Volt Birth Watch 75: Early Adopter Alert!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
volt birth watch 75 early adopter alert

GM's next Next Big Thing (a.k.a. Chevrolet's plug-in electric – gas hybrid Volt) just got a whole lot bigger. Conceptually. The Detroit Free Press reports that GM execs are trumpeting their [Wall Street-friendly] plan to Volt-ize everything that isn't nailed down, including SUVs. Eventually. "The executives would not say how many vehicles they expect to run with the E-flex system, but Andrew Farah, the Volt's chief engineer, said the system is most likely to first be used on GM's global compact and midsize car architectures. The electric propulsion system would need to be greatly altered to work with larger vehicle architectures, such as those for SUVs or pickups, he said." You got that right. Meanwhile, Volt Supremo Frank Weber "expects major improvements to the Volt… to occur on a yearly basis early on. That is different from most vehicle lines, which typically offer major updates every three to five years." Good news? Uh, well… "Weber said the automaker has already identified nine areas on the Volt where it expects to make major improvements or greatly reduce costs in the second year of production. It can't make those improvements in the first year, or it would delay the quick timeline the automaker is on for the launch of the car."

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  • Redbarchetta Redbarchetta on Aug 16, 2008
    RedStapler Or you could go to vegetable oil and really save yourself some money. My brother is currently paing $1.30 a gallon to fill up his Merc 300D.

  • Nonce Nonce on Aug 16, 2008

    No one can see that you are driving your non-Saudi oil car. (And, really, buying "non-Saudi" oil just makes Saudi oiler cheaper, so someone else will buy it instead of buying the non-Saudi oil that they would have normally bought.) But, with the Volt, you can show the world that you aren't using any gasoline at all. For 40 miles. It's entirely emotional, and not rational at all, but it'll still be real.

  • Mdf Mdf on Aug 18, 2008

    Robert Farago: The average buyer? Nope. With the exception of the truck, just about everything I own that cost more than a kilobuck or so is field-upgradable in some way or another. One especially noteworth example is a small company called Sound Devices: http://www.sounddevices.com I still get regular software upgrades -- completely free -- for stuff I bought from them a few years ago, even though they are a two models ahead now. In anticipation of the same, I want a RED Scarlet video camera: http://www.red.com/ and I want this mainly because it's going to be the best video camera, bar none, for that price. But also (and almost as important): the level of support they are offering to their existing customer base. (Check into the RED forums, and compare to some of the stuff around the GM Volt.) A good deal of the inexpensive stuff is too. Connect a cellphone to a computer which is connected to the internet, and chances are good a window will pop up with "Hey! I found new software! Wanna install it?" Heck, a few weeks ago, a $200 telescope mount I plugged into the computer did exactly that. This is just a pair of electric motors, for heavens sake. Back to cars. The first question I had for a Ford dealer when looking at the Escape Hybrid, was "Can you flash new firmware?" (The dealer stared at me, completely mystified. After further consultation, the answer appears to be "no", but I'm not exactly sure if even the service people understood the nature of the question: I was talking about Ford-written software, not third party stuff.) I asked the same question of a Toyota guy for the Highlander Hybrid, as well as the Prius. Essentially the same response. I wasn't surprised by this, since these companies probably do not perceive themselves in the software business. At least not yet. But hints are emerging: even Ford is now touting their 2009 FEH is better than the 2008 in some ways simply because of improved software. So I'll give it five years or so. If the Aptera catches on big in California, they will probably be the first to do stuff like this, given the "glass cockpit" approach to instrumentation they have taken. (An approach I sorely wish is adopted by the 'normal' car manufacturers.) $500 upgrades (or whatever) to convert a 2015 FEH into a more fuel efficient 2016 FEH will be offered, and average buyers, used to stuff like this for cameras, phones, and dishwashers will find nothing unusual about it.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Aug 18, 2008

    No thanks GM. I'll take an Astra 3-door with the EV-1 and the NiMH batteries. No ICE wanted or required. -or- A 2003 Toyota RAV4-EV except with a Gen 1 CR-V body and chassis. Merely a question of style preference. I prefer no gasoline or diesel at all in my daily driver - i.e. none of the political mess or corporate big oil in my gas tank. Maybe a Phoneix Motor Cars SUT is in our future... Certainly fills all my needs at nearly the same price as the Volt. Folks, the EV1's messy end still bothers me. Al GM had to do was sell them instead of crushing them.