The real problem with all of this is the abundance of marketing hype and not real communication. Start by calling things what they really are.
An all electric car (EV) is ONLY good for inner city driving (so you have to stay close to home or risk getting stranded).
An electric-gas hybrid (as the VOLT is) addresses the problem of EV range. We can call it an EV Hybrid.
A gas-electric Hybrid (as my Fusion Hybrid is) doesn't get as good mileage as the VOLT, but it drives like a normal car (good pick-up for a 4 cyl., much more roomy for the family, etc.) I get as good a mileage as I want to drive for. We can call it a Gas Hybrid.
The newer cars coming out with the engine shutdown at stop lights can be called a Golf Car (missing T intentional). If you can shut the engine down as you drift, this is more than half the gas savings of a Gas Hybrid without the cost of a battery!
The problem with the VOLT is that it is MUCH MUCH MUCH more expensive than options available for several years now. There is no possiblity of making that excess cost up in gas savings. It's market place is people who will pay anything for an EV Hybrid (ex. EV1 owners). Once you run out of them (small number) there is no market left. The Golf Cars will be the market drivers until batteries improve dramatically.
Interesting, Chuck. That's got me thinking. I guess I fall into the same category of assuming Moore's Law type improvements. Can you provide some context for why Gates and others don't think the EV battery innovations will stay in similar step to what we got used to in semiconductors? What's the reasoning??
Here's a "rescue plan" for the Volt. In my opinion, GM should re-spin the VOLT as follows, to make it cost and performance competitive. They should DROP the positioning of the car as an EV (that happens to have a gasoline recharger)...and just make it a competitive hybrid.
1. Cut the battery size from 16 KWh to ~2KWh. This saves approx. $14,000 cost and over 500 lbs. 2. Replace that crappy 80HP engine with the ECO Cruze's 138HP / 42MPG one (same size) but modify valve timing to make it an atkinson cycle - reducing power to, say, about 110 HP, but boosting HWY MPG to ~50+ MPG. If they keep the same 149 HP electric motor, the combined horsepower is now 110+149 = 259HP. Note that this gives a weight-power ratio of 12.7 lb/hp, which puts performance in the realm of premium sedans (BMW 3-series, for example). Stellar performance, >50MPG city and hwy, MSRP in the high $20K's - what's not to like?
Then, for an innovative marketing spin - provide an optional "battery expansion pack" that can be added later at any time. Say...6 Kwh (Prius Plug-in has 4.4 KWh), giving plug-in capability (for a total of 8 KWh) and about 20 miles of pure EV mode for approx. $6000 cost ($8000 price). Module Weight would be ~200 lbs. EV zealots can buy this...but the base car is not burdened with it.
Beth, you raise a great point about the effect of a product's pricetag during the creation of a new market. I think there's also a second issue here -- despite publicity to the contrary, EV batteries will not have the benefit of Moore's Law. Bill Gates (who is funding five different battery start-ups) has pointed out that we've all been spoiled by Moore's Law. We can't expect the same kind of advancements in battery technology that we've gotten from semiconductors. The sooner we accept that, the easier it will be for us to accept the slow-but-steady advancement of EV batteries.
Mr. Cole points to the reason the Volt was set up to fail - "But the economics are just not there right now. The batteries, power electronics, and motor-generator technologies are still too expensive."
(i.e. the technology doesn't exist to make this a competitive automobile)
Bringing a product to market means that you will have enough buyers to support your manufacturing costs, with some profit thrown in to keep your company moving forward.It is readily apparent that GM was not responding to market forces when they decided to make the Volt. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the Volt is falling flat.Rising gas prices are not going to help because there are plenty of lower cost ICE vehicles in the same class, just as the article points out.
@Tekochip. I like your pragmatism and I think you raise the really vital point that everyone understands but for some reason glosses over--that is, the EV market (or any alternative fuel vehicle) is going to be a slow nurture, not a big spike.
It's hard to instantly create new markets. Ok, the consumer electronics industry, led by Apple, did so, creating near-instant demand for items like smart phones and tablets. But their relatively expensive several hundred dollar price tags pale in comparison to the expense of buying a new car. That is a planned purchase along the lines of what you describe (you are committed to making your next vehicle purchase an EV, but it's not like you are running out tomorrow to buy one). Patience is where it's at. But because the stakes are so high for the American automotive industry and because of the fall out of the economic crisis and bailouts, it's likely a virtue that most can't muster. They want instant gratification in terms of market demand and that's not going to happen.
As a US Taxpayer, I have already bought a Chevy Volt.
US Federal government subsidized GM development with $3B (Billion with a B) making the cost about $250,000 per vehicle. And how many of the 7600 were sold to the Federal Government?
As for the odd suggestion that the MPG is 116 (per gallon of gasoline I assume), My Honda gets 97 miles to the Super-Size Slurpee, I get 5017 miles per 4 quarts of oil. We are not fooled in you magic beans MPG comparison. We all know that you are buying the energy as electricity and I get 43,597miles per kilowatt (so far).
Race your Chevy Volt against a Tesla. Tesla wins every time. It is time for the Government to do what it does best and leave picking winners and lossers to the market.
Government works best as an under-pinning of society not as an overseer, a super-visor. Government should protecting the rights of ALL people. Justice must blind to be fair; Equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome. Time for the government to stop trying to force a specific outcome and support ALL the people.
Read your history. The USSR had a Government Motors division. The hype did not match the reality. The only saving grace with GM is that it
You're right Beth, had GM had forecast a volume of 1/4 of what they actually achieved the headline would be very different. This is a technology I believe the industry truly needs, but the growing pains are excruciating. No doubt that profit is very difficult to find at 45,000 units, and unattainable at 4000 units. The company has to be committed to developing technology that will not show a profit for years to come in a marketplace that they will need to share with competitors. Add to that the high visibility and I can really feel GM's pain. I'm committed to making my next vehicle electric, and I hope GM will keep the project going so it will be Volt.
As the owner (for a year and 13,350 miles) of a Chevy Volt, I have to report that this is a great car. It handles like a sports car, has great cornering and acceleration, is comfortable and fun to drive. My lifetime MPG is 116.
I suggest that everyone watch the sales skyrocket as gas passes $4 on its way to $5.
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