By on November 20, 2009

(courtesy:themotorreport.com.au)

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation,” goes a famous line in the Great Law of the Iroquois, “even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” Though TTAC tests the thickness of GM’s skin on a daily basis, GM is ahead of the seven-generation game. The Detroit News reports that GM’s engineering staff are already working on the Volt’s third-generation hardware, although previous iterations are still being used to collect data. Meanwhile, the major challenge remain getting everything road-ready for a 2010 launch, a goal that will be reached… “barring any last minute problems.” “I did place a lot of faith in the battery companies, who said they could have them ready,” admits Bob Lutz. Oh, and there’s still one other major obstacle to overcome: the cost. Test vehicles cost “over $250,000″ per vehicle to build, and a major focus of the testing process has been reducing the build cost. And despite the earlier Volt-as-sports-sedan rhetoric, the top attained speed in testing is 107 mph, although engineers say it will likely be limited to 104 mph. Though that’s faster than most EV early-adopters will take their Volts anyway, it’s also only about 15 mph faster than the much-cheaper Nissan Leaf EV, a vehicle that the Volt will have to differentiate itself from considerably to earn its estimated $10k premium over the non-range-extended EV.

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30 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 172: 3rd Generation Sustainability?...”


  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    How are they going to get a handle on high build cost by handing it over to the UAW to build?  Oh yeah…cheap interiors.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    I’m still not getting the advantages of a series hybrid over a parallel hybrid, but maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, at this rate, it seems like they (GM) could rebadge Prius’s with the Hymotion plug-in system and come out ahead.
     

  • avatar
    BryanC

    Re: differentiation with respect to Nissan Volt.  The whole point of the Volt is that you don’t have to worry about running out of battery.  That’s the differentiation, plain, simple – and worth $10k to me.
    The Volt’s (or Leaf’s) top speed is completely irrelevant, as long as it can handle American freeways.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Top speed and driving experience aren’t going to be a big deal.  The Prius doesn’t exceed something like 105 and that doesn’t seem to hamper market acceptance.

    The big deal is the cost.  I don’t know why they’d bother throwing out the $250K number for pre-prod vehicles.  Those are going to be ridiculously expensive, anyway.  If GM had some particular problem with pre-prod costs, they would have explain why for us to make any kind of judgement on whether or not $250K is a”problem” at this point.

    Aside from the battery and electric motor, I can’t see why the vehicle itself would be much more costly than a Cruze.  The Prius can be built on the same line as other cars; it snaps together just like a Yaris or whatever.  Most of the components are going to be perfectly conventional.

    I’d expect most of the cost problem is the battery.  The lack of cheap, high-capacity batteries is why we don’t have a significant number of EVs on the road today.  GM and everyone else have just been waiting for the right battery.  Is it here?  Marginally… it’s expensive and the capacity still isn’t all that great.  The Volt is going to cost more.   If GM tries to cheap it out… I don’t think they’ll be doing themselves any favors but with a planned production run of 10K vehicles in Year 1, it will still sell out.

    Some people will pay extra to go electric if it’s at all practical.  Most will not.  The Prius will remain the favored way to get really good fuel economy in a sedan.  Toyota will add battery capacity to it to incrementally improve the Prius and the large-battery xEVs will have a rough time competing for the foreseeable future.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I’m still not getting the advantages of a series hybrid over a parallel hybrid, but maybe that’s just me. ”

    That’s because you don’t understand the whole concept of the Volt. The back-up generator is there for the sole purpose of making sure its owners aren’t left on the side of the road stranded after the battery depletes.  The whole point is your drive it in a way that allows you to recharge the batteries fully before the back-up generator ever has a chance to kick in. 

    Of course they’ll be pricey at first. But like VCRs, DVD players, and flat screen TVs the price will go down as the product keeps getting better. Simple economics 101. For me and I would suspect others, total cost to operate is not a concern or reason for buying. It’s the smile I’ll have on my face everytime I drive by one of big oils gas stations.  Especially during those seasonal times when they artificially raise the price of gas for the weekend to take advantage of the consumer.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      Well, yeah, I get that it can go so far on pure electric mode, but assuming that the Volt makes it out the door, and Toyota responds by putting a bigger battery pack in a Prius, then it still seems like the parallel approach has some advantages.
      In your battery depletion scenario, the Volt fires up its engine and generates electricity to drive the electric motor, the Prius fires up its engine and puts the power directly to the wheels.   Just seems like the Volt is going to need a bigger engine and electric motor for the series design where a parallel design can combine the outputs of both for when acceleration is needed etc.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    $250K for a pre-production unit isn’t that bad considering it’s not running on production tooling yet.  Pricetags of $1M/vehicle aren’t uncommon for prototypes.
    Still, you can bet that at a $40K price they’ll be losing money on every Volt.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    So what if GM loses money on every Volt; losing money is what they do and they can always hit up the taxpayers for more!

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Top speed is fairly irrelevant, other than it shows the overall strength of the drivetrain.   As one poster mentioned, the real issue is if you can maintain highway/interstate speeds and how long you can do it.  

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    And for 22 grand, I’d still buy a Prius. Don’t expect there to be many guinae pigs who are going to pony up 40 large for a brand new, unproven vehicle with brand new, unproven technology.

    Especially one from a company not known for getting new designs out without problems (Camaro). I also would worry about having my spacecar worked on by the same guy who spends his days working on run of the mill rental car Aveos and Malibus.

    At least Toyota has over a decade of proven technology and hundreds of thousands of units on the road  (not including the Camry, HH and Lexus hybrids out there) so I trust them to be reliable and well built as any other Toyota product.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    There is nothing really negative or surprising about this story.  Prototypes are very expensive to build.  Good R&D means you are always looking ahead to what’s next.  And top speed on an EV is irrelevant in the US, as long as the acceleration is OK.
    The real question is how much GM will bleed every time a Volt is sold, and worse yet, how many buyers are willing to drop $40k for an economy car.  The answers: a lot, and not many.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      Agreed. How many iterations of Prius production hardware have been released?3? and we would never have seen the first couple of generations of development hardware.

      Bit of a non story in my opinion.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Just seems like the Volt is going to need a bigger engine and electric motor for the series design where a parallel design can combine the outputs of both for when acceleration is needed etc.”

    I see what your getting saying but my point is I can drive the Volt every day all year and never visit a gas station. You’ll never do that with a Prius. The Volt has it’s limitations but for me, and I’m sure a lot of people, it makes much more sense  as a fuel saver than a Prius.  For me comparing the two is apples and oranges.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      > I can drive the Volt every day all year and never visit a gas station.
       
      I can see your point, but then in that case, wouldn’t a pure EV make more sense?  No extra engine and gas tank to lug around, no wondering if that gasoline engine is going to start after not being used for a few month…    I guess maybe what I’m getting at is I’d like to have see GM prove themselves by out-Priusing the Prius by beating them to the punch with a plug-in parallel hybrid or coming out with an EV before committing to this design.   It is a bold move, but it seems to have the feelings of a low-percentage move.   I can understand them wanting to leap-frog everyone, but to me this series hybrid design seems to have a lot of drawbacks that would be more simply addressed by a plug-in parallel design, or even a pure EV.   I’d want 100 mile range, heat and AC that works, no smaller than a Fit/Yaris, price it no more than $30K, and I’m putting a deposit down tomorrow…
       

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “And for 22 grand, I’d still buy a Prius. Don’t expect there to be many guinae pigs who are going to pony up 40 large for a brand new, unproven vehicle with brand new, unproven technology”

    And unlike Volt owners you’ll still be visiting a gas station on a regular basis. Batteries, electric motors,  and generators are new technology???? Really.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      18 thousand dollars buys a lot of gas.

      “Batteries, electric motors,  and generators are new technology???? Really.”

      In unison with the load asked of it by a modern vehicle? Yup.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    7k also buys a lot of gas, but people pay for it when they choose a Prius over a Corolla.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “18 thousand dollars buys a lot of gas.”

    Until actual pricing and incentives are more than just heresay, your pulling straws out of your butt as to how much it will actually cost to drive  a Volt off the lot . Still you go ahead and give your money to the oil companies, I’ll give mine to GM – happily! 

    As far as technology, GM is not trying to launch the space shuttle. Despite what the people at TTAC would like you to think, the engineers and others at GM are no where near as inept  as they are made out to be on this website.  
     

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Am  I the only one who thinks the Volt–from the angle in the photo, anyway– looks a lot a better than some the other 5 door hatches that have been coming down the pike recently?  Man, that’s 3 pro-GM posts today…I must be coming down with something.  I’m gonna go lie down.

  • avatar

    Russycle,
    I’d call that damning with faint praise

  • avatar
    T2


    Some notes regarding top speed. As Tesla discovered – the hard way – an unrealistic top speed of 130mph is not compatible with a fixed ratio transmission. Adopting a 7:1 ratio to allow a 13500 rpm motor to achieve that velocity has the result of diluting the torque to a degree which impacts the 0 to 60 time. And 0 to 60 is where most of us live.
    In 1990 the Impact design was able to successfully meet its target, before being morphed into the EV1, with a 10.75 ratio giving 0 to 60 in 8 seconds. This gave a top speed of 75 mph while compliant to the 12,700 rpm limit on the traction motor(s).
    I always thought that providing a 120mph top speed for the Volt reeked of crass irresponsibility on the part of those whose job it was to specify GM’s first gasoline- electric intended for series production. That particular spec forces an unrealistic tradeoff between acceleration and speed unless some misguided soul was anticipating the availability of motors able to survive 20,000 rpm. Either that or alternatively didn’t care about the inefficiency of carting around the streets a motor twice as heavy – and costly – as would otherwise be required by those who normally observe the posted speed limits.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “The Detroit News reports that GM’s engineering staff are already working on the Volt’s third-generation hardware, although previous iterations are still being used to collect data.”
    I know this is obligatory TTAC snark, but with 3-5 year design cycles, it is imperative to begin work on the refresh before launch of the initial model.
    If I were working on the next Volt, I’d make it full electric, though. The silly sequential system makes no sense to me either.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Lectrobyte – I agree that offering a pure EV would have made more sense. I suspect the 40 mile range and the fact that the motoring public isn’t comfortable with a completely electric car has a lot to do with the series hybrid design.  The paradigm being if it’s a car it needs a gas tank. I would expect the second or third generation Volt to be solely EV as battery technology improves(better range) and the paradigm shifts from I gas up my car to I plug in my car when I need fuel.  

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    “Until actual pricing and incentives are more than just heresay, your pulling straws out of your butt as to how much it will actually cost to drive  a Volt off the lot .”

    So is Mr. Lutz then
    http://green.autoblog.com/2008/06/19/lutz-pegs-first-generation-chevy-volt-price-tag-at-40-000

    “Still you go ahead and give your money to the oil companies, I’ll give mine to GM – happily!”

    Mr. Obama thanks you for your generousity.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    We’re approaching 2010 and you provide a link from 2008? A lot has changed in 2 years, I’m sure Mr. Lutz would agree.

    “Mr. Obama thanks you for your generousity.”

    Has nothing to do with generousity, trust me on that.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    I like the true blue Toyota folks that believe Toyota builds a quality product. Just as the dead folks how they feel about a car that surges forward and cannot be stopped until it runs into something big enough to stop it. Like another car or tree.

    This same problem killed a German brand. Why not Toyota. Welll let’s See , Blindfaith

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    The 3 engine configurations for VOLT can be sold with little effort as follows:

    IC powering electric motor with no extra batteries for  the first 40.
         reduces cost. very efficient design. electric motors have so much more torque and
         IC engine can run at steady state high efficiency. Reduces weight of vehicle
    Electric only just leave the IC out
         reduces cost, for EPA lovers little pollution reduces weight
    Battery first 40 miles, IC power to replace depleted batteries Today’s version
         most expensive but include the above options and let buyer choose


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