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?
Yes I would to own one too! I have been lucky enough to have been able to drive several iterations during its development. Even in the early prototype vehicle it was one of the most solid development cars I had driven in my 20+ years in automovite development. The final production cars are testomony to the leadership at higher levels all the way to the ground level of GM. The center of gravity on the car thanks to it low slung batteries made it as nimble as the covettes I had driven in the past. The acceleration was not viper like but was enjoyable when paired with the quiet of the electric motor.
The cost is a bit high but there are many reasons for this. Take the systems that are in charge of pre cycling of the glycol to keep the battery warm in the winter and cool in the arid heat of summer. They are an expensive engineering feat in themselves. Pair that to the system that allows you to continue on when the battery is discharged. You are now running two cars in one.
I look at it like this. The steam locomotive was likely less cost than a diesel/electric when the latter was first introduced. But if were not for the purchasing of the first diesels there would still be smoke stacks puffing on the rails today.
In my household, we don't have the concept of first car or second car. I have my car and my wife has her car. When we take a long trip, we frequently don't decide which car to take until the last minute. I want a car that can go at least 400-500 miles between fill-ups. And I don't want to pay an arm or leg to buy it.
In fact, I'm the kind of guy the auto manufacturers hate. I never buy car when its new. Only used.
This is the most exciting new product that GM has produced since the Buick Grand National. It is really the ONLY GM product that I would credibly consider for a new car. That being said, when looking for a new car (2 years from now) I'd prefer a Toyota, Hyundai, or Honda version. Just based on my experience with all of these brands.
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.
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.
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.
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?
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the countryís longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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