Just as the winner of a 2012 Chevy Volt in our Drive for Innovation contest was announced, the automaker revealed changes for the 2013 version of the car that goes on sale in August. (But I don't think winner Ted Yan will be feeling all that left out!)
On the technology side, the major upgrade is increasing battery capacity from 16kW to 16.5kW, along with as yet undisclosed changes to the battery chemistry. These revisions result in the EPA electric-only range of the car going from 35 miles to 38 miles. Consequently, full recharge time on 120V goes from 10 hours to 10.5 hours.
GM says, based on Volt owners' experience and data, that battery life is not as sensitive as it first supposed -- which could mean future versions will use more of the battery capacity with deeper discharging to improve range along with charging closer to full battery capacity.
The list price (including destination charges) stays at $39,995, not including a US government rebate of $7,500.
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller.
I think a big difference with the Prius was that it was always priced in a range that was widely accessible and was able to become a profitable, commercially successful vehicle at that price (late in the first gen). A sustainable buisness model.
It is a open question whether the Volt can become profitable even at the 40K price point, and that is well out of the mainstream for a small 4 passenger vehicle. I'm not saying GM shouldn't have done it, though I question the value of the govt subsidizing it.
The ~10 hour recharge time, taken at face value, would only be if you ran the car down completely. It would be very difficult to do that very often unless you had a very regimented, long trip every day.
Having lived with an EV for years, I find the convenience of charging at home to somewhat offset the recharge time. Most days you come home, plug it in, hit the button and the next morning you're at 100% when you go to work. Doesn't matter if it took 1 hour or 10 hours to replenish what you used the day before, it's sitting in the garage all night anyway.
There's also the strategy of opportunity charging. Even if only at 120V, amp hours are amp hours and if you're stopped somewhere you can plug in, do so and recoup what you can. A few extra miles during a day of extended travel may make all the difference. People do this with their cell phones now, an EV isn't really any different in this regard.
There are few advantages and many disadvanages to owning an EV but I will offer that some of the limitations really aren't that hard to work around once you get past the ICE operational paradigm.
Ockham; The 'special' about the 220 volt circuit would probably be that it is dedicated to the charger for the Volt. I don't know if many owners would be willing to pull out the electric dryer to unplug it and then plug in the charger. Even so, if the dryer is not in the garage with the car, what length of power cable would be required ?
As to power consumed by the charger vs. power into the battery; that is a function of the efficiency of the charger converting AC to DC, and the efficiency of the battery accepting the charge. This is not a perfect analogy, but if a project takes 500 man-hours to complete, that does not mean that 500 men can complete the project in one hour.
Those statistics alone prove out that the current state of EV technology, at these price points, makes it a luxury purchase, not a practical buy. But as someone pointed out earlier in these posts, the Prius enjoyed that same kind of do-good, greenie, status symbol in its earlier years and is now much more accessible to non-high income earners. I actually just saw a TV ad for the Volt this week that had a woman talking up all the savings she's getting by not buying gasoline and she looked pretty middle class (if there is such a thing any more). Maybe it's a sign of the times to come.
In answer to your question, Rob, the agerage income of a Volt buyer is $170,000+ per year. That's a GM statistic. Deloitte Consulting says that the average income for an EV buyer is $200,000+ per year.
Wow. Given the price (even with the gov. subsidy) and the driving range, I can't see who buys these cars. Improvements seem frustratingly incremental. I would also think the public at some point will get frustrated with underwriting the gov. subsidy. I would think the tipping point to wide acceptance of these vehicles seems far, far away.
re: You say the published Chevy Volt charge rates are:
6 hours at 12 amps @ 120volt which equals 8.6kWh
3 hours at 16 amps @ 220volt which mysteriously equals 10.6kWh
So, charging at 220 volt is only 80% as efficient as charging the same battery pack at 120 volt? Really?
Also, what's so "special" about installing a 20 amp 220 volt circuit? I don't know of a standard 220 volt NEMA / UL receptacle that is not rated at at least 20 amps. Heck, use the electric dryer receptacle! :-)
Thanks for clarifying, Glenn. Three hours is much more palatable. I would assume if you were making an investment in an EV, you'd have to factor in installation of specialized voltage, much as if you were keeping a boat or an RV at home and wanted to keep it charged.
Beth Stackpole; On another search the spec's for charging were listed as 6 hours at 12 amps on 120 volts, or 3 hours at 16 amps on 220 volts. The 220 volt would be a specially installed home unit. So the re-charging time can be less than 10 hours, but still no comparison to filling a gasoline tank.
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
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