Yesterday, I wrote a piece about GM's upcoming Volt plug-in hybrid. In it, I explained that the new car may appeal to wealthy Americans who want exhibit their love for the environment, but its supposed 230 miles per gallon can't justify its $40,000 price tag from an economic standpoint, unless you plan on driving in excess of 229,000 miles. Atlantic Correspondent Lisa Margonelli has some more bad news: the Volt won't get anywhere near 230 miles per gallon on long trips.
The charming dorks at Environmental Economics point out that the Volt gets 230 mpg when the trip length is exactly 51.11 miles, but for a trip of 200 miles the car gets 62.5 mpg, which is not much better than my diesel VW Golf, purchased used for around $15K.
That means, even by hybrid standards, for longer trips it begins to approach Toyota's Prius hybrid which achieves in the ballpark of 50 miles per gallon, with a starting price of only $22,000. This makes the Volt's $40,000 price tag seem even less justifiable.
Still, 230 miles per gallon might be achieved most of the time for those who use the vehicle primarily for short commutes. So I wouldn't completely discount the potential of the Volt just yet. But Margonelli's point reinforces the conclusion I drew yesterday: unless better technology brings its price way down, or the price of gas skyrockets past $5 per gallon, it's unlikely that the Volt will appeal to the average American.
If you want some additional pessimism regarding the possibility of rapid growth for plug-in hybrids like the Volt, check out Margonelli's entire piece.