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How Green is the Volt...Really?

As GM finally unveils their next-gen game-changer, the question on everyone's mind is whether getting your car's power from the grid is better for the environment than getting it from gasoline. The short answer is yes. The long answer... is why you read ecogeek.

While the Chevy Volt might appeal to most simply because consumers will get to remove the weekly *gasp* of gasoline purchasing, there are others (like myself) who care more about the car's environmental impact. So this is an important question.

First, even if you don't plug it in, this thing is going to be a green car. Once the Volt uses up all of only best offers 50 mg cialis its electric charge, an on-board generator kicks on to recharge the batteries. From the moment the batteries are too low to drive on, the Volt will get something like 50 miles per gallon, better than any Chevy on the road right now, and also probably better than the Prius. This is possible because the generator only has to operate at one speed, so can be tuned for efficiency rather than versatility.

But the more important question is whether grid electricity is greener than gasoline power.

Several studies have been done on the probable effects of extended-range EVs and other plug-in vehicles and order propica they have all found that they decrease emission of greenhouse gasses significantly. The NRDC's study found that widespread adoption of plug-in technology would reduce greenhouse gasses by about 450 million metric tons per year, a huge number. It would be the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road completely and it would reduce our oil consumption by almost four million barrels per day (about 20x more than we'd get from drilling offshore, by the way.)

Additionally, plug-in vehicles are the only cars that actually get greener as time goes on. As we phase out old, inefficient coal-fired power plants, and replace them with renewable technology like geothermal, wind and solar, plug-in vehicles see corresponding boosts in their carbon efficiency.

Plug-ins will produce more of some emissions however. Gas exhaust doesn't have the brand levitra same emissions as coal-smoke, so the emissions profile for the car will shift. Instead of unburned hydrocarbons and NOx being the problem, instead the vehicle will be responsible for more sulfur and mercury emissions. Which is worse is, frankly, a toss-up.

In the end, the Volt is definitely going to be the greenest car on the road in 2011. But this ecogeek would never say that it's the solution. It's a big step toward a solution, but a great deal more work needs to be done before we have a truly sustainable transportation system.

And if you missed them, and want some eye candy, check out those gorgeous hi-res shots of the Volt that GM released earlier today.

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Comments (30)Add Comment
written by Annie Bankss, September 16, 2008
I had always been looking for this answer. Thanx for the infor

Annie Bankss
Let's Save Our Planet
written by Douglas Siu, September 16, 2008
Love the idea of a plug in car. Love the idea of pulling energy for transportation off the grid. Love renewable energies like solar and wind. But how are we going to transform our grid without a *massive* energy storage solution? If you want to plug in your car after work and the sun ain't shining and viagra in canada pfizer the wind ain't blowing where is that energy going to come from? Coal? In that case the best renewable energies can do is piggy back on the existing infrastructure.

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about the Volt. But there's something missing from this picture, no?
written by Jerrica, September 16, 2008
It looks so beautiful. My parents were considering getting it. So that would be cool. ;D
I wish they would release it sooner.

DFTBA, Hank!
written by sarah, September 16, 2008
so now all we have to do is get one of those solar sticks mentioned a few days ago with the volt and...
Good but not perfect
written by stones throw, September 16, 2008
Thanks for this post, it clears up a bit of the technical controversy surrounding this car. I think that certainly if you're only looking at carbon emissions, this kind of technology is the way to go...and like you, I applaud GM for a hearty step in at least a useful direction. There have been inklings, though, of the difficulties of recycling the car's battery (can anyone explain this for us in simple terms?), and some argue that the emissions you note about might leave us in another lurch a few years from now, step at a time, I suppose.

There's also the fact that some of these plug-in models are said to lack the "pep" that you can get even from a 4v regular gas vehicle. Granted, that's more of a consideration for those that like driving rather than those that are concerned purely with environmental factors, but it would be nice to see the best of both worlds collide at some point (maybe collision is not the wow it's great buy branded viagra best terminology to use here, though?)

And, finally, I've been looking up EPA statistics on sites like and I'm surprised at how some non-hybrid models do compare to their supposedly more "environmental" counterparts. It's nice to see hybrid technology improving.
written by John, September 16, 2008
Does anyone know if the internal combustion engine in the Volt will be able to burn anything other than gasoline (i.e. ethanol and methanol)?
Volt: Hybrid to Nowhere
written by PDD, September 16, 2008
The Volt is a reminder from the world’s biggest and most out of touch car producer, General Motors, that if you keep the masses attention on something shiny they will forget their other problems. I will ask a question: Is it more important to Americans WHAT we drive or that we drive period?

I know many people cannot fathom NOT driving and so for them they see a GM Volt and get caught in topics like batteries and sources of energy. Why does the conversation never turn towards NOT driving?

The physical arrangement of our daily lives does not have to revolve around the automobile and tramadol no rx visa only it’s accoutrements (ie more roads, more possible power sources to power those cars or store the energy to power those cars and new and different types of waste disposal for a possible new problem: battery recycling.) Should not the conversation also offer alternatives and solutions that involve driving less?

Personal transport will always have a place in any society, but I would like to see some emphasis, some shred of acknowledgement that Americans are capable imagining a world where we put less emphasis on WHAT we drive and more emphasis on driving less rather then wetting themselves over an American made Prius. Oh boy how exciting, it took GM ten years to copy Toyota!

However if the topic has to be the Volt to that point I call GM out. The Volt is a joke being told by a joke of a company. Japan’s auto industry, arguably one of the best and most efficient in the world has 5 new automotive battery plants under construction and has reached agreements with existing Japanese battery plants to work together with auto companies to develop the next generation of automotive batteries. Nissan is building it’s own plant for $115 million. They have been producing hybrids for almost a decade (the first being the Honda Insight 1999). America has ZERO battery plants under construction.

In the mean time GM wants $25 Billion in government loans to help the US Auto Industry close the “battery” gap and viagra tablets make the Volt a reality. $25 BILLION????? That is the dollar equivalent to 217 Nissan sized factories! To that I say keep your hands out of MY pockets and go into your own. GM has 74,000 workers on Indefinite leave, these are workers that due to UAW contracts cannot be laid off but retain 80% of their salary “indefinitely” FOR NOT WORKING!!! Use those worker to build and operate their own plants and recycle batteries or better yet take older facilities and build wind turbines for all that needed electricity or high speed rail to compete with France and Japan or build planes to compete against Boeing to lessen the cost of commercial airliners, anything but build more crappy cars.

GM is the poster child of America – “It’s not my fault, it’s somebody else’s problem, Government is the solution, and those other kids don’t play fair”. The Volt is another untimely mistake by worthless company being demanded by an ignorant population.

For those of you concerned about all that needed electricity, your computer takes up more power than a plug in hybrid. Did the computer industry slow down and ask where the power was going to come from? Does anyone buy smaller refrigerators or think about all the only for you cialis online cheap power need for cell phones, notebook computers, air conditioners, desk top computers, 3 tvs per house, etc? It’s a good bet that the electricity will be there but don’t count on GM.

Alternative Energy Consultant
written by Byron, September 17, 2008
How long will the batteries last in this type of vehicle? If they do die, what happens to the battery? Are they toxic?
Greenness and the best choice cialis prices Batteries
written by Tom Saxton, September 17, 2008
How can you say the Volt will be the greenest car on the road in 2011? The Tesla Roadster is greener and on the road now. By 2011, the Model S should also be on the road and far greener than the Volt.

Regarding recycling Li-Ion batteries, Tesla has a blog on recycling their batteries.

As for needing to replace the batteries, one problem with an REEV is that they are going to get cycled through their full usable charge even on a short 40-mile drive. A pure electric vehicle with a 200-mile range will only use a small portion of their charge each day, which is much better for lithium-ion battery life.
written by Ken Roberts, September 17, 2008

Life within a car is not an option for many of us. Even if you live right next to your job, you're going to occasionally need to make a longer trip.

To Tom,

The Tesla roadster costs about $109,000. If a car costs that much, then you can pretty well bet it isn't 'green'. That money is going somewhere. Either to higher energy use, more workers, less efficient manufacturing, or something. Most people forget about sources of pollution other than what is actually in the car. There is a definite correlation between cost and pollution.
written by Eddy De Clercq, September 17, 2008
I don't see why this car is going to be the greenest car on the road in 2011. Based on what facts? I didn't see any figures like the MPG yet. I find announcements like the VW Golf Bluemotion more interesting. It's even more efficient than the Prius. That proves again that modern diesels can be more efficient. As said in this blog, two journalists drove from London to Geneva with a Toyota Prius and a BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics. The BMW was the most energy efficient.
40 mile range?
written by Bradtv, September 17, 2008
I read something the get cialis online other day that mentioned how running the AC and "aggressive driving" will reduce that 40 mile buffer to 15-20.

I'd assume most drivers using the AC at least.
fuel consomption
written by DaMs, September 17, 2008
I'd like to add something about the prius/hybrid cars fuel consomption.
In europe the prius is given for 6.5 l/100 Km and is supposed to be eco friendy, but if you look at the latest diesel cars you often get a 3.6l/100km for the smallest ones and equals the prius co2 emissions (ie :austin mini with 1.6l 110 Hp engine: 104g/ km) & around 4.5L/100km for a large 5 seats with 120g/km (like the C4).
Prius is a first step toward greener vehicules and a great communication plan for toyota (btw how many 4*4 do they sell for one prius???^_^), but should not be used as a landmark for "ecofriendly" vehicules, since a regular hdi diesel with a particule filter is far more efficient & less polluting.
sorry for not doing all miles/gallon convertion !!
PS: i'm not pro gasoline, i'm dying to get a real green car, but sometimes we need to put things in perspective !!

I Agree with PDD
written by Lisa, September 17, 2008
You know- PDD has a point. a good one. What about carpooling? what about riding your bike? what about better and cleaner public transportation. If every person in the US/Canada/World aims to each own their very one vehicle- that is not sustainable. The majority of the population in first world countries live in cities- and many still own vehicles. For those that have to drive out of the city to work (like myself) we can carpool (as i do).
Also- I don't approve of GM or supporting automotive companies that like PDD said, are obviously distracting consumers with shiny things without putting the real effort into solutions. I would never buy a Volt- it's ten years behind and most likely has some serious recycling/company ethic issues I will never agree with.
written by Andrew Leinonen, September 17, 2008
I don't understand what anyone is saying about the Volt being "behind" the Prius in any way, shape, or form - you are being ignorant, and fundamentally misunderstanding the click here viagra no rx technology.

The Volt is a series-hybrid; the Prius is a parallel-hybrid, so the engine is (at times) directly coupled to the wheels. Series hybrids can be be more efficient.

The Volt uses new, more sophisticated Li-ion battery chemistry; the Prius uses NiMH. In addition to its much greater power density, Li-ion is also more environmentally benign and recyclable.

The Volt can be plugged into the domestic AC sockets to charge its battery pack; the Prius cannot.

Like it or not, the Volt is a first of its kind for the auto industry. It has a 40 mile range which satisfies the needs of the vast majority of everyday users, while still providing a psychological comfort zone for those who feel they need to take longer trips, since they can just gas up as they're used it. It's a game-changer.

And before anyone accuses me of bias, I don't own a car. I live downtown, walk to get groceries, ride my awesome bike to work every day, and take transit if I need to. Clearly non-car alternatives need to be a part of the dialogue, but in the apples-apples world of cars (and car-makers that want to make a profit), the Volt is most definitely progress in the right direction.
Tesla isn't trying to solve a shortage o
written by Tom Saxton, September 17, 2008
To Ken Roberts,

It would be impossible for a small car company to raise the billions of dollars needed to start their production with a mass market vehicle, which is why they started with a high-end sports car that is cost competitive with other cars in the same class.

Their plan is to introduce two new models each of which will increase their production by a factor of 10 and cut the price approximately in half and be competitive with more mass market vehicles.

The Model S will be a four-door, five passenger sedan costing about $60,000, available about the same time as the Volt. The next model is planned to be under $30,000 and available by 2014.

So, yeah, buying a Roadster isn't going to save the planet, but it is an investment in a company that has a plan to make a real impact with later models, and it does get you out of the business of burning petroleum.
written by Andrew Leinonen, September 17, 2008
I think it would be silly to assume that GM and other major automakers don't have their eye on full EVs in the middle-term future (in line with Tesla's market roll out for their more affordable models, e.g.)

I totally respect Tesla as a company, and I can't argue with their business strategy...but there's still something about frivolous luxury cars that is still a little bit distasteful to me.
Not bashing Tesla
written by Ken Roberts, September 17, 2008
Hey I'm not trying to bash Tesla, just stating the link for you rx generic cialis less-than-obvious fact that price correlates with pollution. That's true at least in today's world. I'm in favor of their work, simply because the engineering technology and processes that they develop will have ripple effects in the wider market.
Depends on when you charge
written by Tom, September 17, 2008
There are a couple variables that are not being discussed in this article - primarily, the article points out a downside from the increase in coal based generation and the attendant mercury emissions. However, if the car is charged in the evening when you're load is the lowest, that shouldn't lead to any (or very little) increase in generation demand. So, the net impact on the generation should be small to negligible. Furthermore, in those parts of the country where there is significant wind generation, that generation happens primarily at night (at least in some areas) and the plug-in vehicles may provide an effective storage mechanism for that clean power.

Secondly, if the Volt is equipped in such a way that it can deliver power to the grid on a distributed basis, these cars will avoid the need to build power plants that are designed to address peak power demand - and that will have a very significant impact on future power plant construction demand.
What about the Aptera?
written by Byron, September 17, 2008
The Aptera Type-1 is a much more revolutionary car and, to me, it's much more exciting.

Like the Volt, the Aptera is a series hybrid, which is probably the best way to do an electric vehicle today. The Aptera has a 120 mile battery range (vs 40 miles for the Volt) and a combined gas-electric mileage of 300mpg. It also costs $12,000 less than the Volt and will be available this year. It doesn't have a back seat, but by 2011, Aptera Motors might have their 4 door ready.
written by Tem, September 18, 2008
I hope the volt will be able to run on more than gasoline for the times when it needs it's generator..
Ideally it could run on a variety of hydrocarbon and biofuels as well.
It would be very convenient to use 100% fuel grade cellulosic ethanol or even diesel in the same motor if at all possible. : )
written by 8th-grader, September 18, 2008
Yes but the Aptera looks like a sperm.
written by Nick, September 18, 2008

Have you been to America? If you are not in a major city you NEED a car. It would be nice if my job and levitra samples in canada my school and my house and all the crap I buy were within a small walk or bike ride, but they are not. My community was designed to be spread out and is connected by roads. Even if some people did make sacrifices and moved closer to work or rode a bike it is impossible to think that 300 million Americans can do this. We can drive more efficiently though and buy more "green" cars the next time we need to buy a car. Running out and buying the canadian pharmacy hot new "green" car to replace your perfectly good SUV is a ridiculous consumerism that is just as wasteful. Good luck with recycling!
written by Anonymous, September 18, 2008
It frustrates me that people are so dismissive of reducing our dependence on cars. To begin with, there is quite a bit of low-hanging fruit -- namely, all the people who drive a route that public transportation also travels, and all the people who drive distances of less than a mile instead of using a bicycle. Just changing these bad habits would take a lot of cars off the road. There are also changes that require only slight sacrifices, like biking less than a mile to a train station or even *gasp* being willing to break a sweat.

But at some point, we need to take a step back and examine all of our life choices and non prescription levitra for once ask how we can do our part to help others and help the planet, instead of only focusing on our own immediate self-gratification. Why not move to a city? Why not live close to where you work? Why not buy a scooter? Why not take the bus -- although you have an image in your head of the type of person who takes the bus, or you might not think there's a bus route near you, you might find yourself surprised if you actually tried it.

The car culture in this country has only acted to further divide us and cause us to behave less human. We fight with each other constantly on the roads, always trying to get there first, even if we have no particular reason to be "there" quickly. Why can't we all take a step back and ask who cars have caused us to become?
The JOULE Electric Car
written by Frank Spencer, September 19, 2008
Watch out for the unveiling of The Joule, an Electric Car from Optimal Energy, South Africa, at the Paris Auto show!
written by Brian Gale, September 20, 2008
On the Colbert report last night they had a VP from GM to talk about the Volt. He did more damage to the marketing of this car than Esso did with the Exxon Valdez. What a pXXck. He insulted all of the potential customers and the entire green movement. Like the rest of their products I would be surprised if it barely measures up to half of it's billing. Obviously GM is doing it for other reasons.
Don't Hold Your Breath
written by Erik Levin, September 22, 2008
Don't hold your breath waiting for GM to produce all electric - they already did that ten years ago and scrapped it because it was too good and required no servicing = no spare parts sales.
Car makers make fortune from fuel and oil filters, spark plugs, coolant, radiator hoses, mufflers, regular oil change etc etc.
Plug in electric requires none of the above thus saving you far more than just gasoline cost.
Hybrids on the other hand save you a little bit in fuel cost but still keep the car and buy ultram er canada oil companies in business - and they can charge more because you are using less!!
Want to know more? Watch "Who Killed the Electric Car".
As for Tesla - high cost is due to investment in research and new technology as well as product development cost which is always related to sales volume; nothing to do with pollution.
And only reason plug in battery electrics are not 100% clean is because the electricity industry continues to use dirty fuels to generate power. Change that to wind and solar, or install your own solar panels and you have clean and cost efficient transport.
It is totally unreal to imagine we can survive without cars. I ride a bicycle and a motorbike but still need a car - however my car use is down to about 30% of what it used to be.
Final word: Ignore all otions that use oil, diesel or gasoline in any form or quantity and put your money behind all electric and we will have clean transport. Thew companies will produce on that which they can sell.
Cheers, :-*
Is the grid electricity is greener than
written by ash, September 25, 2008

Question: Is the grid electricity is greener than gasoline?

Answer: Yes, but more importantly, it will continue to get greener. So, every day you charge up your car, you will be charging with green power than the previous days charge.

Also, don’t forget, with every passing day, there are better options to go completely or partially off-gird.
written by Cage, October 08, 2008
The Volt is bringing the idea of what a plug in car is to the general public. Other car companies are making decisions to build plug ins because of the buzz generated around the volt. Phevs are greener and have the potential to become more green with each year because home owners and generic levitra shipping canada utility suppliers can choose to be greener and the generator on the volt will allow for more fuel choices in next generation cars.
written by Patrick, October 21, 2008
Not that green. Also why is Hank Green Anti-American?

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