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?
Last month, I averaged 150 MPG (not a typo) over 1200 miles of city and highway driving in my Volt. Take that OPEC! And I am at the low end, many Volt owners are getting far higher mileage in the 200-300 MPG range.
GM took a lot of heat for announcing the Volt might get up to 230 MPG. In my experience they were more right than wrong. This is a tremendous engineering achievement.
Everyone I have given a test drive comes away amazed at how fine a car this is. Nothing like the GM cars of the past, it originally slated to be a Cadillac brand. This is truely a car they can be proud of.
Those of you who are old enough will remember the frustration, and, dare I say it, some sense of helplessness, waiting in the gas lines of the 1970's. For us, the Volt is a long awaited dream come true. Electricity is the one power source that is widely enough distributed in sufficient volume to be a competitive alternative to petroleum fuels.
I bought a Volt knowing that it was something of an engineering compromise, having both an electric and a gas engine powertrain stuffed into one car. But I got to tell you, it really works! The electric drive is powerful enough to blow off a lot of "conventional" cars at stoplight sprints. It'll do 101 MPH before the speed limiting electronic nanny gets involved. And, it's good honest fun on a twisty road.
A lot of you are hyper-analyzing this car in terms of cost. Would we be having this kind of analysis about a Chevy Tahoe? I bought a Volt because it was really important to me to help begin the movement away from fossil fuels. GM made a big investment in this technology, and the best way to encourage a business is to buy their stuff! (It's way more encouraging to a business than government mandates.)
Following the path of least resistance, or the path of the cheapest alternative is what has gotten us into this shotgun marriage with unfriendly oil producing nations. Aren't we strong enough to invest in the alternatives that will allow us to stand independently again?
If we were analytical about it, the best use for electric transportation (given today's battery technology limitations) is for local travel, our typical 30 or 40 miles a day to work and play. If we just used gas and diesel for cross-country travel, we could probably be energy self-sufficient for transportation. Until now, you'd need two vehicles to do this. My Volt does it automatically, by switching to gas when I exceed my battery capacity. And, it got 37 MPG on my last long road trip to California.
Finally, consider this: 99% of our electricity is generated from resources we own and control. We own all the coal, uranium, natural gas, hydroelectric dams, solar and wind that we need to produce electric power. Nobody had to go to the Middle East to protect the electricity I use in my Volt! I don't know about y'all, but I am tired of sending dedicated young people over there....
For the first time in a long time, we have an opportunity to take action, to lead the transition to a new energy economy. Electric cars can be powered by renewable energy, too. Mine is, when I plug it into my grid-tied solar home electrical system. Some say this stuff is impossible or impractical. Well, I'm doing it, and it works great!
I drive a Volt. I am getting 50 miles on the battery before it seamlessly switches over to the electric generator. Passengers never evem notice the transition. My average commute is 60 miles round trip, so I use 0.2 gal of gas. The 50 miles of electric drive costs me $1.34, the 10 miles on gas $0.76. The car has been totally problem free and is by far the best car I have owned in 25 years.
The average new car for 2011 is $30k (what people are paying after incentives, etc.). Fully loaded my Volt was $34k. The $4k difference will be recouped in gas savings within the first three years for me. Meanwhile I get to drive a solid, fun, luxury car that just so happens to enable me to drive on cheap electricty for 80-90% of my normal driving.
I replaced my luxury European import with the Volt and could not be happier. My neighbor is selling his Mercedes to buy a Volt.
I have already driven the Volt on several, hundred mile day trips where I averaged 41.5 MPG @ 65 MPH. I can tell you the bucket seats are very comfortable and with plenty of head room.
The Volt has the highest customer satisfaction ratings ever according to the recent JD Powers survey, It also has the highest crash test ratings
-the electricity required to recharge it came from non-polluting, non-wasteful sources. I don't see a benefit in pretending that electric vehicles will reduce pollution or save the economy when the very same process is used to make the electricity as to drive 'normal' IC cars (and even the Volt can't get away from having an IC engine on board!) Meanwhile, our government dismantles nuclear power plants and disseminates falsehoods about them, because they don't fit current politics.
-The volt had a reasonable range, which, for me, is safely in excess of 100 miles. Because of the economy, I have to commute 96 miles a day, and it is not possible to stop every 30 miles or so to recharge.
-The price was affordable for real people. (Note: note even President Obama owns one! He had to borrow one to get the Volt experience!)
-The batteries didn't add enough weight to the car to override its paltry crash-safety 'features', cost enough to pay for two small commuting cars, and have a lifetime slightly shorter than the average mayfly.
-it weren't a fad, which, as far as I can see, amounts to the whole desirability of the car.
I have driven a Volt. It drives very much like a Chevy Cruze. It is the first electric hybrid that I have driven that does not remind me of a golf cart. I am not trying to insult you Prius or Civic owners, but the feel of the Volt was very different. I drove like a regular car. It is said that 80% of car owners drive 38 miles or less per day.
I would purchase a Volt for a second vehicle if it was less expensive.
Having driven one, and understanding all that it can do, I would have no problems with owning one.
I have to say that the Volt is not "perfect". But neither is any other vehicle I can even think of. But it will work for me and it clearly fits what I think the alternative vehicle industry should be doing right now.
Unless the auto industry is actually pushed, they will not see cash flowing in anything other than what they are comfortable with. Which is fossil fuel (ICE) powered vehicles. That is simply what corporations do. There honestly are very few that are willing to spend any cash to develop things. This goes beyond just making alternative powered vehicles. So for me, I would have no problem putting my money where I would like to see alternative powered vehicles go.
In the current economic atmosphere, where government funding for just about anything is grinding to a complete hault, it will have to be the public that shows corporations what they want.
Unless you are the military, we can not even put things up into Space anymore.
As you note later in your post, the Volt uses an IC engine; that is coupled to the electric motor and drive train through a very "automatic transmission-like" planetary gearing system. In other words, the "existing IC system with its troublesome automatic transmission" isn't really eliminated. Further, the Volt's IC engine runs far more than just beyond the 40-mile (best-case) battery limit -- in fact, when the air temperature drops below about freezing, the IC engine runs continuously just to keep the battery and occupants warmed.
The Volt is a concept car which might have been used to develop ideas for future production vehicles but shouldn't have been brought into production itself.
Opps sorry you did get one thing right. AND you owned a 1960 OPEL REKORD so you do have a sense of humor! If you owned one while living in the US it's even more proof. I lived Plymouth from 1970 onward in both US and Canada so I have a difference frame of reference. Plymouth Prowler was not a down grade but confusing all the same.
Oh and I am laughing as well. This was a VOLT conversation
Most Plymouth models offered from the late 1970s onward, such as the Volaré, Acclaim, Laser, Neon, and Breeze, were badge-engineered versions of Chrysler, Dodge, or Mitsubishi models. By the 1990s, Plymouth had lost much of its identity, as its models continued to overlap in features and prices with other Chryslers, Dodges, and Eagles. In an attempt to fix this, Chrysler tried repositioning Plymouth to its traditional spot as the automaker's entry-level brand. Part of this marketing stategy included giving Plymouth its own new sailboat logo and advertisements that focused solely on value. However, this only further narrowed Plymouth's product offerings and buyer appeal, and sales continued to fall.
Oh yes I got the poor attempt at sacrasm/negative humor alright. Your combination of two makers that are still in existance with one that is no longer does not work in your "English literature" attempt at comedy. The using of Ford and Toyota along with a once premium Chrysler brand does not work. There is no consistency in the joke. You would buy a car from FORD, Toyota or a non-existant company over a GM. Got it, you are angry over a gas vehicle related issue you may have had or heard of. Therefore everything always stinks from (insert company you dislike here) so we should no longer consider anything else ever from them. Yep I got it.
My reply was an attempt to let you know your day job should be held on to with great effort. Comedian you are not. Next time try something more along the lines of Packard, Plymouth and Mercury aligned with the witty electrical terms. Then clarify the statement with a joke that has anything to do with the topic. It may almost make sense. You know something like "Even if Packard (a car once known to be too good for its own good) came back and made a Ampere I wouldn't by it for ten years."
By the way. They do have snow in Michigan where the car was developed. So the car was "likely (sarcasm)" driven in the snow with the 12volt battery powering the heater motor. And they battery jacket cycling. Just a little known fact, the car was held back several weeks from the public until the mileage discussion was hashed out. How do you measure the mileage on this type of system and what do the federal results report when they reviewed documented testing. The automakers are not allowed to just make up the result number and stick it on the window.
The average fuel economy by ALL the manufactures is never black and white. Ford, Toyota and even the departed Plymouth play the games with economy numbers. Drove the car from home to the office in the winter last year. 22 miles one way. Engine kicked on about a mile from office. Is my trip the same as your trip? Less or more hills? More or less stop and go?
Like the VOLT a lot but I am still an engineer. Trust but verify. Identify the effectors and evaluate the impacts and define the nominal value.
Stay Cranky it is fun to watch. The world needs more visionaries with closed eyes. Have a great day!
California’s plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isn’t the first such undertaking and certainly won’t be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.
By now, most followers of the electric car market know that another Tesla Model S caught fire in early February. The blaze happened in a homeowner’s garage in Toronto. After parking the car, the owner left his garage. Moments later, the smoke detector blared, the fire department was called, and the car was ruined. To date, no one knows why.