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Re: Not just good for the environment? Maybe just not good.
nyeng   2/10/2012 1:22:45 PM

I'd do the opposite with school kids.  I'd tell them to stay away from college and learn a trade.  College is a huge waste of money IMO.  The "shortage of engineers" is false if you ask me.  Maybe "shortage of engineers who'll work for the pittance we want to pay" is a better way to phrase it.  I have a masters degree, a license, and make 5th percentile pay.  Please tell me where design news found these people that average 90 something thousand/yr and average a $9k per year bonus.


That said, the auto industry is not about innovation in my mind, it's about making money.   For three years I made a good salary in the auto industry and it was miserable.  I got denied my bonus and lost my 401k match among other things.  I worked with a lot of talented people.  Some worked on developing new technologies.  Most of us worked on making the current product or the next generation product cheaper than the one it replaced.  We moved backwards technologically.  Changed things from aluminum to steel.  From plated steel to unplated steel.  If it doesn't rust through in 3 or 36 it's good to go.  Another example involved throwing out 2 years of work on state of the art control software and using 1998 vintage software because it was the cheapest way to fix a hardware problem.

That kind of business thinking will be the end of the Volt.  If the ROI isn't what they want they'll pull the plug [I know lousy pun] on it.  They should stay the course with it for the sake of developing  the product further as well as the public exposure.  GM will axe it.  Just like they did with the diesel for half tons and SUV's (Duramax LMK).  It's not a good idea unless it's good for the bean counters.

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Re: Safety is a problem!
bronorb   2/10/2012 12:46:57 PM

You're absolutely right and I believe that is what we are hearing from GM management. They are ready to shelve the Volt because it is not paying off fast enough. That is a typically American attitude. Go for the quick pay-off. Heck, we should be able to get Money-for-Nothing, right? American auto manufacturers are know for their short-sightedness (is that a word?). The Prius was hitting the market when gas prices were flying through the roof and Detroit was cranking out SUV after SUV. The Volt is GM's attempt to get back in the game but again they missed the boat... too expensive.

They had the chance to take over the technology and the desire of the consumer, but they went for the quick bucks. 40 grand?!?! Are you kidding me? I paid 27 grand for my used F150 11 years ago. 130,000 miles later it is now paid for and no matter how I do the numbers, trading it in for a Volt doesn't cut it. Even my wife's 2005 Beetle will be paid for in a couple of months and as much as I dislike that car, I can't see that working out in dollars and cents.

Sorry, they blew it.

Ozark Sage
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Re: Not just good for the environment? Maybe just not good.
Ozark Sage   2/10/2012 12:46:56 PM
PghEE interesting comments that I would like to otherwise explore.

First the Market is run by MARKETING types, remember this; accept the fact! 

You, as an EE know that the ROI of TODAYS EVs isn't worth considering but, you might also like to know YOU can personally do something about this   The EVs CAN win this race over the Petro industry if they JUST KEEP MOVING AHEAD.....   ENGINEERS that understand the MAJOR SOURCE of polution IS FOSSIL fuels, LIKE YOURSELF and ALL OUR PEERS, need to take proactive steps to help make this happen. 

HOW 1.  Attend and participate in IEEE, SME, SPE, etc. events, ESPECIALLY those visitations to 8th and 10th graders to encourage them to take the harder courses enabeling them to get a technical education that WILL allow them to conquer the challanges  now and in the future that face our planet. 

HOW 2. REALIZE there IS other ways to get ENERGY other than batteies! 

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Re: Not just good for the environment
philipp10   2/10/2012 12:31:31 PM
Sure middle east oil is cheap to extract.  What does matter though is the cost to extract the last 5-10% of oil we are using.  If it runs $100 a barral to extract the last 5-10% we are using and there is a demand for that last 5-10%, then the rest of the oil supply rises until we hit the highest bidder.  So extraction costs do matter.  Its supply and demand and as long as one group is able to pay, the price will rise until demand falls.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Safety is a problem!
Beth Stackpole   2/10/2012 12:25:13 PM
@Tony: It does seem like there are parallels between your industry and the EV industry, obviously on a much different scale. I think the overriding takeaway I got from your letter (and one I wholeheartedly agree with) is that any kind of major innovation or transformation is progressive and there needs to be patience and acknowledgement of even the smallest advances. So many times it seems like people are so ready to jump on the naysayer bandwagon and denegrade technology just because it isn't perfect--YET.

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Elephant in the room
BillFZ1   2/10/2012 12:09:17 PM
Common sense started to say it but didn't get there before going into the political rant. (Much justified) The fact is that there is little justification for any EV when you consider that almot every manufacturer make a car that gets equal or better milage running straight gasoline. Sometimes much better if you don't drive in the hybrid around town nitch. If you are forced by the economy to drive more than 30 hiway miles to work a Cruse or a VW TDI or a Toyota Yaris etc... are simply better for the environment than almost any Hybrid or EV. Most will produce better MPG than the Hybrid equivelent on the highway.

HYBRIDS AND EVs ARE SOCIAL ENGINEERING PERIOD. As an engineer I am interested in the technology they make available, but I'm upset by the non-science used to boost them by the government rooters. EVs are not "zero pollution" they are NIMBY (not in my backyard) vechicles. Hybrids are at besst a partial solution, and can usually be equaled or bested by straight gas and diesel cars built for mileage. Lastly the batteries are a disposal HAZZARD. When lots of these things reach end of life we will have a major toxics problem.

Bill J

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What is a Volt, anyway?
Bluestreak   2/10/2012 11:52:22 AM
In the last month I have driven hybrids from Lincoln, Hyundai, Lexus (the Ct200h) and just last night, the Volt. (I've rented a Prius, so drove that car a couple years ago)

We all have our sensibilities and internal yardsticks, our mental spreadsheets and benchmarks. Of all the hybrid's I've driven recently, I thought the Volt was the coolest. It feels like something.... different from the get-go. In looking and driving at the car, I am not beaten about the head by the funky edge of Japanese design and I am not coddled by normalcy nor lulled into NOT thinking about what really is happening under the sheet metal.

The Volt is quiet, with amazingly little wind noise. The GM NVH guys did a great job! It moves quicker than you expect, with that lunge of speed you get from gobs of low-speed torque. There is no downchange or kick-down from the transmission, it just goes!

Here in California, Chevy is offering an interesting lease deal. "Quad 0$" is how it's written; no down, no acquisition cost, blah, blah, blah...It means if you have credit they like, you can sign and drive and pay $369/mo to drive a Volt for 3 years or so. We've always paid cash for our cars in the last 30 years of married life, so if we do this it will be a first.

But that is what the Volt is like, at least for me. A first (or almost). I dreamed of an electric car back in the 70's, bought the motor (a 400 Amp aircraft generator) bought the plans for the controller (which had more 2N3055's than I thought possible) and bought two micro trucks (Conys) from my University's central plant, who had worn them out doing maintenance across the sprawling UC Irvine campus. For a variety of reasons, all those wonderful parts never came together. But now, nearly 35 years later, I can lease a very nice electric car with an integrated, on-board generator, heated seats and climate control that makes less noise than George Jetson's car! How cool is that?

We've talked a lot about the Cost, the Payback, the ROI, all the things that matter in our professional lives as engineers. I think about those things too, but I also think about how the car feels, how it looks, how it drives and how cool it is. I like the Volt. The money is reasonable and doable and not outrageous. In three years, Electric cars & hybrids will be better and the Volt's lease will be up. Just think what we can choose from then!

I think I am going to get one and have some fun NOW!


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Re: Why the Volt is not living up to expectations
whobbies   2/10/2012 11:49:58 AM
You are correct, at least with a loss the outcome would be progress gained, we loose money everywhere else it seems without gains, why not roll the dice on something with meat in i?

I got so caught up in the letter I forgot to mention how import it was changing the mindset of the customer. In the early days I couldn't even get hobby store dealers to purchase my concept, and I had a growing market around my area because the product worked and was I selling them locally, and you know Humans are like sheep, when one has one, then another, and so-on. I knew I had a good product and would base my reputation on it, and still couldn't get enough outside interest to feel my excitement.

I then started contacting dealers and offer the boats at almost my manufacturing cost, and crossing my fingers offered a money back guaranty. I can't tell you how scarry that was and how easily I could of ran the company into the ground if the product didn't live up to my hype. That was also a good reason to make sure that the quality was held to highest of standards. Unlike the auto industry who receives compensation for mistakes, small companies like mine just go under when the money runs out, but that's not the point here, and for another topic.

If I am correct in auto history...At the invent of the automobile, I think that the petrol engine was shunned upon in favor for the obvious at the time, the electric motor. Of course that proved to be not practical for many of the same reasons today, but it's what the public knew and related too.

Anyway we can beat this to death, and the most logical path for them to follow seems to be over-looked for the bottom line. It brings me to an old saying one of my mentors in business told me as a kid. " If you make something for the money, chances are you will fail. If you make something out of passion and better, the money will come". I wish he was alive so I could of thanked him for that advice.


Tony C.

Ozark Sage
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Re: Back to the drawing board
Ozark Sage   2/10/2012 11:27:02 AM
naperlou Your point on used cars is true with EXCEPTIONS!  Those being it would be VERY hard to convinve certain previous Toyota owners to take back certain cars they traded (RATHER than pass to other family membert) just so they could get rid of ONGOING problems.  Probrems by the way mostly in high end models that have VERY HIGH repair costs to fix.

This may be a corporate approach dictated by Toyota to multi tier their store lot pricing but, in any case CURRENT quality is not what it once was as fleet miles grow.  Also your comment IS 100% TRUE "all car companies have improved their vehicle quality" although I seriously doubt this came about from the reason you state!  (An opinion NOT an argument.)

Common sense
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Re: Not just good for the environment? Maybe just not good.
Common sense   2/10/2012 11:22:17 AM
Hybrids and pure EVs are nothing but politicians and bureaucrats trying to direct commercial enterprise based on some misguided vision of their own mental prowness.  The same goes for wind farms and solar cells.  Enterprising entreprenuers start smelling the bloody money being waved around (our money) and lo and behold the wagons selling magic potions start lining up down main street.  They will sell to the unknowing until everyone figures out that this stuff doesn't work, then the free money will disappear.  Pure EVs are so impractical, they will always just be a novelty sold to those who are bad at math.  Hybrids at least adress the problem of only being able to drive 30 miles, but at a cost that is illogical to defend.  We are always being told that the USA is falling way behind at teaching math and science skills to our students.  Perhaps this is being done intentionally by the political class so they can drive their stupid EV agenda without their underlings understanding what is being foisted upon them.  It is said that Obama is a brilliant politition, which apparently just means he is a very good liar.  The man is so dumb in any area that truly matters it is very scary.  Lawyers are good at doing what, arguing about things?  Why would we want so many of them in the government? 

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