Does anyone REALLY believe any of the top automakers are truly committed to making an electric vehicle? Why would they let go of the hugely profitable gasoline based business? And it's not just gasoline but all the other crap they hook us on like filters, hoses, belts, "tune-ups", pumps, etc, etc. There's little or no maintenance in an electric vehicle. Even your brake pads could last 100K miles since you'd be mostly using regenerative braking. You can even make your own electricity with solar panels, wind, etc. You can't easily make gasoline and parts, however, so they got you there.
The only reason GM had the EV-1 was to comply with a CA law that required it. As soon as they lobbied it out, so was the EV-1. They're throwing another Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt smoke screen in front of all to both appear progressive and as a pony-show to their shareholders to make them think Nissan and Tesla are not kicking their butts in the EV arena. GM does NOT have an electric car. The Volt is a hybrid. But not just any hybrid, one that brings together the limitations of both electric and gasoline technologies resulting in nothing but ungodly complexities. There's the gas engine, needing maintenance and parts from GM... how convenient.
Then there's the so-called contract with A123 for a pie-in-the-sky battery that will never be. They are committed to LG and whatever LG wants to put out. But because GM took huge amounts of taxpayers monies, they have to show intent on supporting a US based company. There are individuals that have converted their ICE cars to pure electric and get 150 miles on a single charge. The entire conversion is way less than what you would pay for a Volt. Electric vehicles are doable, viable and practical today, there's just no real commitment from manufactures.
I think it's clear that a pure-electric BEV has a very different use model from the Volt's large-battery, series-hybrid configuration. A BEV works great for driving in-town, since it doesn't carry the extra weight burden of the engine, generator, and gas tank (exhaust system, etc.). However, its usability for long stints on the highway is very dubious. There's a market for each, with a straight-forward distinction between those two markets.
Sometimes, everyday people have a better handle on things than large companies. I come from a small town (<5000 people). I had not been back in a very long time. When I returned, I was suprised to see that many people in addition to regular cars used golf carts for driving short distances. These vehicles were efficient and had storage space for groceries etc. They even had a "golf cart drive in" night at a local school where people would drive their carts to an open air movie screen. Golf carts cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 dollars. More ramped up production and perhaps a little styling would most likely reduce this. Most people aren't going to spend $20,000 plus for an electric vechicle with limited range, but they certainly would consider something around 5 or 6 thousand. This, I think is the best application of current EV technology. A second low priced vehicle for short trips based on existing technology. Let it gradually evolve as technology does. The biggest hurdle however, maybe local regulations.
And yes, they don't go fast, but don't we all need to slow down and enjoy life a bit?
I think GM learned much from the all electric EV1. This knowledge was incorprated into the multiple-award winning Chevy Volt. One reason the Volt has a backup electric generator is a direct result of knowledge GM gained from the EV1 project.
I can say from personal experience, my Volt is unlike GM cars of the past (a good thing!) and I am delighted with the handling, 5 star safety, acceleration, interior design, and the ride itself. My lifetime MPG is well over 100MPG.
Part of the Volt concept was the ability to replace the gas fueled electric generator with one powered by diesel, etc., or even eliminate it entirely!
I expect that GM will take valuable info gleaned from the Volt to go full circle back to a car like the EV1 that has no backup power source.
It's important to keep in mind that the Volt was a compromise between "ready/off the shelf" components married to new battery tech. This was done to achieve a faster time to market and reduced costs. Even so, it took years and capital investment.
I fully expect that they have had other development projects in the pipeline that can be more purpose built, enabling the achievement of other car achitectures.
We're all in agreement here. Battery costs being what they are, it's a great idea for all EV manufacturers to work tightly with their battery suppliers. Today's pure EV batteries cost $20,000-plus. In many cases, that's more than half the price of the car.
I too think it's positive momentum for GM to have both BEV and EV vehicle development on parallel tracks. I think it's far too early to say any of these emerging alternative technologies is the right bet and developing the technology on a number of fronts has to be the optimal approach. I also agree with Doug that given the size and complexity of the alternative fuel challenge, even the big OEMs have to cooperate on some level in order to achieve advances on any great scale.
American vehicles are by far used for daily commute. The problem of a light weight limited passenger count vehicle occurs after the commuter gets home. When it's time to take the kids to soccer, now you need at least four seats, if not the seven offered by a minivan.
It still comes down to storage capacity / power density. Until there's a revolution in that area, all the advances in vehicle design are in a holding pattern.
The LG announcement seems to reflect a sea change in corporate R&D culture at General Motors. It's a great sign that GM is investigating a technical collaboration on such an important subject with a Korean company. In the 1990s (Lopez era) GM was infamous for beating up its suppliers for the lowest possible price, while competitors such as Chrysler (Stallkamp era) viewed suppliers as collaborators.
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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.