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GM's Jolt?  Chevy Volt to Get 230 Miles Per Gallon

Tuesday, 11 Aug 2009 | 8:19 AM ET

It's the kind of number that makes you stop and say, "What?!!!!!!!!"

230 miles per gallon.

Chevy Volt
Source: chevrolet.com
Chevy Volt

That's the fuel economy GM expects the electric Chevy Volt to deliver when it comes out late next year. The company made the announcement this morning in Detroit and already skeptics, fans, and the general public are debating if the Volt's mega-fuel efficiency will be a "game changer" for the industry and General Motors.

My opinion: if the Volt can consistently deliver anything close to that mileage, it will go a long ways toward removing the sting of the expected $40,000 price.

The skeptics believe Volt's mileage will not come anywhere close to what GM is promising. After all, the mileage on many cars and trucks is, in real world driving, well below what the company promises. In addition, critics of the Volt say that with gas being relatively cheap, there will be limited demand for the car.

But GM doesn't expect gas to stay cheap and over time, it expects more and more people to realize the Volt gives them so many "clean" miles that it makes absolute sense to buy the car. In fact, the first 40 miles on the Volt will be all electric. After that, a small gas fueled motor kicks in and re-charges the electric engine, extending your range up to 300 miles. GM says it is entirely possible people driving around the suburbs, going to work, running errands, etc. will rarely have to use gas.

While GM puts a halo around the 230 mile per gallon mark it's established for the Volt (the company says that number is actually a little conservative), the company knows it can't trip in the next 12-15 months as it makes the final push to get the car into showrooms. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says development of the car is running on time, if not ahead of schedule.

But for now, the attention is on the number 230. For a company that has been rightfully accused in the past of dragging it's feet when it comes to developing hybrids and other fuel efficient models, a car promising 230 miles per gallon is a huge jump. One, GM says, it's ready to make.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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