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It’s been a while since we’ve heard any real news about the Chevy Volt, and now GM has captured our green imaginations by claiming that the extended-range electric car will get 230 mpg. Now the EPA, GM, and of course the blogosphere are saying that number may be too good to be true.

GM used the EPA’s new mileage model for electric cars to come up with that massive 230 mpg. There are two problems with this, though: The EPA hasn’t finalized the electric car methodology; and the Volt isn’t purely electronic. Though the first 40 miles are all electric, the Volt has a small engine that uses gasoline and acts as a generator for the electric motor. The engine never powers the car directly, but this is the kind of hiccup that has kept the EPA from giving its mileage equivalency methods the green light.

That doesn’t take into account the Volt’s carbon dioxide emissions, or if the driver is a pedal-smashing speed freak, or if the power comes from a wind farm or a coal plant, or any number of things. Before the EPA could say, “Hey, wait a minute … ” GM had whipped up a 230 logo with a smiling outlet and a green background.

2009 Chevy Malibu

The Chevy Malibu hybrid will see the end of production in 2009, along with the Saturn Aura, as GM slims down its lineup and makes an attempt at building cars people want to buy.

The Malibu and Aura are both mild hybrids, meaning their electric motors cannot power the car alone. The motor can only assist the gasoline-powered engine, which increases the fuel efficiency of the car. The problem is, the fuel efficiency of the Malibu only increased by about 4 mpg — but the hybrid system added $4,000 to the price tag.

According to a report on, GM isn’t abandoning gasoline-electric hybrids. It plans on having new models out as soon as summer 2010, but it wouldn’t elaborate on what models or technologies we might see.

GM has affirmed its commitment to building the extended-range electric Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera, despite its economic woes.

Image of the 2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show by Kristen Hall-Geisler.

Those few of you who joined me in watching “Arrested Development,” the short-lived sitcom on Fox a few years ago, will remember that magician Gob Bluth’s dorkiness was enhanced by his piloting a Segway around town. Well, GM and Segway apparently didn’t want the Gobs of the world to be alone any longer: they have teamed up to create a two-person Segway concept called the P.U.M.A.

Project P.U.M.A. stands for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, and it’s been all over the Internets lately. The two occupents of the vehicle are seated, rather than having to stand, and it’s capable of going 35 mph for about 35 miles, similar to many neighborhood electric vehicles.

Here are the P.U.M.A.’s dork credentials:

  • An acronym for a name
  • A small set of front wheels — training wheels, if you will — for stability when stopped
  • Video-game-style steering apparatus
  • Upright pod design (the yellow stripes on the concept do not help)
  • No room for anything but the two dorks inside and their iPhones

As this is an experimental vehicle, no price has been set, and this is likely not its final form (though it’s probably pretty close). GM and Segway hope to bring the P.U.M.A. to market in 2012. God help us.

Now that I have made my feelings clear on what is likely a breakthrough in both technology and heights of dorkitude, make your feelings known in the comments.

2011 Production VoltA little humor for your Monday — GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who’s been touring the country touting the Volt for what seems like decades, was a guest on a recent episode of the Colbert Report (winner of several Emmys last night, by the way).

Host Stephen Colbert grilled Lutz on global warming, man-talk, and 40-mile extension cords, and Lutz mostly held his own. Except, that is, on the global warming question. This is the man who declared global warming to be a “crock of sh*t” in February, but he’s also the man charged with convincing people that GM is looking forward and the Volt is a good idea. Colbert left Lutz hanging a bit when he asked why GM didn’t just call the car the Chevy Gore.

Lutz made his appearance the day after GM’s 100th birthday celebration and the official unveiling of the probable production design of the Volt, and a week after the images of the Volt design leaked to the web. Lutz himself is a speed and power man, and the “adequate” performance of the Volt seems to pain him a bit. He was a good sport about the whole thing, but what would you expect from, as Colbert calls him, a master of the universe?

Bob Lutz and the Chevy VoltToday, September 16, 2008, is GM’s 100th birthday, and they’re celebrating over at GMnext with videos, events, podcasts, and more. At 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the site will host a Future of Transportation Roundtable that should be intriguing, as speakers include members of industry, media, academia, and government. I’m betting (or hoping) they talk about the death spiral of the oil industry and the opportunities for new fuels and clean energy sources.

GM Next Day, as the company is calling it, will also have a global broadcast at 8 a.m. Eastern (I will not be getting up at five out here on the West Coast to listen in, so you’ll have to fill me in using the comments), followed by a series of live chats with executives, including Vice Chairman of Global Product Development, and leader of his own automotive cult of personality, Bob Lutz.

Oh, and don’t forget — today is the official unveiling of the production Volt design, though you’ve probably already seen the slew of photos leaked to the web last week.

Unofficial official image of Lutz and the Volt from

After giving us coy pictures of front corners and rear decks of the design concept, GM says they will unveil the Chevy Volt in all its production-trim glory at the company’s 100th birthday party September 16. Preproduction models will be built in 2009, with sales of the real deal expected to begin in 2010.

GM chair Bob Lutz told Automotive News Europe that the production Volt will be the “next generation global compact architecture.” For those who don’t speak Auto Industry as a first language, that means the U.S. version of the Volt will use many of the same underpinnings as GM’s upcoming world-market offerings. For examples of this design, keep an eye out for the Opel Astra and Chevy Cruze at the Paris auto show this year.

Meanwhile, according to Motor Trend, GM and the EPA are debating whether the Volt is a hybrid or an electric vehicle. The outcome will decide how fuel-economy numbers will be calculated. The car has an electric motor with a combustion engine that acts as a range extender when the batteries run out.

GM wants the car to pass the EPA’s tests using the electric motor 85% of the time, which would give it a rating of 100 mpg or more. The EPA wants the Volt to pass the tests with its batteries near full charge at the end, which would require the gasoline-powered engine to run most of the time. This calculation would drop the fuel economy to about 48 mpg. When fuel economy is your sales tool, a Prius-like 48 mpg might hurt sales of the $40,000-plus Volt.

Speaking of GM\'s Recycling Efforts ...GM reported last week that it’s taken a large stride in its goal of making 80 of its largest manufacturing facilities “landfill free.” Another 33 plants have been added to the roster, bringing the total number of sites recycling 96% or more of their manufacturing waste to 43. In addition to high recycling requirements, the facilities must also convert at least 3% of their waste  to energy.

While recycling and reusing leftover car bits has an undeniable environmental impact, it affects GM’s bottom line, too. Its global scrap metal recycling efforts have reached $1 billion a year, with another $16 million coming from the sale of recycled wood, cardboard, oil, and plastic.

Most of the factories on the list so far are outside the U.S., but so is most of GM’s manufacturing. The original list of 10 landfill-free facilities included five U.S. plants and five foreign. The addition of the next 33 has locations from Bupyeong, Korea, to Wixom, Michigan, and covers everything from powertrains to assembly.

GM said in a press release that it will recycle or reuse 3 million tons of waste this year, and keep 3.65 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Half of the company’s facilities will be landfill-free by 2010, according to the release.

Photo by EuroTraveler.