By on August 2, 2010

[Editor's note: In the absence of an official rebuttal to Edward Niedermeyer's NY Times Op-Ed on the Chevrolet Volt, TTAC's own Ken Elias has volunteered to come to the Volt's defense.]

The Chevy Volt should be a brilliant piece of engineering achievement if it works as advertised.  That’s a big “if” and I wouldn’t bet my life that GM’s first iteration of the car will live up to the hype.  And that’s only because of the long string of overhyped vehicles that came out of the former GM that simply never delivered.  But that’s three decades of history talking – and GM’s a new company today with a different mindset and competitive spirit.  Its newest products – the LaCrosse, SRX, Equinox, and Camaro for example – have been well received by the public and there’s no shame putting one of these rigs in your driveway.  So let’s start out giving GM the benefit of the big doubt that the new Volt will work as advertised.

If that’s the case, then does the $41,000 price tag make sense?  Sure it does since most of us aren’t going to buy one so the price tag is irrelevant.  That sticker price is just for show – the real deal is the three year lease at $350/month and that’s a super competitive price.  It’s about the same as one would pay for a low end Honda Accord lease and that’s a low $20k car.  In all reality, the actual cost of amortizing the development costs of the technology plus the specialized parts likely far exceeds the sticker price of the Volt and will do so until unit volume achieves mass market demand – and that’s the real goal when the second and third generations come to market.

When Toyota first assembled and sold the Prius in 2000 in the States (1997 in Japan) you can bet that the price tag of the car was well below that real cost of the car.  How much is a corporate secret – but Toyota was deathly afraid that Bill Clinton’s accelerated investment in advanced technology programs in the 1990’s would give the domestic OEMs a chance to gain a leg up on Toyota.  (And while some think that the first Prius cost only $32k per copy – well that was just for the parts.)  It was a huge bet by Toyota that its Hybrid Synergy Drive would eventually form the basis of a new generation of vehicles which would allow it to remain competitive with whatever came out of Detroit.  Looking back, we didn’t get much from Clinton’s investment other than encouraging Toyota to make the leap and jumpstart the entire hybrid movement.  (And again, we don’t know what kind of funding Toyota if any it may have gotten from its government.  No point telling anyone now is there?)

The question of whether it made sense for GM to continue investing in the Volt before and after the bankruptcy is also irrelevant.  For starters, the old GM was going to go broke whether or not it poured money into the Volt.  So dropping the Volt then may have given GM a few more days of life although GM had countless holes where it was bleeding cash so it’s impossible to know.  The bankruptcy outcome for GM was preordained by 2005 or thereabouts anyway (if you were an early TTAC reader).  And throwing taxpayer money at the Volt during and after the bankruptcy – even if the PTFOA thought it was too expensive for commercial success – misses the point too.  It’s a disruptive technology that over time could significantly alter gasoline usage in this country for a large segment of drivers.  And that’s the real goal after all, isn’t it?

We have to look at the low volume production of the first gen Volt as merely an “on the road” experiment to perfect the technology.  As with any new technology (e.g., the Prius), the second and third generations of the Volt will be the real winners as component prices fall, volumes increase, and sales start to generate real profits.  Of course, the price tag will have to drop as well since it’s a better economic decision to buy a new Cruze for $17k and put gas into it until the wheels fall off rather than invest $34,000 (net of tax credits) in a new Volt today.

Comparing the Nissan Leaf to the Chevy Volt makes no sense whatsoever.  For starters, the Leaf has potential only for those folks that have no fear of range anxiety – that is those that have a defined commute each day (and maybe 60 miles tops round trip) and have no extra-curricular needs for their car.  One can count on both hands the likely number of Americans that fit that description.  Oh yea, you had better to remember to plug it in each night or else it’s a no-go the following morning.  The Volt overcomes that objection easily – forget to plug it in, no problem.  Need to drive more than the allotted battery power – no problem.  No charging station nearby – no problem.  Want to take a weekend trip – no problem.  It just makes sense to get a Volt rather than a Leaf if the lease prices are the same.

So let’s not worry if a couple of billion dollars of taxpayer money went into the Volt.  For starters, there’s a chance we’ll get back the bulk of the money anyways.  And taxpayer credits?  Heck, lots of industries have benefited from such programs before.  Why single out the Volt?  Even the Leaf will qualify for credits.  We just have to hope that GM can lead the way in technology – and that will make us all better off.

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91 Comments on “In Defense Of The Chevrolet Volt...”


  • avatar
    ALB-MAN

    I understand the defense for the volt 100%, but I really miss the hardcore rants on gm vehicles you guys used to do. I don’t know what happened, maybe its the chevy ad i see to the left, but I would like some old school ttac on the volt.

    • 0 avatar
      parbuster

      This is not a GM bashing site….It is the TRUTH about cars. Mr Elias is speaking the truth. The General has deserved much bashing over the years however, the Volt is not a bashing topic. It took some big cajones to bring this vehicle to market, it just could be a game changer.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      This is the beauty of TTAC. This article is considered contrarian to most of the Best and Brightest, yet it gets a thoughtful read and discussion.

      I agree with the article whole heartedly. Let’s not forget that government subsidies have jumpstarted scores of technological advances – look at what has come out of NASA over the years, the Internet came out of DARPA, etc..

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @ALB-MAN: I guess you’re only a very occasional reader here?

      The amount of hatred for GM on this site is remarkable. I’d say it’s palpable. It’s a testament to the editorial staff that they put *this* post up, but considering their other actions (like Ed’s recent Volt bashing editorial)(although it’s really more Obama- and financial-bashing), this would have to happen to have some sense of balance.

      When RF edited this site, the GM bashing was at hysterical levels. I stayed away for a couple of years. The vast negativity emanating from this site drove me away. I thought with the change in editorial board, a little more moderation would take place.

      While there are flashes of moderation, but it seems that with bailout and the launch of the Volt, the anti-domestic rhetoric has been ramped up again. I’m not seeing a lot of truths these days.

      No pithy remarks from me, just less of me.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      @geozinger: yes.

  • avatar

    The ads have nothing to do with it. The site has no direct contact with these advertisers.

    On the Volt, I wrote this piece a couple of years ago:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/in-defense-of-the-chevrolet-volt-ish/

    $350/month is a sufficiently cheap lease, even with the $2,500 due at signing, making the effective lease price about $419.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Where’s Waldo? Is there a “defense of the Chevrolet Volt” hidden somewhere in this rambling mob of strawmen and red herrings?

  • avatar
    npbheights

    Why is this a Chevy? At $41,000 it should at least be a Buick and probably a Cadillac.

  • avatar

    PNGV Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, GM, Ford & Chrysler 80-72-72 MPG Diesel Hybrid 5-seater family cars that were abandoned in development in 2001. At the Automakers’ request:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partnership_for_a_New_Generation_of_Vehicles

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      One needs to know why the automakers request it be cut. Read this article.

      http://www.dieselnet.com/news/2002/01doe.php

      “In what appears to be a lack of coordination between different branches of the U.S. government, emissions became a big stumbling block contributing to the failure of PNGV. The PNGV engineering emission objectives had been set at 0.16 g/mi NOx and 0.027 g/mi PM, while the EPA’s Tier 2 emission standards require a fleet average NOx limit of 0.07 g/mi and 0.2 g/mi NOx and 0.02 g/mi PM emission limits in the most relaxed permanent certification bin 8. In order to be commercially viable, vehicles would likely need to be certified at least in the bin 5 of 0.07 g/mi NOx and 0.01 g/mi PM. In effect, the PNGV research was developing vehicles that would not meet emission standards that come to power in 2004.”

      One also must note that the first concepts were meeting year 2000 crash standards. By 2004, the standards were different, and the program started in 1993.

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      @Steven02: +1

      Ironically, the champion of this program that suffered a “lack of coordination between different branches of the U.S. government” was VP Al Gore, who had hoped to use its success as cornerstone of his presidential campaign. Fortunately it wasn’t a complete failure, as Opel and Ford of Europe were able to make use of the clean diesel technology across the pond, where regulators hold a more sensible assessment of diesel technology.

      As BW said about the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic in the “65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can’t Have”, Ford, “whose Fiesta ECOnetic compares favorably with European diesels, can’t make a business case for bringing the car to the U.S. ”

      But that never stopped the former Vice President, whose electric bills are much more than yours or mine, from endlessly bashing Detroit automakers for the failure of his pet program. which failed from a irreconcilable difference between DOE and EPA. Are Detroit automakers supposed to employ a contingency of lobbyists to play marriage counselors between government agencies?

  • avatar
    SomeDude

    “For starters, the Leaf has potential only for those folks that have no fear of range anxiety…”

    No. The Leaf has no potential whatsoever because

    (A) It makes no sense as a car because it has no practical use as a car. The Prius did, the Volt does, the leaf does not.
    (B) It’s butt-ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The Leaf makes some sense as a commuter car in areas where a pure electric vehicle gives a solo driver access to the HOV lane. Similar to consumer market for the natural gas powered Civic GX. For that case, the Leaf recovers time lost in rush hour traffic. With the Volt, the presence of the gasoline engine excludes it from the HOV lane even if it is running on battery power.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      I’ll never understand the dismissal of the Leaf. It goes up to 100 miles without ever using a single drop of gas, emits zero emissions doing so and seats 5 as opposed to the 4 seat Volt. If Putz’s comments about 80% of all Americans commute 40 miles per day, then well sh!t, how is 100 mile range not acceptable in this case?

      And, who’s to say the business you are driving to doesn’t have chargers in the parking spots so for those 8 hours you are at work you don’t have your Leaf plugged in juicing back up to that 100 mile range again?

      And if the Volt is so f’n wonderful for it’s 40 mile range without gas, why is it being heralded as such when after the 40 miles is used up it gets mileage no better than a f’n Aveo with the same cramped interior (for only 4 passengers btw) luging around 500 lbs worth of useless batteries?

      I thionk there aree going to be a lot of very disappointed Volt cheerleaders when they find the Leaf becomes a very popular entry.

      Word of advice, if you hate the Leaf because you are a diehard hater of anything NOT Government motors Ford or Chrysler, stay far away from cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, LA or any where else that it will be the IDEAL city car.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Garbage,
      The Leaf for commutes, it is probably fine. For extra side trips, you might have issues. For long trips, it is unusable and requires people to have a separate car or rent one. Those are the facts. For me, it wouldn’t work. I want to have 2 cars available to take long trips in case one is in the shop. I also don’t want to be stranded because my wife did plug the car in.

      The Volt gets better mileage than an Aveo with running on the generator, at least that is what GM’s engineers are saying, 50 mpg on generator.

      Seating 4 allows for the Volt to have thermal management for its battery pack unlike the Leaf that has no thermal management. What you are likely see because of this is a Leaf battery pack that doesn’t last as long as the Volt.

      For city cars in a mild climate, the Leaf will be fine. In the winter, I will be interested to see the range. In the heat of the summer, I will be interested to see the range. The review of the iMiev said that they lost 6 miles from turning on the AC. It will be interesting to see all of this effects the Leaf and the Volt.

      One must realize that the Leaf is not going to be a car for everyone and has some serious limitations. I am also curious into how putting in 4 or 5 passengers into the car will effect the ranged due to the added weight.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    I completely agree with the point “Ken” makes that new technology in this realm will not be cheap to provide to customers. But I’m surprised Ken isn’t getting any backlash from the hybrid-loving crowd given his assertion that the Prius was ever sold at a negative margin.

    I made this assertion in the past only to get lambasted by all manner of commenters citing there was no way Toyota would be dumb enough to sell a vehicle at a variable loss since Toyota was profitable. It didn’t matter that I’ve worked with complete Bill of Material estimates from tear-downs and know capex requirements. The B&B were just B&B-er than myself or Ken.

    I remember when the first Prius came out as a Echo-looking-compact-lame-car and people in the business were just ripping apart Toyota for offering weird technology for too much money and not enough cachet to justify the purchase. Even the Insight with it’s futuristic shape didn’t sell well. The initial year volumes for these hybrids were horrible given the amount of investment Toyota and Honda plowed into their hybrid programs.

    But it’s obvious now that the Japanese firms weren’t expecting a home run off the bat to make their vehicles successful. Rather they were focusing on the long-term and establishing acceptance of their product.

    I don’t think the American audience (after all, they are part-owners) has the patience to see vehicles like the Volt develop into a viable business model, and they won’t tolerate a scenario when an anonymous industry expert expects them to have patience. The fear is that Chevy will constantly overhaul their strategy with the Volt instead of adhering to a long term plan.

    The $350 a month for 36 months ($2,500 due at signing) represents a 50% residual on a car transacting at $30K. I think it’s safe to say that GM will balloon the residual for you, and they really want to steer people into leases so they can try to get the first batch of vehicles off the road if the Volt has performance issues (like the EV1).

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    The Leaf makes a ton of sense as a second vehcle for the millions of two car families w/homes in the US. A car that I never have to worry about oil changes and with no transmission!!! WOW let me at it.

    And damn is that Volt is a good looking car!

  • avatar
    carguy

    Ed – Props to TTAC for publishing dissenting views. This is what makes this such a great site.

  • avatar
    Revver

    “so the price tag is irrelevant…”

    . . .you’re starting to lose me. . . there’s no such thing as irrelevant price tags in consumer products.

    “the real deal is the three year lease at $350/month and that’s a super competitive price.”

    Honda Accords are currenlty leasing for $270, zero down; the car closer to the Volt’s dimensions, the Civic goes for $210.

    “As with any new technology (e.g., the Prius), the second and third generations of the Volt will be the real winners as component prices fall, volumes increase, and sales start to generate real profits.”

    But first you have to move enough product to justify a second generation.

    The problem most associated with the Volt is its troubled voyage from – the car that will save/bring a new dawn to GM – to already being excused as an engineering experiment.

    And besides any real defense of the car needs to go like this:

    1. Toyota Prius
    2. Honda Insight
    3. Chevy Volt

    Why would you choose No.3?

    • 0 avatar
      holydonut

      The trouble is that every sales guy knows how to play with monthly payments to force-fit almost any contract with almost any buyer. So comparing monthly payments gets tough to do since you’re comparing different classes of buyers rather than the vehicles themselves. I believe Ken tossing the $350 a month thing was a red herring and not really a valid point in defense of the vehicle itself. But he makes several other great points.

      I actually think that the list you gave needs to be revised. You have to slot the Leaf above the Volt and knock the Volt to #4.

      The Volt’s primary selling point was that on a normal commute you wouldn’t need gasoline, which makes it “greener” than the Prius. I don’t want to get down that stupid rat-hole discussion about total-energy-supply-chain impact. And, many (not all) Prius owners have this strong desire to be green and energy independent. So the Volt provides a way to get them to be even more eco-friendly regarding their on-road gasoline consumption.

      The only thing I can think of versus the leaf is that the gasoline engine affords more flexibility and comfort that you won’t get stranded looking for a 120v outlet. I guess there is the play towards styling and interior room, but that’s not a serious value prop.

      Of course this is all going out on a limb thinking that customers will embrace the concepts. Marketing will still be important though; I’m not in marketing so I’m not sure how they’ll pull this off. But the point is that this thing shouldn’t be expected to be a home-run right off the bat and the message will need tweaking as we go along.

      Any firm would have to go through a learning process regarding how to market/sell these things. Remember the old Civic HX that was pushed with a super-fuel-efficiency campaign? Turns out Honda learned people didn’t just want fuel efficiency, so Honda’s campaign with that car died and they had to find other ways to deliver high fuel efficiency in a manner customers would want to purchase.

      I just hope GM has a long-term strategy with this car, and isn’t relying on ad-hoc marketing campaigns to carry the vehicle… even thought he Marketing aspect is going to the the most pervasive and top-of-mind in the Blogsphere.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Chevy only needs to find 10,000 Volt drivers the first year. That will not be a problem, Mini had 1800 people sign up for their US EV pilot program, which is limited to a few cities and they’re charging $820 per month. Whether the Volt will save GM in the long term is certainly questionable, but the relatively cheap lease is a very smart move, and I don’t say that about GM much. On the other hand, their recent announcement of a 50% production target increase for 2012 seems a bit cocky when they don’t even have any of these things on the road yet. And there is nothing worse than a cocky GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Why compare apples and oranges on prices? What is the lease payment on a Leaf? What is it on the Prius? What is the total cost of ownership of everything that you listed? When you think of it, does the Prius make sense when you factor in the cost of gas? The answer is no.

      And no, you don’t have to move enough product to justify a second version. Look at the Prius that didn’t have a lot of sales, was sold at a loss, and it is still around today for a second version. Currently on its 3rd version.

      This program is more about the technology than this one car. If the next Volt can go 80 miles on battery, still have a range extender, and cut the price by 15%, it would be a great step forward. Next applications could be small CUVs.

      Honestly, I wouldn’t pick any of the 3. The Prius doesn’t fit my needs because the car doesn’t move at highway speeds. The Insight probably had the worst reviews of a new car that I have ever seen. I probably wouldn’t pick the Volt because I have 1 kids now (1 coming this month), but might one day have 3. So, I am more likely to get something different.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    That was a pretty weak defense. I were hoping you’d address the fundamental issues with the Volt (short range, future profitability, inefficient gas mode, some promises of better battery tech). Instead we basically got a, ‘hey it sucks that the Volt is a huge waste of tax payer money, but hey, it could be worse right?’ The Volt blows.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      @sporty, which plug-in hybrid (now or next year) has longer range than the Volt? The gas engine is there as a backup, if all you drive is 30-40 miles/day (all you CAN with a Leaf) you’ll never use it.

      Your criticism is weaker than Ken’s defence of the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      SomeDude

      And, besides, I’m pretty sure that the actual range of the Leaf will be around 30-40 miles, given the actual experience with the MiEV.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @sporty, which plug-in hybrid (now or next year) has longer range than the Volt?

      It’s probably not coming next year, but this one is claiming 50 miles ev range. It’s going to get crowded PHEV land pretty quick.

    • 0 avatar
      SomeDude

      @msc

      This Kia Ray has no mirrors nor door handles… Are you supposed to knock on the door to get it to open? Then again, how about a camera instead of the windshield?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The Volt does not suffer from “short range” any more than a Prius does. That is a silly argument. With present technology, a hybrid makes more sense for the vast majority of people than a pure electric vehicle does.

      Present battery technology does not provide for a real passenger vehicle with decent range and the ability to deal with common unplanned events without inducing severe range anxiety issues. Who wants a vehicle which is highly likely to leave them stranded if the unexpected happens? Say you are returning home on your 20 mile commute in the Tuscon, AZ area one August day with outside temps at 110 deg. F and a massive traffic pile up traps you on the freeway for two hours. If you sit there in your Leaf with the A/C running long enough, you might just end up stranded due to lack of sufficient battery power. Not good, not good at all. So, for the moment, pure electric automobiles are a curiosity with very limited applicability. Where the whole hybrid architecture market battle settles out is still up for grabs, but I’m quite sure that pure electric vehicles don’t pose a serious competitive threat over the next ten years.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    The Volt leaves me yawning. Nothing new there.

    GM’s AUTOnomy (also called Hy-Wire) concept really gave me a jolt. Sure, it used fuel cells. But just replace the fuel cell with batteries and a generator. That car would have changed the carmaking industry. Technically and as a business.

    The Volt? Zzzzzzz.

  • avatar
    mcs

    We just have to hope that GM can lead the way in technology

    Unfortunately, the Volt does not lead in technology. Once you get past the EREV hyperbole, it’s just a plug-in hybrid. Basically a Prius with a big battery and nothing new. Both Toyota and Hyundai have plug-in hybrids on the way to compete with it. The Hyundai will probably match the Volt’s EV range and you can bet it’s going to be cheaper.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      This is not true. The ICE never powers the wheels in the volt – as it does in the prius. Essentially if you never drive more than 40 miles you use no gas which not possible in the prius. After 40 miles the ICE charges the battery.

      Why does this matter? Because an ICE is most efficient at a steady state and an electric motor has 100% torque at zero rpm. Wuth this drive train each is working in its most efficient mode.

      This is industry leading technology – you are wrong.

  • avatar

    this site is so much fun. intelligent, humorous, and balanced. still miss Robert though.

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      What made Robert so fun was his literate and defiant eloquence–damn his opinions though. The only two auto blog writers who can match his writing skills are TTAC nemisis autoextremist Peter De Lorenzo and TTAC’s own Jack Baruth. But the latter reveals his really good stuff elsewhere on the web, where his talents are unconfined to being an auto reviewer.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      @Telegraph Road–

      The problem with RF is he was often unable to differentiate between the three Detroit automakers, treating them all like GM. According to his past predictions, Ford should be bankrupt and/or bailed out by now, and Chrysler liquidated.

      GM was his big target. Notice how the other “Deathwatches” never got their numbers past double-digits, while GM Deathwatch went to #260. Ford and Chrysler were afterthoughts and he always looked at them through the lens of General Motors.

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      @BDB

      Indeed, it was sad when RF left because I could no longer excoriate him for his evidently ridiculous Ford Death Watch series. The present editors and writers (perhaps one or two excepted), to their credit, are either less effusive in their disdain for Ford, or wiser (I hope).

      Oh yes, I neglect to mention I work for a large auto OEM in Dearborn.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      To RF’s (and the other writers’) credit, Ford was certainly on the ropes for some time, and even now they’re not entirely out of the woods. Perhaps they’ve done enough of the right things to avoid bankruptcy, but their course could just as easily have followed a different path. (And still might, although they’re clearly in better shape now than in the not-too-distant past.)

  • avatar
    golf4me

    Thank you for something other than a GM bashing. I’m surprised it made it through the editorial staff! Sorry for my previous rant TTAC, but this is what Neidermier should have written in the first place.

    BTW, is there anywhere I can read about your contributors’ automotive experience? Hopefully more than selling used BMWS in Catmandu for a year…

    • 0 avatar
      holydonut

      It wouldn’t make sense for Ken to share his experience since it would likely out him. Everyone in Detroit seems to know one another.

      I’m not terribly sure how Farago and Company validated the Kens, but you can usually tell who is in the industry and who is not based on the content of their posts and insights. Ken rarely posts what the media says or what people easily rationalize as common sense.

      I think the good part of TTAC is that they’re willing to publish this type of content. The bad part is that a large part of the TTAC audience doesn’t really listen to Ken because the industry-message rarely correlates with what an outsider perceives through their own experience as a customer or the messages contained in the mainstream media.

      As such, Ken usually just preaches to other Kens. By and large there isn’t an audience of people willing to acknowledge that there is a grey area of reality that exists between what auto employees experience and what auto customers experience.

    • 0 avatar
      RogerB34

      Damn’s with faint praise closer to the mark.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Comparing the Nissan Leaf to the Chevy Volt makes no sense whatsoever. For starters, the Leaf has potential only for those folks that have no fear of range anxiety – that is those that have a defined commute each day (and maybe 60 miles tops round trip) and have no extra-curricular needs for their car. One can count on both hands the likely number of Americans that fit that description. …

    I suspect the number will be much higher than you predict. I would be an ideal candidate for a Volt, and I have no reason to think that I’m so unique that there are only two handfuls of Americans like me. Believe it or not, a lot of people really only drive one or two dozen miles a day, and know it, and don’t need 450 miles of “range” in what they drive. I go to work, I come home. I play with the dogs. I tinker with my antique bicycles. I waste time on automotive blogs :-) Once in a while I might go to the hardware store on the way home from work, and the Leaf has plenty enough range for that.

    … Oh yea, you had better to remember to plug it in each night or else it’s a no-go the following morning. The Volt overcomes that objection easily – forget to plug it in, no problem. Need to drive more than the allotted battery power – no problem. No charging station nearby – no problem. Want to take a weekend trip – no problem. It just makes sense to get a Volt rather than a Leaf if the lease prices are the same.

    This is exactly what makes the Volt brilliant. Those of you who drive the US average of 32 miles per day, day after day after day, but think you may suddenly need to drive to St. Louis after work, can get a Volt and your largely unnecessary range anxiety is taken care of.

    The volt could serve as an only car, or first car, whereas the Leaf, even for me, has to be a second car. Might want to go to South Bend this weekend, and I can’t do that in a Leaf.

    Technically, the car is quite good. My only objection is that the battery layout makes it a true 4 seat car, while the Leaf can pretend to be a 5 passenger. The interior might seem larger with a better layout.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The problem with the Volt is that it still doesn’t make economic sense to own or lease one. Compare a $350 a month lease to advertised leases for Corollas, Civics, Elantras all well under $200. Even if you used NO gas, you won’t save enough to make the Volt cheaper. So it is still just a green status symbol.

    • 0 avatar
      jcp2

      Nothing wrong with being a green status symbol. Green is in for some folks. It’s just like having a sports car in the city or using a pickup to commute to work. If we were truly getting on people’s cases for buying a vehicle for something other than it’s ability to provide transportation from point A to point B, we’d all be driving used ten year old beater compacts.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      A sports car for the green set! I hadn’t thought of it that way. Well, it’s still ugly!

    • 0 avatar
      jcp2

      I think the trick will be for the salesperson to know the product and pitch it appropriately to the customer. I was in a Ford dealership and interested in a Fusion hybrid, but the saleperson, didn’t completely understand the hybrid system or regenerative braking. Truth be told, I think he wanted to move what was in inventory (a 4 cylinder Fusion) rather than a limited allocation vehicle and was trying to convince me that it was more economical. I knew that already and my interest in the hybrid was in the technology and driver interface. Now I’m waiting for MyFord Touch. The hybrid stuff itself wasn’t that important.

      The Volt salesperson better know his stuff, as there will be car geeks among the early adopters.

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      The Volt and the Leaf will both be self-selling for the first 10,000 each. People will show up and want one. The salesman just has to not screw the deal.

      What drives me nuts (arrrrgh!) about these editorials is that they are so incredibly confident that no one will buy these cars. Will we get a retraction when more than ten Leafs are sold?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      @dwford
      With that argument, a Prius or Leaf makes no sense at all either. The Prius sells well.

  • avatar
    drifter

    While using Volt in electric only mode, it is hauling dead weight (engine, gas tank, gas), there by giving significantly less electric range, about half of that of Leaf.

    When you actually use in ranger extender mode, it converting gasoline into heat which in turn is converted to mechanical torque (engine) which in turn is converted back to electricity (generator) which in further converted to mechanical torque (motor) and inefficient chemical reaction to charge the battery. I will not be surprised if in real-world driving in range extender mode, Volt will deliver fuel economy in full-size SUV territory.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    I believe the Volt is a ‘get well’ project for GM, not a solid solution for the American driver. The car is big, it puts the burden of maintenance on the buyer for five expensive systems: the gasoline engine and its components, the electric motor, the coupling- transmission system between the two, the control hardware system and software, the expensive battery, and the drive train. The car won’t go for more than 40 miles before needing gasoline engine assist. All of these systems have different failure modes and maintenance costs. The customer is being faced with far more maintenance risk compared to a simple small engine gasoline or Diesel car. GM has shown it cannot even build reliable basic gasoline consumer grade vehicles, so we are to believe it can produce complicated multi-engine vehicles? Remember the GM Diesel cars— total junk. What if those cars had used Diesel and Gas engines combined through a drive train coupling—the Diesel for the road, the Gas engine for town, with a system of electronics that would even blend the two depending on speed, etc. Fail.

    The Volt will fail, will cost consumers huge maintenance costs, and people will walk away just as they did from the GM Diesel cars, and I might add, the Corvair, which was innovative, but poorly designed—the car burnt valves and leaked oil all the time, and shall I remind all of us—rolled over in emergency turns. The Corvair was GM’s rushed to market small car. The Volt is in this category.

    If GM is so convinced that the VOLT is worth it, let them offer 100,000 mile warranty on the entire car—- all of it. It’s drive train, battery, engines, control systems, etc. Only then would the VOLT be credible. As it is, GM will place the burden on the consumer for flaws in design. Not acceptable, given GM’s track record with allegedly innovative cars. Sure, people with money will buy and there will be, in 30 years a VOLT owners club, just as there is one for the Corvair today. Also, remember the Chevy Vega, and Chevelle, examples of allegedly GM innovation—both relegated to club status. The VOLT is a club car.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      There is no coupling system between the engine and the electric motor. Motor drives wheels, engine charges battery. By pushing the lease, GM is protecting early customers. Will be interesting to see what happens when lease ends.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Wow, amazing how your 5 systems work. Gas engine, electric motor, coupling-transmission, control hardware and software, expensive battery, and drive train.

      The Gas engine is working like a generator. It is a small cheap engine that will require little maintenance. An electric motor is a VERY simple device. Most electric motors require little or no maintenance. There is no coupling transmission. The control hardware is essentially a computer. It isn’t like the hardware for computers isn’t being used in cars today. The software is different. This battery is new. But, I am pretty sure it requires little to no maintenance. It also has a long warranty. I am not sure where you are lumping in drive train. I think it is because you don’t understand how the car works. All the pieces you described are the drive train. The drive train isn’t a separate piece.

      What I don’t understand is why you think all of these costs are going to be so high? This probably has drive train components than a Prius.

      I also wouldn’t lump the Corvair in this category. Was this really rushed to market? GM announced in 2007 it would be a car in 2010. So, 3 years of development is rushed to market?

      You should really research more before you post.

    • 0 avatar
      dhathewa

      Steven02: “What I don’t understand is why you think all of these costs are going to be so high? This probably has drive train components than a Prius.”

      I suppose you meant fewer drive train components than a Prius? Well, GM has, on occasion, touted the simplicity of the drivetrain and the concept. However, that was some time ago and what seemed simple then seems not so simple now (there has been endless “tuning” and the car now, shockingly, requires premium fuel).

      In fact, many pronouncements by GM about the car seem rather confusing. Does it have one electric motor? Two? Separate generator or combined motor/generator? If combined, does the engine power the wheels directly (GM says no)? Does it charge the battery? No? Well, some? What is “mountain mode?”

      In any event, if this car is inexpensive to build, why is it so expensive to buy? Why did they tart it up with 5 years of OnStar and a lot of other options (historically, excellent margins on options)? The most likely explanation is that they can’t build it at any kind of reasonable cost, so they added hig-margin options to make the car seem to have more value. Shades of the GMT900 two-mode hybrids! If GM could build this at an attractive cost, why wouldn’t they sell it for an attractive price and aim for a real market? Toyota isn’t going to be impressed (or “leapfrogged”) by a semi-successful science experiment. Why did they reduce the proposed 2012 production from 60K to 30K? And then raise it to 45K? They can’t easily recover the development cost by building 1K vehicles/month, you know.

      Steven02: “I also wouldn’t lump the Corvair in this category. Was this really rushed to market? GM announced in 2007 it would be a car in 2010. So, 3 years of development is rushed to market?”

      Really, 4 years… announced in Jan, 2007, availabe in November 2010 (OK, 3.75 years).

      And just how new is this? Contemporary vehicles with gas/electric drivetrains, a traction battery and regenerative braking are old news. Toyota, Honda, Ford and Nissan have all succeeded with such vehicles. Where has GM been?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      There is a big difference in tuning and the amount of components which is what was initially commented on.

      He also commented on how this rushed to market, which clearly it wasn’t. New technology needs to be throughly tested before coming to market.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    So GM wants to see 10,000 Volts in the first year? Shouldn’t be a problem. We all know damn well that various governments and their agencies will do most of the buying, at substantial discounts. Essentially, I think GM will do what Toyota did with the Prius, only not as publicly. Overall, though, I see the Volt being a minor success, competitors be damned. There’s enough Americans who will buy it just because it’s American. I mean, people bought the Vue ‘Hybrid’, right?

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      You might have them with a passion for having different tastes and values than you, but there are easily 10,000 households in this country of 300 million people who want a Volt. Or a Leaf, for that matter.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is not a bad article, and it’s correct, and I agree with it. But damn, if it doesn’t present very little in the way of a compelling case for the product itself.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “but Toyota was deathly afraid that Bill Clinton’s accelerated investment in advanced technology programs in the 1990’s would give the domestic OEMs a chance to gain a leg up on Toyota.”

    Pearls before swine.

    “So let’s not worry if a couple of billion dollars of taxpayer money went into the Volt.”

    Billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon we are talking about real money.

    “For starters, there’s a chance we’ll get back the bulk of the money anyways.”

    And the dog could learn how to talk.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The amount of hatred for GM on this site is remarkable.

    And well deserved. The biggest problem with the Volt? GM’s been bragging about for 3+ years. Call it Camaro-itis. Wait until the car is 12 months from production, then start fellating yourself.

    Read through the GM Death Watch series. It was truly remarkable, and four years before Lindsey I mean GM could admit it, we all knew they had a massive problem.

    Out of all their models, I can name maybe seven that are impressive and even remotely competitive. That track record sucks for a company with assuredly such engineering talent.

    I recently rented an Equinox, and except for the buzzy engine, tons of road noise, and huge C pillars, I was actually impressed.

    But after getting burned twice by the old GM (with the typical half-baked, low-quality product), they’ll never willingly get a dollar of my money (involuntary tax donations excepted).

    TTAC, with the added bonus of scenarios and facts about the company, only voiced and confirmed what many of us suspected.

    June, 2009 verified those suspicions.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I think people hate GM and Chrysler because, as consumers, they experience limited shelf space for retail products. What better cars are not available as a choice because crap like the Chrysler Sebring takes up retail shelf space? Would other cars like the Suzuki Kizashi or the Kia Optima fill the void? It’s doubly insulting to have to pay taxes to get served up last place cars that would go away if the market was allowed to work. I don’t think the Chevrolet Volt is a bad car, but it’s brand suffers from the sins of Cavaliers past.

  • avatar

    Anybody remember the Cadillac 468′s? They were game changers too. I’ll predict this vehicle will be a spectacular flop. In Canada after October this thing won’t get more than 20 miles max with a defroster on high, wipers, rear defrost and headlights going full tilt. Own it for two years and you’ll see that drop to 10 miles of range. You’d be further ahead to have bought a diesel. The battery warranty will have enough legal holes in it to drive a truck through and the resale value will be so low nobody will take one on a trade in – this vehicle could end up killing GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Or maybe all the thermal management systems GM implemented into the car actually work and the vehicle you are describing is the Leaf with no thermal management.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    1. The price tag is extremely relevant; GM is [allegedly] a for-profit company. The price point is an exceptionally tricky balance of costs, sales projections, marketing, and magic arts.

    2. “It’s a disruptive technology that over time could significantly alter gasoline usage in this country for a large segment of drivers. And that’s the real goal after all, isn’t it?”

    No, it is not. The real goal is for GM to make money. See Point #1 above. Altering gasoline usage in this country can be achieved by a variety of other means.

    3. I agree that the Volt and the Leaf should not be compared, but then you go ahead and make the point by criticizing the Leaf. The Leaf will be perfect for some people. The Leaf buyer won’t be comparing their purchase to a Volt; they’ll be comparison-shopping against a Civic or a Smart car, or the option of walking or taking the bus. The Leaf and the Volt have different buyers, just as econobox and truck buyers are different.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Ken Elias writes: “And while some think that the first Prius cost only $32k per copy – well that was just for the parts.”

    I’ve heard that $32K figure and I think it’s a gross overestimate.

    You can run down to the Toyota dealer and pick up 5-door hatchback Yaris for under $13K. Toyota is very, very good at building cars that are not cheap but at low cost, in a high-wage country.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Comparing a $13k car that is very cheap in material, size, and drive train and a new developed Prius…

      Do you know how much the battery packs cost? Thinking it is a gross overestimate and using a subcompact as your justification doesn’t seem to make much sense.

    • 0 avatar
      dhathewa

      Steven02 writes: “Comparing a $13k car that is very cheap in material, size, and drive train and a new developed Prius…”

      There’s nothing cheap about the Yaris, it’s just inexpensive. It has an excellent engine. Toyota happily sells small cars for reasonable prices. While a Prius is a bit more than a Yaris with a PSD and a battery pack, if they can sell a Yaris for $13K profitably, they can certainly sell a Prius for $22.8K profitably.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Could they sell it when it first came out at a profit? No. That is the point that he was making. Could a second or 3rd generation make a profit? Yes. And the Yaris is cheap. When compared to a Honda Fit, there is no comparison.

  • avatar
    damian2050

    At last some one agreeing with what I wrote the other day, but for us in Europe a small turbocharged diesel makes more sense. Perhaps a Fiat (lol)? If it was not for the political pressure to have batteries so that is is an E.V. it would be more efficient but how much? Oshkosh uses super capacitors to store energy but they don.t have to pander to politicians.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    “Its newest products – the LaCrosse, SRX, Equinox, and Camaro for example – have been well received by the public and there’s no shame putting one of these rigs in your driveway. So let’s start out giving GM the benefit of the big doubt that the new Volt will work as advertised.”

    With all due respect Mr. Elias, this is where you stepped off the boat and into shark infested waters. It is “Shark Week!” after all.

    The cars you mention don’t boast new technology. They boast new designs. And even when GM has launched new designs, the first year products have been consistently terrible once the warranties expired.

    Second of all, GM’s success with “new technology” has been even worse. People STILL joke about the V8-6-4 and GM’s diesel. People STILL joke about the anode-charged spray paint system used on the Vega. People still joke about Chevette engines that fell apart at 40,000 miles. The only “new” technology I can think of that GM employed and people didn’t laugh at, is the plastic body parts on the first Saturns. Oddly enough, GM dumped that technology.

    And finally, the Volt is a small car. Please, can someone name a small car for Americans that GM has gotten right?

    I hope you’re correct and I’m wrong. Seriously.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2010/08/02/report-chevrolet-dealer-ready-to-charge-20-000-over-msrp-for-v/

    “Report: Chevrolet dealer ready to charge $20,000 over MSRP for Volt… will more follow?”

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Why don’t you go find what the most expensive Leaf over MSRP is going to cost? Why not find out what Prius were going for in the gas prices hikes? This happens for highly desired cars.

  • avatar
    segfault

    An Accord is around $270 per month to lease, with no down payment. A down payment adjusted $430+ for the Volt is not “about the same.”

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      My only comment here is that the Volt has much more standard equipment compared to an Accord. Any idea on how much a lease would be on an Accord with similar equipment?

  • avatar
    wmba

    The thing about the Volt is that it is a game changer. Sure, we’ve all heard about diesel-electric locos and some genius in 1903 thinking up the concept.

    That’s all irrelevant. Just as the Prius and the original Insight proved that gasoline/electric hybrids could work in the real world, causing much copycatting, cries from others that they were subsidized, and a multitude of other crap opinions, the fact is that hybrids are here to stay.

    Now the Volt is not a hybrid. It drives electric from the battery until that runs out, then switches to the gas engine driving a generator to power the electric motor instead of the battery. It does NOT charge the battery, and I am amazed at the number of TTAC commenters who still haven’t got this message, as shown in posts above. Wake up. (It will charge the battery if it goes below 40% charge for some reason, but only to bring it back to minimum charge to keep battery life long).

    Now that a company has shown that a gas-electric range extender system works, I expect many other companies to come out with their own versions. There’s no doubt about it, in the engineering world, if somebody makes something work, then the rest of us can design with a leg up on the originator, because we know it’s possible.

    I’m glad GM has kept on with this project. The world is full of doom and gloom about every subject known to man. A little hope instead for the future can’t be bad.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      “I’m glad GM has kept on with this project. The world is full of doom and gloom about every subject known to man. A little hope instead for the future can’t be bad.”+1. The Volt reminds me of JFK’s ‘quick and dirty’ sixties’ space program which, in reality, actually set a useful, practical US space program (i.e., space shuttle) back by decades. But, god, it was still a hopeful, glorious time.

      That’s what the Volt experiment is like. What else is GM going to do for innovation? Create different-design power running boards for their trucks?

      While the Volt holds the potential to be just another in a long line of great, failed GM promises (say, just another Corvair), at least it will be an interesting ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      wmba, the engine DOES charge the battery as well as send current directly to the motor. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Russycle,
      If you read his post, you would see that he did say it does charge the battery, but only as needed to keep battery life up. If there is excess energy being generated from the generator, it would make sense to capture it in the battery. The primary purpose of the generator is not to charge the battery, but to power the electric motor. Many of the post here talk about the ICE charging the battery after 40 miles, which isn’t correct.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Here’s what bothers me about the Volt…

    First, the price. In response to the PNGV initiative, Toyota brought out a system that they believed they could manufacture at reasonable cost and ship in reasonable volume in the near term to make money. We might cut GM some slack on the price of Volt Generation 1 but the driving component of the price appears to be the battery, both the up-front cost and the longevity question (profit is limited by the allowance that must be made for field failures). To build a profitable, reasonably priced car, GM depends on battery manufacturers reducing their prices.

    Second, the characteristics of the vehicle itself aren’t all that great. It only holds 4 passengers, which is highly unusual, and just 10 cu ft of cargo, which is probably a bit below normal for even a compact car (Edmunds says the Prius can do 21 cu ft of luggage or 40 cu ft of cargo). It probably won’t cost too many Volt Generation 1 sales but it’s indicative of problems with battery capacity and vehicle packaging and it’s not easy to see what quantum leap GM can make to overcome similar issues in Generation 2.

    Third, the overall fuel economy is subject to intense speculation and, frankly, I don’t think it’s going to be all that good. Pretty much no matter what sort of driving they did, buyers could be confident that they would use fuel driving a Prius than they would with any comparable vehicle.

    The situation with the Volt is not so clear. In fact, it’s downright doubtful. GM is talking about a 9 gallon tank and 300 miles in range-extended operation. Let’s say GM is giving a range with a 10% fudge factor… that 9 gallons is good for 330 miles. That’s 37mpg. A $13K Yaris matches that. You can edge past that with a $19K Cruze. You do decisively better in a $22.8K Prius.

    On account of the (probably) low fuel economy, the operating envelope within which the Volt actually requires less oil-based fuel than a Prius is somewhat limited. It would be practically impossible to show any “payback” with this vehicle, anyway (never mind the premium fuel surcharge), but how many people are willing to shell out an extra $20K to “probably” use less oil-based fuel?

    Moreover, where electricity rates are very high, the “fillup” of the Volt battery could reach up to $2.40, which is not much less than an equivalent gas fillup.

    The expensive battery means that people with short commutes also don’t get a benefit commensurate with the expense. Suppose you live a few miles from work, as I do, or have access to decent public transportation? You could buy a Volt to avoid using gas 5 to 10 miles/day but why spend $20K to avoid such a minimal use of oil-based fuel? There are plenty of other ways to spend $20K and “go green” in a more meaningful way.

    Sure, there’s a certain set of people out there who want to get an EV at any price, so 10K will sell but it’s an insignificant impact on, well, anything, at great expense. For those who want an EV at any price and can afford (or require) 2 (or more) cars, the Leaf is a better EV for the money (more EV capability) and “range anxiety” is avoided by keeping that clunker Prius that was purchased back in ’05.

    Further, considering what the vehicle can do… what happens in 2012? How much competition will there be and how will this make the Volt’s capability and cost-effectiveness look?

    The PHEV Prius will hit the road by then. A PHEV Prius could make the Volt’s life very difficult. It should be possible for Toyota to build them in large numbers (it’s basically a Prius with extra “D” cells), if they’re really popular and it’s hard to see how Toyota couldn’t build one for a fairly reasonable price (and it will still get a $2500 or so tax credit). After all, a PHEV Prius swaps out one relatively expensive part in favor of another, more expensive part. The difference in battery cost could be small (I’m guessing it will be less than $5K). A $22.8K Prius becomes a $27.8K PHEV Prius and then gets a $2500 discount? Of course, Toyota could also price the vehicle to make money and a $31.8K Prius still is only $28.3, net, to the customer.

    Of course, the PHEV Prius has shorter range but unless one uses the full 40 miles/day the Volt offers, some of that expensive capacity is going to waste. A PHEV Prius will still likely get 50mpg after the battery is drained. Unless one is anal-retentive about going EV, the fewer miles needed, the better the economic argument for the less capable vehicle.

    Fourth, GM was – and perhaps still is – in serious financial trouble. Market share has eroded greatly and while it’s true that their product is more competitive than it was in, say, 2003, GM still needs conventional product to make profits. What’s the opportunity cost of developing the Volt? How many other improvements could they have made to existing product lines, for the same money?

    I have no problem with the general idea of subsidizing EV development. Markets have no vision. People do and, sometimes, this vision is expressed through political will and we can shove the markets around a bit to set a better course for the future. It’s clear that an oil-based transportation future has some issues. A country that can establish leadership in future-oriented transportation technologies has a leg up on the competition. It could be that the vision articulated by the political leadership isn’t the best but it does embrace forward-looking technologies.

    That said, the subsidies afforded the Volt are approaching extremes in terms of overall size (DOE loans, grants, tax credits, local tax abatements, heaven-only-knows what else) and somewhat curious besides.

    First, If battery tech is to be encouraged, why is the rebate cap at 16kwh? This doesn’t do much to encourage long-range EV development and, by transferrence, little to encourage batteries with much higher energy densities and order-of-magnitude lower costs, as 16KWH in a compact car is more or less state-of-the-art (we can do it today and the 24kwh Leaf isn’t all that expensive). Shouldn’t we be encouraging more stretching?

    Second, the tax credit basically amounts to a subsidy of LG. It isn’t GM that owns the enabling cell chemistry and manufacturing technology, it’s LG. We’re making it possible for GM to sell expensive, not-ready-for-prime-time tech on the open market and this enables GM to buy cells from LG. We’re subsidizing LG’s improved performance and efficiency in battery production. Wouldn’t we be better off if the US owned the enabling technology? One of GM’s biggest investments is a battery testing faciliity. Big whoop. Isn’t comprehensive testing something the cell manufacturer should be doing, so that they can tell prospective purchasers what to expect and guarantee their predictions?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I have to disagree with much of what you said. The Prius which lost money initially had problems with battery cost. As these battery packs become cheaper, it will help with profits.

      The capacity for 4 people is small, I agree. But it also has thermal management, something the Leaf does not. I would rather have the thermal management. Also, my understanding is that the Volt and fold down the seats to give you more cargo room. You should qualify the Volt storage as luggage room if you are going to make that distinction with the Prius. Either way, hatch backs store cargo better than traditional trunks.

      Your extended range fuel economy is only a guess. Read this.
      http://gm-volt.com/2009/05/26/volt-chief-engineer-on-chevy-volt-gas-tank-size-and-stale-gas-management/
      While the fuel tank size wasn’t decided at the time, it seems that the 300 mile target isn’t exactly set in stone either, meaning it could be 450 with a 9 gallon tank, or 300 on a 6 gallon tank, or somewhere in between. Assuming it won’t be that good doesn’t it won’t be that good.

      It would be good to know where you get that it could cost $2.40 for a fill up. At that point, it makes no sense for the Leaf or a plugin Prius.

      If you only spend 5 miles a day going to work, gas isn’t a big expense for you. It doesn’t matter what you drive. Does the premium of a Prius really mean anything at that point? How about a Leaf? If you really get down to it, none of the above vehicles are economically feasible when compared to other compact cars that are out there and are approaching 40 mpg with out batteries (at least on the highway).

      The Leaf, while it has a cheaper base price, comes with significantly less creature comforts. I am curious to know what the price of a Leaf will be compared to the price of a Volt when compared apples to apples with equipment. Only 1 thing really matters here though, the lease value. Could you pay $1 a more a month for a car with less restrictive distance limitations? Consider that a 2 car family needs errands at the same time in opposite directions and the Leaf isn’t charged. I am not sure that clunker Prius that you bought in 05 can split into 2 vehicles. Furthermore, you have the option to drive the Volt where ever when ever for as long as you want. The Leaf isn’t a better EV. With no thermal management, IMHO a very bad idea, the battery isn’t going to last as long either. So, you can call it different, and say it has more range, but better than a Volt, that is debatable.

      What happens in 2012 is an interesting question. The answer… who knows. The Volt, Leaf, and Prius will be out… what else will be coming out? I have done some reading on the plug in Prius and it looks like some people are expecting very high costs coming out of it to drive about 13 miles on battery. Your 5k estimate is SEVERLY low. The plugin version will be using lithium batteries.

      GM is not in financial problems today. But you are taking a too short sided view of the Volt. It isn’t just one car that is being developed here, the drive train is. With improvements to the electric drive train, you could see crossover versions and other vehicles. Seeing it as one car doesn’t make sense. The technology does. Why do you think you see hybrid Camries and Highlanders?

      You talk about all of the subsidies that went to the Volt, but many of these are going to the Leaf as well. Nissan is getting the same credit and also took DOE loans.

      And, the rebate isn’t capped at 16kwh. You can have more, but the vehicle must be heavier, but too heavy for most consumer applications. Still, if large vehicles are to use battery packs, they will need to be bigger than 16kwh. And there are credits for vehicles that would need them.

      Last, the tax credit isn’t a subsidy of LG. GM and LG are developing and testing the batteries. If you want to say that they aren’t ready for prime time, that is your opinion. Toyota said the same thing a few years ago and then announced plans to have a lithium plugin Prius. So, will that one be ready for prime time?

      I am not sure where you are going with it would be better if the US owned the enabling technology. If you are talking about LG being a Korean company, ok. Big deal. Do you know what the agreement between LG and GM is? Does GM have some or all of the data that LG has on this? You should learn about joint development and manufacturing. That is what is going on here. Testing is actually quite important. LG doesn’t have any automotive expertise. They aren’t aware of the types of testing that needs to be done, nor do they have the ability to perform such testing. When you are talking about a battery pack for a specific use, having experienced users helping with testing is quite valuable.

      In short, most of what you complain about the Volt can also be seen in the Leaf. For the Prius, you will also see much of the same, especially when it comes down to the plug in version when that gets released.

    • 0 avatar
      dhathewa

      Steven02: “The Prius which lost money initially had problems with battery cost. As these battery packs become cheaper, it will help with profits.”

      Since it had a small battery, this was a much more manageable problem. Since the Volt has a large battery, GM is relying on the kindness of strangers to help with any significant cost reduction.

      Steven02: “The capacity for 4 people is small, I agree. But it also has thermal management, something the Leaf does not.”

      I have this vision of one of your 4th friend, waving forlornly as you pull away in your Volt, consoling himself with, “Sure, I don’t get to go… but at least Steve’s Volt has thermal management.”

      The fact that the Nissan does not have thermal management does not mean that thermal management is better. Nissan figured out how to do whatever they’re going to do without getting into all the plumbing that GM decided they require. Maybe GM is on to something and maybe not.

      The downside, of course, to thermal management is pack weight, complexity and cost.

      Steven02: “Your extended range fuel economy is only a guess. Read this. (link to GM-Volt…)”

      Lyle Dennis and the good people at GM-Volt will seize on any ambiguity in anything GM says and spin it for the good. Consumer Reports says 9 gallons and Lyle published a link to that, too. GM has been publicly saying, consistently, 340 miles of range, for a couple of months, now. Last year, I overheard someone ask Farah or Weber if they could take the Volt from Detroit to Chicago and the answer was, “If it’s under 300 miles, you should be OK.”

      No, we don’t *know* the Volt’s DBFE (Dead Battery Fuel Economy) but GM has been hanging crepe on expectations for some time. If it was really, really good, they wouldn’t need the added “efficiency” of Premium Fuel.

      Steven02: “It would be good to know where you get that it could cost $2.40 for a fill up.”

      “Equivalent gas fillup.” *Equivalent* In other words, a Prius can go about 40 miles on $2.40 worth of gas, since gas is $2.69, today, right up the street. Here’s another way to look at this… the first 40 miles in a Prius weighs about 5 lbs vs the first 40 miles in a Volt weighs about 400 lbs.

      Steven02: “If you really get down to it, none of the above vehicles are economically feasible when compared to other compact cars that are out there and are approaching 40 mpg with out batteries (at least on the highway).”

      Some are less grosslyl infeasible than others. And poor DBFE, if that’s how it comes out, is going to really hurt any argument for the Volt.

      Steven02: “Your 5k estimate (Prius PHEV add-on) is SEVERLY low.”

      Maybe. I believe I said, “net” after rebate. The $2.5K tax credit gives me a nice cushion on that prediction. I’d bet a few bucks on it.

      Steven02: “And, the rebate isn’t capped at 16kwh. You can have more, but the vehicle must be heavier, but too heavy for most consumer applications.”

      Yes, it is capped. Further, “you can have more but the vehicle must be heavier, but too heavy for most consumer applications” is senseless. The Leaf has 24kwh. Too heavy for most consumer applications? I think not.

      Steven02: “I am not sure where you are going with it would be better if the US owned the enabling technology. If you are talking about LG being a Korean company, ok. Big deal. Do you know what the agreement between LG and GM is? Does GM have some or all of the data that LG has on this? You should learn about joint development and manufacturing.”

      OK… since you’re having trouble understanding the strategic significance of owning the battery technology, let’s ask ourselves a question… If they can’t use GM’s stuff, can someone still build a vehicle like the Volt? Well, yes they can. They can buy a battery from the same source as GM and build this thing.

      The battery tech is what makes the vehicle possible… anyone with the cash to buy it can do it. Advances in battery tech is what will make better vehicles possible. If you don’t own the battery tech, your car can’t be more than marginally better/cheaper/better packaged than the competition.

      Steven02: “In short, most of what you complain about the Volt can also be seen in the Leaf.”

      True. But the Leaf has the signal advantage of costing many thousands less.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The fact is, the Prius lost money, judging by some estimates, 10k per unit at first. Criticism of another product for the same thing doesn’t make any sense. Also, the Leaf will lose money for the first 2 years at least. If it can sell in high enough volumes, it might make money in year 3. It might cost thousands less, but if it doesn’t sell enough, it will also cause Nissan to lose a lot of money.

      On the thermal management, we will see how it goes. It could be that it isn’t needed, it could be crucial. It could matter where the vehicle is used. I am interested to see how this plays out. But, if I had 4 friends, I am sure one of them will have a car that seats at least 5. Or, like most families, I could have a second vehicle.

      On the 50 mpg link, it isn’t just gm-volt who has stated this. Many news outlets picked up the 50 mpg.
      http://green.autoblog.com/2010/04/15/report-chevy-volt-will-get-50-mpg-once-the-battery-is-used-up/
      http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/gm-chevy-volt-gasoline-mode-50-mpg-fuel-economy.php
      http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2010/04/chevy-volt-to-get-50-mpg-once-electric-charge-used-up-says-top-engineer.html
      http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2010/04/13/volt-mpg-miles-electric-drive/

      The news is out there. The 9 gallon tank isn’t set in stone. The 340 miles of travel isn’t set in stone. Would you be surprised if it becomes 400 miles of travel? Or 450? I wouldn’t. If they exceed that in the released numbers, is anyone going to care?

      You missed my point on the fill up as well. Say it cost $2.40 cents to fill up the 8kW of charge that are used. Your electric bill would need to be something like 30 cents a kWh, which I don’t think is how it is being priced anywhere. But say it was, and some how gas is still at $2.69 a gallon. No plug vehicle is going to have a cost savings at that point, including the plug in Prius when it comes out.

      I have seen some estimates of the Prius plug in that price it higher than a Volt. It will be hard to tell what the actual price will be depending on how far battery technology drops during that time, but my understanding is that it is going to be much more than what you are expecting with or without the rebate.

      The rebate isn’t capped. READ THE BILL. If the vehicle weighs 10000 pounds or more, you can get more money for having more kW. My point was saying that 10000 pounds or more is probably to heavy for consumer applications. If Nissan wants to put this battery back in a commercial truck, it could get more than $7500 tax credit.

      GM doesn’t make batteries. Neither does Toyota. Is there anyone out there who makes a hybrid better than the Prius today… no. There is more to it than just the battery. I can see where getting into battery development would be a good idea for all auto manufactures. Eventually, I could see this happening. But there is a reason Toyota still isn’t making its own batteries for the Prius even today and we are talking about the 3rd generation of the car.

      The Volt also won’t leave you stranded after 100 miles, less if you use the AC or heater, or if you forget to plug it in, and cost $1 more a month to lease.

  • avatar
    Wagen

    $24k is too much to convert a $17k Cruze into an EV with ICE range extender, all the while limiting its usefulness (decreasing passenger and cargo capacity).

    Sure, people for whom being green/eco-friendly is paramount, or get some kind of goodwill from doing so (a business trying to appeal to eco-minded consumers), will buy it remains a less-useful, very overpriced Cruze (designed in Korea by Daewoo, for those who like to push the “American-ness” of the Volt).

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The platform, which is being shared, was designed by Opel. GM Daewoo did do a lot of work on the Cruze, I am not sure how much of any of it made it into the Volt. But, a good deal of what Opel did is there. I am curious to know where the development of the drive train was done. That is what is the most important aspect of the Volt, and what requires the premium.

      A $350 lease is quite good for one too.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    I’m curious, why must somebody always feel that they mus write an “In Defense Of” article to defend the indefensible? That’s just a rhetorical question, because I’m not really interested in the answer, and my feeling is based on moral grounds.

    Let me say first that in this post, I use the word “moral” in the context of right versus wrong and it should not be confused with the word “religious.” One can be moral independant of religious beliefs.

    Ken Wrote:

    “So let’s not worry if a couple of billion dollars of taxpayer money went into the Volt. For starters, there’s a chance we’ll get back the bulk of the money anyways. And taxpayer credits? Heck, lots of industries have benefited from such programs before. Why single out the Volt? Even the Leaf will qualify for credits. We just have to hope that GM can lead the way in technology – and that will make us all better off.”

    Let’s not worry? It’s Government Motors now. What does the government do correctly? What have they done lately that makes one believe that they should be given even more control or responsibility? If the government were your employee, would you promote him, or fire him?

    That SHOULD be food for thought for the summer primary elections and the general election in November, but I digress.

    Nothing about that deal will make us “better off” unless we learn from this and never allow it to happen again. Yeah, like that will happen. I had little confidence in GM before I was forced into the buyout; remember, I drove lots of GM’s in my life. Too many, it turns out, as I began to realize that I was giving their poor design and awful quality a free pass at the risk of my own safety!

    Now it’s part of the government to whom I already pay way too much in taxes. Ew!

    They’re doing all this and they’re building the Volt off of MY back and without my permission or consent. This is theft, and is thusly morally wrong, plain and simple. So please try to understand where I’m coming from when I say I’m not going to buy one. To do so would encourage even more buyouts, and would therefore make the act of buying one also morally wrong.

    That’s just me, but in my eyes there’s no “Defense Of” that.

    My dear departed grandmother used to say “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Okay, I never actually heard her say that, but I’m sure she did at one point. After all, she never took anything she didn’t own and she never borrowed money, not even to buy her house.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I wasn’t clear before. I don’t believe in the electric (or even the hybrid) car for many valid reasons.

    1 as they are they fail on many fronts. Battery range is too short & too heavy for practical use and once they run out of acid juice they’re no better on gas than a frugal gas only equivalent (if they have that option). They’re not profitable for manufacturers. Has Toyota started making money on the Prius yet? They seem to be more of marketing tools + the new halo cars for a brand than actual displays of technology with promise both in use and profitability. Over the life span of the car they’re no better for the environment than a gas only equivalent. Financially they still don’t make sense for consumers (money saved in fuel is always eaten up by the hybrid premium, and fuel prices can go down).

    My biggest beef though is when people say ‘its an investment in the technology’. No. The right place to put the money isn’t into GM, they’ve proven for the past 30 years they can’t make money. The place to put the money is in battery research. Long story short, the major setback of the viability of the electric car is range, coupled with battery size. When someone comes out with a battery that has the energy & mass density close to a normal fuel tank that would enable ranges in the 300-400 mile range in the worst conditions, the electric car will have officially arrived. We are a long way from that, and taxing the country to fund GM’s incompetence is worthy of outrage.

    No… it’s my money, and I don’t want it to go to GM. Put it where it will work- with the battery experts that will supply the likes of GM & other companies- and let the free market decide how to build an electric car. I understand some technologies need a jump start, but the avenue to the electric car is not through GM, and the Volt shows how underdeveloped the technology is. It’s nowhere near ready for prime time.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Steven02: “The fact is, the Prius lost money, judging by some estimates, 10k per unit at first.”

    Pure speculation.

    Steven02: “Criticism of another product for the same thing doesn’t make any sense.”

    Toyota was making money. GM was not making money. GM’s first responsibility it to make money. Unprofitable companies don’t have the luxury of running unprofitable marketing experiments.

    GM had and still has much more pressing priorities than the Volt. Especially since the Volt is something that any other manufacturer can do when the time is right.

    Steven02: “Or, like most families, I could have a second vehicle.”

    Most families do. In such a case, the Leaf, which is substantially cheaper, makes much sense. The other car can be used when long range is necessary.

    Steven02: “On the 50 mpg link, it isn’t just gm-volt who has stated this. Many news outlets picked up the 50 mpg.”

    I’d bet all those articles circle back to the same Detroit News source. Two of them cite it explicitly. If this gizmo had superb gas mileage, why would they be requiring premium, “for the efficiency?” That phrase is straight from Tony Posawatz. Requiring premium on a car whose sole purpose is to cut fuel consumption is lunacy. They are in deep trouble with the DBFE (Dead Battery Fuel Economy) or they wouldn’t do this.

    Steven02: “You missed my point on the fill up as well. ”

    I didn’t miss anything. You did not read the entire sentence. The Prius will go about the same distance on $2.40 of gas as the Volt will go on $2.40 of electricity. $.30/kwh in California is not at all unusual and there are other places around the country where electricity can be fairly spendy. And after that electric fillup, the Prius is going to be going 50 miles on every $2.79 worth of gas (price around the corner) while the Volt is going 38 miles (my prediction) on $3.09 of gas (price around the corner).

    Steven02: “I have seen some estimates of the Prius plug in that price it higher than a Volt.”

    Well, I admit that Bob-sahi Lutz-san, Vice Chair of Toyota Product Development and Toyota’s “Car-Emperor”, didn’t say, “$25K” but I’d still be perfectly happy to bet that the Prius will be much less than the Volt.

    The Prius, as it rolls out today, is $22.8K. Subtract the current battery (parts window price, $2.3K, let’s say the manufacturers cost is $1K) and then add 5KWH of Li-Ion at $1K/KWH. That’s $26.8K. Add another $1K for a charger and electric “filler” port and you’re looking at $27.8K. Now back out $2.5K for the tax credit and it’s possibly as low as $25.3K, net.

    Yes, I my back of the envelope calculation may be wrong but you’re purely speculating.

    Steven02: “The rebate isn’t capped. READ THE BILL. If the vehicle weighs 10000 pounds or more, you can get more money for having more kW.”

    Technically, I may be wrong. However, for any reasonably-sized family sedan, the rebate is capped to make sure the Leaf doesn’t get any more tax credit than the Volt, in spite of its much larger battery. GM’s Congressional delegation did its job well.

    Steven02: “GM doesn’t make batteries. Neither does Toyota. ”

    Toyota is in a JV with Panasonic. They are working to get as close to ownership of the important technology as they can. By contrast, didn’t GM sell off Cobasys?

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      Your analysis of the Volt, as a product–especially vis-a-vis the other products currently or soon to be available–is well-reasoned and refreshingly hysteria-free. Bravo.

      I hope the Volt does well–given that I’m an investor in the company–but it remains to be seen how its capabilities will match up with consumer preferences. Like you, I fear that it is priced too high for what it offers, but we’ll see how it goes.

  • avatar
    carbizpro

    I read some of the posts. Life is too short to read the back and forth. So, for the price, you get a 25 mile range (dead of winter, heater on), worse gas mileage than a VW diesel (although my background in repair can confirm that even GM’s 2nd-rate quality surpasses VW/Audi-cheaper repairs too), and zero smiles-per-gallon.

    They can’t sell what they’re making now, which should go in the red flag column as “the public has spoken”. I cry bull#*@t on the cars being N/A to the public; at least in this market, and w/no dealer surcharge. Maybe GE CEO/Obama’s appointed Head of Economic Advisory Panel Jeff Immelt will buy another 10,000 or so Volts on the taxpayer’s dime for his “fleet” at GE this year. That should help. No conflict of interest or anything to worry about, eh?


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