Does the Chevy volt have to meet emissions? If so, why?


Given that the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt has no direct connection between the gas engine and the wheels, all the engines does is charge the battery: it’s a glorified auxillary generator.

Given that, why would it be legally required to meet EPA emissions? I mean, I can well understand why a firm selling a “green car” would want to make a clean-running engine (good luck selling it w/o), but I don’t see why they’d have any more legal obligation to do so than an RV manufacturer would have to put a cat. on the aux. gen. for a mobile home.

Any ideas?


They have a legal obligations to meet emissions standards if the EPA says they do. That’s how government works.


(Supposedly) gov’t is constrained by law: if there’s no law saying you can’t do X, you can do it by default. If the law’s ambiguous, the gov’t can SAY you can’t; you can say you CAN…and it’s off to court to find out for real.

So (assuming the Volt engine has to meet EPA emissions for a new car, which I honestly don’t know for sure), what about the “glorified aux. generator” is different from the “mobile home” generator (or even “arc-welder” generator) that lawfully requires the Volt to do so?


If Chevy fought against getting the Volt to meet emissions standards I don’t think it would be good marketing for them. Even if they could get away with not meeting emissions standards, I doubt they’re dumb enough to try.


But understand how the law works. Congress passes a law that says “EPA is authorized to promulgate regulations to control the emissions of dangerous pollutants.” Congress does not get into the nuts and bolts, such as what “dangerous” actually means. Then the EPA proposes some regulations, prints them in the Federal Register, has a comment period, and adopts them. They don’t actually have to listen to the comments*, and if a company or person thinks the regulations go beyond the scope of the enabling law, the only remedy is to sue. So if EPA thinks Volt engines should be regulated, they are, and if Chevy thinks they should be subject to the lower standards of auxilliary generators, they would have to sue.

(*This is why the EPA feels that it can declare carbon dioxide a “dangerous” pollutant, and create regulations on smokestack and tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide. Many people feel Congress should stop writing such open ended laws that give power to unelected bureaucrats and political agencies. /soapbox)


Oh, I appreciate how dumb a “gross-polluter” hybrid would in the marketplace. It was more of a question about how EPA regs apply, 'cause I don’t see how they would at first glance.

(This could be a bit more than a theoretical question, though…I could see a DIYer getting [ticked] off at the lousy range of his glorified-golf-cart EV and wanting to slap a generator motor onboard.)


The motor home argument is interesting, but doesn’t pertain. Motor homes are subject to very different laws than passenger cars have to follow. If the motor home’s generator were providing motive power - i.e. driving a battery that in turn powered electric motors which turned the wheels - then it most likely would fall under whatever emissions requirements are out there for motor homes. That’s to my knowledge never been tested because no one has been crazy enough to try to hook the generator up to the wheels, and if they did the motor home wouldn’t get very far. Because the generator is meant to provide electrical power to the appliances, its regulated under laws regarding generators, not vehicles.

If the volt’s “generator” only powered a fridge in the back of the Volt, the same would apply. But it doesn’t. It does power the wheels, even if it’s powering them indirectly.


If the batteries wear down doesn’t the gas engine run continuously to provide the energy necessary to motivate the vehicle? This would be a distinct difference from your example of an auxilliary generator that does not provide a means to motivate the vehicle.

Besides, the EPA is only one source of regulation. Aren’t there a number of States that have stricter regulations than the federal standard? Those states are considering laws to regulate emissions from lawnmowers, motorcycles and just about any form of gasoline burning engine regardless of its intended purpose…


Personally, I would be okay with having emissions standards on all generators, whether they propel the vehicle or power the refrigerator. I even think new motorcycles should have catalytic converters (GASP!).


The Volt is a passenger car, so to drive on roads in the USA it will have to be tested and pass all the requirements for a passenger car. It does have a gas motor that will need to run at times and that means emission standards and safety standards all apply to the Volt. It should have no problems passing the emissions testing.

Perhaps the Nissan Leaf which has no gas motor at all could be exempt from emissions standards, it has no tailpipe in which to put a probe to even measure emissions. This will probably mean a whole new category of car will be created by the EPA for the Leaf and others like it coming in the future.


“Perhaps the Nissan Leaf which has no gas motor at all could be exempt from emissions standards…”

Why bother? It automatically meets emissions standards if it doesn’t produce emissions.


it doesn’t produce emissions

(Except for fly ash, sulfuric and nitric acid, mercury, dead birds, dead fish, or depleted uranium, depending…)




While the Volt’s engine would have to meet emissions standards, it’s ironic to think that if you were silly enough to charge the batteries by plugging the vehicle into a separate generator, that generator would have to meet no such standards.

But I guess you could look at it this way: The onboard engine is part of the car and provides energy to move the vehicle as part of the original installation. If it was separate, imposing emissions standards would be like having it towed and blaming the car owner for the tow truck not meeting emissions standards.


The Leaf does not produce tailpipe emissions, but the electricity has to come from somewhere. Every form of electric power production has an environmental cost. The Leaf just relocates that cost.


Heh. I wonder how much gas it would take to run a 40A 220V generator for 4 hours, to get that 40 mile electric-only range…


The Leaf does a lot more than relocate the environmental cost. Even if fossil fuels are used to generate the electricity, economy of scale and the regulation of smokestack emissions means much less emissions are produced per mile. Mass producing electrical power to charge the batteries produces MUCH less pollution than generating energy on the fly in an internal combustion engine.


The emissions form electricity are controlled at the power plant by various Gov’t entities like the EPA, NRC, and others. Don’t worry about that.


It depends on how fast you drive.


“electricity has to come from somewhere”

They’re gonna burn the coal whether you use the electricity or not. And emissions are much easier to control at a power plant than on thousands of cars.