But it's not really fair to analyze it that way. GM plans to sell a lot more than 20,000 Volts. Moreover, the Volt's technologies -- battery cells, battery packs, controls, electric motors -- will be used in other GM programs, from the Spark to other electrified vehicles. "No one should expect a quick payback on this kind of vehicle," David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, told us in an email. "My guess is that it will become five-plus years before the costs become competitive."
That's not to say there aren't reasons for concern. The Volt hasn't hit its sales projections, and the poor showing of other electrified vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i, don't bode well. What's more, the Volt's near-term outlook is troubling. It still costs twice as much as a Chevy Cruze, and it runs $15,000 more than some competitors, such as the Prius c.
"If you compare it to other high-mileage vehicles, some of which come fully loaded for $25,000, it's hard to get a return on the extra investment," Dennis Virag, president of Automotive Consulting Group Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., told us. "You can't save enough on gas to justify the higher price."
So, yes, there are reasons for concern. And, yes, GM needs to cut the Volt's pricetag... a lot.
Still, it's too early to be making a per-vehicle assessment on the Volt. GM knew it would be playing in a new market. Its engineers knew that the up-front costs would be high. Yet the company jumped in anyway. That suggests it plans on sticking around for a while. "They had to develop the technology," Cole said. "And you can't delay engineering until all the costs are in line, because you'll be left out of the game."
I was talking about large batteries in volume. In manufacturing volume is everything. I remember an engineer friend showing me a large box of switches, about 10,000 pieces. They cost 0.5 cents at that volume. They bought the prototypes at Radio Shack for 79 cents each!
My old boss and I struggled to design inexpensive products manufactured in low quantities. Getting samples of anything was always tough, we often had to pay top dollar. Then he went to work for a company that did huge volumes. He called a switch company for some samples. He got them the next day, hand carried by an engineer who took an early flight. The guy left him a hundred pieces of each one they had discussed!
I boughta Volt and I'm very impressed with the technology. I've been getting 45 - 52 miles on a charge, in contrast to that story about the Fox(?) News reporter who only got 25 driving into Manhattan. You do have to change your driving habits a bit, such as anticipating red lights and other stopping, and keeping the speed down on freeways. I was mostly surprised to find that I get better mileage in city traffic than on the freeway!
As someone here pointed out, I likely will not get as much back in savings on gas at current prices as the premium I paid for the car in the first place. We'll have to see what gas prices do. Volts seem to retain value as used cars though. They also come with 3 - 5 years of OnStar, which is worth about $20 a month, I think.
Gary: Reference the large batteries, that's not really true. Seven years ago, the manned submersible program I was working on installed a 1.2MW-hr Li-Ion battery to replace a problematic Ag-Zn battery. Each cell was 700 A-hrs, about the size of a typical physics textbook. There are many other applications for large cells outside of the automotive industry but certainly the auto industry will put the volume into the equation.
I would love to own an EV if it were economically feasible. Right now I can't justify spending $50k on one without a better return on my investment. Isn't it kind of odd though that we look at the ROI of EV's more than fossil fuel vehicles?
Did they suddenly pay off their share of the $25,000,000,000 outstanding from the bailout?
Yes the time is not right but then the time is never right for innovation yet someone needs to step in and take a chance. Even though some aid was given from the U.S. government i doubt that was anything other than Seed money in the form of tax breaks... ?
I loved the Volt (as a concept anyway) right up till the bailout with all the 'politics' that were created with that mess.
And Chrysler should'a had to bail me outta that POS Jeep I still own. I may end up donating it just to be done with it. So yeah... I agree Ervin... 'you're welcome' might be the wrong words...
I used to think that hybrid cars were a dumb idea. Then I realized how important they really were. Without a product using large batteries no battery company would ever be able to develop large batteries, there is no market and no money ofr research. Without batteries electric cars would never happen.
I am always amazed at how people misunderstand the concept of electric cars. Electricity is not a power source. It is a way to transport energy, nothing more. By the same token hydrogen is not an energy source. There is no natural source of hydrogen like there is oil and gas. So all hydrogen gets manufactured using another enery source, just like electricity.
The reason electric cars are important is because what drives an electric car is completely independent of the energy source. It is very important that the energy can come from oil, gas, hydro, solar, nuclear, or wind. Initially it will mostly come from fossil fuels, and as new sources become available the changes to the infrastructure will only change slightly. Yes the grid is under sized right now. Building a bigger grid also powers everything else we use.
To use hydrogen as the energy transport mechanism requires an incredible amount of infrastructure that does not exist at all. You are starting completely from scratch.
So hybrids are a transition vehicle. They encourage battery developement, expansion of hte power grid, developement of new sourcess of energy etc. So in that context the Volt is a very important car. It likely will fail, it is always easy to identify the pioneers. Just look for all the feathers sticking out of their back!
You're right, Brian. Great engineering ain't cheap. Now that we're learning how high the costs of the Volt program were, it makes me wonder what GM execs said about it during the bailout in 2009. With the Volt program already two years old at that point, GM decided not to drop it. But I would have loved to have been the fly on the wall for that discussion.
First, big gov't and big corporations go hand in hand and corporatism results when gov't is powerful enough to pick winners and losers (instead of the market). Ayn Rand has some tremendous talks on that, but one of my favorites is: "One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists of establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary." Ayn Rand 1975. If you want to know more about the banking crisis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivmL-lXNy64 . But that is all to say that gov't involvement is almost always destructive and stealing of capital from a well working system. As for the founding fathers ... All from what we say as Great Britain (which may or may not be accurate) ... but they were brilliant men ... and we now ignore them at our peril. Such is life.
Yes it's a lot of conversions, although you count one too many. Still, it is twice as efficient as a conventional ICE car of similar size. Why?
1. The entire electric part of the drivetrain operates in the 90's (% efficiency) while an ICE is at best low 30's.
2. The vehicle recovers a high percentage of braking energy that traditional vehicles waste in heat generation. Depending on driving conditions this power is over half of the total energy being used in the first place.
Tesla Motorsí $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 worldís vehicles will be plug-ins.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.