Chevrolet Volt: Electric, Hybrid, Something Else?

More than 3,200 of you voted. And the results of the first Changing Gears-Jalopnik-TrueCar poll are in.
You say Volt is a hybrid-electric car.
How you voted:
67.3% Hybrid-electric
25.6% Whatever GM says it is
6.9% Electric vehicle

The Chevrolet Volt is finally on the verge of reaching showrooms, just in time for a lively debate about what it actually is. We want you to settle it.

Changing Gears is joining and in asking for your views.

Do you consider the Volt to be an electric car, as GM has maintained during the past four years? Or is it a plug-in hybrid vehicle, since it has a motor and a battery to provide power to the wheels?

The Volt’s fate is vital to GM, its workers, its stock offering and to American and Canadian taxpayers, who own two-thirds of the company. That makes it an important car to our region.

Two years ago, GM made the Volt the linchpin of its effort to convince Congress to provide the auto industry with a $25 billion bailout. I wrote about that bid on the front page of The New York Times.

When it failed to win Congressional backing, GM again used the Volt to show the Obama Administration that it had a plan for the future. President Obama has referred to the car numerous times, and has been behind the wheel.

And GM, has repeatedly said the Volt would be the first of a number of technologically advanced cars that would lead it out of the industry’s worst sales slump in a quarter century.

But in recent months, GM had been reducing the amount of attention it was giving to the Volt. Our Dan Bobkoff reported last week on the Chevrolet Cruze, which many people at GM are now saying is the most important car in its lineup.

That changed this week, when Jalopnik and other Web sites that follow the industry began reporting on new details about the car. GM, which is still calling it an electrically driven vehicle, acknowledged that in some instances, the Volt’s front wheels receive an assist from the car’s small gasoline motor.

Definition is important in the auto business. Classifying Volt as an electric vehicle places it into a category with little competition, namely from the Nissan Leaf, and it piques the curiosity of a techno-savvy public.

But if Volt is considered a hybrid, even a plug-in one, it will compete in a crowded field led by cars like the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Ford Fusion.

When it comes to any car, consumers hold the key (or the key fob). What’s your view on Volt?

2 Replies to “Chevrolet Volt: Electric, Hybrid, Something Else?”

  1. I worked on parts of the GM Impact or EV1 in the 1990s. The addition of hybrid technology as pioneered in the Honda Insight, made these vehicles much more practical. However, unless electricity comes from wind, solar or nuclear, these technologies merely displace emissions. Very high mileage (> 70mpg) conventionally fueled vehicles actually have lower carbon emissions than all electric, or plug in hybrid vehicles.

    Haans Petruschke
    Kirtland Ohio

  2. I agree with Haans regarding the displacement of emissions, but I believe it is critical to note that emmissions can be controlled more easily if there are fewer “point sources” from which they are released. In the short and medium term, Vehicle Manufactures & the Petrol Industry need to make a united effort to dispell the stigma of diesel fueled passenger cars in America. The few diesel sedans available to American consumers can easily achieve mid 40's in highway driving. Although electrics and PHEVs are better for cities b/c they don't idle; cars don't belong in cities due the space & weight requirements they place on infrastructure. Simply put, card are a tremendous waste of space in a place where land is highly valuable.

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