Volt Birth Watch 100: Automotive News Not Optimistic
Though Automotive News [sub] is better known for their comprehensive industry news coverage than their take-no-prisoners opinion pieces, Editor David Sedgwick doesn’t pull any punches while slamming the Volt in a recent editorial. Sedgwick admits to “a queasy feeling that GM has painted itself into a corner by generating so much hype for a car that is too limited for most consumers,” noting that weaknesses in both price point and capabilities will limit the Volt’s effectiveness in the market. The price point issue is well documented, but the Volt’s performance is what worries Sedgwick the most. In particular, GM’s apparent decision to use the E-Flex’s range-extending motor to simply generate electricity and not to recharge batteries looks to be an extremely limiting factor. “If you can’t plug in your vehicle at night,” argues Sedgwick, “that high-tech battery pack will be as useful as an anchor for your bass boat.” Sedgwick reckons that the forthcoming Cruze should be getting at least as much attention as the Volt. “We’ve been down this road before. GM doesn’t need a halo car. It needs a car — a small car — that can make money. If GM can’t learn to make money on small cars, it won’t survive.” Given a choice, Sedgwick would pick the Cruze, and if GM wants to stay in business it would do well to listen. After all, if a man who lives and breathes cars and is well-compensated enough to consider “your bass boat” a folksy analogy thinks the Volt isn’t worth the money, well… you get the picture.
I am average. Married, two kids, nice suburbian house with garage. Six figure income, but barely, in a state with 40K average income. Almost 40 years old (geez, that's scary). The most I've ever spent on a car: $25K. The most I will probably EVER spend on a car: $30K. The Volt just will not be an option, but since we have been mostly Honda owners the new Insight will probably find a place in our garage even if the Volt is the most wonderful thing ever. I am just not going to spend that much on a car, especially from GM. Here's the important part... even if I were to hit the lottery, there is only one Chevrolet vehicle I would pay over $30K for, and that one does not even have a bowtie on it, just it's model name. I bet you can figure it out. It sure as hell won't be a Volt. When the kids are out of college I may splurge and buy a $40k sedan. But it will have a Roundel, not a Bowtie.
JoeEgo, on the demographics of the prospective Volt buyer: *my own power outlet access near the vehicle. *a round trip commute to work within the EV range. *a second car in the family more appropriate for hauling and/or road trips. Makes sense. But you've also just described an EV prospect. The Volt has dead weight at both ends. Under battery power (in the first N miles), that heavy engine and all its parts are perfectly useless drags on the range. After you exhaust the battery, that heavy battery (sucking space out of your trunk) is a drag on the fuel economy. Drop the ICE. Put some extra battery in. The elimination of the ICE in favor of more conformable battery makes it possible to build a sleeker, more effective BEV with more range. You're not pulling the battery around. I expect a Volt, with the current pack, sans engine and associated dead weight, would get about 60 miles. Even more might be possible if the vehicle was redesigned. And the vehicle would be less expensive and, most likely, easier to build. Simpler. Simpler software. 95% of our trips are well under 60 miles. We could easily use a vehicle like that for most trips and, for the days we need more range... we have, as JoeEgo said, a second car. In fact, pretty much everyone in the neighborhood fits the profile.
I realize I am not the average American. I have a 16 mile round trip commute to work. The volts limitations are not a factor for me. I live in the south eastern U.S. and after a weekend of waiting in line for fuel for my next weeks commute, I welcome the Volt even if it is not perfect. I support Chevy even when they miss the boat slightly because they support this country!