Volt Birth Watch 73: "Please Wait for the Next Available Car…"

volt birth watch 73 please wait for the next available car 8230

GM may have a several thousand disappointed Voltophiles on their hands before this sad saga plays out. Automotive News [sub] reports Dennis Lyle from GM-Volt.com claims over 33k people have joined his unofficial waiting list, expressing a desire buy the electrowundercar when it's "released in 2010." Oh dear. First of all, a 2010 release date is a reality only to those who live in GM Car Czar Bob Lutz' fantasy world. Next, GM's already said they'll build fewer than 40k Volts per year for the first five years, and many of those will be exported. And you know those left stateside will go to GM execs, politicians, celebrities and celebrity politicians. Finally, Lyle's prospective buyers indicated they were willing to pay an average of $31,261 for a vehicle that GM's already said will top the $40k mark (and will lose money on, even at that price). You have to wonder how long the people on this list will put up with GM's gratuitous promises (being charitable) before they finally give up.

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  • Phil Ressler Phil Ressler on Aug 16, 2008
    Ressler, listen up… Toyota has built a million of them. That’s over $20 BILLION in sales. This system works. It can be expanded in several dimensions and the new configuration produced in mass quantities, while GM is figuring out how to get Volt #1 out the gate. Every lesson learned in this can be used to develop anything with electricity in the drivetrain. A million cars built over several years is interesting but its not a phenomenon. It's been good for Toyota and Ford has benefited to a lesser extent from a similar system. I notice pickup trucks still outsell both of them. Yes, HSD is working. It fares less well as configurations expand, and where freeway driving predominates. Until the Prius is electric with gas assist, what's learned from it might not keep pace with what's learned from fielding an actual electric car. The Volt - or E-Flex - is not an architecture, it is an idea. Wrong. Volt is an electric drivetrain architecture that has implications for what can be changed about platform architectures as well, downstream. GM is developing it with its mouth and then laying tremendous pressure on engineering to live up to whatever fantasy lives in Bob Lutz’ head. The historical record is clear that engineers independent of Lutz were interested in or pushing to design and build such a car. Lutz' push is exactly what you want senior executives to do -- outline an ambition and organize people to make it real. Engineers are generally happy to be engaged in "building the unbuildable," emerging to prove it was in their grasp all along. The chassis wasn’t ready, the engine wasn’t ready, the battery isn’t ready, the controls aren’t ready. None of it was (except the ICE) designed in any way, shape or form before Lutz started to babble about it. Most of it still isn’t. When Kennedy announced we were going to the moon, the metallurgy to build the Saturn V rocket didn't exist. Engineers weren't sure whether the route to the moon should be a straight shot or a loop. Etc., etc. When emissions standards were set, how-to's were left to R&D. Airbus committed to the A380 before knowing how they'd solve all the production problems. Same with Boeing on the 787 and its carbon-composites construction. And yet all these initiatives came with time objectives or deadlines. That the chassis (et al) wasn't ready the day Lutz went public with verbiage about the Volt is irrelevant. And the Volt, like the cavalry in a bad western, will not arrive in time. Are you going to eat crow, a felt hat, shoes...what, if Lutz' deadline is met? Personally, whether Volt arrives in 2010, 11 or 12 is immaterial if reasons for delay are communicated and we know the reasons are sound. This is a new direction for private transportation, and while I'd like to see it in market sooner rather than later, a year or two of leeway is fine by me. Phil

  • KixStart KixStart on Aug 16, 2008

    "Personally, whether Volt arrives in 2010, 11 or 12 is immaterial if reasons for delay are communicated and we know the reasons are sound." Are you actually Rick Wagoner? Yeah, there's a plan and some targets but things might change. However, it is true that a Volt delay is meaningless... whether or not they communicate it, because this "bold initiative" will have zero impact on GM for the better part of a decade, even if it hits its targets. This is the cavalry arriving too late. Never mind the fact that this bold initiative involves a piddly quantity of cars when it does arrive. Ressler: "The historical record is clear that engineers independent of Lutz were interested in or pushing to design and build such a car. Lutz’ push is exactly what you want senior executives to do — outline an ambition and organize people to make it real." Which, in some organizations works out. Apparently, you have forgotten the egg/face fiasco, entirely of Lutz' own making, where he stated a goal that could not be met by the program under his personal supervision (his words). Lutz proved, definitively, that he does not have a clue and he's overcompensating with ego and attitude. Other GM leaders are similarly clueless. Me: "The Volt is not an architecture..." Ressler: "Wrong. Volt is an electric drivetrain architecture that has implications for what can be changed about platform architectures as well, downstream." Bzzt. An architecture must have something tangible, this is none of that. In spite of their recent yak, GM has no idea how this will work into other vehicles. In particular without a breakthrough in battery performance (new chemistry that's significantly better), the modest performance goals of the Volt will be extremely difficult to meet with any other vehicle type, especially at speed. Ressler: "It fares less well as configurations expand, and where freeway driving predominates." Where'd you get this bit of misinformation? Made it up? And, if the Volt is on schedule (if it slides, we'll clearly communicate why), the Prius beats it by 14 years.

  • Phil Ressler Phil Ressler on Aug 16, 2008
    Bzzt. An architecture must have something tangible, this is none of that. Volt architecture is tangible. All the elements of the car exist in prototype, with the battery selection remaining in competition and question. The car is electric. GM has ample experience with electric cars. The elemental parts aren't new; the battery simply is left to define the range achievable without running the IC charging engine. GM has no idea how this will work into other vehicles. Volt, as an electric car, is incremental precursor to making the architectural principles of the Hy-Wire and Autonomy real in production vehicles over time. Once the Volt drivetrain is market proven in a compact configuration, it becomes relatively easy to package the motive architecture in other vehicle forms as battery capacity improves to handle larger physical loads. In particular without a breakthrough in battery performance (new chemistry that’s significantly better), the modest performance goals of the Volt will be extremely difficult to meet with any other vehicle type, especially at speed. Advances in battery chemistry have historically come slowly, but the pace has clearly been accelerating over the last 20 years. You can safely assume battery chemistry will improve within half a decade after Volt introduction to broaden the application of the motive architecture. And, if the Volt is on schedule (if it slides, we’ll clearly communicate why), the Prius beats it by 14 years. That would be worth citing if GM brought a parallel hybrid to market 14 years later. That's not the case. Prius and Volt are apples and oranges. GM, to their detriment, missed a chance to field a stop-gap design to battle Prius head-to-head, like for like. They also missed a chance to capitalize on the initial good will earned by EV-1. Volt is more advanced than Prius, and an opportunity to develop a more productive, imaginative engineering vector of new car development. Prius may have awakened GM, but Volt really looks past that car. Volt is not a "late Prius." It's new product thinking, entirely. Prius is not an electric car. Phil

  • KixStart KixStart on Aug 17, 2008

    Ressler: "Volt, as an electric car, is incremental precursor to making the architectural principles of the Hy-Wire and Autonomy real in production vehicles over time. Once the Volt drivetrain is market proven in a compact configuration... " What makes you think they'll be able to make it particularly compact? What makes you think they'll ever market-prove it? Ten K per year? It is to laugh. Ressler: "... it becomes relatively easy to package the motive architecture in other vehicle forms as battery capacity improves to handle larger physical loads." GM has been through quite a few "architectures" and, so far, nothing has come of it. The Volt owes little to the PNGV or the EV-1 (if they learned or retained anything, why would they be surprised, late last fall, by their aerodynamic problems?). The "marketectures" of the future are Lut eFantasies and nothing more. GM has no commitment to anything. And look at the size of the battery needed to move this little wedge of a car through the air... Now imagine trying to shove a minivan's worth of resistance along for 40 miles. Now how big must the battery be? BIG. Ressler: "That would be worth citing if GM brought a parallel hybrid to market 14 years later. That’s not the case. Prius and Volt are apples and oranges. GM, to their detriment, missed a chance to field a stop-gap design to battle Prius head-to-head, like for like." They're using electricity and gas, mixed, to solve a transportation problem. When the gas engine is shut off, the Prius is a Volt (Toyota will probably want to sue me for that). The Volt concept has been done on the small scale, already, years ago, in fact. Rav4-EV, or Tau-Zero plus Long-Ranger generator trailer. GM lags everything. "Advances in battery chemistry have historically come slowly, but the pace has clearly been accelerating over the last 20 years." Not so far as I can tell... chemistries on the market today have been known for decades and chemistries that were "yet to come" 10 or more years ago are still "yet to come" today. And the improvement in power density will not knock your socks off in the next ten years. Twenty to thirty per cent improvements are likely - more than that is speculative, at best. Improvements in manufacture are LIKELY but not certain. They could follow the solar cell curve, which have been very slow to evolve either in efficiency or cost. Ressler: "Prius is not an electric car." Part-time, yes, it is. Ditto the Volt.

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