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Study: Chevy Volt Burns Less Gas & Emits Less Smog-Forming Gases Than Competitor PHEVs

A new study from GM (recently presented to the Society of Automotive Engineers) found that the Chevy Volt burns considerably less gasoline than competitor plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), as well as generating considerably less of the the gases that then go on to contribute to smog-formation.

Also worth noting is that, according to the new study, the 2016 Volt will significantly outperform earlier models across these parameters.

Now you may be somewhat incredulous right now — after all, of course a study from GM would find that one of Chevrolet’s offerings was a “great” vehicle — but it’s worth taking a look at the findings, in my opinion.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

According to these findings, the simple reason for the better performance is that the Volt has a battery that is 2–4 times bigger and a range that is considerably greater than its competitors — which means that the vehicle’s all-electric capabilities are utilized far more often than with many other PHEVs.

The new findings are the result of real-world data from over 60,000 2011–2014 Volts — gathered anonymously via GM’s OnStar telematics service from October 2013 through September 2014. This was to ensure all four seasons were represented. Data for the comparison group of PHEVs was obtained via the Southern California Association of Governments, the National Renewable Energy Lab, Idaho National Laboratory, and others.

The study provides a lot of interesting information, but I’m going to only go over a few things here — that the Volt is really “an electric vehicle (EV) with gas backup” and the idea that the Volt experiences fewer “cold starts,” which means less air pollution.

With regard to the first subject — the idea is that the Volt isn’t really a PHEV (more an EV with a gasoline engine backup) — the graph below probably puts that more bluntly than I could:



Much of the time (on most trips), Volt owners rely entirely on the electric motor + battery — they don’t use the gas engine at all. This contrasts pretty strongly (according to the research) with most other PHEVs out there right now.


With regard to the second subject — cold starts — extended range EVs (EREVs), as Chevrolet likes to refer to the Volt, experience cold starts far less often than the other PHEVs studied.

This, when taken together with overall decreased gas engine use, leads to the Volt releasing less smog-causing emissions — as the graph below shows:


Overall, while this should all be taken with a grain of salt since it’s coming from GM engineers, the study is still fairly interesting, and fairly believable as well.

Image Credit: Chevrolet/GM

Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.


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