By on March 19, 2009

Hats off to GM Spinmeister-in-Chief Steve Harris. The guy’s got his finger on the pulse, at a time when the last thing GM can afford (never mind the U.S. taxpayer) is bad PR. And so, the ailing American automaker launched a major “the Volt is real” offensive, in the face of rumors (need I mention any names?) that the bailout-critical green car program is in chaos. (Cart and pony pics in gallery below.) The Detroit News reports that “Volt is on Track.” The words “GM Says” are conspicuous by their absence. But I e-quibble, ’cause I share Lyle Dennis’ willingness to accept Volt engineers’ “infinite confidence” that they can make Chevy’s plug-in gas/electric Hail Mary work. And here’s the news: like Tesla, GM’s already hard at work on Volt 2.0.

GM says engineers are working on second- and third-generation electric versions that will cost less.

The Detroit automaker is working with companies that produce battery cells and electronic and thermal systems to find innovations that will drop the cost of subsequent generations of electric vehicles, said Denise Gray, GM’s director of hybrid energy storage systems.

“Our primary focus on generations two and three is one of cost,” said Bob Kruse, GM executive director of global vehicle engineering. “We understand the business proposition and we understand what it takes. But we also know to allow this to take off and be more regularized that cost is absolutely key.”

Verbize of the day? Never mind. There’s no question that GM will move heaven and Congress to get something Volt-shaped on the road by the deadline.

GM has about 30 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles on the road now that use the Volt’s lithium-ion battery packs and the automaker will start testing about 80 prototype vehicles this summer that functionally represent the electric car, [GM executive director of global vehicle engineering Bob] Kruse said.

Battery-powered Cruze control? Who’d a thunk it? Over to you, Mr. Harris.

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26 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 130: GM Promises Volt by November 2010...”


  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Why exactly aren’t they making a cheaper hybrid out of the Cruze, instead of the half-assed Malibu “mild” hybrid and the $40,000 Volt (that may never be). GM’s logic escapes me. A 2 mode based on the Cruze seems to me to be the best answer to economy both at the dealership and at the pump.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    As a software engineer I’ve been on “death march” projects where “beat the programmers harder” is the mantra for delivering product. The projects ultimately fail because the gap between what the engineers can actually produce and the vision put forth by sales and marketing is simply too big (see the fiasco of the Denver airport baggage handling system for a good example of this).

    Gotta say the Volt project has all the symptoms of such a project. Whispers are leaking out that the emperor’s dancing in the streets wearing nothing but a thong, but leadership can’t bring itself to face and embrace reality.

    I hope GM can pull it off, but I doubt it.

  • avatar
    nudave

    Considering GM’s track record for vehicles developed within a normal gestation period, you have to wonder why anyone would consider buying one developed in a hurry.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    At least they have got rid of that awful blacked out windows that was a poor excuse for the windows below the belt line that was seen on the concept. Or perhaps the vehicle in the pictures is a Volt in Cruze’s clothing?

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    Hmm…

    I’ve got a good bet…

    The Dodge Circuit (the now-confirmed first ENVI vehicle) will beat the Volt to market.

    Any takers?

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @superbadd75: GM is taking its sweet time getting the Vue 2-mode out – was supposed to be released a few months back, still listed as “coming soon” on their web site. Perhaps once they get the bugs out they’ll get some more FWD 2-mode vehicles out.

    Problem is, who’s going to pay ~$25K for a Cruze 2-mode Hybrid?

  • avatar
    akear

    The Volt seems to get blander with every redesign. This one looks very oridinary.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    So all the enviro-conscious will use their new honda/toyota hybrids as second cars when the volt finally comes out? If you try to get on the boat after it’s left the dock your gonna be all wet!
    Instead of salvation for GM this should have been a small niche project readied for quick release when oil prices are up. They are going to sell more camaros than this thing IMO.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    But unlike Tesla, the Volt is a pretender in its market segment. The Tesla Roadster actually performs.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Richard Chen: Problem is, who’s going to pay ~$25K for a Cruze 2-mode Hybrid?

    I’d have to ask who’s going to pay $40k+ for a Volt? I would think a Cruse 2 mode could be competitive with the Insight or Civic hybrid. Judging by the pictures we’ve seen of the Cruze so far, it looks like GM may finally have a clue about how to build a compact car, and I truly believe that if there was a good American hybrid out there, people would buy it. The Escape hybrid sells, and the Fusion hybrid is getting good reviews. I’d think that if GM would build a hybrid that’s actually worth something, they’d do okay with it. The problem is that they’re putting too many eggs in the Volt basket, and what happens if it fails? It’s back to square one then, and for a company on the verge of death, that’s not a good thing. A Cruze 2 mode would almost certainly be worth the investment. They could at least sell it to government fleets if the public wasn’t interested.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Reportedly, the engine bay of the Lambdas isn’t big enough (or simply the wrong shape) for the GM two-mode hybrid transmission. This suggests fitting it into a Cruze would be extremely difficult (and also speaks to a lack of planning on GM’s part).

    It was also reported (OK, speculated) that the GM two-mode transmission cost many thousands of dollars ($8-10K) and that output is very low (2K per month).

    Certainly, GM makes hardly any two-mode hybrids, they are all in supersize SUVs and they price them astronomically, so it’s hard to believe GM has the ready two-mode technology to hybridize a small car like the Cruze and bring it in for anything like Prius or Insight prices.

    On the other hand, BAS is a simpler and smaller system and project. If GM could improve it, get the costs down/under control, it might have a future in a car like the Cruze. Certainly, eliminating idling could save a bunch of fuel in the real world.

    GM also has workable VCM technology. If they could deploy that in a four-cylinder engine (cut off two at highway speed), they might be able to improve highway fuel economy significantly at reasonable cost to the consumer.

    Another good idea for the Cruze might be IMA… it certainly looks compact enough to fit more applications than the two-mode.

    Of course, in any of the electro-assist options, does the Cruze have enough space in it, anywhere, for a high-voltage battery pack of sufficient capability to be useful to the enhancement proposed?

    Shucks, a program to enhance the aerodynamics of GM’s current fleet, with no other substantial changes, might pay the biggest dividends. Improved aerodynamics is a large part of the reason for the two-mode hybrids Tahoe’s improved highway fuel economy.

    But GM is committed to an expensive development project that depends entirely on the readiness and cost-effectiveness of technology that’s outside their scope and which will benefit everyone else when the performance and costs improve.

  • avatar
    akear

    Is it time to bolt on the volt.
    A bland Cruze rebadge is not what many had in mind. It looks to me as if GM is going to try to save money and use the Volt’s technolgy in the Cruze.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    This reminds me of Boeing’s insistence that the Dreamliner was coming along swimmingly … right up until the time when they started missing production delivery deadlines by the mile.

  • avatar
    dean

    Guys, that is not the Volt. It is the mule that Red Ink Rick drove (3 blocks) to Congress in after Jetgate.

    If you look at the photo it says “Volt technology inside.” And you can see RIR at the wheel.

  • avatar
    mcs

    @Samuel L. Bronkowitz :

    As a software engineer I’ve been on “death march” projects where “beat the programmers harder” is the mantra for delivering product.

    I’ll second what you’re saying. I’ve been there too and I can imagine what’s going on. I remember one project where one of the programmers was under so much pressure that he reverse engineered the competing products firmware and put it into the product without telling anyone. The competitor figured it out pretty quick after the product shipped and sent us a cease and desist.

    They really need to look for an outsourced conventional hybrid platform that they can use to create an entry level version for around 20k. It would take some pressure off of the VOLTec team and maybe allow them to perform a slower roll-out (although I suspect it will be pretty slow anyway) of the Volt powertrain. They could even cross license the VOLTec technology in exchange.

  • avatar
    akear

    If it is not the Volt than things aren’t that bad.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    The Fwd 2-mode has almost the same exterior dimensions as the 6T75 currently in the Lambdas. I don’t see why it wouldn’t fit. Battery cables, maybe?

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @superbadd75: yup to the $40K (minus tax credit) question – it’s a very limited market. The Insight is MSRP $20K, so any direct competitors need to be in that range -> BAS, not 2 mode as KixStart mentioned.

    @KixStart: I think GM’s VCM is for OHV engines only.

  • avatar
    grog

    Considering GM’s track record for vehicles developed within a normal gestation period, you have to wonder why anyone would consider buying one developed in a hurry.

    Or built on a Monday or a Friday.

  • avatar
    beller

    CommanderFish said:

    Hmm…

    I’ve got a good bet…

    The Dodge Circuit (the now-confirmed first ENVI vehicle) will beat the Volt to market.
    Any takers?

    Your on …. How much?

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    50mm lower center of gravity? Sign me up!!

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    Why buy the first if the 2nd and 3rd gen are going to be affordable?

  • avatar

    The 2011 Volt is coming, according to GM advertising on NPR (wbur, boston). If they advertise it on NPR, it’s got to be true

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The projects ultimately fail because the gap between what the engineers can actually produce and the vision put forth by sales and marketing is simply too big

    I’m actually fighting such a fire right now. Sales and Marketing people really need to shut the fuck up until the consult with engineering/operations/support. I can just visualize the scene in GM Engineering when they heard about Bob Lutz going off about what the Volt will do.

    I call it “Vice President Syndrome”. When you’re at the top of tallest the mountain, every problem looks like a molehill, regardless of whether or not it’s actually another fucking mountain for the rest of us in the valley.

  • avatar
    akear

    I know this is not the topic of this thread, but isn’t all this bad news about the US auto industry just adding to the depressive state of the nation. 40 years ago we sent men to the moon, and now we can’t even make a simple compact car.
    I feel sick to my stomach thinking GM’s only domestic engineered passenger cars are the Lacrosse, Lucerne, and Corvette.
    What is left after all this out-sourcing. The answer to this is a giant pile of excrement!

    What friggin’ nightmare.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Why buy the first if the 2nd and 3rd gen are going to be affordable?

    They have to be careful about what they promise. Otherwise, they may get sunk by the Osborne Effect.


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