After all the money, press, build-up, etc. for the Chevy Volt, there is no way GM could pull the plug after such a short tenure--no matter how disappointing sales. This is just GM's way of controlling the supply chain spicket so it doesn't sit with lots of Volt inventory. Rather than an indication of a failed product, one might take away the fact that auto makers need to get smarter about their systems/methods/data for proper sales forecasting instead of getting caught up in their own hype about an emerging market that will take years to reach its maturity and be the revenue juggarnaut that folks expect.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
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??
Beth: The reason why batteries don't follow Moore's Law is that Moore's Law pertains to reduction of feature sizes on silicon. Silicon has been the material of choice in semiconductors since the early 1950s, and hasn't changed in all that time. As a result, manufacturers have been able to build better equipment to pack more transistors on a silicon chip, and the evolution of equipment is really what Moore's Law describes. In contrast, EV batteries have used at least a dozen different chemistries in the 24 years that I've been writing about them. We've seen lead-acid, nickel-iron, sodium-sulfur, advanced lead-acid, nickel-metal hydride, lithium-ion, lithium polymer and on and on. The improvement in battery materials is a matter of physical scince, not manufacturing. See the story on Gates:
Appreciate the explanation, Chuck. Definitely something to be aware of given the criticality of battery development and innovation over the next decade (and likely beyond). Too bad there wasn't some sort of corresponding principle akin to Moore's Law that could be applied to the science of battery development. I suppose only tried and true development is what's going to advance battery life going forward.
I like your reference to Apple. Apple, like GM, didn't create the first smartphone or tablet computer, but they created valued products with features and benefits exceeding anything else on the market. The Volt appears to be just another EV/hybrid car selling for a lot more than cars selling with the same or better value. Telsa, like Apple, has decent sales because their customers see value in what's offered for the price.
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
RedPluto, I agree that dividing the total milage of a hybrid by the gallons of gas consumed is a silly statistic, but so is the tired one of dividing the government subsidy of the technology by the cars sold to date. After all, if you buy a $200,000 house, after five days it's costing you $40,000 a night to stay there! :)
Kevin, that is a great idea! I would say that if they did that, they should make it as a second version of the Volt, keeping the current one in the line, reason being so as not to have the perception that the current version is flawed. In fact, it isn't flawed, other than pricing. The market is there (look at Prius sales...) but the pricing is the hurdle for most potential customers. They should have taken a page out of the Lexus product launch handbook and been willing to sell the car at competitive pricing for 5 years, even if it means taking a loss on every car, until there is a loyal customer base, and then start raising the price.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the feedback. One clarification I'd like to make is that the current VOLT does NOT actually have exceptionally good MPG, contrary to the EPA's patently fraudulent calculations (esp. in EV mode).
First, due to the high battery weight and the fact that Chevy "cheaped out" on the gas engine and did not use one of the new, highly efficient ones - the gas MPG is not great, but could have easily been ~8-10 MPG better, and of course even higher with hybrid operation.
More important - the EPA's calcualtion for EV MPG is ridiculously incorrect. I won't go into the all the proof...but the EPA's figure of "93 MPGe" for EV mode should be approx. 1/2.5 to 1/3 that figure (or 31-37 MPGe) if it actually measured how much fossil fuel was burned at the power plant, based on avg. USA grid power statistics. Yes...in other words - you're better off burning the fossil fuel IN THE CAR, instead of layers removed for an EV.
Truthfully I believe that the Volt was not enough, when for a bit more money you can buy the all electic Tesla base model S for $49,900 you get a 160 mile range and a 8 year 100,000 mile battery warranty.
As someone said, the economics are not there yet. Many proponents spout outrageous MPG numbers while ignoring all the other operating and ownership costs. Vehicle costs can generally be put into two categories. Per mile costs, and per year costs. I don't really care what goes into these costs, whether it's electricity or fuel, oil or batteries, but any new technology is going to have to be competitive in these two expense areas, and the Volt isn't. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that none of the current hybrid vehicles (even the Prius) are cheaper over the lifetime of the vehicle, than their ICE counterparts. MPG is only one aspect of the lifetime cost of a vehicle. For the economics to be there for EV's or hybrids, battery prices are going to have to drop dramatically, and ICE operating costs are going to have to increase dramatically.
If we as a country are really serious about reducing our demands on foreign oil, we are going to have to accept that there are no magic technology bullets out there sufficient to do it. We are going to have to make sacrifices. As a "car guy", it pains me to say it, but we would need to bring back the 55 MPH speed limit, and we would need to start buying smaller cars. Nothing else will reduce fuel consumption as much. Technology magic bullets can only go so far. There's no way around the fact that it takes a lot of energy (whatever the source) to accelerate a 4000lb vehicle to highway speeds. It's just physics.
For those who decry government investments in the development of the Volt, keep in mind that gasoline is already heavily subsidized. So for ICE vehicles, the government is already continually investing for every mile you drive. As for letting "the free market decide on what's best in terms of energy usage"... great idea! If you REALLY want new technology, and public support for it, just allow gas prices to naturally attain their non-subsidized levels. When gas hits $10/gal, you'll see ALL kinds of support for EV's, alternative fuels, and maybe even smaller vehicles and lower speed limits.
Personally I have been thinking it Gas gets over $6/gal the Tesla begins to look attractive. I can install about 4KW of Solar on my house and charge the car using solar. Plus sell back excess electricity to the grid. I have been looking at solar for awhile now and it have just about reached the price point that make is effective for me. Of course VW is supposed to come out with their diesel hybrid next year and currently rate it at about 126 mpg. So it is a cost effective alternative as well.
I agree with almost everything you have said. At the core of the issue is economics. Once all the hype and distortions are stripped away, what matters is that the free market deems the product worth the price paid.
If one looks at the following Wikipedia page, about halfway down in OPERATING COSTS, see comparisons of the LEAF, the VOLT and the PRIUS. Some simple calcualtions (using the reasonable assumptions therein), you'll see that to BREAK EVEN economically by buying a VOLT (used in EV mode only) vs. a PRIUS (assuming MSRP was paid for both vehicles) - it will take 350,000 miles before the VOLT breaks even with the PRIUS!!!
If the VOLT is also run in GAS mode (which is going to be a common occurance with most users) - the numbers look worse, of course. To add insult to injury - GM requires the VOLT to use 91 octane fuel, adding about 20 cents/gal for no good reason.
Also, to Blogger ARCHITECT - you said "The conversation for the electric powered vehicle is well in place now and it's ultimate success is inevitable." I say - that the "ultimate success" is not much more"inevitable" now than it was in the 1920's (the first EV "bubble".). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_electric_vehicle
In regards to getting off of fossil fuels - I agree that this urgently needs to be a top national priority, and getting off of foreign oil being the most urgent sub-issue. My studies have led me to have a different opinion on the best way to get there vs. most of the hype we are now hearing about EV's.
While EV's indeed get us off of oil, they primarily just shift our energy needs to Coal and Natural Gas and would over-tax the grid if mass-adopted. In short - with today's power grid, EV's are not really a very good solution. A more practical, phased strategy would be to convert our native COAL resources to gasoline as a stopgap (a known, economic process invented by the Germans in WWII that China, India and others are already doing to supply their fuel needs). Burn it directly in the cars, and continue improving the efficiency of cars, as hybrid technology does. Again...this is only a STOPGAP measure.
Then, when technologically possible replace this Coal-Based syn fuel with a renewable solar-synthesized fuel (either a biofuel or direct solar synthesized). This plan would allow us to transition first off of oil, then off of all fossil fuels - while not having to change to EV's (with their massive costs and user trade-offs) or rebuild the entire power grid.
The only thing that would dramatically change my view on this is if some kind of wonderful power generation technology breakthrough (fusion?) dramatically changed the landscape of how the power grid is fed. Then EV's would probably be a logical choice to leverage this breakthrough. Even then, it might be more practical to use the power to make a synthetic liquid or gas fuel for cars, to avoid the other convenience trade-offs that EV's have.
Just my 2c worth...but I've spent a lifetime researching all aspects of this stuff.
The unit discussed below operates on SLCNBF, stimulated liquid contained nano buble fusion princiable.
This WELL TESTED system being prepaired for market is called ****-*****. The system uses doped pure wated contained within a circulating vesel that generates and sustains power after being started. The power is AC & DC controlled and with selectable voltage values, (normally 220 VDC) and (220 VAC @ a lower crrrent). Engergy used to driver a 500kw to 2.5 Mega watt unit is 14,500 watts. Initial TBO is 5 to 6 years continous at below 50 deg.C operating temp. Cold Start to full load is 3 minutes. Design rebuild is 25 years. Total fuelload cost $10,000 dollars (at overhaul). Power selling price is 0.1 cent / kwh and the unit is modular and scaleable. NO EMISSIONS OR WASTE IS GENERATED ...PERIOD.
This is only one type of unit soon to hit the market and there are many more to come. Not only is this design affordable but it can eliminate the Grid mess built over past years. Peeking will in the future be local.
the electric car publicity stunts, playing the green card, or, obamas idea that america shud be runnin letric cars, with chuie following his leed, by funlin tax dollars to his buddy the iron man elon,mush--- while fueling up on coal derived electricity, with limited ranges of driving distance, the lithium laptop battery stacks, that heat up and then creep along, has fooled a lot of investors, following obamanomic seence ides, has been really good times for the bankruptcy experts pretending to make letric cars, starting back after the turn of the century, the biggy, elon musk, tesla motors,solar city, spacex, claimaint of paypal pilanthropist, if yer a beliver in myth, keeps him in big bucks, installing short lived solar panels on military bases, pretending to take on NASA's responsibility for space exploration, has filled the entrepanners newsmedia full of the normal come on for the unwary imvestor, destined to lose their money parallel to the taxpayer losing our dollars to a federal reserve-obanomics controlled (rolled) recipiant of a government ruled by the world class mafia, whereby we export our manufacturing companies to communist slave nations, who use free trade as an economic weapon---why bomb american companies when you can get paid exporting into the slave country, while setting up slave goods super store outlets in america, that shutter small family businesses, eliminating american science and technology jobs in the design engineering, manufacturing, marketing and retail sector, leaving more than 1/2 of our youth out of work, while paying the retail service industry chump change. Walmart americas largest employeer, have reduced their avg wage from 12 thousand a year to 10,400 in the last 3 years. while the waltpn family take more cash from our cash flow than 30 % of our workforce, What little tax dollars left, subjected to 40 % interest on our so-called deficit by the private owned federal reserve. the only middle class jobs are within the city, county, state, and federal agencies, other cash paying entitlements are the lgal-medical-insurancefraud mafia, prison economy, utilities and entertainment sector. While I listen to obama on the news of how our manufacturing companies have returned and he has personally restored millions of new jobs, in the last few months, making good on his promise to rebuild our job sector, preparing us for the looming election fraud
disregarding 80 % + jobs make near minimum wage or less, with 1 in 4 out of work
Billy Let us first examin WHY the speed limits are being raised. Interstates now handle a finite traffic flow at 75 MPH whch is 10 to 15 MPH as previously on about the same or LESS per-trip-gas, with the same or LESS number of accidents but, the highway can handle about 10% MORE traffic at a cost to the state of only the new signage! On city to city Interstates everybody wins.
HOWEVER, Intracity roads are jambed! What better excuse would a politicion want for new toll bypass roads or intra city public transportation !
As to your accelerate comment. It (can be) a lot better in an EV than combustion engines! This is (amoung other things) why L6 Vetts lose to EVs at the drags.
As to big oil it will take a little time to change and put an INTERNATIONAL plan in place to effect changes neccessary to redirrect the worlds oil cartel. I see this as becomming the world's largest money redistribution game! People like author John Perkins are already helping readers understand the new rules of this game.
$6,000 bucks for a battery that's probably going to last 4-5 years and then need servicing or worse yet, replacing? I can buy a nice slightly used gasmizer for that much at auction. I don't see the batteries going down much. The battery I use to start my car every day is essentially the same battery in every car and truck on the road and that battery seems keep going up everytime I need a replacement every 4-5 years. And those things have a very high recycle rate too.
Look at the long term picture. The manufacturing will improve, costs will go down, new technology will enter the market, the market will build, and market competion will lead to lower prices. Not much changes in life if you wait long enough!
Your idea could work, but I have no faith in GM or their engineers. They have been putting out bad quality, poorly designed cars for years. That is the genesis of their financial woes (aside from outrageous labor costs). I just don't see it in them to be able to engineer a workable solution with the corner they've been backed into.
The problem isn't the tech or the engineering, the car should have been the Buick Volt or the Cadiallac Volt. The car should have been sold to make a profit. It is horrible that a government owned car company is allowed to exist in the USA in the first place, but being allowed to sell it at a loss? (roll eyes and shake head)
The Volt is done. Put a fork in it. It is another Obama failure which will be part his Marxist legacy. We need to let the free market decide on what's best in terms of energy usage and not allow the government or any special interest like the Eco-warriors force things on the consumer that they don't want or need. This is not just the end of the Volt it is the end of GM. Taxpayers should demand every cent of their money back.
I remember that when the Volt first came out, GM said that they would put solar panels on the roof, hood & trunk to charge the battery when it is sitting out in the sun.
It's been out a while and to date have not seen anything other than the initial statement about solar panels. Where are they? Seems like a natural and with new solar technology, they could be done so that at first glance you'd never know they were there. That first 40 miles on pure electric could be stretched out much longer before the ICE kicks on.
Now everyone is waiting for the next generation of batteries, so lots of people who might have bought a Volt figure they'll just wait it out. Put the solar panels on it and I'll trade in my Civic for a Volt.
In the meantime, oil continues to be a dwindling resource. We won't get off that teat until it dries up completely. Might be too late by then, but isn't that human nature. A fascinating read is "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. It might provide some insight as to where we are headed. Alternately, you can rent "Idiocracy". That also provides some insight as to where we are headed. It will be interesting to see which prediction comes true first. My money is on "Collapse".
Obama is increasing the tax credit to $10k. (I'm not sure this applies to the Volt but I'm assuming it does.) I expect what we'll see is a move soon to Gen 2 of the Volt. It's got to come down in price a bit to be saleable. GM can't pull the plug on this technology, not in the wake of the bailout. The prob is, they've raised unrealistic sales expectations. So now they've got to split the difference: manage downward the expectations, while pushing the car forward so they can actually sell more. Maybe corporate fleets, like the sale to GE, is the way to go?
Yes, insurance is expensive, but nowhere close to the most costly expense of a vehicle. Recently, in consideration of purchasing a new car, I collected data on the ownership and operating costs of various vehicles, mostly compacts and midsize cars. The following table shows the average costs per category (on a % basis) for about 20 cars, 2010 and 2011 models. Assumptions: buy a new car, drive 10K miles/yr, and sell after 5 yrs. Also shown is that of a 2010 Prius for comparison.
Taxes & Fees
So while insurance is expensive, on average, it's about half that of depreciation and fuel. Also, compared to a 2010 Corolla LE, the cost of the 2010 Prius is $5600 (or 20%) more, so even the mature technology of the 2010 Prius is no match, economically, to a Corolla of the same year. The Prius is better on fuel, but more than makes up for it in depreciation and maintenance.
And, no, I don't drive an old clunker. My 09 economy car gets about 30mpg at around 75 mph. At 55, it would probably get mid to high 30's, a 20% improvement.
Depreciation does not factor into cost of ownership much if you own a car for 150k-200k miles. Times have changed. 100k now is considered a relatively new car. Any car can go 200k miles without much issue as long as is maintained. And assuming you don't buy any Cadillac, Chrysler or other clunkers that have multiple black spots on consumer report.
It makes no sense to keep a car for only 5 years 50k. Only reason to do that is to keep up with the jones. And if that is what you want to do, money is not an issue to you anyway.
Gas at $4.5/gal, between a 30mpg and 45mpg car over 200k would be 10k. Prius cost $25k. You effectively get the car for $15k over its life.
In response to: Detroit has had a succession of wonderful Engineers. One of them was Bill Allison who, amongst many many patents for suspensions, invented the Packard torsion ride. In his retirement he perfected the wind engine hitting the Betz limit. And he would go into hysterics about the 3 bladed fans that were trying to fly and are catching on fire and blowing apart all over the world. The Betz limit is 59% efficiency. Those dufus 3 bladed versions are lucky to get 20% efficiency. So as an engineer interested in economics does a 300% increase in efficiency ring any of your bells? Or are you just another lemming?
I had always wondered why they don't use a turbine looking impeller. The design I saw being used in Australia, based on Bill Allisons work, looks something like the cross between a bird cage and a turbine. Why oh why in the world during the time of the information superhighway are we using ginormous three bladed propeller setups that make the country side look like mid 18th century Holland.
Thanks for the post about Bill Allison and his work. I will do some more research on that. Looks really intresting.
Rebate. That means the government robs us through some kind of gas or greenhouse tax to give money to others to buy politically correct cars. I'd prefer to keep my money and have all of the unsold Volts crushed to make pop cans.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
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