23 July 2012, 16:42 BST
Chevy Volts have driven a total of 100 million miles, and, as anticipated, have provided some important statistical information already.
Chevy Volt. (Photo Credit: DrivingtheNortheast, CC BY 2.0 license)
The Chevy Volt is one of the two earliest electric cars that were produced for average consumers, and it, along with the Nissan Leaf, are going to enable General Motors and Nissan to gather information on the vehicles' shortcomings and strengths, make improvements, and hence pave the way for improved electric vehicles in general.
Most, if not all, prospective electric vehicle manufacturers will eventually learn from the Volt's failures and successes.
Some of the statistical information released so far is that Chevy Volts in use over the past year or so have been driven in electric mode 2/3 of the time, meaning that they didn't burn gas 2/3 of the time, but used electricity instead.
Some electricity does come from coal power plants, but that is less than half of US electricity these days (actually, less than 40%). The rest comes from nuclear, natural gas, geothermal, and other power plants that produce less CO2 and other toxic air pollution than gasoline-powered vehicles normally would.
The Volt is only a very small part of the effort to reduce overall CO2 and other emissions. Importantly, coal power plants will continue to be replaced with nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind, natural gas, and maybe hydroelectric power plants. And other EVs and clean forms of transport (i.e. bikes, trains, buses) should pick up the slack in the transport sector. But the Volt certainly has an influential part to play.
Electric vehicles actually complement solar and wind power plants because they contain a large amount of energy storage in the form of batteries (assuming their battery management system is built for this), and can help tolerate the variability and intermittency of solar and wind energy.
Electric vehicles can be, and eventually will be, true ZEVs (Zero Emissions Vehicles) because of this.
Some people have the impression that the Chevy Volt would have to burn gas nearly all the time because the driving range per charge is estimated to be only 38 miles. 38 miles is not long, but most people don't drive nearly this far per trip. This new statistic shows that EV mode is dominating by a wide margin.
This statistic means that the Volt achieves an impressive 98 miles per gallon equivalency (MPGe) 2/3 of the time. Not bad. It probably does have the potential to be better than 2/3, because not everyone realizes that fuel economy is only 37 mpg when relying on the built-in generator, and might be using it more liberally than they would otherwise.
One should also keep in mind that cars, in general, whether gasoline powered or not, are not economical for long trips lasting hundreds of miles. That is partly what public transportation is for!
Statistics such as the average distance driven are very important to determining how electric vehicles should be made. They enable manufacturers to decided on what size battery bank to use.
Electric vehicles are not like gasoline-powered vehicles that can cheaply be equipped with large gas tanks, just in case you want to drive very far, so range has to be considered very carefully and limited. The smallest possible bank of batteries need to be used to keep vehicle costs down.
This electric-mode statistic is only one of many that need to be gathered and calculated to help manufacturers improve their vehicles further. Heard of any other interesting stats yet?
Source: Clean Technica