General Motors launched the Chevrolet Volt to the US media October 10, provoking a storm of criticism from the world's journalists and bloggers.
In its official launch, GM described its long-awaited vehicle as reinventing "automotive transportation in a complete, no-compromises electric package," although it quickly discovered that some commentators disagreed.
Most damningly, Motor Trend's Frank Markus took an in-depth look at the vehicle's powertrain and discovered that, contrary to GM's claims, the Volt's gas engine doesn't just recharge the battery - it also turns the wheels, sometimes.
Motor Trend said that at speeds above 70 mph (113 km/h) when the battery is depleted, the Volt's engine both powers the car to enable electric drive and couples to a gear to get a "more efficient direct mechanical connection" to the wheels, meaning that, in Markus's words, "on paper the Voltec has more in common with a Prius than anyone suspected."
Influential auto website Edmunds.com took a stronger line against the Detroit giant, entitling its blog post "GM Lied: Chevy Volt is not a true EV."
While CNET's Wayne Cunningham declared "Rather than a revolutionary automotive powertrain, GM has merely delivered something evolutionary," others such as the Economist were more sanguine, admitting that "as most drivers do not have much of a clue about what is going on under the hood of their car, this may not make much difference to anyone other than the most techy of drivers."
The furore over the Volt's launch could bode well for the Nissan LEAF, which is (as far as we can tell right now) 100% electric, although if you ask the Detroit Free Press, it doesn't matter anyway.
"The furor over whether the Volt is "really" electric amounts to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin," opined the paper's Mark Phelan, pointing out that the car can't move using the engine alone.
"It's a short trip from poorly reported blogs to 'everybody knows' GM lied about whether the car is really electric."