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?
Like every other car, a car like the Chevrolet Volt has advantages and disadvantages and it will NOT fill everyone's needs. The running cost may be low (ignoring the unknown factors such as repair costs and that dreaded battery replacement) but, overall, the Volt is not likely to be a total winner on overall cost.
Add to this the fact that the whole electric car marketplace is new (or at least "new'ish") and, yes, it is time for the early adopter's to step in. You know - those strange people who bought the first VW bugs back in the 1950s. As with all new market place developments, there will be winners and losers but,jeepers, you have to start someplace!
The Chevrolet Volt at least seems like a well built and mostly satisfactory car. I haven't taken a test drive in one yet (but hope to soon) but it might (other than the cost)meet my set of requirements - i.e. short trips around town for the most part and, if I make a long trip, then I have the gas engine for backup and, with gas refills, an unlimited range.
So would I consider buying one? Yes. Heck, I used to own a bunch of VWs back in the day (about 7 of them all told) so it is just my radical nature coming out.
First off, let’s address the issue of battery life in the Volt as well as the Leaf.Looking at the life of the Prius batteries, we have about a decade of experience where these batteries are lasting well over 10 years. In addition, the existing IC system with its troublesome automatic transmission is eliminated in an electric car so I would argue that the replacement of batteries after 10 years is about a wash since the automatic transmission is also expensive to re-build.
As far as the economics of the Volt, I believe it is too expensive of a system to make it a viable replacement for the standard IC car of today.As the writer states, the Volt is economical at daily driving under the threshold where the gas engine kicks in.Therefore, it is only economical at commutes under 40 miles per day.As soon as the gas engine kicks in, you might as well be driving a standard IC car.
GM made a decision to include a gas engine on the Volt so drivers would not be put off by the 40 mile range that the Leaf has.Somehow though, they managed to basically create a $40K Prius which will be a tough sell in this market (Prius runs under $25K).If you want a economical electric car and can stay under 40 miles a day, buy the Leaf.Typical GM management.Will they ever learn.
Finally, to address your comment "how many people live within 20 miles of work", I say it plenty. Not only that but, in the near future, employers will have chargers for their employees, thereby concievable doubling your possible commute. Also, batteries are improving as we speak. We as engineers MUST learn to realize, its not a static world.
I beg to differ with your analysis. When you say 80%, you may be speaking geographically vs population. At present, estimates place urban dwellers at 80% of the population, the target users of this technology, which is what GM publicized. I for one believe this vehicle hits the right design point, given added flexibility to the vehicle beyond the range limit of all electric. Consider the question - have you ever forgotten to plug in your cell phone? What happens if you forget to plug in your all electric car? You won't make many friends in downtown Manhatten or in the 405 if you run out of juice.....
Not likely. I did own a 2006 Toyota Highlander hybrid for 3 years. I loved that car, but I had more need of a truck, so I traded it in. The Highlander's big engine was quite peppy and fun to drive. Their rear wheel electric drive system for additional traction seemed like a great idea to apply to other vehicles. Freeway mileage was a disappointing 22 mpg, but around town I got around +28. Unlike the Volt, you could drive the Highlander indefinetly on gas. I also suspect that the battery packs last much longer because the Toyota charging system always kept the battery charge/dishcarge levels around the mid range. I wonder what the average lifetime of the Volt battery with its high charge/discharge cycles will be? A battery pack replacement will be extremely expensive.
The Volt will appeal to people who have never driven a car before or people who hate driving in the first place. The Euro only e-drive Volvo turbo diesel line of cars and SUV’s get over 800 miles per 15 gal tank of fuel. If you look this up (at the Volvo Euro site) you will see that is over 60 mpg in a vehicle that is not nearly as embarrassing. A Volt or Leaf or Prius will only be for the people who need to make a “I’m a better person” statement when in reality they are not.
95 Honda Accord wagon. new 21K including finanacing. Ran 280K miles $8K after destroyed in accident. Avg 28 MPG. Avg mileage excess of 30K per years first two years over 40K. Used to raise family with LA to Pheonix commute (weekly).
03 Toyta Higlander....replaced the Honda. similar need 3 kids partner at home. active in Scouting soccer and basketball, camping etc as with the accord. still own. Car has 240K drove 8 years at nearly 30K per year. Now semiretired. Engine blew a few years back with 195K . In good spahe use for heavy lifting and camping.
08 Toy Camry Hybrid...current commuter car avg 37 mpg in LA commute. Lousy for Home Depot trips. Fuel savings significant pays for the car and insurance compared to highlander. otherwise cheaper to keep one car.
In general havnig one car is far cheaper than two. I have a bit of an advantage as the higlander is worthless on the used car market with the milage. IF I was buying the Toy new. I would have to facotr in it complete lack if utility for camping and Home support vehicle and I would have bought a Venza or Subie wagon.
The Volt the Leaf etc are good IF you have another car for all the BS a homeowner deals with or if you living in an apartment in the city...where public transportation will be useful.
The misson of these electric cars is not ameanble to enough of the public therefore it is a market failure. Note too Leafs are very availble at local dealers. not just Volts. The hybrids are very nice economical alternatives, but the real mileage winners will be well desinged high compression smal engines in midsized cars with 6 to 8 speed high efficency tranmissons with good aerodynamics. sort of like the accord wagon which with a poor tranmission (compared to today) and ealry engine management systems did a great job hauled a lot and was cheap and durable.
I have always felt that TDI is the way to go for those that are looking to really do something that will save fuel. I suspect that Chevy's attitude on the Volt is like American automakers attitude toward TDI.....'see, we told you it wouldn't work!' Our Government, which can have great sway over such matters, needs to do the right things and promote this technology as best for the country. I would also include the most important part...local governments and the oil companies need to be exposed for their 'nobody will notice' attitudes toward diesel taxing and pricing....simply put, truckers won't complain when you gouge them for what should be the cheapest type of fuel....they simply pass the cost on to us, the consumer, and the politicians and big oil get free reign.
The total cost of ownership over 5 years for this car is roughly $0.54 per mile under "avereage" driving conditions. The Honda Civic, and the Honda Civic Hybrid both cost roughly $0.46 per mile, and the Nissan Leaf around $0.47 per mile. Cold climate under-performance of this car makes this a deal-breaker for me.
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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