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THE NEW YORK TIMES
August 12, 2009
G.M. Says Volt Will Get Triple-Digit City Mileage
By BILL VLASIC
WARREN, Mich. — General Motors said Tuesday that its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, scheduled for release in 2011, will achieve a fuel rating of 230 miles a gallon in city driving.
The rating, based on methodology drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, would make the Volt the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the road, although other manufacturers have not revealed the gas mileage for their electric models.
Figures for highway driving and combined city and highway use have not been completed, but G.M.’s chief executive, Fritz Henderson, told reporters and analysts at a briefing that the Volt is expected to get more than 100 miles a gallon in combined city and highway driving.
“Our Chevrolet Volt extended range electric vehicle will achieve unprecedented fuel economy,” Mr. Henderson said. “I’m confident that we will be in triple digits.”
The Volt can travel up to 40 miles on a single battery charge, at which point a small gasoline engine kicks in and powers the car and simultaneously recharges the battery. The battery can be charged in eight hours at an off-peak cost of about 40 cents, Mr. Henderson said.
Nearly 8 of 10 Americans commute fewer than 40 miles a day, the company said in a statement, citing Department of Transportation data. The mileage calculation for the Volt essentially assumes that most drivers will stay within that range and will not need the gasoline engine.
Mr. Henderson said the Volt was a critical part of G.M.’s product strategy going forward. “Having a car that gets triple-digit fuel economy will be a game changer for us,” he said. The car will go into production late next year.
But whether the Volt can live up to its billing has been a matter of debate. Some industry analysts note that General Motors has a poor track record of introducing green technology to the market.
G.M. is trying to persuade consumers to return to its showrooms after filing for bankruptcy on June 1 and emerging as a reorganized company with fewer brands, models and dealers.
Mr. Henderson and other G.M. executives met with groups of consumers on Monday to hear their thoughts on the company’s product lineup.
“We need to communicate what we have,” Mr. Henderson said. “The only way we’re going to make G.M. great again is to win in the market.”
The Volt is expected to be both a halo car to draw consumers to the Chevrolet brand, and a technological foundation for future electric models.
The company has built about 30 Volts so far and is testing them in various conditions.
Interest has been building in the Volt since it was introduced at auto shows in recent years. But with G.M. now 60 percent government-owned, the car has become a symbol of the company’s rebirth after a 40-day trip through bankruptcy.
Mr. Henderson said most of G.M.’s new products would be either passenger cars or fuel-efficient crossover vehicles. While the company will still build trucks and large sport utilities, the bulk of its investments will go toward smaller vehicles.
“I think the fundamental premise of planning for higher fuel prices is the right premise,” he said.