General Motors Co. is quick to deny claims that the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is a hybrid and not a true electric vehicle. The low-emission Volt, which will go on sale a month from now, has been described by auto critics Edmunds, Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics to run like hybrids.
The critics say that during heavy acceleration, the Volt uses its gasoline engine to power an electric generator which helps turn the wheels. On its Web site, GM said that its car is not a hybrid like Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius but is an extended-range electric vehicle.
Automakers that offer new technology are faced with the challenge of marketing its cars that don’t really fall into standard categories and have performances that are hard to gauge.
Both GM and Nissan Motor Co. have asserted that not all consumers may achieve the fuel economy levels of their models since the electric performance varies greatly by driving habits. Jim Hall, principal of 2953 Analytics Inc., an auto consulting firm in Birmingham, Michigan, said that these vehicles represent a “PR problem.”
He cited GM as having had to manage perception as well as go off into “traditional old-style GM hype." The $41,000 Volt is being promoted as an electric vehicle to boost its image compared to hybrid-electric cars such as the Prius.
GM claims that for three years, the Volt would consistently run on electric power and that it would average 230 miles per gallon. The US Environmental Protection Agency has yet to verify this number. GM said that it’s likely that many consumers would get lower fuel economy.