It seems like such an obvious statement yet there remains a lot of confusion about this issue. Let me first state that I have nothing against the Volt, I think a plug in hybrid is a reasonable option for some people. I do have a problem with GM marketing trying to push a plug in hybrid as an electric vehicle, while at the same time taking shots at the perceived weakness of electric vehicles. It sends mixed messages and confuses the issue, even backfiring and hurting GM itself. I've seen a number of comments criticizing the Volt as an over priced EV that can only go 40 miles. Obviously they missed the point that it's actually a plug in hybrid that can go further when the gas motor turns on. GM has been trying to sell the Volt as a Range Extended Electric Vehicle, REEV, or an Extended Range Electric Vehicle, EREV, both terms that they made up. The Volt is simply a Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, PHEV. This is to differentiate it from something like the Prius, a Hybrid Electric Vehicle, HEV, or simply hybrid. Hybrid and plug in hybrid simply and directly denote the differences between the two types. To dig further the Volt is a parallel/series hybrid, probably the most complex setup possible. A parallel hybrid means that both the electric motor and ICE can power the wheels directly, think Prius. A series hybrid has no connection between the ICE and the wheels, it's strictly an on board generator. The Volt uses clutches to allow various connections between the electric motor, ICE, and wheels, depending on conditions, hence the parallel/series designation.
This complexity is one of the reasons it's so important not to call the Volt an EV, since an EV has none of these complexities. An EV also does not have a gas tank, exhaust system, or an internal combustion engine. An EV will never need an oil change, or spark plugs, drive belts, O2 sensor, fuel pump, fuel filter, air filter, catalytic converter, muffler, fuel lines, etc.
Some Volt owners argue that they never use the gas motor and only drive on electricity, which is great, but doesn't make it an EV, and also doesn't make much sense. Why are you paying extra to haul around a gas tank and ICE that you don't need and that your goal is not to use? That's like driving around in a pickup truck every day and never using the bed, or driving an off road capable vehicle and never driving where you actually need four wheel drive.
From all accounts the Volt seems like well designed, innovative vehicle, and for potential EV drivers who still need training wheels or actually need to use the gas motor part of the time, it's a good choice. However, it is not and never will be an EV, it's a PHEV.
New data showing that the Volt is not an EV:
Electric vehicle means a vehicle that is powered by an electric motor drawing current from rechargeable storage batteries or other portable electrical energy storage devices, provided that:http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title10-vol3/xml/CFR-2011-title10-vol3-part474.xml
(1) Recharge energy must be drawn from a source off the vehicle, such as residential electric service; and
(2) The vehicle must comply with all provisions of the Zero Emission Vehicle definition found in 40 CFR 88.104-94(g).