Chevy Volt: Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics

Illustration for article titled Chevy Volt: Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics

Let's clear up one thing. Yesterday's story on the Chevy Volt did not claim the Volt was a bad car.

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Even if GM did "lie" to the auto trade press and the "world" — as Edmunds.com's Scott Oldham alleges — for the past three years about the mechanics behind the motivation of the Volt's wheels, it doesn't mean that the Volt's any less of a technological marvel. Nor does it mean the Chevy Volt's potentially any less deserved of praise when we drive it later today and tomorrow even if we end up with lower-than-expected fuel economy. In fact, it's one of the reasons the headline of the story didn't even mention was changed a minute after publishing to not mention the "Chevy Volt." Because the story's not about the Volt. It's about GM.

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GM-Volt's Lyle Dennis reiterates today, "when the vehicle reaches speeds of 70 mph while in extended range mode...the gas engine participates in turning the wheels mechanically although indirectly." According to GM, by adding this dual-drive mechanical linkage, it provides a fuel efficiency benefit of between 10% and 15%.

But this is, as we said yesterday, without question, a change from what they've said in the past about the electric-only motivation of the wheels — and it makes this car more of a hybrid car than we originally were led to believe. And while this may seem a minor point, it speaks to the real issue we raised yesterday — the automaker's credibility.

GM is a company desperately in need of the positive public relations that come from exceeding the bars it sets for itself. Right now the company needs to realize that its credibility bar has not only not been exceeded, it hasn't even been met. Yesterday's attack from us was not against the Volt — although GM PR is treating it as such — it was actually against the company that built it. GM still needs to realize that, after years of saying one thing and delivering another, it has no credibility for anything that even remotely resembles a lie.

And let's be clear here — this is being perceived by many as a lie. A statement by GM's Phil Colley admits at the very least they weren't up front with the technical details, claiming they "did not share all the details on how the system works until now because the information was competitive as we awaited patent approvals." That may explain why the company wasn't up front, but it doesn't give them carte blanche to indignantly huff and puff now that they've been called out on a discrepancy, no matter how minor, between what they said this summer and what they're saying now.

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Carte blanche requires credibility.

Photo Credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images News

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DISCUSSION

dislexicmofo
dislexicmofo the Gray

So wait a minute, are we now under the assumption that the volt uses one of GM's 2-mode parallel hybrid systems, or is it still an extended range, ie series, architecture?

Edit:

I have answered my own question and it makes me angry, but not at who you think. I am mad at Jalopnik.

GM never said that the Volt was an electric vehicle (EV) or a series architecture. The Volt has been and always will be a plug-in extended range electric vehicle (EREV).

In this architecture the battery is set up to charge deplete, it runs around on the battery until a certain state of charge (SOC) threshold is reached. The engine then turns on to do one thing, run a generator. Yes, the ICE drives the generator mechanically, which then drives a motor, which then drives the wheels. This is not any different than it has always been. I even drew a picture while I was thinking about it. The only difference between this architecture and a pure series architecture is the part in the red circle, and that (I think) is what everyone is mad about. That part matters a lot because there a few different ways to think about EREV's.

Now back to why I am mad. Why, instead of complaining that GM lied because it was read somewhere on the internet that it was true, was this not explained by an article?