt electric motor as its primary propulsion system. When the lithium-ion battery pack is depleted - typically after about 40 miles - the 80-horsepower gasoline engine kicks to generate electricity to the motor and battery pack, extending the vehicle's effective range about 300 miles.
 
The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline today in the U.S. is $2.74, according to the national AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The current average price for a gallon of premium gasoline is $3.01, or 10 percent higher than the price of regular.
 
Still unknown: The Volt's fuel economy. GM is no longer giving estimated mileage numbers, nor is it disclosing the size of the Volt's gas tank, which would allow us to deduce how many miles per gallon the vehicle achieves.

Premium manufacturer's suggested retail price. Very attractive leasing terms. Now, the premium-gas requirement. When it comes to the Chevy Volt, which goes on sale later this year, GM's been full of surprises this week.

Scott Doggett, Contributing Editor

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davemart1 says: 10:52 AM, 07.29.10

This is smelling more and more like a limited production run to test the waters for Volt II to me.
The engine running on premium grade seems to indicate that they have taken an existing engine that they were using in the Japanese market and put it in with minimum alterations to save money - premium grade is often used there.
The fact that they are talking about radical change for Volt II with even a Wankel engine in contention seems to me indicative of their degree of faith in the present design - you don't make really big changes if the current one is not too bad.
Being coy about the petrol tank may indicate poor fuel economy, which in a car whose purpose in life is to save fuel is not good, whilst we await proper road tests to find out what happens to acceleration when the battery has run down and they are running on the very small engine for the weight.

Just why are they offering to lease at around half of the monthly rate implied by the sales price?
Hmm, not encouraging outright buyers, a projected production run only in the tens of thousands, rumours of major changes for the successor - this sounds like a short run in the making to me.

tsport says: 7:50 PM, 07.29.10

Idiots always looking for the negatives.

Errr What does it mater what the fuel costs? It's a PLUG-IN!

Don't blame GM for the rubbish quality of regular fuel these days, blame the guys who refine and sell the stuff! BTW, ever heard of E10? usually has a higher octane rating than regular and in my loc is cheaper.

davemart1 says: 2:16 AM, 07.30.10

tsport,
I have no idea why you feel entitled to make abusive comments if you disagree with someone's viewpoint.
You prove only your lack of manners, and destroy any possibility of any points you may actually have being considered.

greenpony says: 9:56 AM, 07.30.10

@tsport:

Are the "idiots always looking for negatives" any worse than the idiots with blind faith in unproven products?

Fuel costs are important to people on a budget. For those Volt buyers who happen to stick to a budget, it would be nice to know that their yearly fuel costs will be 10% higher than they could have been with a non "premium required" engine.

It's not just a plug-in, but a plug-in with a range extender (ah, just call the darn thing a hybrid) that happens to use gasoline as fuel. For those choosing to drive more than 40 miles a day, or those who can't or forgot to plug it in, this is an important point.

Octane rating does not equal fuel quality. It is simply a measure of relative knock resistance. A "purer" 87 octane fuel would work no better than commercial grade 87 octane.

In many areas E10 is mandated. There is no choice. A typical engine will get better fuel economy with E0 than with E10 anyway, because the energy density of 100% gasoline is greater.

blackadder5639 says: 11:54 AM, 07.30.10

I don't get it: are they requiring premium because the engine requires it or simply because of higher fuel economy? It appears to me they're requiring premium because of higher fuel economy.....which doesn't make sense!

'Fuel costs are important to people on a budget." I agree! Part of the appeal of driving a hybrid is the low fuel cost (even inspite of the high initial cost). Requiring premium takes away from that joy. Wrong move!

docrings says: 7:42 PM, 08.01.10

So, let me get the math right: spend 10% more to get 5% better mileage...and Regular fuel is still allowed (even though premium is "recommended").

Stay with regular gas for the few times you need it...maybe the weekend trips to the lake?

From my driving habits, I would only dip into "gas-mode" about once a month for a couple gallons worth... Seriously, 10% more fuel costs would still translate to pennies or a buck or two. I'll spend more money on a cup of coffee at Starbucks...which is 300% more than a McDonald's cup of coffee (which is still decent).

We're quibbling over pennies, folks.

energysense says: 10:18 AM, 08.07.10

@tsport and docrings

greenpony is right. All of these electric cars are farces on one or more levels.

First, the general public seems to be under the impression that because you "plug it in", it doesn't generate pollution and that it's economical or worse that it's free.

Where do you think the electric energy you plugged into comes from? It comes form the power plant. Where does the power plant get the energy to generate the electricity come from? From burning fossil fuels in the form of coal or natural gas or similar products. The exception would be nuclear power plants.

So if the power plant is burning fossil fuels, all you have done in changing from an internal combustion engine to an electric motor is move the pollution from the highway to the power plant. And then if you have a vehicle that runs for only 40 miles on a charge and then you have to flip over to a gas powere engine, the pollution savings becomes insignificant.

As for economy, you would have to compare what you pay per khw (x the time it takes) or the total cost to charge the battery and then see how far you can go on a charge to get your cost per mile. In soem areas it may be cheaper to run on electricity than gas. Some it may not be. Then you to compare how muhc more the electric car costs than a normal economical gas powered car. The additonal cost divided by the savings in energy would be the pay back period.

Further, it's just a fundamental law of physics that the conversion of energy from one form to another is not 100% efficient. That is, the conversion of gas energy into electric energy is not 100% efficient. You lose some of the energy in friction, heat, etc. So if using the gas powered generator to make electricity to drive the car after the first 40 miles is claimed to be efficient, then using the gas powered engine to drive the car directly should be even more efficent.

And to docring's point that you don't drive it that much so you're talking pennies, then the same argument would apply if you were driving a gas powered car so why pay the extra bucks for the fancy electric?

If we really were concerned about air pollution, we'd build nuclear power plants and drive Teslas that can go 250 to 300 miles on a charge.

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