GM launches Volt EV amid controversy

GM has officially introduced the Chevy Volt, its much-hyped electric vehicle.  The $41,000 (before $7,500 federal subsidy and local incentives) sedan can travel a rated 25-50 miles on battery power alone and then uses an onboard gasoline engine as a generator to charge the batteries for a full range of over 300 miles.

Motor Trend and others have discovered, however, that the car’s gas engine, which GM has for over 3 years portrayed as simply a range-extending generator that charges the batteries when depleted, is actually connected to the wheels (to drive the car at high speeds).  The engine, along with the two drive motors, feeds into a planetary gear set—very similar to how the Toyota Prius has worked for over a decade.  So the Volt is more like a plug-in hybrid with a bigger battery and different programming than a “real” EV like the Nissan Leaf (or REVA).

The problem is that GM explicitly refers to the Volt as “purely electrically driven” and “not a hybrid” and even went so far as to say that there is “no direct mechanical linkage from the engine, through the drive unit to the wheels,” which is not true.

More at Edmunds InsideLine, with technical analysis at Motor Trend.

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