Recently it was Consumer Reports, now Edmunds Inside Line blog has posted a story about the Chevrolet Volt that could lead people to think it won’t make sense for them.

Not that Dan Edmunds lambasted the car, but he did make assumptions, while attempting to qualify: “The Volt's cost and consumption story is complex, so I'm trying something a bit different with this particular monthly summary. It's a work in progress.”

Sounds cautious, but he nevertheless prompted Chelsea Sexton (of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” fame) to write for plugincars that Edmunds made “worst-case assumptions,” plus other "flaws," as he suggested the Volt is more costly to drive than two hybrid competitors.

“Their low-end mileage numbers are the worst I've seen so far in SoCal,” Sexton wrote, “which leads me to wonder if they were achieved while testing the governor.”

OK, we understand why people can get upset about something they care about, and agree Edmunds did come up with subjective results.


Is the Volt a good value or not? To weed through the pro and con opinions, consumers must learn the factors to make this personal decision. (Photo courtesy of GM.)

As Sexton points out, Edmunds drove the Volt for a mixture of all-electric and generator-extended miles, and arrived at a much-less-than-best case scenario based on high utility rates, and one person’s experience.

Taking the high road

This is not about who is right or wrong. We respect both writers for the work they do.

Rather, this difference of opinions we are seeing in the media brings up a broader issue.

It is one of public perception for alternative transportation in general, and the need for ordinary people to come to understand them.

Even very capable automotive writers are representing these cars from different angles, and their own innate sensibility.

On closer examination, they are all dealing with the same set of facts, and on some key points do agree with one another, while seeming to disagree on others.

Now more than ever consumers must plug in their brains, before they decide whether or not to plug in their cars.


Being able to distinguish the car from the bull might be tricky business, but you'll be glad you did. (Photo courtesy of GM.)

Where do we come from saying something like this?

As reported this week , a recent survey showed many Americans do not understand EVs, plug-in hybrids and standard hybrids.

Fourteen years after the Toyota Prius became a popular car, it was shown that many might still guess it needs no gasoline to operate.

The survey of 1,898 U.S. car buyers indicates a broad lack of knowledge on many simple issues.

This – among others – is one big reason why practically the only people buying EVs are “early adopters” who have done the math, and thought it through.

Is the Volt a good value?

One problem with Edmunds’ write-up is it posted a chart showing that the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid cost less per mile.

As Sexton observed, Edmunds based his chart on a very high utility rate in Southern California, and his own mixed driving.

While Edmunds’ data is not meaningless, it could be all but useless for individuals depending on where they live, how much they drive, local cost of electricity, and other factors.

Edmunds actually says as much, but unfortunately, he put figures in black and white in a world where people look for quick answers and do not always make decisions based on enough information.

So, does the Volt make economic sense? Is it too expensive? Or is it a great value?

Depending on your situation, the answer to any of these could be yes, no, or maybe.


A new kind of car requires a new kind of analysis to determine the value on a case-by-case basis. (Photo courtesy of GM.)

It is also clear the Volt is a new kind of car and it is polarizing people coming from different mindsets – even professional auto writers.

And in a sense, each is right – based on his or her criteria.

To give credit where due, they try to make a point we think is worth repeating: Doing your own thinking can make all the difference.

Even Sexton, after objecting that the Volt was made to look less cost effective than the Prius concedes there are people for whom a Prius could still make more sense.

The question, as she suggests, is where is the balance to make a good choice?

To be fair, Edmunds also says this.

“There is a tipping point for the price of electricity,” Edmunds wrote, “and I live beyond it.”

New mindset needed

To be humorous, or something, Edmunds ends his post saying, “That's enough nerding for one day, don't you think?”

Yes, no doubt some would think analyzing the cost-benefit performance of EVs and hybrids is the province of nerds.

Then again, maybe some alternative transportation enthusiasts would be proud of their unique identity, while others would be put off being called a nerd.

What ever the case, if EVs and hybrids are to be more widely accepted, people will need to replace stigmas and old ideas with new thinking.

We recognize many other factors must play out for EVs and hybrids to gain greater acceptance.

This has been an attempt to illustrate some.