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."
Great reality check, Chuck, and definitely worthwhile to put GM's Volt dilemma in perspective. We live in such an immediate gratification society that the impetus is to take the kneejerk reaction whether it's to dismiss a new technology or do some quick math that doesn't account for the total lifecycle picture.
I think your stance is a fair one: There is much more work to be done, but don't close the books on the Volt yet.
I agree with you in principle. But considering that GM is a restructured (failed) company, the risk of an R&D project of this magnatude makes absolutely no financial sense. IMHO GM should be trying to stabilize their business for the first several years by getting costs under control, improving quality, and probably even restricting near term new model developments.
GM has instead gone full steam ahead on an expensive model, in an economic downturn, that serves a small (niche) market, that is full of risk. This is what gives rise to the theories of enviro nuts in the government pulling the strings at GM.
GM will fall again. Hopefully this time they will file bankruptcy like they should have before, and be sold off to a competent organization that can restart them with a clean slate.
Chuck, this is a good summary of a lot of what has been discussed on this site for a while. On the other hand, one point you make needs a little more exploring. To point out that some of the technologies used in the Volt is really no different from the sharing of major components of standard cars. For example, most manufacturers have a smaller number of engines and transmissions than models. I am not talking about variations of the same model. For example, Chrylser has a V6 that was used in their LH sedans and the Pacifica, and I think the Prowler. So, until there are other cars that use components the Volt has pioneered, that cost is still with the Volt.
So, I think that the Reuters article is probably correct. Until GM gets to their sales goal, they will probably lose money. That is just the way industrial economics work (same with a chip factory, for example).
I was, at first, stunned to hear about the Volt losing 49K per vehicle. Thankfully, this article cleared that up to my satisfaction. There seems to be a dark undertone against EVs these days. These things are coming, folks, kicking/screaming aside. It will require a vast infrastructure change, no doubt, but we are capable of it.
What middle-eastern oil sheik is the mainstream media working for now? We buy $800M of foreign oil a day in the US and all we get is story after story trash-talking electric vehicles. In the beginning it seemed as though the resistance was just the normal resistance to change but it has grown into something much more. I for one will be going electric when it's time to replace my hybrid Lexus. The choice to pay engineers and engineering-oriented companies over the priveleged few oil resource owners is an easy one...
Buying an electric car is fine, if that works for you. The problem with the electric car is the same it has always been, it is either impractical, or expensive, or usually both at the same time. If you only drive limited milage every day, and your personal transport is all you do, then an electric could make sense, if it was cheap enough. Heck for that you can drive a golf cart, ride a bike or scooter, allow time to walk. The electric usually stops being practical when it is someone's only car. The electric, or even hybrids for that matter, stop making sense also from a personal finance standpoint. Normally the extra cost you will pay to use less gas will never even out with just buying a comparable gas only car. So in the end, the only reason for buying an electric or hybrid is because you either just like spending more money, or you are trying to make some kind of social/environmental statement using the badges on your car.
I currently drive a hybrid SUV that gets 26 mpg. It can tow 3800 lbs. and easily and comfortably transports five with plenty of room for stuff. Based on its cost relative to the non-hybrid model, the fuel savings pay for themselves right about 50,000 miles which is approximately where my lease ends. The way I see it, I paid engineers, technicians, and workers instead of oil owners that have declared themselves our enemy. And...reduced emissions to boot. You might call that a 'statement using the badges on your car' but I call it common sense.
Chuck, thanks (again) for bringing level-headed context to this ongoing story. There are ancillary costs as well that people have thrown out in the past two years to put their own context around the Volt ($200K per car if you factor in bailout and subisidy $).
Whatever. The point made here multiple times is that the R&D will benefit other GM vehicles for years to come.
Personally, I wish the investment was targeted toward a technology that didn't require such an infrastructure build out (fuel cells perhaps?) but time will tell.
That said, the Volt is a triumph of engineering, pure and simple and great engineering ain't cheap.
Brian, I agree with your comments - great engineering ain't cheap. However, the infrastructure build-out is already here! Remote charging stations (not at your house) will help, but it isn't essential. I'm at 225 mpg with 18,600 miles on my Volt.
What makes you think that being a U.S. taxpayer gives you the right to say that? Go to www.DOE.gov and school yourself what the actual benefits of jumping in this band wagon are prior to arrogantly claiming credit. Understand the politics.
As a U.S. taxpayer i say: Thank you GM for risking reputation, capital, and everything you had to jump into this band wagon and lead a revolution. 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. And i am perfectly OK with the way the USA decides to advance help innovation along so that we as a nation continuously better ourselves.
You need a bit of education yourself when you look at how many billions the tax payer was stuck with for GM. Sure, some of that was just the president paying off the UAW ... but the free market worked for a long time and still does work in some industries. The gov't is always the best way to make sure capital does not get allocated the most productively. Necessity used to be the mother of invention ... now it is taxPayers and political whim.
C'mon now...you lot would not have your roadways, bridges, railways or airports if the taxpayers money hadn't been anted up to begin with. Nobody but nobody in the private sector would have put up the risk capital to accomplish that which everybody takes for granted today..so also with the Chevy Volt...who knows but some of the contractual agreement between the Feds and GM was to develop and market an electric car...it's going to happen anyway so, 25 years down the road it'll all be OK, and everyone will be wondering what all the fuss was about.
Australia (a socialist country) had a private Japanese engineering firm build their tunnel under the Sydney harbour ... knowing that gov't cannot run anything well (Solyndra anyone). If there is a need, there will be a solution. Yes, the bridges would have tolls, but the overall cost would be far less ... and the people paying for these items would be the people using them, not the taxPayers. Here in NC I get the joy of paying for roads I am not allowed to drive on (roads for private clubs of UNC alums for instance). Do you believe that without gov't the world would stop? People would not cure diseases, people coult not drive. I believe you've spent too much time in the gov't classroom. Please point out a well run gov't business (and if you are willing to avoid details and find one ... I'll find you at least 10 horribly run gov't businesses). Gov't is not the answer ... not now, not then. Here in the US, our founding fathers told us this ... too many people did not believe how right they were.
You can believe what you like...it's your God given right I suppose. I suppose also since I don't live in the US I shouldn't comment on anything in case Yankee feathers get ruffled, although you must admit that corporate America (the private sector) managed to create the worst financial meltdown in history....if Government had regulated the Wall Street bunch that wouldn't have happened...or would it. BIG government and BIG corporations don't do the ordinary Citizen much good do they?
Your founding fathers? Mostly Scotsmen weren't they?
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.
ScotCan, of course we would have roads w/o the government. The first roads in the US were TOLL roads, privately built and funded. TOLL bridges, etc. It can be done, and when done by the private sector is ALWAYS less expensive and more utilitarian.
Of course, here in Maryland we have the worst of both worlds. As a taxpayer I funded the ICC (a toll road from nowhere to nowhere, only wanted by private developers to enable their land grabs, and that bankrupted our highway fund). As a driver, I get to pay again the $4 toll to drive the 8 miles. As a driver that wants to go faster than the artifically low 55 miles per hour, I get to pay again (I've seen as many as 6 speed traps along this short highway).
The government is a necessary EVIL. When there is private sector alternatives, they are ALWAYS better. When they get involved in "engineering" the private sector, it almost always makes things worse.
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 think the mpg measurement is not a valuable measurement. To be accurate it should be an energy usage measurement. The electricity was probably generated by burning coal, so the efficiency of the coal burning, conversion and transmission should be considered in the equation.
"To be accurate it should be an energy usage measurement."
I think that, to be accurate, we need to analyze costs per mile. I don't care if a vehicle costs $0.01/mile in "fuel" if maintenance (say, an expensive battery pack replacement) costs $1.00/mile. These are not real number, but you get the idea. The whole operational costs of the vehicle needs to be considered. Ownership costs, too. A $60000 vehicle that gets 40mpg will not be cheaper over its lifespan than one that's $20000, and gets 30mpg. In a cost-only comparson, depreciation will kill the $60000 vehicle.
@ChriSharek that's fantastic to hear... what's your daily commute like and do you have charging capability at work? Also, you're obviously very conscientious about going pretty much all-electric. How has the Volt changed your driving habits or has it at all? Cheers, Brian
I want to support your level-headed and logical comment. Your response is 100% rational with 0% political posturing to any agenda. Yet, some other hot-headed extremist plucked you with a "single-star" rating. 'Cripes ,,, someone needs a nap!
We can play accounting tricks with the amortization of development costs and the allocation of burden (factory overhead and indirect labor), but there is surely some good hard number for the per-unit factory cost comprised of purchased parts plus direct labor. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if even that exceeds the sales price.
I've read the "teardowns" of the battery pack, with all the microcontrollers and power electronics distributed throughout it, and I don't see how even just the battery pack and associated electronicsr could come it at any less than $20,000 factory cost.
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.
Actually people should rejoice and rush to the Chevy Dealers and buy as many VOLTs a they can, after all it is a real bargain !?
Any time anything is on sale for 1/2 the production price people run out and buy 2 or more of what ever it is, even if they do not need it, after all it is a "bargain".
SO why is not VOLT in the same category ? The fact that GM is selling any vehicle at loss should only make it more appealing !
Chrysler does great job with FIAT 500, Daimler with Smart, BMW with MINI and so on, only SUZUKI is not selling the SX4 at "loss", and their sales are minimal, so loss per vehicle seems to work for others quite well.
GM just does not seem to be able to capitalize on it, after all it revealed that it lost $900 per every SATURN ever sold for 26 years (but kept it a secret), now the only totally unprofitable brand is OPEL - and oh yes you can buy the AMPERA OPEL = CHEVY VOLT in Germany without any Government subsidy for about $30,000 more than in USA - so perhaps the "loss per VOLT" guess is not all that far off.............
Pound of Gold for Price of Lead: This is a false analogy. You are confusing cost of production with worth or value. Clearly, the Volt does not have $40,000 of value regardless of its actual production cost. (Sales prove that unequivocably) It's value (if you don't count the emotional value) is about $20,000. I'm not going to tell someone how they should spend their money, so if they feel good by buying a Volt, that's fine with me. But I do have issue when the government uses our tax dollars to underwrite the purchase.
If there is an automotive technology we need on the showroom floors right now, it's dual fuel vehicles using petrol and CNG. That way we can use clean, inexpensive, domestic natural gas for our daily around town use of our vehicles and if we need to drive further than the CNG supply will last, switch over to gasoline. These vehicles are already available overseas, why not here? Your refueling station would be in your garage with a high pressure pump and you just pay your local utility for the gas. We can even use separate metering of the gas to pay a 'road tax' to keep the greedy politicians happy.
Electric vehicles will occupy a niche market for quite some time. They simply do not compute on an economic basis for the majority of people.
Charles, is the rumors are correct. If it correct they have to answer many questions like why GM is selling Volt at low cost and why they wants to promote more sales without profit and even too in loss. Is there any grant for ecco friendly vehicles from government side? I think they may get some subsidy from government source for each vehicle, which can make up this margin.
If the first car off the line cost $1B, then the 2nd car only cost $ 0.5 B (that's 50% increase in productivity!) With these kind of stat's you can really drive any point home (sorry ;).
A good article, but what it was missing is the production cost side of the argument. What does it cost in material and labor (+ overhead) to manufacture each car. R&D is amortized over the whole company because, as it was noted, the technology is then available for other product lines (and also for tax reasons). GM's retirement liabilities are far more costly than R&D.
Are these cars being sold at less than the cost of production? If not, GM will be fine.
When I reviewed the Volt for AltEnergy.com I was stunned by a number of things but, being an Architect I was a bit disappointed by it's design. I hate the side window treatment.
And it was good to learn that they had found ways to lessen the costs of production significantly.
Nevertheless it is a very, very fine automobile.
But wait for the Converj which covers all the bases.
Both are brilliant, the Converj is stunning.
GM is not dumb yet thanks to Bob Lutz. And all the vituperative and vile attacks by the Republicans this election year fit in the same category as their intense interest in whay lay inside Clintons shorts for his entire last year in office. He left us with a surplus.
Lutz had it going long before they decided to act like insane idiots.
And today the Freep lets us know that Obama takes command.. 47 vs 37% in Michigan. We are obviously not birthers like some of our neighbors.
First, Charles, the article was a great read- both balanced and nuanced. The final answer is still "out there" and we don't know what it is yet, probably won't know for another 5-10 years. So it's too early to say the program is a failure, and it's also too early to say that skeptics are shills for the oil companies and Mideast sheiks. Politics of the GM bailout aside, Chrysler did receive a helping hand from the US decades ago and it seems to have worked, more or less. Maybe one day we'll say the GM assist was an overall positive. Again, the answer is still "out there"; it takes a long time for all the facts to emerge and be properly weighted in historical perspective.
I personally wish I found the Volt more attractive and that GM had priced it more competitively. Most of my driving is short range, limited in both distance and frequency. That makes me a good candidate for one of these cars, except that the cost-per-trip of casual use is through the roof for me. Also they look boring to me- was that the best exterior design they could think of?
3drob, you calculations are correct, if they are going for mass production. In mass production the cost per vehicle comes down to bottom level. But here the news is GM is selling each Volt for a loss of approximately $30,000.
Cars like the Volt are a PR item, they don't get made to make money, and historically they don't have a long lifesapn because the economics invaribly catch up to it. Someone starts asking, "why are we doing this?" When the CEO is the President, he gets what he wants, for a little while. The Volt is just too costly to be a game changer, and it only changes the game when it can be used as strickly an electric car, so it sufferes from the same issue of practicality. Basically for what my truck cost and the milage it gets, I can drive it for at least 10 years and break even with what it would have cost for a volt that I could only drive on the electric. The Volt is nothing but an expensive toy, like having a boat or a sunny day sports car, affordable only to those that have more money than sense.
The Volt doesn't necessarily exist for the purpose of being the lowest-net-cost form of transportation on earth. Like other products in a free market (including boats and sunny day sports cars), it exists to sell to people who want to buy one. The trick for GM is to find enough people who want to buy a Volt at a price at which - over a reasonable time for amortization - GM can make a profit, or at least not lose an unreasonable amount of money on a product which is as much an R&D exercise for GM as it is a cash-generating product line.
And of course, if GM ever should decide that the losses are too much, and give up the effort, they know they will all be burned in effigy as the people who "Killed the Volt".
All cars exist to sell to people who want to buy one, but obviously not many perople want to buy a Volt at the price it has. As for it being a R&D project, it is just a small version of a diesel/electric train that has been around for 80 years, not much R&D needed for that frankly. Selling a car that you are losing money on, sounds like a lot of government influence on that one, they are not good at math either. When GM is bankrupt again, I'd prefer that nobody give them any of my money again. I asume that all of you pro-Volters out there are driving one of these?, you sure make them sound like the greatest thing around.
Common sense, I don't disagree with your political position - I don't really have strong political feelings about this one way or another, I'm just looking at it as a product development challenge. In that light, I'm not sure that diesel train batteries would be very successful in this application.
Electric car will not work at this time and not in near future as well. There is simply not enough energy density in today's batteries. Only electric car that are feasible are golf cart type that can be used for short commute around the town and need to be recharged any time you park somewhere and can be rented anywhere using credit card.
Future of mass transportation is high speed trains, not gasoline or Diesel cars, and small electric cars around the town. Just copy France and Germany. Electric cars are simply not ready yet, probably will never be.
Hybrid and electric cars are expensive nonsense; better mileage is being achieved by small simpler cheaper Diesel cars, just check Volkswagen Diesels.
All this electric and hybrid car noise is made by greedy corporations that do not want to sell small diesel cars but make more money selling extremely complex and expensive electric and hybrid cars. Electric cars are slower by every mile they make, at the end of battery charge these cars just crawl. Unfortunately, media is simply brainwashing the consumers.
Recently group of English magazine "Car" journalist traveled on I-10 from Jacksonville FL to Los Angeles including city driving along the route using European 101 HP Golf Diesel. They averaged 71 MPG which is not possible with any of these hybrid nonsense cars.
Until some other type of fuel becomes widely available (nothing is in sight and probably won't be for decades) car manufacturing should go Diesel and reduce power to 30-70 HP which would be sufficient for 70 MPH on highways and with fuel economy better than any current hybrid. Yes, car would be sluggish so what: hybrids are slow as well and there are speed limits everywhere except on some German highways.
Oil should be saved by eliminating heavy trucks from roads and using trains and ships as much as possible. Transatlantic travel should go atomic: Large atomic powered ships should be built with capacity of 20-30 thousand passengers. Today, fast ship powered by atomic reactor can make trip from New York to London or France in 60 hours. In addition, it will be way cheaper and more comfortable than any airplane. One can walk and work using computers.
But then comes trucking lobbyist, airplane industry lobbyist and who knows how many other lobbyists and contribute to senators re-election and this is the end of story regarding smart energy policy and many other policies benefiting society, not corporations. This is happening in so called free market economy: This is the same economy that does not allow prescription drugs import. It is called monopoly.
At this time oil is not replaceable by anything, simply no other mobile energy source has enough energy density. Small Diesel powered cars are good temporary solution until much better batteries are developed (if ever developed) or Hydrogen manufacturing process is made much cheaper.
Wind and solar energy is stationary energy and can not be used for transportation purposes other than trains using electrical energy. Someone should tell this fact to "green" guys.
All these electric cars will fail: Chevrolet Volt, Nisan Leaf, Fisker, Tesla, they will never make profit.
"Electric car will not work at this time and not in near future as well. There is simply not enough energy density in today's batteries. Only electric car that are feasible are golf cart type that can be used for short commute around the town and need to be recharged any time you park somewhere and can be rented anywhere using credit card."
"All these electric cars will fail: Chevrolet Volt, Nisan Leaf, Fisker, Tesla, they will never make profit."
Look around you, there ARE electric cars around us, and they seem to be working just fine. There are many good points in your post, I myself drive a Diesel VW and think it is a better ROI (for me) than a hybrid, but I want to be able to make the choice among many technologies. Emerging technologies take time to mature into efficient and profitable products. No doubt, the Volt was a very bold and risky move on GM's part, time will tell if their TIMING was off on doing it when they did, but I have NO DOUBT that electrics will continue to be an ever increasing part of our transportation mix. Will it ever achieve mainstream vehicle status? I don't know, but it doesn't need to in order to be valid choice for a significant number of motorists needs. As to your last line (see above), it must be comforting to have such a certain view of the future.
Thanks for you comment. I am amazed with many people's inability to see key issuees with electric cars and many other kee issues:
Fisker is in bankrupcy, Tesla probably the same, technology is simply not there yet. Every where you go with electric car you must move one ton of non efficient batteries with you. So you make cars from aluminium, kevlar to be as light as possible which is very expensive. In order for electric cars to be feasible batteries must store 10 -15 times more energy and lose 90% of weight. It will nevet happen. Existing electric cars are extremely complex and expensive, resale value is almost non existing, someone jus sued Toyota regarding economic loss of used Prius. I am for green energy but you can't use wind or solar energy since it is stationary energy. I would purchase following electric car:
1. as a second car only for my 20 miles comote to work
2. I would pay $10K not more
3. Have one transferable licence plate for 2-3 cars like in Germany and pay one insurance since I can drive only one car at a time. (uh I can see State Farm comment)
4. Cars must be light, I don't want spending to much for new tires veruy often.
5. I acn continue like this but makes no sense. See you 3 year from now and let's check where will be Fisker, Volt, Leaf and all other electric cars.
I won't own a car that tops out less than 100mph (my current rides tops out around 160). I don't drive much different than anyone else, but I have the choice and I accept 20mpg to do it. Right now my foot is the difference between 13mpg and 25mpg
I'm not an outlaw. It isn't that I plan to dust the Police if they try to stop me; I just like having the option.
We are not all that different really - Hybrid owners love to feel superior and act pretentious because they drive a limited production car. I know that I drive a superior, limited production car. The only difference is that I don't want to force anything on others that they do not want. The alternative energy sycophants think they are the only ones that should have freedom of choice; Hybrid Hypocrites.
Hey... We all have to have a vice! Besides, speed limits are "more like guidelines" to quote a certain ficticious pirate captain.
The USG tinkering with the free market is threatening consumer choice. We aren't to the point of outright legislation, but the coersion is in full swing: - Artificial inflation of fuel prices by restricting domestic supply - CAFE standards (should not even be a subject of regulation) - Incentivising/deincentivising to alter market economics - Outright taxation on some models (ever hear of the new gas-guzzler tax?) - New car equipment regulations (safety glass is the only one I agree with)
Hybrids/EVs are just the current beneficiaries of the tyranny to which I object. But the 'holier than thou' attitude of the owners is always a good provcation for me to vent.
I would say no, generally. But then I don't have to live in So Cal stuck between mountians and winds that trap the city emmisions. I have seen the effects of their particular situation and can empathize somewhat.
However, I have not seen that else where in the US or developed countries (third world is just nasty in general). I beleieve that the earth is not nearly as fragile as people believe. The emmisions of personal conveyances is usually disbursed in the atmosphere to neglgible levels in short periods of time.
I can think of a few I've seen myself; Mexico City, Venice Italy, and right here in the States, Gary, L.A. and Chicago back in the Sixties. Smog and acid rain are a reality, and one only has to look at the damage that has been caused to man made objects to see how real the situation is. Yes, the planet is large enough to heal, but not without the help of the Clean Air Act and other responsible acts, either mandated or voluntary. Remember what smog did to peppered moths, and the impact of acid rain on trees and buildings? In the Sixties large birds disappeared from the skies because we chose to spray mosquitos with DDT. Now buzzards, hawks, herons, ospreys and eagles can all be seen no farther than outside my own window. We almost killed them off, but we had the good sense to change our habits. In my own lifetime I have seen the improvement from environmental legislation, maybe people are forgetting just how bad things were, or aren't old enough to have seen it firsthand?
I don't deny that Gov't meddling is wrong in many cases, but how about all the tax dollars spent protecting oil interests overseas? I think that far outweighs some tax credits given to buyers of some low-emissions vehicles.
"If the government can waste money there then it is OK to waste money here." So sure, a few billion dumped into GM to produce something that won't sell is not very important when compared to trillions of debt being piled up each quarter.
Well first, you're a gloomy guy, dude. Second, I'm as much a skeptic on electric cars as anyone, but many of the facts you quote are inaccurate or inapplicable.
Take removing heavy trucks from the road. Now I don't know your background, but I suspect you don't have intimate knowledge of how the US is laid out geographically. We're spread out over much of the country, with scattered and fairly rare centers of population density, unlike Europe and other areas. So relying on rail transportation is of VERY limited value. Trains can and do transport goods from population center to population center, then you have to use other transport methods to finish the products' journey. If you eliminated large trucks, then you'd have to replace them with a whole lot of additional smaller trucks and vans- hardly a suitable solution because they'd create just as much (or more) pollution. Also recall that those large trucks are diesel, a solution you favor elsewhere in your comment. Smaller trucks generally run on gasoline.
Also, mandating that everyone has to own sluggish and underpowered autos just because they're more efficient is about as anti-American as an idea can be. As free citizens, we demand the right to choose what we want to buy and own. We have to pay for our choices, but that does not impact our right to make them. There are reasons for having more power available than you need at any one moment- driving up a steep mountain incline, entering a fast-moving freeway from a dead stop, passing another motorist on a two-lane road, towing a trailer full of lumber for a household project, and so on.
As to using nuclear ships for civilian transport, there are a whole lot of cruise ships out there just looking for every advantage to enable them to stay profitable, and none of them are selecting nuclear. There must be a reason (cost? unfavorable popular opinion of the industry? lack of appropriate nuclear waste disposal sites? etc.).
I don't mean to discourage your study of the issue, because we need all the input we can get, but I recommend you go back to the drawing board.
Thanks for your response My background is mechanical engineering, major in internal combustion engines, thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, 40 years so far. I have several patents in the field of infrared guided misiles technology and oilfield technology. I worked in Belgium, Germany and last 20 years in the USA. Last 11 years I am manging R&D for one division of major international oil company.
You are missing the point: The oil is running out and what is left will be more and more used by China and other countries. How do I know? I am currently working on 40,000 feet deep oil well project in the Golf of Mexico. Easy oil is gone. 40,000 feet depth is stretching technological limits on all known equipment and is result of the fact that there is little oil that can be explored left .I am not suggesting to eliminate all trucks but trains don't need foreign oil, they use electricity made from domestic coal or gas. And these small trucks you are refeing to that would transport goods and people form train stations within city limits can be electrical. It is well known that American rail system is very underdeveloped. If you have chance go to Europe and ride one of these high speed trains. What a diference comparing to cramped coach. Do you know that high speed train beats airplane from London to Paris and does not spen a drop of oil. Remaining oil should be preserved much better for instance for military airplanes unles someone invent electric airplane that will be able to carry heavy bateries. In the meanwhile R&D is needed to find something elese instead of oil, but at this point there is nothing with energy density of oil. The only promissing fuel is Hydrogen but mfg process is way to expensive for now.
I agre that it is nice to have strong vehicles (I own Toyota Tundra 381HP truck what hypocrist) but reality is this is not sustainable and energy needs to be preserved as much as possible. You are still thinking as if there is as much oil left and there is no any crisis at all. There is no 500 billion, yess with B of oil in Wayoming, only Newt Gingrich know for that oil.
It seems that GM's historical lack of planning and poor business decisions continue to plague car sales. GM's late entry into the electric hybrid market along with low and/or poorly focused R&D investment has left them with an overpriced, under tested and non-competitive offering, the Chevy Volt. Like many Americans I was hopeful that the launch of the Chevy Volt would be a turning point for GM – showing consumers and the market that the old GM mentality that almost bankrupted the company (actually did bankrupt) was changing. Instead GM launched the Volt, years late, with an initial battery recall (most probably a known issues at the time of market release – a market strategy used by GM in the past), a high price tag, and high manufacturing costs. When will GM learn that consumers don't expect to pay (price tag and poor quality) for GM's poorly run R&D effort by purchasing cars (technology) that isn't ready for mass production?
I followed the Volt main blog and tech site for us non-GM people right after the auto show. The car was cool and had tons of potential. GM made some mistakes with the car to be sure, it should have been a diesel engine to improve fuel consumption, instead of modifying an existing engine they should have designed one from scratch, etc. The biggest issue is, and everyone before it launched on the blog site knew this, the car was going to sell for a loss and it was going to be 5-10 years before the Volt, at $42k MSRP, was going to be profitable. GM was going to take a bath on the car and hope other car sales would offset the loss. Back in 08-09 this was fairly common knowledge among us who followed the Volt.
Many stated how a company just bailed out and OWNED (via stock) by the federal government (kings of debt spending) was allowed to sell cars for a loss. This could lead to many bad things, and some how shown up now. So, the point is, a multitude of followers cried out that this car should be a Buick or a Caddy and sold to at least break even. Only the well off could ever afford this car anyway. THAT is the failure. GM choose to sell it at a loss when it could have choosen to break even or make money. THAT is the issue that people should be ticked off at. GM knew they would be bailed out by the FED (most likely) and that allowed them to do what they did, something any normal company never would have done. It is a failure of GM and our political 'leadership' (very loosely applied to anyone in DC).
I have no issue with the engineering or design outside of some minor points. The big issue is how the car was marketed, and the threat of failure was completely removed by the bailout and now the certainity of future 'too big to fail' bailouts by spinelss politiicans in DC.
For the last 40 years I have wanted a pickup truck (I need one for my business) that would get 40mpg and I have been denied that choice by the auto companies that refuse to make one! Making cars is a business, and the car companies have decided that they can extract higher profits from you by putting a speedometer in their cars that goes up to 120, so they refuse to provide me with the 40mpg truck.
Why is it that a big truck(say a 20 ft box truck) gets the same or better gas mielage as my pickup? Your 100+ mph car and my 12mpg truck are the result of design choices by marketers in the auto companies who only focus on selling the samer old crap year after year. Remember when cup holders were touted as a technological breakthrough for them?
A modern gasoline or diesel car has an efficiency of only 12%. The same as in 1950! It's time that improved, and clearly the auto companies proved that they are incapable of doing that without any outside motivation. That's why we all hate them, and why they almost went bankrupt.
VW did make a deisel "rabbit" pickup truck, some of the owners glaimed as much as 70mpg (they are collectables) but the rest of the veheicle was junk, rusting out in a few years and bad wiring. At that time i was with my first "love" a powder blue and white 61 chevy step side that I bought for $100 and helped me get through school and start my first business. Gas was 25 cents. Deisel was hard to come by then also unless you took it out of your heating system!
I would like to have that 40mpg truck too, but it isn't because my car goes fast that I don't. The two are not mutually exclusive. I don't see your point.
The auto companies may be responding to performance demand that emphasizes power above mileage. But I believe if the demand were there for mpg over power, they would respond in kind. I just don't like the feds getting involved in what is essentually a private transaction.
@Watashi People in the 1800 said that pullution from factories would not effect the atmosphere, then came acid rain. People in the 50's n 60's didn't think the CFCs would effect it either, then came the hole in the ozone layer. A billion years of vegetation growth trapped carbon which was then laid down to stew, producing oil, coal etc. A billion years of carbon trapping, thne released in a couple of centuries MUST change the air. Even if not in global warming(which I doubt), certainly in air quality.
On the EV front, with a huge proportion of electricity still being produced by burning fossil fuels, EVs mostly just shift the pollution elsewhere. Good for SoCal dwellers, but globally, not much of an advantage. With regards to the motor company's investment, the development done in bringing the Volt to the road will be spread over many decades and models. Why though, have they not done more to standardise more components ? Almost every make and model uses a completely different set. Anything from steering ball joints to suspension, seats, seatbelts, airbags, should be standard, with a few exceptions for much heavier, or seriously luxurious vehicles
I don't buy any of your environmental examples and as we have seen many times before; we will probably never sway one another no matter what evidence is presented.
However, you have a good point regarding the standardization of vehicle equipment. while many models do share some standard components, most of those are still redressed with new plastics or such. Henry Ford revolutionized the industry through standardization; it is ironic that this tenant isn't used more.
We will have to wait and see regarding the value of the investment. But partnering with another hybrid/EV OEM or supplier to standardize the batteries would have been a praise-worthy move.
One thing that everyone seems to forget is basic physics 101. When you convert energy from one form to another you always lose in the process. The internal combustion engine is not very effcient. The concept of the volt takes the energy in gasoline and burns it in the engine (1) conversion, to drive a generator, (thats a second conversion, the transmission between the two units). Then the generator creates electricity, (which is a third conversion). The energy is then stored in a battery where more energy is lost in charging the battery (fourth conversion), which is why the volt battery needs to be liquid cooled.
When the car is driven the electricity goes from the battery to an electric motor which is the fifth time the energy is converted.
So in effect we go from chemical process, burning gasoline to mechanical process, engine, to second mechanical, transmission and generator, to conversion to electricity, to storage of electricity, to powering an electric motor back to mechanical.
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.
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.
To be successful with electrics they will have to take the design away from automotive trained engineers. Their default is 4 passenger, wide tires, steel suspended, cushy riding, sound system laden, 4000 pounds of machinery and estetics. Everything must justify going along for the ride. I can see a carbon fiber body that incorporates the suspension, batteries that are either structural members or replaceable as you drive through a "power station", single passenger vehicles shapped more like an egg with wheels that could be stood up on its back end to reduce the parking foot print required . . . Its just engineering.
There is no competition to the Volt. It is totally unique for its price range. No other car in its price range gives you the option of electric or gas energy source. i own one and have driven over 11000 miles. Most of the time it is in electric mode, but when the battery runs out, it transparently switches to gas with its built in generator. (i've used less than 1 gallon per 300 miles driven so far in the Chicago area.)
It saddens me that this story ever got printed by the original news organization that wrote it. How can the concept of amortizing development cost be so abstract that GM would have to defend themselves on the subject. I recall learning these types of things somewhere back in 10th or 11th grade. This isn't material for doctoral research here! It costs a boatload of money to develop revolutionary products, that should be the end of the story rather than trying to write GM's obituary with every story. I applaud Design News for giving the article headline appropriate to the story.
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!
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 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!
High volumes only serve to make things less expensive when the labor costs dominate. I'm not able to say one way or the other at this point, but I rather suspect the material costs will tend to keep large batteries expensive. All the automation and process improvement will only help reduce the labor costs of assembling these cells. High volumes may in fact raise prices on batteries as the demand for limited resources goes higher.
I want the Volt to succeed. I want to be free of the ties to parts of the world that actively hate us. Right now, they have some power over us because we need something they have. The sooner we can eliminate that tie, the sooner they become powerless.
Mr. McDermott: You said right, at present technical conditions VOLT is the right vehicle. I use it. But the price should come down to max . and the tax rebate should be rollover or upfornt . These are some economical issue with this car.
Also this car should make as FIVESEATER to make this attaractive and pleasant to look inside ( the back seating.
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?
almoore--This is exactly where I am parked at the moment. I looked at a Volt thinking that being friendly to the environment was the way to go and the thing I should do. I visited a Chevy show room, talked with the sales rep on the floor and got his "best estimate" as to the costs minus any rebate the Fed might give me. I could not justify the cost-- not at all. One thing also that was disconcerting, the sales rep had no idea as to what resale allowances might be. There is no data available (his words). I bought gas today for my Toyota Pre-runner, 15 gallon tank at $3.83 a gallon. We can all do that math so maybe there will come a time when the Volt will provide a decent ROI--but not now. Another disconcerting thing, we won't be getting any help from Washington any time soon so the cost of gas will definitely increase. We may all be riding the bus before this is over.
It is ecnomically feasable, until the price of these vehicles are down. The rebates should be retolled/reworked to make use it by all. This is a luxary vehcile in looks and ride. It is one a kind and this is the just begingin. Let us not kill the concept. Or look for the time to pay $10 per gallon and become economical slaves to oil producing countires.
Engineers and industry analysts predict the prices will drop with economies of scale, but not as much as all of us hope. Two engineers -- both with major auto companies that are building electric cars -- have told me that they foresee battery PACK (not cell) costs coming down to between $250 and $300/kWh between 2020 and 2025. Several analysts have made similar predictions of $300/kWh - $400/kWh by 2020. Today, the figure is said to be closer to $800/kWh, according to automakers, analysts and the National Academy of Engineering. At $300/kWh, a big 85-kWh lithium-ion battery like the one in the Tesla Model S would run $25K, so much work remains.
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