Tag: erev

By on March 4, 2012

 ”Do you want to accompany? or go on ahead? or go off alone? … One must know what one wants and that one wants”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols

This week’s news that GM would stop production of the Chevrolet Volt for the third time in its brief lifespan came roaring out of the proverbial blind spot. Having watched the Volt’s progress closely from gestation through each month’s sales results, it was no secret to me that the Volt was seriously underperforming to expectations. But in the current media environment, anything that happens three times is a trend, and the latest shutdown (and, even more ominously, the accompanying layoffs) was unmistakeable. Not since succumbing to government-organized bankruptcy and bailout has GM so publicly cried “uncle” to the forces of the market, and I genuinely expected The General to continue to signal optimism for the Volt’s long-term prospects. After all, sales in February were up dramatically, finally breaking the 1,000 unit per month barrier. With gasoline prices on the march, this latest shutdown was far from inevitable.

And yet, here we are. Now that GM is undeniably signaling that the Volt is a Corvette-style halo car, with similar production and sales levels, my long-standing skepticism about the Volt’s chances seems to be validated. But in the years since GM announced its intention to build the Volt, this singular car has become woven into the history and yes, the mythology of the bailout era. Now, at the apparent end of its mass-market ambitions, I am struck not with a sense of schadenfreude, but of bewilderment. If the five year voyage of Volt hype is over, we have a lot of baggage to unpack.

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By on October 19, 2011

The Chevy Volt’s best news in ages broke yesterday when GreenCarReports, er, reported that the Fisker Karma had received EPA approval at 32 miles of EV range, and 20 MPG (combined) thereafter. Moreover, the MPGE (the “e” is for “equivalent”) rating of 52 on electric power is nearly half the Volt’s 94 MPGE rating, suggesting that the Karma is not the most efficient car even in EV mode. And, at nearly 5,600 lbs (per evo.co.uk), you don’t have to look far to find out why. But if you ask Fisker, the problem isn’t the car… the problem is those darn EPA numbers, which you should probably just ignore anyway. After all, nobody drives less efficiently than their car’s EPA numbers, right?
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By on October 3, 2011

I’m sure the resident anti-GM-bias patrol won’t look kindly upon this double-dose of Volt skepticism, but at the point that GM’s Volt production is ramped up well above its sales rate, we should be paying attention to what GM is saying about the challenge of marketing the Volt. Automotive News [sub] reports that it’s still too early to compare Volt and Nissan Leaf deliveries in terms of a competition, arguing

Chevrolet and Nissan are still selling to early adopters and green enthusiasts and will be for most of the coming year. Their real challenge is to learn how to market the high-profile cars to mainstream U.S. consumers in mass-production volumes in 2012 and beyond.

To prepare for that, both automakers are using 2011 as a sort of practice year, taking notes, tinkering with tactics and honing their marketing messages.

And according to GM sources, there’s a lot of honing to do…

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By on October 3, 2011

Is the Chevy Volt a flop? It’s a question that plenty of folks both inside the industry and beyond seem awfully curious about, and one that I’ve tried to stay away from until we had some strong data to go on. And with nine months of 2011 under our belt, we’re starting to get a sense of where the Volt is going… and it’s not been all reassuring news. Jalopnik notes that such unloved GM models as the Buick Lucerne and Chevy Avalanche outsold the Volt last month, but failed to look at the important stuff: production as compared to deliveries, and inventory. Jalopnik does quote a Cars.com inventory  figure of 2,600 Volts on dealer lots, although the latest data we have from Automotive News [sub] shows 1,400 units in the national inventory as of September 1… which at that point  constituted a 121-day supply. Add in the 1,644-unit differential between Volts built and Volts sold in September, and the estimated Volt inventory across the nation should be closer to 3,000 units. We will be sure to update when AN gets new inventory numbers, but for now, the signs aren’t promising.

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By on September 30, 2011

From the “how did we miss that?” file comes this Automotive News [sub] story, filed at the beginning of the week, which asked GM Europe boss Nick Reilly about plans for Volt-based variants. Reilly replied

We won’t do it with this generation, and that will run to 2015. You’d have to wait until after that until you see it.

Which is peculiar, considering GM just announced that it will build a Cadillac Converj-style Volt variant at some point. GM has also shown a near-production-look Volt MPV5 Concept, although that has never been confirmed as a future production model. But Reilly explains that current Volt’s slow ramp-up and “expensive technology” have doomed any possibility of a Volt family of vehicles before the next generation drivetrain launches.

By on September 28, 2011

Ed, Sajeev, and yours truly have all weighed in on the Chevrolet Volt. We all agreed that it drives surprisingly well, but that aspects of the interior need work. I hadn’t been planning to review the Volt again, but was asked if I’d like to have one for a week following the Cruze ECO. And so an intramural competition was born. If the $19,995 Cruze ECO is such a solid, comfortable, and efficient commuter, why spend twice as much for the $39,995 Volt?

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By on September 27, 2011

The Detroit News‘s David Shepardson has a way of being on hand with a microphone whenever GM CEO Dan Akerson lets loose with a memorable line, and today he has Akerson telling a Bloomberg News Forum that the green star of the American auto turnaround, the Chevy Volt, could be built in China within a few years. Said Akerson

We’re going to export into China for probably a year or two and see if it gets a take … if customers set the right usage patterns. If it does, we may manufacture it there.

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By on August 27, 2011

GM tightened its ties with Volt battery cell provider LG this week, announcing a deal to jointly develop next-generation electric vehicles. GM, along with the other Detroit-based OEMs, have been seeking closer ties with their suppliers, and as the JoongAng Daily reports, this deal helps LG at a time when the Korean conglomerate has been struggling

Two of LG’s pillars – LG Electronics and LG Display – are floundering. LG missed the boat on smartphones and persistently-low prices of display panels have plagued LG Display.

LG officials are hoping the EV project will give it momentum.

And though it’s no surprise that GM wants to move into the pure-EV market, its gamble on the extended-electric Volt has backed it into something of rhetorical corner.
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By on August 19, 2011

Volt owners gather before their parade down Woodward

Photos courtesy of Cars In Depth

As part of the festivities surrounding the Woodward Dream Cruise, GM organized a parade down Woodward and back up again made up of 50 Chevy Volts driven to the event by their owners, at their own expense, from around the country. As far as car company promotional events go it was fairly low key (I was asked not to publicize the pre-parade reception for the owners) but it was clearly a high priority item for GM. The Volt marketing team was out in force and they brought in NASCAR champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who are racing at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, to wave green flags at the start of the Volt parade. Gordon and Johnson both own Chevy dealerships and they both personally own Chevy Volts. They race for Rick Hendricks, who owns quite a few Chevy (and other GM) stores himself. There were news teams from at least two of the Detroit tv stations and a satellite truck that I believe was used for a national network or cable interview of the NASCAR drivers. GM also brought out a number of pace cars from their private stash of Camaros, Corvettes and even one Chevy SSR that paced races at Indianapolis and Daytona. There was also the ZR1 that set a lap record for production cars at the Nurburgring. Marketing being what it is, the parade also included 2 squadrons of Chevy’s most recent new product, the Camaro convertible and the subcompact Sonic. There were 100 cars in total, one for each year in Chevy’s current centennial.

There were t-shirts and baseball caps for the guests, and the Volt owners each got a nice die cast model of their car, but the Volt owners weren’t there for the swag or for autographs, though they eagerly accepted both. The Volt owners were there because they really, really, really like their cars.

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By on January 4, 2011

Automotive News [sub] reports that Audi may be going against the wishes of its parent company by introducing a Wankel rotary range-extender for the trial version of its A1 E-tron EREV, which will begin fleet testing in Germany later this year. Volkswagen reportedly wants each of its ten brands to agree on a common EV strategy in order to cut costs, but Audi is looking for a more refined concept for its range-extender in order to compete with BMW’s forthcoming Megacity lightweight city car, a consideration which caused the luxury brand to settle on a rotary range-extending engine. The German press reports that Audi’s decision has left it “at odds” with its parent company, and they describe the situation as “anarchic.” An Audi spokesman, however, tells AN [sub] that

There is no problem between VW and Audi

But a Wankel engine is hardly the kind of cost-cutting move towards commonality that VW had envisioned for its concern-wide EV effort, and bosses from the firms corporate headquarters have not yet commented on the story. And considering that the Wankel-powered Mazda RX-8 was recently yanked from the European market for its gas-guzzling ways, it’s hard to see Audi making the Wankel work. Still, we’ll wait for VW to comment and for the results of the A1 E-tron’s fleet testing (which will determine if the concept is production-ready) before we pass judgment.

By on November 15, 2010

The Fisker Karma looks as sleek and and sexy as any four-door car on the market, but it’s got a secret: Spanx. Fisker’s powertrain sand battery suppliers tells the New York Times that prototypes of the series-hybrid Karma are weighing in at “over 5,000 lbs.” Says battery supplier A123 System’s Jason Forcier

It’s a pretty heavy car, but you have to look at all the technology, which includes a large gas engine, large electric motors and large batteries.

Fisker reps insist that the final product could come out weighing slightly less, but don’t hold your breath. Meanwhile the 50-mile EV range, 5.9 second 0-60 time and 125 mile top speed goals remain unchanged…. it will probably just feel lead-footed in the twisty stuff. On the other hand, by packaging its batteries in a low, central mass, Chevy’s Volt (the only other EREV on the market) actually handles fairly well for a nearly 4,000-lb compact. Still, “over 5,000 lbs” is full-sized SUV territory, and the Karma is being positioned as a green performance luxury car, not a chauffeured limo. Could this possibly end well?

By on November 10, 2010

We’ve been hearing about the Chevrolet Volt for so long that it’s hard to believe that it is finally here. Or almost here. Close enough for a preview drive. And?

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By on November 2, 2010

OK, so the EMAV PRU (Electric Motors and Vehicle Company Power Regeneration Unit) isn’t expected to go on sale until sometime next year, but it’s one curious approach to the “range anxiety” problem that caused GM to develop the Volt as a range-extended EV rather than a pure battery-only EV. The PRU takes a simple concept, a trailer that can both store goods and generate 25kWh of electricity from a 750cc diesel engine in order to extend range, and makes it considerably more complicated than it needs to be. For one thing, it’s self-propelled, necessitating on-board lithium-ion batteries, as well as an electric drive unit.

As a result, the projected pricetag comes to a prohibitive $15,000, and the weight reaches an EV range-sapping 1,220 lbs. And for all that, wouldn’t a $15k hatchback make a better “range extender” than this cumbersome trailer? On the other hand, a trailer like this just might work as a rental item, offering a portable generator as well as range extension that its makers say will work with any electric car. But would something like this be more appealing as a simplified, lighter unit (non-self-propelled), or will add-on range extension always struggle to offer more for money than having a gas car as a compliment to an electric car? Given that American families typically have several cars anyway, the answer would appear to be yes… [via GM-volt.com]

By on October 25, 2010

For a vehicle named after a unit of measure, the Chevrolet Volt is a difficult car to pin down. From its drivetrain to its efficiency rating, the Volt defies categorization. From price point to performance, it defies comparison. It’s a rolling contradiction, this car, part electric car and part gas-burner, part high-concept moonshot and part workmanlike commuter. And yet for all its mysteries, contradictions and (yes) compromises, the Volt is also a deceptively simple car to use. Which makes it what exactly?

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By on October 12, 2010

If the recent flap over the Volt’s drivetrain has taught us anything it’s that A) GM’s internal-combustion-assisted plug-in is more complicated than we thought, and B) GM is fine with simplifying its complex reality in order to make it appear as attractive as possible. Which is just fine: they’re the ones trying to sell a $41k car, and as such they’re entitled to do what they can to make it seem worth its many shortcomings. What the automotive media needs to take away from the brou-ha-ha isn’t necessarily that GM’s hesitance to bring forward “the whole truth” is an intrinsically big deal (let’s just say this wasn’t the first time), but rather that knowledgeable writers should focus on explaining the Volt in ways that are both comprehensible and fully accurate. In this spirit, the most important question isn’t “what should we call the Volt?” but “how efficient is the Volt in the real world?”And on this point, there’s plenty of room for some truthful clarification.

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