I recently had the opportunity to test drive the Chevy Volt as part of Drive for Innovation, a partnership between UBM Electronics, the parent company of Design News, and Avnet Express. During the test drive, EE Times' editorial director, Brian Fuller, asked what it would take for me personally to buy a Volt. I talk about that in the video below.
Source: General Motors.
It's a good question. The short answer, though, is pretty simple: money. The Volt's MSRP is $40,280, which is high, at least for my pocketbook. If you subtract the $7,500 tax credit, it comes to $32,780, which is still about $7,000 more than the base price of a Nissan Leaf.
For me, though, the money issue is also inextricably tied to another matter: all-electric range. At first glance, that might seem like an odd statement, since the Volt has a gasoline backup and an overall range (electric and gasoline) of more than 340 miles. But, right now, I own two cars with more than 150,000 miles on them.
My annual mileage clocks in at well over 30,000 per year, with a high percentage of my trips exceeding the Volt's 40-mile all-electric range. For me, the $12,000 penalty imposed by the Volt's 16kWh battery doesn't make sense, since so much of my time is spent well beyond the all-electric range. In much of my driving, I'd be lugging around a depleted, 400-pound battery that would actually cut my fuel efficiency.
That driving profile is unusual, of course. But Fuller's question raises some valid issues: If you buy an electric, does it become your first car or your second? If it's a second car, is the price within your means? Finally, what driver profiles are well-suited to the Volt's capabilities?
If you want to learn more about the Volt, we recommend you go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow Fuller's cross-country Volt journey. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire engine red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
In the meantime, let us know what you think: What would it take to make you buy a Volt?
I'd LOVE to have a Chevy Volt. Unlike Mr. Murray, my drive to and from work each day is within the electric drive range of the Volt. I currently own two cars and a pickup truck. I would LOVE to thumb my nose at big oil.
Would I BUY a Chevy Volt? No way, not at that price! Not included in the purchase price is the price of a new battery every year or so ($3000?). OUCH! Would I save that much in fuel costs every year? Not quite.
Also, I know the hassles one must go through to be an "early adopter." Been there, done that. When all the bugs are wrung out of the first year's model, and when the price of ownership drops below $30K, THEN I will look seriously into buying one.
But in the meantime, if someone wants to send me one to test for a year or so, I'll gladly drive it around!
I still see this car as a second vehicle as opposed to a primary vehicle even for someone like me who doesn't have a commute to work (I work at of the house). That said, my family does regular road trips of between two or four hours each way and the battery range issue would be a concern. As Chuck and Robinr note, however, the price point is far too high at this stage of the game to make this a viable second vehicle option (or a first car choice for many in this economy).
I certainly would NOT buy a Chevy VOLT, BUT I might buy a Ford "JOULE" or a Plymouth "AMPERE" or a Toyota "WATT". However, this vehicle would have to be able to travel on the U.S. highways & byways at least 600 miles in all weather conditions, whether 95º heat or 15º cold, with rain, snow, etc. Charging would have to be as simple AND quick as getting fuel is now, AND, when the batteries are permanently depleted, I should be able to go to SEARS, ROEBUCK for a drop-in replacement DIE HARD!
If the volt were not as expensive as a luxury car, I would be thinking about it, and if a Volt sold for $17K to $20K, I would consider it very seriously. There are quite a few things besides price that are probably show-stoppers, however, which include serviceability and the availability to charge the vehicle.
I would purchase a given vehicle if it met my needs, rather than because it was "green" or "cool", since I feel no urge at all to simply impress people.
One of my biggest concerns would be how it would survive the huge amounts of road salt that are applied to all roads in this part of Michigan every winter. The conditions are far worse than the US Navy salt spray test, and the amount of vehicular destruction that results is large. Any vehicle that could last more than 5 years under these conditions would be a good candidate. BUt, would you spend some $8000 for a new battery pack for a vehicle that might fail after another 2 or 3 years?
No - I want the electric part enhanced for additional range and reduced complexity. A single engine, battery powered vehicle should be simple and reliable for 90% of the the trips I make. So for total miles this electric vehicle will become the primary car for driving. With range extending charging infrastructure, the anxiety over where can I drive to will reduce as the ability to recharge is increased. I see a number of comments on cold anxiety - when the vehicle is plugged in it can be warmed with AC electricity for both the cabin and the battery. And when you reach your destination, a hitching post would provide the same function.
At that price? No. Also, in much of the USA, the more "plug in" your car, the more of a coal/NG/nuclear car you are driving. ~64% of your electric mix. Think of an EV as a coal powered car with a magic NIMBY exhaust system.
My daily commute to work is 7 miles one way, so I could easily drive a Chevy Volt for 2 to 3 days before recharging, but I will not buy one at any price. In fact, I will not buy any GM car again. Two years after I bought my Chevy Corsica, it was discontinued. 4 years after I bought my Saturn, it was ..... discontinued. Wonder how long they will manufacture the Volt before they discontinue that.