While the eye-catching announcement from GM that the Chevy VOLT will achieve 230 miles per gallon is creating lots of buzz, Edmunds.com says that the expected purchase price will be way above that of existing hybrids and that the expected price premium will take years to pay off.

Edmunds also points out that while it exciting to think that a Volt owner might only need 65 gallons of gas to drive 15,000 miles, gas mileage entirely depends on driving style. Volt drivers who drive sensibly on unremarkable roads without hauling a carload of people or cargo – and who don’t exceed 20 or 30 miles between charges – could avoid having to buy any gasoline, according to Edmunds’ analysis.

“For most people, it is not realistic to expect that kind of mileage in real world driving,” states Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs. “That being said, the Volt should easily get more than 50 miles to the gallon, and that will make it an industry leader.”
That leadership position is the most valuable purpose of the car, according to Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl. “The Volt’s goal is to establish General Motors’ environmental credentials, making a statement of ‘green’ competence with the most environmentally friendly powertrain on the market. Just looking at this based on economics, GM would never build the car – and that was true for Toyota when launching the original Prius, too.”
GM has to hope that most buyers are not too focused on the numbers, Edmunds says. Despite the Volt’s fuel efficiency, Edmunds.com analysts have determined that the car will be much more expensive to drive than the current hybrids on the market. The analysis was based on the Volt’s expected sale price of US$40,000 and the anticipated federal tax credit of US$7,500 for which Volt buyers will qualify.

“Even if the Volt’s fuel savings could possibly be as dramatic as today’s numbers suggest, the expected purchase price will be much higher than that of existing hybrids, and it will take years to pay off its price premium,” notes Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “And that doesn’t even take into account the slight bump in the electric bills of the owners who will plug it into their homes.”
“EPA fuel-consumption measures are really inappropriate for the Volt. It’s an electric, pure and simple, which happens to carry an onboard, gasoline-fueled charging station for when there’s too much distance between electrical outlets,” asserts Edmunds.com Editorial Director Kevin Smith.

“The EPA doesn’t measure the energy consumed when charging the car via plug-in, and depending on your driving, that may be all the energy it needs.”

See also: USA: Volt to be rated at 230mpg