It doesn't seem fair that GM, while struggling to get the car on its feet, should now have to deal with the task of revamping the Volt's reputation. When Design News spoke to battery experts at MIT and the University of California-Berkeley in November, they strongly believed that GM engineers were properly managing lithium-ion's temperature risks.
Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had this to say about the Volt in January, at the conclusion of its fire investigations. "NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-power vehicles." So safety shouldn't be an issue.
But GM execs are apparently starting to wonder about the Volt's future. "I think it will be May or June before we know whether this thing has legs," Girsky has been quoted as saying about the Volt in numerous publications.
While we wait to find out if the Volt "has legs," GM is still facing the cost issue. By putting an expensive 16kWh battery onboard, the giant automaker hasn't left itself a lot of wiggle room to bring the price down. GM could accept that fact and direct its marketing toward those buyers who have that "untraditional sense of luxury," but it's not known how big that market would be for the four-seat Volt.
If that doesn't work, GM will have to convince middle-class buyers in a slow economy to buy a $40,000 Volt instead of a gasoline-burning Chevy Cruze that costs half as much.
That could be a tall order.
For a closer look at the Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. In the 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.
That's funny, Chuck. He's right, we do sit on explosions. I can imagine the gas engine seemed strange at first. Early autos used to terrify horses as well. This was a problem in the early days since autos shared the road with horses and buggies.
Rob: Consider this thought from the New York Auto Show of 1900.
"When the first gasoline-powered cars rolled on stage at the New York Auto Show of 1900, showgoers were said to be appalled. The sight of them prompted Albert Augustus Pope, a manufacturer of electric cars, to proclaim: 'Man will never sit on an explosion.'"
Good point Chuck. There are certain risks were get accustomed to -- like the high death rate associated with driving cars. It's not a death rate we would accept in airline lights. Likewise, the EV is new and any associated danger is new.
You're preaching to the choir, GeorgeG. I actually agree with you, and have written about it over and over again. Please see below from an earlier article.
But if we're worried about the safety of electric cars, we shouldn't be. Consider this: Every day, most of us sit in vehicles that burn gasoline. The gas runs through fuel lines beneath us and around us to an engine, where it explodes repeatedly.
"If that was a gasoline car that was not properly constructed, and the gasoline burst into flames, it would have been a far worse accident, because of the big difference in energy," says Cairns of the University of California. "Yet, we accept the tank of gas, and the energy that it represents, and the type of fire that it represents, every day."
Yes, we accept the tank of gas because we trust the engineers to beat the risks. And the situation should be no different in the case of the Volt.
GM has got to be tearing their hair out. I'm not a fan of GM but this is getting annoying. This article refers to Volt 'fires'. The reality is that one, count 'em, 1 Volt caught fire much after a collision test as a result of improper storage. Two more were then subjected to still more agressive testing and 1 - count 'em - 1 actually caught fire while the other smoldered a bit. No Volt has caught fire in an actual vehicle collision. So depending on how you count it either 0% or 0.013% of all Volts have been involved in a vehicle fire. The stats for internal combustion passenger vehicles, which I invite the author to read, show that a much higher percentage of these vehicles catch fire as a result of accidents and still more spontaneously combust and - this is somewhat important - many people die as a result. Statistically, EVs are much safer than internal combustion vehivles both when involved in a collision and when parked.
I personally had a car catch fire while parked and witnessed another ignite seconds after a minor front-end collision.
If you do the calculations, you'll see that the financial "break even" point for a LEAF vs. PRIUS (using the reasonable assumptions in the article) is over 170,000 miles. For a VOLT (in EV mode) vs. a PRIUS, it's over 350,000 miles! For a VOLT vs. the Corolla, it's over 300,000 miles.
Therefore, it is a fact that when people buy a VOLT or LEAF, they are paying a large premium to have the appearance of being green, and putting up with a lot of disadvantages. Even though electricity is indeed cheaper than gas, you'll probably never financially recover your investment.
This is why I think the trend in EV's and plug-in hybrids doesn't make much sense. Regular hybrids are great - they increase efficiency and only moderately add cost (check out the new Prius C). EV's (and plug-ins) do not actually increase net energy efficiency (when tracking back to the fuel at the power plant), and add a huge amount of cost. But that is a different discussion... With today's power grid they are, in my opinion, a tremendous waste of money and technology. The amount of misinformation out there (even from the EPA) surrounding EV's is stunning.
I have yet to see a succinct cost analysis on an electric vehicle or hybrid... or solar power system for the home or wind power or injecting power plant emmisions into the ground or gasahol.
I feel that the media have chosen not to cover these issues honestly. I am not against new technology but I feel that indirectly I am being required to pay for a lot of questionable "science". And it is disappointing and somewhat un-nerving that our "free press" conspire to remain silent on the facts.
When I was a young engineer I read a pamphlet on how a professional engineer should conduct him-/herself and they key point was that primary among an engineer's required qualities is honesty.
MIROX your brand approach is interesting and valid. Taken a step further it becomes interesting. Supose Tesla a) does well and b) Caddy decides to release their EV to compete in that market. Lets also supose OTHER UNRESTRICTED RANGE eneregy systems hit the market alowing Tesla and Caddy to offer extreemly lower operating cost & ROI that became the game changer. Now that WOULD BE EXITING!
nyeng YES you have a point BUT.... What trades exist today that are NOT computer based or driven? AND of those what pay would you exspect? The REAL problem is our whole system is screwed up.
The guy in the auto repair shop has a plug-in smart reader to READ out the problem. The parts man delivers (to the door) parts AND a pre-print "Parts Cost" sheet to "show" (legally falsify) to the customer his cost. Mr. repair man marks up everything in his computer and renders the customer the computerised "bill" (normally 2 to 3 times) the ESTIMATED cost. You either pay up or have your vehicle empounded until the mechanics lien is released. THESE ARE the people who MAKE/TAKE GOOD MONEY for BAD REASONS.
A good education is the best way to baet a street wise panhandler! Now I don't say everyone is like this, nor having a trade is not a valid option but, one must choose wisely. As to the car companies or any other business under our capitalist system they either MAKE money or get sold off. EP: BIG OIL
I agree with you completely, Watashi, about how Toyota was the pioneer which successfully "socialize" hybrid technology. Indeed, I'd say right now in the average consumer's mind, hybrids aren't even something different, they're just cars. With electrics (EVs) that's not the case at all. (And never will be, until range anxiety is ameliorated, either by improved batteries or build-out of a charging infrastructure.)
The importance of technology "socialization" can be seen by analogy to the tablet sector. Microsoft, in 2002, brought out tablet laptops. Actually, the PC hardware vendors made them; MS did the software. They failed miserably, because of price and performance issues. But I think the main reason they didn't catch on is because Microsoft wasn't able to socialize them-- i.e., they weren't differentiated as far as what their advantage was vis-a-vis existing technology and consumers weren't given any reasons to buy them, neither tech nor any "cool" factor.
Then Steve Jobs came along and did for the tablet what Toyota has done with the hybrid.
Some cars are more reliable than others, but even the vehicles at the bottom of this year’s Consumer Reports reliability survey are vastly better than those of 20 years ago in the key areas of powertrain and hardware, experts said this week.
As it does every year, Consumers Union recently surveyed its members on the reliability of their vehicles. This year, it collected data on approximately 1.1 million cars and trucks, categorizing the members’ likes and dislikes, not only of their vehicles, but of the vehicle sub-systems, as well.
A few weeks ago, Ford Motor Co. quietly announced that it was rolling out a new wrinkle to the powerful safety feature called stability control, adding even more lifesaving potential to a technology that has already been very successful.
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