By on September 24, 2008

Edmunds Inside Line reveals that GM has changed their propulsion plans for the plug-in electric – gas hybrid electric Volt. We were laboring under the impression– created by GM’s itself– that the Volt would complete its [theoretical] 40-mile all-electric range and then use its internal combustion engine to recharge the batteries on the fly. Nope. “A release from the day of the production prototype’s reveal reads, ‘a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt’s electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery.’ And by ‘sustaining’ GM says that it means only that no additional power is drained from the batteries.” Get it? If not… “Once a driver uses up his 40 or so miles of electric power, the 1.4-liter gas engine generates electricity to power the electric drive motor, but does not recharge the batteries. After the 40 or so miles, the battery becomes 400 pounds of uselessness, at least until the owner can plug the car into the electrical grid for a recharge. This means that regardless of how far one drives the Volt, the driver will only ever get up to 40 miles of electric-only range.”

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91 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 101: Gas Engine Does NOT Recharge Batteries...”


  • avatar
    guyincognito

    So, what is the point of using the gas engine to generate electricity to power an electric motor?

  • avatar
    Aegea

    Given the expected duty cycle of the vehicle (i.e., relatively short-range commuting and similar trips) it makes a certain amount of sense. This thing isn’t designed for extended road trips, that’s for sure.

  • avatar
    barberoux

    WTF seems apropos. If the expected use is just for local trips then a golf cart could do the job. A Prius can drive all day on a combination of electric and gas. I think a diesel/electric combination with a hook up similar to the Prius is the way to go.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I think the idea is that most people drive less than 40 miles per day in their commute, and would rarely be using the gas engine. Personally that would work for me. I drive a 22 mile round trip to work , and even with some errands could get through the day on electric only. Of course, the Volt is so ugly I could never buy it….

  • avatar
    starlightmica (Richard Chen)

    Looks like Li-ion battery technology hasn’t progressed far after all – I”m guessing this is done to prevent unnecessary charge/discharge cycles that would shorten battery life. Those batteries aren’t cheap and the battery warranty target is supposedly 10y/150k miles.

    Just like Chrysler’s lifetime warranty, it’s long as good as there’s a company around to honor it.

  • avatar
    virages

    Ok, I might understand not having the engine charge the batteries, because of the inefficiencies of the engine, plus the inefficiencies of charging. You might as well use the engine to directly drive the wheels. But, I would hope that the regenerative braking –this car does have it no?– would charge the batteries.

    In anycase, this will then be a obligatory plug-in car as opposed to optional plug-in.

  • avatar
    John R

    1st chink in the armor.

    So far, looks like the Volt is shaping up to be the automotive equivalent of the Mona Lisa. Good from Far / Far from good.

  • avatar
    RayH

    WTF seems apropos.

    WTF indeed. When/if the car comes out, maybe an aftermarket will emerge to where one could, oh, CHARGE THEIR BATTERY with the onboard engine. Novel idea.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Virages – I am also hoping that it at least has regenerative braking. GMs only hope for this car is to make it better than a Prius in every way, and slowly but surely, they are moving it the opposite direction…

    First strike for me was the price going up $10,000, then we find that the production vehicle looks nothing like the stunning concept (that alone killed it for me, I would have bought it if it looked like the concept just on looks), and now it might not even be able to charge unless plugged into a wall? GM is once again letting the bean counters cost-cut away what could have been an incredible vehicle into another middle of the road also-ran.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    If the electric motor is capable of providing 150 horsepower and must run solely on the generator after the battery is 70% drained, that means the generator must supply all of that 150 horsepower. Given that generator is not 100% efficient and the electric motor is not 100% efficient, this means the gas engine must supply much more than 150 horsepower. Better crank the boost up on that 1.4L!

  • avatar
    Strippo

    So, what is the point of using the gas engine to generate electricity to power an electric motor?

    To limp home, obviously.

    I pity GM – the GM exclusive of upper management, that is. I get this particular decision from a practical standpoint; using a gasoline engine to maintain those persnickety batteries regardless of driving habits would be haphazard at best. It’s the Volt itself that doesn’t make any business sense.

  • avatar
    ericthejet

    Some laptops have a power connection that is held in place with a small magnet to avoid pulling it off a desk.

    I see GM selling a lot of replacement plugs when people trip over the wire.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    They need to fix that problem before this car hits the market. Even a trickle charge is better than no charge.

  • avatar

    The real question is how does it manage the two power sources. When you travel 100 miles, does it start in electric for the first 40 and then switches to gas? Because that would be a terrible waste of resources.

    Is it smart enough to decide in a 100 miles trip when it’s better to use either power source and thus minimize the requirements (and hence consumption and emissions?)?

  • avatar
    Strippo

    If the electric motor is capable of providing 150 horsepower and must run solely on the generator after the battery is 70% drained, that means the generator must supply all of that 150 horsepower.

    More likely it means that you’ll have a 150 hp car only for the first 40 miles or so after a recharge.

  • avatar
    Rday

    How long will it take to recharge a drained battery if the gas engine is the only power source available? This is starting to sound like another ‘not well thought out’ GM product. And how long will it take to charge a completely drained battery once you make it to a ‘plug’? Surely there must be some life cycle limit on how many ‘recharges the batteries can take’?

    GM should have taken their time on this project. The more I hear, the less i like.

  • avatar
    210delray

    This is bad. $40,000 for what amounts to a special-purpose (commuter) car? Now if it cost $5,000 or even $10,000, I could see the logic.

    So after that first 40 miles, you’re lugging around 400 pounds of dead weight. The Prius battery pack, IIRC, weighs about 100 lbs, and you get to use electric or gasoline power as needed, no matter how far you drive the car. And its base price is $22,000.

    Way to go, GM!

  • avatar
    crackers

    Currently, the buying public is used to being able to use a vehicle for any application, whether it is long distance traveling, short commutes or hauling as much stuff as can be loaded into the vehicle. Even the SMART can go on long road trips. It won’t be comfortable, but it will do it. For GM to try and sell the Volt with this kind of limitation, they are going to have to get the public to change their perception of what a vehicle can be used for. This is not going to work unless there is a tremendous life cycle cost advantage.

    Edit:

    Another thought – when the Volt fails, is GM going to blame it on the consumer for not being willing to pay for an “advanced technology” green product?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “If the electric motor is capable of providing 150 horsepower and must run solely on the generator after the battery is 70% drained, that means the generator must supply all of that 150 horsepower.”

    No car requires full power all the time. That’s why highway mileage is always better than city mileage (unless you have energy recapture as with most hybrids). At cruising speed on level ground, you shouldn’t need more than 20-25% of the engine’s peak power.

    Ultimately, most cars will be built this way. electric motors (with energy recapture) excel in city driving cycles. Steady-state cruising requires only a small ICE engine. Combine the two for passing and you have an optimal combination. Of course, the problems of battery weight and cost have to be solved first, but when they are, we won’t miss ICE-only cars.

  • avatar
    karan1003

    It might not be that bad. Most power loss occurs at the transmission for cars – by taking it out they may actually be removing one of the largest inefficiencies of cars.

  • avatar
    tsofting

    Seems The General is drawing on his experience from decades of building locomotives. All diesel locomotives are actually (as far as I know) diesel-electric, where the diesel engine runs a generator that in turn churns out juice to run the electric motors. Yeah, and there is no battery in the locomotives, either! Maybe the Volt will appear with an optional articulated arm that can hook up to overhead power lines?

  • avatar

    Regerative braking will still recharge the batteries, which will then be able to help with acceleration.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    GM is really going to limit the market for the Volt if it’s not an option for people to purchase and use as their only car. Even people that typically commute 40 miles round-trip to work will occasionally need/want to go on a longer trip. They won’t want to be relegated to the slow lane for most of the journey, find a place to plug-in the car at the destination, and hang around for 8 hours for the battery to charge before returning home.

    Even though it is the least efficient method, allowing the driver to use the genset (ICE+generator) to recharge the battery needs to be possible, or the Volt won’t even be a viable Prius competitor.

    In the simplest case, there could be an “extended trip mode” button on the dash. When engaged, the genset would kick-in to supplement the battery when the battery charge drops below a threshold, then continue to run after the car is parked to recharge the battery. This mode could be cancelled automatically if the car is plugged in to charge.

  • avatar
    charly

    That articulated arm joke isn’t that far of the mark. When you drive long distance than it is probably on the highway so electrifing only that part of the roads would be enough for making 99% of the trips electric.

    The battery is still 30% full when it is “empty” and the engine kicks in. It assist the gas engine when you need peek power. The gasengine does recharge the battery but it is more efficient to run the engine to only provide the needed energy than to also charge the battery and then cut the engine and run on battery power. It does have generative braking.

    ps. the engine could recharge the battery in about 15 minutes when it is on maximum power (Theoretical, without considering losses etc and the fact that the battery would probably blow up) When the mains provide the electricity it takes 3 hours on 240V

  • avatar
    charly

    Mike:

    Why would you run the ICE to recharge the battery. Charging a battery will loose 20% of the energy so running on the ICE is simply more efficient/cheaper

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    Mountain out of a molehill.

    Does it really matter whether or not the battery is recharged by the ICE?

    40 Miles on battery then 50 MPG afterwards, isn’t that better than any other car currently available or likely to be available in the foreseeable future?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Volt’s electric motor must be just a motor, not a motor/generator pairing as in the Prius. The only way I could see it “sustaining” the charge is if there’s a conventional alternator on the accessory belt.

    Or it could be a case of sustaining zero charge.

    Anyway, this seems to be a design decision in GM’s implementation of a series hybrid, and it makes some sense because there would be power conversion loss if the engine drove a generator, which then charged batteries, when then drove another motor. It also means that it’s not really a series hybrid, but a very basic parallel one. It’s probably quite simple a system: a battery and motor, the engine, and a gearset that switches between them.

    Toyota’s parallel system physically can’t work this way, and is more complex, mechanically, as a result. But it can go as far as it has gas for, and it can choose the most efficient/effective combination of power sources on the fly, where GM’s seems to be either/or.

    Actually, does anyone know if the Volt can use the engine and electric motor together at any point in it’s operation?

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    RF: We were laboring under the impression– created by GM’s itself– that the Volt would complete its [theoretical] 40-mile all-electric range and then use its internal combustion engine to recharge the batteries on the fly.

    This was more than an impression. GM explicitly touted Volt’s ability to recharge it’s batteries. From GM’s press release when Volt debuted at the 2007 NAIAS:

    When the battery is depleted, a 1-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine spins at a constant speed, or revolutions per minute (rpm), to create electricity and replenish the battery.

  • avatar
    Ed S.

    “The battery is still 30% full when it is “empty” and the engine kicks in. It assist the gas engine when you need peek power.” -charly

    I’m not sure this is correct since 30% is probably the minimum charge the system will allow. Below that damage and/or reduction in charge/discharge cycles may occur. I believe that once the 30% level is reached no more power will be delivered from the battery unless recharged by regen braking.

    “The gasengine [sic] does recharge the battery but it is more efficient to run the engine to only provide the needed energy than to also charge the battery and then cut the engine and run on battery power.” -charly

    I don’t see how this can be the case since the engine will be running only at a single RPM (i.e. max efficiency) all the time Unless the car needs all that power to move it all the time (physical impossibility) then it is not most efficient to only use the engine to move the vehicle. That’s beauty of a more sophisticated system, that you can run the engine at full bore to motivate the car and, when there is excess, to charge the battery. Also, Li-ion batteries prefer trickle charging and partial discharges, IIRC. This would seem to favor the Prius implementation of engine power to charge the battery at a slow but steady rate.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Even when the idea doens’t makes sense… it actually does.

    I agree with one commentator above, they’re digging in their locomotive experience. Locomotives deosn’t have batteries. I also bet that some EV-1 experience is going in this project.

    The magic here is that, the engine stays working mostly at a constant speed, and power supply is controlled by the computer (not directly by the driver as a normal car). And this may make it more efficient.

    The engine has to run at a constant speed… I guess they’re using an AC generator. You can even tune it to be über efficient at 3600 RPM or some multiple of that speed.

    They should allow some energy to recharge the battery, when ICE power is not fully demanded… effectively extending the range.

    Electric motor has a better response characteristics than the ICE.

    This car is getting interesting to me. Maybe this guys are not THAT crazy after all.

    This is not the same technology as the Prius. And it SHOULDN’T.

    Why every hybrid has to be like the Prius?

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Alex Kambas :

    Is it smart enough to decide in a 100 miles trip when it’s better to use either power source and thus minimize the requirements (and hence consumption and emissions?)?

    I’ve said the same thing before. With input from a GPS system, and navigation systems, a car could be told where it is going and let it figure out the best mix of tech to get there.

    I envision a nav system where you can program your favorite destinations, such as home, work, gym, church, etc. You can also indicate which favorites you can and will plug in to charge. Then when you get in, tell the nav system where you are going, and it can feed the details to a power system that will decide the best power mix for the trip.

    Also, if a nav system has a wireless internet component, it can also use real time traffic information to compute an optimum route for you.

  • avatar

    If the electric motor is capable of providing 150 horsepower and must run solely on the generator after the battery is 70% drained, that means the generator must supply all of that 150 horsepower. Given that generator is not 100% efficient and the electric motor is not 100% efficient, this means the gas engine must supply much more than 150 horsepower. Better crank the boost up on that 1.4L!

    The peak HP of my car comes at about 5000 rpm (hp=torque*revs/5252) but I can guarantee you I don’t drive at 5000rpm all the time, most of the time is around 2000-3000 so I’m only generating 1/2 peak horsepower (assuming relatively flat torque curve). The Volt ICE will only run at one (or a small range of) speed and that will be optimized for maximum output and efficiency.

    What is the point of charging the batteries with the ICE when it is more efficient to run the electric motor directly from the generator ? There’s no magic here that somehow charging the battery with the ICE gives you more range to “limp home”, you’d be better off burning the gas only when you need it.

    Regenerative braking aside, the batteries only really exist to give GM a PR flag to wave in the “plug-in” battle with the Prius. All it has really done is muddied the water and detracted from the fact that the Volt is a fully Electric Vehicle with an onboard generator, something that is completely different from the Prius.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    Pure GM. Build it crappy and compromise it out the wazoo and then blame consumers for not buying it. There’s a funny mantra at GM – the customer is always wrong. Either the customers “demand” SUV’s and are then wrong for changing their mind with insufficient notice, or customers are wrong for not buying whatever POS GM decides to push on them. It’s somehow always the customer’s fault. GM’s attitude is, appallingly, that the car-buying public exists to serve THEM, not the other way around.
    They will be back in 2 years asking for ANOTHER $10B to develop the next bad idea.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I believe what GM really means is that the engine does not FULLY recharge the battery.

    And why don’t we FULLY recharge the battery? When you return home (or arrive at a destination equipped with an outlet), you recharge the battery with cheap electricity made from coal, sunlight, falling water, fissioning atoms, what-have-you… rather than recharging it using expensive gasoline in the ICE via the generator.

    The engine should run to add enough juice from time to time to keep the battery between 30% and 40% charged. You use those little bits of juice in extended-range operation.

    And you really need that battery. The engine is a conventional 1.4L engine and the vehicle’s about the size of a Cobalt but with an extra 400lbs of battery. Heavy. Accelerating on juice supplied by the engine alone will yield appreciably worse acceleration than a Cobalt. Accelerating uphill on juice supplied by the engine along would be… interesting.

    So, they will do like the Prius, except they’ll mix power electrically, rather than electromechanically. Battery plus engine under peak demand conditions.

    I still think the Volt is a dumb idea, or, being charitable, an idea whose time has not yet come (and never may), but I have some little faith that GM’s not going to screw it up as badly as humanly possible.

    We’ll leave that to Chrysler. Hybrid Wrangler? That’s a good start. Rebadged Tesla? Yessirree… they are on the way.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    [email protected], Your way requires varying the engine speed to match demand on the vehicle. The Volt way allows GM to optimize engine operation for efficiency at a certain RPM/load range and always use that RPM/load.

    I take that back… GM could do it at a fixed RPM by varying the load at the generator. However, I don’t think that would be optimal, either, as operating wide open when necessary and optimizing for that. And remember, the engine’s too small to do the job alone.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I really dont’ see any problem with this. Not sure why everyone here is freakin out.

    To me, this car is designed to be an all-electric, while not having the limitation that you can’t take it on long trips like every other EV out there.

    So you run the 40 miles all electric, then you have an engine providing just enough power/electricity to keep running the car. Use minimal gasoline. You want to run the car AND charge the batteries? That would require a larger motor using more gasoline. I would suspect that even if you could charge the batteries then switch back to electric, and go through that cycle that the overall fuel use would be higher than the 40miles+ just enough power to keep you rolling.

    I’m no battery expert, but I’d guess that constant charging, draining, charging, draining cycle is hard on batteries, reduces their useful life. If that is the case, I can understand why you’d want to do it in full chunks of charge time, not a fill and drain cycle.

    I could see regenerative braking being beneficial, might as well get the free electricity. But I don’t see it then allowing you to pull out that electricity….maybe just cut down on plug-in time.

    I don’t know, I’m trying to keep an open mind because overall, I like the ideas behind this car. If regenerative braking and/or other tweaks are possible, I fully expect GM and other automakers to continue making those adjustments as these types of vehicles mature and become more popular.

    I really don’t have any problem with this as is.

  • avatar
    Wulv

    Ever since first reading about the Volt I have been trying to get my head around their plan. $40k for a commuter car? Which leads one to believe that GM would like you to have a second car for trips, like what a Malibu? Right now people are selling off their “extra” cars due to lack of cash onhand. With the economy in the tank people are not going to be opting for a $40k second car to go to work in.
    When I look at it, greenwashing something in this way seems insane. “You can have this GREEN Car for your daily needs, but to go anywhere else, you should have a secondary vehicle handy” because having 2 cars is MUCH better for the environment than having only one. Who cares what effect on the environment manufacturing all the parts cost, IT’S ELECTRIC!

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    I think the comment above about the different batteries offers a clue about why the Volt doesn’t charge while underway.

    The Prius uses a NiMH battery. The Chevy Volt uses a Lithium-Ion battery. I’d recommend that you visit Wikipedia and read the articles on the two different kinds of batteries. The NiMH battery appears to be the better battery but Chevron won’t let anybody use them in an EV so the Lithium battery is a runner up. The Lithium batteries have very specific requirements. Can’t charge all the way up, can’t discharge all the way down. They loose charge over a certain temp. They age quickly over a certain temp. They age by time as well as by charge/discharge cycles.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Volt didn’t reach the market in 2010 with a NiMH b/c the patent will run out on Chevron’s battery at that time. GM prob needs to LOOK like they are testing a battery to make their Volt look credible to customers and investors. At the last minute they could switch to the NiMH and have a much superior and long lasting product.

    I’d be okay with the Li-Ion battery if replacements were cheap enough b/c if I owned one I’d not buy gas for our second car commute ever. Well, maybe just once a year to burn what was in the tank and give the engine a little run so it didn’t lock up from disuse.

    Better yet, leave out the engine and spend the savings on a larger (better) battery.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    The next GM press release on the Volt:

    “The battery will be used to supply power to a small electric motor mated to the engine flywheel. After assisting the starting of the ICE, the batteries will be recharged using the generator attached to the ICE which will also generate enough extra electricity to power vehicle accessories.”

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    The General is drawing on his experience from decades of building locomotives. All diesel locomotives are actually (as far as I know) diesel-electric, where the diesel engine runs a generator that in turn churns out juice to run the electric motors

    It’s done this way in locomotives because of the massive zero RPM torque required to move the thousands of tons of a typical freight train. Electric motors are far better at this than the the diesel engine would be if directly coupled to the wheels. I am not sure that the advantages of such a system applied to a car, would compensate for the energy losses.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    @charly: As KixStart just stated above, the genset in the Volt will not provide enough power, by itself, to keep-up with traffic in some circumstances. eg: long hills, accelerating to pass. You need some reserve battery power to supplement the power from the genset in those conditions, or vehicle performance will be reduced.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Two words: Hydrogen Fuel Cells

  • avatar
    Syn-Ack

    I’m sure some genius will find a way around this with a big DC/AC inverter.

    Are lithium polymer batteries not an option here?

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    Two different things being said, and GM’s original ambiguous marketing did not help:

    *Recharging the batteries from the gas engine to 100% or anywhere above the minimum charge range: NOT happening, not even desirable. Why charge your batteries with a personal gas generator when even daytime, peak rate electricity is cheaper?

    Yes, the batteries are mostly dead weight after the first 40 miles. Yes, people are going to have to adjust to a vehicle like this rather than the other way around. Yes, contrary to some of the whiners here, this is the most efficient way to power the car.

    *Recharging the batteries a small amount with regenerative braking and the gas engine: YES this is happening. Diesel locomotives do not have regenerative braking or a huge battery so it is safe to assume some small amount of charging can take place.

    No, we don’t know how much charging is done. No, we do not know how the Volt performs after the 40 EV miles.

    There are many questions still to be answered. The Volt is a fundamentally different car. We should be looking for those answers instead of extrapolating from golf carts and Priuses (Prii?) to decide it is stupid because it will not give you a 400 mile trip and end with a fully charged battery. The least we can expect from TTAC and the B&B is an honest attempt to understand the vehicle. I share the interest of a few here who want to understand how this works so we can figure out how much it might cost us to run the vehicle so we can finally figure out what MSRP is actually appropriate or competitive.

  • avatar
    fisher72

    So if the battery is drained and the engine has switched on, what does it do sitting in traffic?

    Think Los Angeles.

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    Jonny Lieberman :
    Two words: Hydrogen Fuel Cells

    One word: infrastructure.

    Aside from actually getting your hands on hydrogen, all it does is replace the gas motor with something cleaner. So you still have the 40 EV miles and a fuel cell engine cycling on & off to maintain a minimum charge level and keep the vehicle powered.

    Can’t say they were too ambiguous about it, but GM has always said the Volt architecture allows for different “range extenders” such as a diesel engine, CNG, or hydrogen fuel cell.

    re: fisher72
    Being that the gas motor will only run if the battery hits the minimum, the Volt could run its gas motor while sitting still. In Los Angeles traffic you’ll still have your air conditioning, radio, and lights needing juice.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    why doen’t GM just sell the car now without the batteries. that makes sense to me. It would reduce the cost by $20,000 and weight by 500lbs.

    Why not?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Two words: Hydrogen Fuel Cells

    I can sum up the problem in one: Net Energy

    Is there a net-energy-positive way to get hydrogen in commercially viable quantities?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    What we have here is a PR driven clusterf&^%$.

    GM could build a perfectly nice and reasonable compact with a conventional 1.4L motor, maybe even with some lightweight Honda style hybrid components. GM could sell it for less than $20K and sell a lot of them. It might hit the 35 mpg CAFE target pretty easily.

    Or you could build a genuine electric car and put more batteries in to replace the motor and generator. It would be expensive, have a limited range, and not be useful in northern climates. But it would make Ed Begley happy and that is what counts.

    Instead what we have here is the worst of both worlds, except that the range won’t be as limited. A more practical approach might be to sell an electric car, a gas car, and a tow hitch as a package.

    Note: Charge times: The fundamental equation is Amps x Volts = Watts. I don’t know what GM is planning, but the cord in the picture looks like a 15 Amp, 120 Volt cord, which carries 1800 Watts (1.8 kW). Of course chargers are not 100% efficient. I think you could not expect more than about 1.5 kW/h. I have seen figures like 12 and 16 kWh for total battery capacity (probably including the 30% reserve), which would point to recharging times of 8 to 10 hours.

  • avatar
    T2

    obligatory plug-in car as opposed to optional plug-in

    The whole point of a PHEV is off-oil.

    Therefore you need to return to your garage with an exhausted battery in order to get that experience.

    As others have posted, aside from braking regeneration, deliberately recharging by the onboard genset is inefficient despite the reduced losses of churning energy that I am told you can get with Li-ion technology.

    Plus the fact, unlike other fuels, gasoline carries a road tax that you may like to avoid by grid charging at home.

    PHEVS further highlight the issue of cabin heating. We may not have given it much thought before but we use copious amounts of heat on those winter commutes. Are you going to use road taxed gasoline heaters like the VW bugs of yore, or be forced to run the engine for this privilege, or worse still, waste your expensive Li-ion power on electrical heaters ?

    Bearing in mind that it is illegal to use untaxed liquid fuels for transportation on public roads, shouldn’t that be reversed if onboard fuel is being used solely for human comfort and survival ?

    To finish my answer to the poster that complained about no recharging on the run.There is no reason that a dashboard switch, or somesuch, couldn’t change that scenario to allow recharging out on the hiway to allow electric-only operation in the city at the end of the trip. In other words you move your noise and pollution out of town. Could make it a candidate to avoid inner city congestion charges.

    Finally someone else has pointed out another disadvantage of these batteries that when the battery is depleted it becomes 300kg of dead weight. For the Prius it was computed that after 45 minutes at 50mph the benefits of recapturing a 50mph regen to stop cycle are completely dissipated by the extra rolling resistance that the battery mass incurs.

    From all this you might think I am against EVs.
    Nope, I would have purchased an EV1 had they been available back in 1999 and still be using it today. Its 90/70 mile hiway/city range would suit me just fine.

    PHEVs I am against. When I look closely they seem nothing more than exotic ’boutique’ energy systems being foisted on a scientifically-challenged public. As energy containment systems they hold about the same amount of energy as the $10 plastic container I use for my lawn mower.
    Sure I can’t fill it from a 110v outlet but nor can you the gas tank of a PHEV.

    As I have written before the popular Prius is all about the advantage of an electrical transmission. They currently have a 1.5L able to perform as if it were a 2.4L in a mid size vehicle. That’s with their HSD and make no mistake the fully decoupled Chevy Volt could be even better.
    The Prius is not about being an electric car and Toyota understands that. That’s why I believe they have been foot dragging on PHEVs.

    All this distracts some people away from the real problem with automobile powertrains. The problem used to be with the transmisson but Toyota’s HSD and the fully decoupled Chevrolet VOLT system are fixing that. These will become the transmissions of the future.
    The new problem, as I see it, is with the gasoline engine itself.

    What’s holding hybrid development back right now is the reliance on gensets that are based on old school automobile engines. Fiat has a new two cylinder capable of 65Hp as opposed to the four cylinders of Prius(76Hp) and VOLT (53Kw?). Where is the small displacement high rpm engine that will be needed if fuel economy is to be taken to the next level ?
    T2

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m sure some genius will find a way around this with a big DC/AC inverter.

    You could, but why?

    I’ve been thinking about this some more: the problem is that it’s wasteful to run the engine to run a generator to charge a battery to run a motor to drive the wheels. Much better to just run the engine to run the wheels instead.

    This isn’t a downside, per se, except that the car would be slow.

    There’s no situation in which it would be beneficial for the engine to charge the batteries. You’d be pissing energy away; better to just shut the engine down when it’s not needed, as you’d use less energy per mile if it drove the wheels directly. Even running the motor from the engine is a waste, which is why the Prius will not do it.

    If the batteries are flat, the best hope is that regen braking will charge them enough that, eventually, the engine can be shut down in favour of the battery. On a long, rural commute, this probably won’t happen much; in dense urban traffic, it’s another story.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    It appears that the GM is designing the Volt based on a lot of “assumptions” about the target market.

    The Prius on the otherhand appears to have been designed using the principal that Toyota would not make any assumptions that the buyer of that product would be willing to “adjust” their lifestyle to make use of it.

    Very, Very few people in the market for a car will be interested in plugging their car in at night or at different locations during the day to than “wait” for the car to charge. The vast majority of people will be willing to trade a little efficency for more convience.

    As I have mentioned before the Prius is the success that it is BECAUSE it does not require the owner/ driver to behave or deal with the car any differently than they would with a Camry. IMO that fact alone is the key to this success.

    Now on top of GM assummptions we now see the Volt fans here adding more and more assumption about the prospective customer and the car itself.

    -It will get 50mpg on the ICE alone????
    Unless the Volt is constructed out of toothpicks and paper I seriously doubt that 50mpg is likely
    More to the point IF the Volt can get 50mpg on the ICE alone WTF is the point of the hybrid system?

    It will go 40 miles on electric alone????
    Under what conditions are we talking about here? With a heavy load? On a cold day? In bumper to bumper commuter traffic? At what speed?

    -It will be the second car in the family used primarily for commuting????
    OK, please explain exactly who is going to run out a buy a $40,000 (maybe $30,000 with subsidies) vehicle that does NOT perform a well as a regular car? $30,000 or $40,000 is EXPENSIVE and beyond reach of far to many people in the USA and the rest of the world. How much will the Volt cost in Canada? OK, so you end up with $400 to $500 a month car payment on a “second” car to save gas? I thin kmost folks will go out a buy a Prius for less $$$ and still cut their gasoline expenses significantly.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    some things to ponder:
    1. Most apartment renters do not have access to a powerport to recharge anything, let alone the Volt. What are they supposed to do?

    2. Locomotives developed diesel engine > motor systems to allow better torque control and acceleration from dead stops with heavy loads. It is __not__necessarly more efficient because you’ll have power losses in engine, conductors and motor.

    3. Being unable to charge batteries from onboard engine means the Volt has two driving modes: Regular (for 40 or so miles), and crippled (engine driving motor only, tiny gas tank with limited range).

    Is there a business model selling a $40K+ car that is effectively bound to a 20 mile radius of normal use? Only time will tell. For most drivers, a true Hybrid with Li_Ions should make far more sense.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    This is non-news. I’m not a Volt-fanboy, but come on, people. Would you rather have your ICE burn extra gas to charge your battery, or wait until you get home and charge it for much cheaper? If you’re going to run the gas engine on a regular basis, this isn’t the car for you anyway. It’s just there as a backup to prevent people from being all “omg what if I run out of battery power?”.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    This IS news. If the car is sitting in traffic and the battery is drained, the engine should recharge the battery. This method would be more fuel efficient (due to the steady running of the engine.) We were all led to believe that there was to be no mechanical linkage between the engine and the motor.

    I agree with the above poster that this decision most likely has to do with battery charging/discharging (and over-promising….again)

  • avatar
    Blastman

    They really need to make 2 versions of the Volt. One that is like a Prius — with a smaller battery that runs off of gas, and is cost competitive — low $20k. And a battery operated higher end version — more expensive.

  • avatar
    AutoFan

    From what I’ve gathered from some of the better informed folks, the ICE will run the electric motor when the battery runs out. So, performance with the ICE shouldn’t be different than electric only mode. If the ICE is running at a constant or narrow RPM range, 50+mpg is certainly possible in ICE running.
    My total commute is about 35 miles a day, so theoretically, I may never have to buy gas for a car like this. My grandfather would roll over in his grave if I bought a Chevy, but I would give this car some serious thought if the specs remain the same. Although, right now, $30-40k is way out of my price range.

  • avatar

    Figures.

    We get stuck with another “oh yeah there’s something else we have to mention” from GM.

    So the gasoline engine takes over by powering a generator to drive the electric motor. So WTF? the cars still burning gasoline to move it around and the batteries are useless after the assumed 40miles for the rest of the trip until you can plug it in? That recharge feature was essential to make it more “flexible”. I had Moderate expectations for this car but as time goes on it seems like it’s becoming more useless in being a progressive vehicle in moving away from gasoline.

  • avatar
    altoids

    RF:

    Interesting, these are the implications as I see them:

    1. GM is leaning on its diesel-electric experience in designing the Volt. The reason diesel-electrics are more efficient than just diesel is the constant-power curve of the diesel, which makes it less efficient at low-speed. Gasoline engines don’t really have this problem, so a gasoline-electric drivetrain isn’t really much better than a gasoline engine. GM engineers aren’t stupid, they know this, but this is what they have to work with.

    2. Why not allow the generator/alternator to charge the battery? This seems EASY…but it’s not. They’re probably taking commercial-off-the-shelf charge circuitry for the Li-ion batteries, which are designed specifically for 110/220V AC. They can’t just mate the batteries to the fluctuating surplus power of the Volt drivetrain. Additionally, these experimental Li-ion batteries probably have only been tested by constant, wall-plug charging, and there is no guarantee how they would perform in an on-and-off parallel hybrid system.

    3. So why not design the custom circuitry to charge these new batteries with the the Volt? This is the root of the problem. High-power electronics are hard to manufacture cheaply. Toyota has built its own semiconductor plant for manufacturing high-power electronics. They did this 5 years ago. GM does have high-power electronic experience, in locomotive and bus systems, but these are expensive, low-volume systems. GM has no engineering or manufacturing capacity to economically create the high-power electronics needed for hybrid cars.

    Instead, we’ll have the Volt, derived from diesel-electrics, high-cost, low-volume. But hey, good PR. Maybe.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Then they ought to just dump the damn ICE and include a small Honda Generator in the package. They could give the owner a “GM Card” that would give discounted hotel stays and access to an electric outlet if they are stranded overnight. And the “40 Mile” range would be more easily achieved without having to lug the ICE around.
    Sheesh.

  • avatar
    nonce

    Does it really matter whether or not the battery is recharged by the ICE?
    You’re not married, are you?

    In an argument, you use anything against the other person. If they said something incorrect earlier and now correct themselves, you hold that against them.

    This isn’t about rational. It’s about TEH VOLT SUXOR

    Most apartment renters do not have access to a powerport to recharge anything, let alone the Volt. What are they supposed to do?
    They’re supposed to not get a Volt.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This IS news. If the car is sitting in traffic and the battery is drained, the engine should recharge the battery.

    No, it shouldn’t. It should shut the engine off.

    Charging the battery from the engine is a waste of gas; the engine shouldn’t even drive the motor that drives the wheels, but it’s a series hybrid, so it’s kind of stuck.

  • avatar
    AG

    Two words: cantenary wires.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Two words: Hydrogen Fuel Cells

    Brought to you by Chevron, Exxon, Citco, Shell, etc.

    No thanks, I’ll live with a slower car if I can divorce my budget from their products most of the time.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Note: Charge times: The fundamental equation is Amps x Volts = Watts. I don’t know what GM is planning, but the cord in the picture looks like a 15 Amp, 120 Volt cord, which carries 1800 Watts (1.8 kW). Of course chargers are not 100% efficient. I think you could not expect more than about 1.5 kW/h. I have seen figures like 12 and 16 kWh for total battery capacity (probably including the 30% reserve), which would point to recharging times of 8 to 10 hours.

    My 1st car arrived at home yesterday at 4:15PM and will sat there until this morning. My second car got home around 8PM and sat there until 7AM this morning. There is no way that a ten hour charge is a problem for us. Mentally tallying up my friend’s and family’s habits – I don’t see any problems for them either. We all arrive home before dinner and sleep about 8 hours.

    Yep, won’t fit everyone’s needs but it’s fine for ALOT of us.

  • avatar
    HarveyBirdman

    We should probably give props to Stephan Wilkinson who caught this about-face the day after the Volt reveal (and noted that it was discussed in the Sep. 17 Automotive News). In spite of the week that’s passed since then, it seems nobody is really sure what exactly that means. I imagine we’ll have plenty of time to hypothesize and rant over the next two years.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    @1996MEdition LMAO!

    @Jonny The fuel cell will be supplied by hydrogen created by the ICE in combination with the generator and the battery using an onboard resevoir of GM executives’ tears.

    patent please!

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    Dear America,
    We made an electric car. No one said it had to be good, only that we make one. Can we have those billions now?? Ricky and Bobby need some new shoes!

  • avatar
    Engineer

    Where is Paul Niedermeyer when you need him? This certainly calls for an update to his masterpiece (no, not being sarcastic).

    As I stated back then: I see a problem: how well is a 53 kW [71 hp] generator going to drive a 120 kW [160 hp] motor (before even allowing for all the intermittent losses)?

    Maybe that’s how the Volt gets 50 mpg after running down the battery: the generator will limit the top speed to 40 mph! Assuming 53 kW could propel all that battery weight as fast as 40 mph.
    Better not stop at the foot of a hill once the battery is depleted…

    Johnny Liebermann, are you familiar with The Hydrogen Hoax? Hydrogen (basically a battery that leaks and explodes) is not going to happen. Get used to it.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    They really need to make 2 versions of the Volt. One that is like a Prius — with a smaller battery that runs off of gas, and is cost competitive — low $20k. And a battery operated higher end version — more expensive.

    Here in lies the problem! IF they made these two version why on earth would anyone buy the more expensive one?

    In all honesty I believe Toyota already worked out these issues and that is why the Prius is what it is. For the way we actually live, work, and play with our cars the ICE does do somethings much better than an eletric motor can. Fill-up time: 5 minutes, Charge time: 5 hours!

    For the same reasons there are many high-end critical electircal devices that still run on good ole disposable batteries and not internal rechargeable ones. Sometimes you can NOT wait for a full charge.

    Unlike the what the Volt might be, the Prius is a SELF-CONTAINED appliance. In its current form the drivetrain does allow you a great degree of flexibility. In a rush, drive fast and burn some gas. Not in a rush, take it easy and save a geat deal of gas. Load it up full of stuff and you still have a real car with a gas ICE connected to a CVT. Take a long road trip, OK.

    The whole premise of the Volt assumes that you will go home every night and plug in. STUPID!

    -What about colleges students that live on campus?

    -What about the guy/gal that decided to stay over night at a friends home?

    -What about the group of friends cruising the town all night long? Will the still enjoy driving the Volt after the battery is depleted?

    -What about all of the apartemnt dwellers? From a building owner’s perspective electricity os NOT cheap. Do you actually think they will care enough to install metered outlets in the garage or OUTSIDE parking lot? Who will pay for the extra infrastructure?

    -What about the family with a single car garage and a narrow driveway and more than one existing vehicle? Are they going to run 20′, 30′ feet of electric cord down the driveway or are they going to play “musical cars” everyday?

    These situations and many more like them are REAL and need to be considered before GM dumps a over-priced, half-a$$ed product on the market that will only be embarassed by the next gen Prius, FURTHER hurting GM preception standings.

    IF GM wants the Volt to be a success they really need to pull a page from Toyota’s playbook and learn how to balance a car design with the real actual needs and desires of the people they want to buy it. Look at who people actually use their cars and stop creating silly fictious senerios about how the car CAN be used!

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    OK, so you end up with $400 to $500 a month car payment on a “second” car to save gas? I thin kmost folks will go out a buy a Prius for less $$$ and still cut their gasoline expenses significantly.

    A 28 mpg vehicle for 200K miles at $3.60 is $25,700 worth of gas. On top of that you have to buy the vehicle. Let’s figure another $18K. $43,700 total.

    Or you could buy a plugin (or better yet a full EV) for $40,000 – $7500 in tax credits = $32,500 and $500 per year in electricity. Let’s see it’s taking us 12 years to go 200K miles at my house in one of the cars. That’s $6,000 dent against the Volt.

    Sure the price advantage is still there with the $18K ICE (by a little bit) car but as the Prius proved there are plenty of people for whom a cost premium to lower their gasoline consumption (less $$$ to big oil) is important.

    If the cost of gasoline should go up another 75 cents and there is ample evidence to suggest that it is possible, then the cost margin deceases. When the Koreans or Japanese release their $27K version then the price difference will decrease again.

    The price difference disappears again if the buyer is moving from an 18 mpg minivan or SUV.

    The big question is will the battery last 200K miles? Will the car itself last 200K miles?

    Well, Detroit keeps telling us that their quality is equal or better to the Asian’s quality. No, I don’t believe it either yet. Time will tell. No JD Powers survey will.

    I don’t dislike the plugin hybrids. They are the right step for the non-enthusiasts but I’d prefer to do away with the whole ICE system and have a straight EV with a ~100 mile range.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    And plugging in is a whole lot better than stopping at a gas station. No worries about gasoline shortages like we have in my town now.

    No worries about the kids nagging me for convenience store nutritional goodness.

    No worries about car jacking. No worries about price spikes. I can make my own electricity if I feel so inclined eliminating power outage worries. Of course on those rare, rare occasions that the power does stay off all night, I’ll just drive my ’78 VW Westfalia ICE powered van. It gets almost no miles these days and a quick drive to work would prob do it well.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Most apartment renters do not have access to a powerport to recharge anything, let alone the Volt. What are they supposed to do?

    Buy a house. Drive a Prius. Lots of convenience in living in rental properties but plenty of short comings.

    Where does an apartment dweller put their rat-rod? Their weekend amateur racing car? Where do they work on their car? What if they like to sunbathe in the nude? What are they supposed to do?

    The Chevy Volt (or any plugin car) is not for everyone including Eskimos, people who living in rural jungle conditions, people who ford rivers to get to work, and people who need autobahn speeds.

  • avatar
    nonce

    And plugging in is a whole lot better than stopping at a gas station. No worries about gasoline shortages like we have in my town now.

    Oh boy, do I ever hear that. I’d be cruising fine with a Volt right now, but gas shortages have made hunting gas down a nightmare.

    What about colleges students that live on campus?

    They shouldn’t get a Volt.

    What about the guy/gal that decided to stay over night at a friends home?

    They use the gas tank.

    What about the group of friends cruising the town all night long? Will the still enjoy driving the Volt after the battery is depleted?

    They shouldn’t get a Volt.

    What about all of the apartemnt dwellers?

    They shouldn’t get a Volt if they don’t have outlets.

    What about the family with a single car garage and a narrow driveway and more than one existing vehicle?

    They shouldn’t get a Volt.

    The Volt isn’t supposed to be all things to all people. This is America; we have a very pluralistic society and the free market gives very different products to very different people.

    The Volt will start out as being for commuting adults who want to give the gas station a big middle finger. If the price comes down, it’ll be for normal commuters who have access to electrical outlets at their residence OR workplace.

  • avatar
    Altair

    OK, I think we are dealing with an inconsistent message here.

    Bob Lutz said this:
    “with the Volt, you never have to worry you use the full 40 (mile range), the worst thing that happens is the gasoline engine comes on, and the car will know how far you are from home, and it will only run the gas engine long enough to give you enough charge to get you home where you can actually plug it into the wall outlet. So the car will be smart enough to know where its home base is.”

    That quote makes NO sense if the ICE doesn’t charge the batteries. If you get 40 miles and then the ICE stays on for the rest of the trip, what is the point of having the car know where “home base” is?

    I think we are seeing the effects of the inevitable internal battle between the suits, techs, and bean counters. The techs would give us a car that made sense but cost GM much more than 40k to make, the bean counters would give us a car that barely did what we want and still cost us 40k, and the suits would promise the car that does it all and get upset when the techs and bean counters gang up on them and tell them “no”.

    As far as plugging it in goes, look at what they are doing in London for the plug-in Prius. There is a meter for charging just like there is a meter for the parking space.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    -What about all of the apartment dwellers? From a building owner’s perspective electricity is NOT cheap. Do you actually think they will care enough to install metered outlets in the garage or OUTSIDE parking lot? Who will pay for the extra infrastructure?

    OH C’MON! If this car threatens your individuality somehow or you believe WE-MUST-KEEP-BURNING-GASOLINE or or you just don’t like it then say so!

    Damn – c’mon this same argument could be used at several points in history. We could roll the clock back and argue about indoor plumbing, apartments with electricity or air conditioning or ethernet pre-installed in them.

    Who pays for it? The renter of course. Whether they pay hundreds of dollars upfront for a reserved parking space and a 220V outlet with a lock on it, or if they pay an extra $20 per month hidden in their rent – the renter will pay for it.

    If the concept of a plugin car is popular then you’ll see outlets at restaurants, apartments, office buildings, schools, or installed curbside and that look like parking meters with a credit card reader. It will be a new way that these businesses use to attract customers. Only their accountants will really know how much this costs them compared to the added business.

    My family already eats at restaurants where kids eat free. They still make money off of us I’m sure. We think ahead to who has the best meal for the best price. Best price = kids eat free generally.

    If these vehicles aren’t popular then the people who can best take advantage of them will be the people who buy them. These will be people with driveways, garages and who can easily have 220V installed close to their parking space.

    What worries me is that some comments after this article is may indicate that America has lost it’s imagination or it’s will to achieve more than we have right now.

    How many Americans are like this?

    Think outside of the box!

    This isn’t a personal attack on anyone but encouragement to use your imagination. I expect my grandmother to look at my Nokia N810 handheld computer and ask “what does a person use that for” and then walk away with a bit of new knowledge she’ll never use or consider again.

    I think of TTAC as a thinking man’s (or woman’s) place of automobile discussion. Let’s up the ante here a little.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Does anyone have any idea just how many people live in houses and have garages? That number has to be huge. If GM could sell a Volt to just a fraction of these people, they would be thrilled. Having a place to plug in is not the problem.

  • avatar
    nonce

    Who pays for it? The renter of course. Whether they pay hundreds of dollars upfront for a reserved parking space and a 220V outlet with a lock on it, or if they pay an extra $20 per month hidden in their rent – the renter will pay for it.

    The free market will figure out the right answer, but I’m betting the short-term solution for parking garages will be to have un-metered outlets that only get juice from, say, 10pm to 8am. Or whenever rates are cheap in your town.

    Running extra conduit isn’t like nuclear physics.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Perhaps, someday, city streets and parking spots in America will have plug-ins.

    Seriously.

    That way, apartment dwellers or people who are traveling away from home can charge their electric vehicles.

    I say this because I’ve been to Fargo, North Dakota.

    What’s that got to do with electric vehicles?

    Simple.

    Winter in Fargo and other American Frozen Tundra cities means they already have plug-ins all over town so that shoppers and residents can plug in their vehicles’ block heaters during winter.

    One pulls up to the Piggly Wiggly, pulls into a spot, hops out, grabs the cord that hangs out of the car’s grille, plugs it into the post-outlet, hops the snowbank and goes inside to get groceries. Upon return to the car after shopping, it’ll A) start, B) be toasty warm inside.

    If Fargo can do it, one might imagine the plug-in post will someday be in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Houston….

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    whatdoiknow1 should really start the Not in the Volt’s Target Market (So GM Should Never Make It) Association. Seriously, just don’t buy one. It’s not for you. Just as the Audi A8, Lotus Elise, or Chevy Suburban likely are not for you.

    As to the price you keep bringing up: that is why most of us are having this conversation and trying to wrap our heads around how this car works. You cannot just dismiss the vehicle because it may cost $40,000 to start. joeaverage’s figures are a basic example where a large subsidy could make the Volt viable immediately. Assuming the car is produced for more than 2 years then the price will likely drop below $40,000.

    Most of us want to know how the Volt works and how it could fit into our lifestyle. $40,000 for a 2nd car is insane for my family. But if that 2nd car is a Volt burning one tank of gas PER YEAR then I am interested in the cost calculus and what MSRP vs gas price I should wait for.

    Once you get out of the five burroughs there is a huge country out there where people pay for their own utilities and have their own garages. And I guarantee you will start seeing standard 110 and 220 outlets appearing near public parking spots that use locking covers, coin-op activation, or some other cost tracking/reducing measure. All those EV1 connectors were wasted on 1,100 cars while GM hopes to produce 10 times that the first year.

  • avatar
    ktm

    joeaverage, you are not going to put ANY gasoline in your Volt? Based on your financial caculations that seems to be the case.

    What about the need for a second car? Are you never, ever, EVER going to go more than 40 miles? Your vacations will be to the mall I guess.

    Your calculations are comparing a Volt to a regular ICE car (much less a Prius). I guess comparing it to, oh say, a car of comparable fuel economy is just unfair now.

    Finally, all of you claiming that those who do not have the infrastructure should not buy one clearly must work for GM, as you have the same lack of foresight as Rickie and the Boyz. Anybody can buy a Prius without worrying about the infrastructure to support it at home. The proverbial “poor” college students and the lower and middle income families in America who can not buy a house would love a economical car like the Volt. I guess that they are not “rich” enough to enjoy such a luxury…..

  • avatar
    nonce

    , all of you claiming that those who do not have the infrastructure should not buy one clearly must work for GM, as you have the same lack of foresight as Rickie and the Boyz.
    Nice try at an insult, but I’ve worked at lots of small companies, and sold millions of dollars worth of stuff.

    The very first thing to do when someone asks “can your product do something vastly out of line with what our product is doing?” is to say “no, but you might try using X or Y instead. If we could help you in the future, though, please contact us.”

    Trying to be all things to all people is how you fail.

  • avatar
    blindfaith

    There was this man in North Carolina that bought a Prius. You know just buy a car says Toyota get great gas mileage “joe”.

    Well the man returned and stated, I only get 14 mpg and can make maybe 55 miles an hour tell I get to down hill.

    Well “joe” you better go to LA and sell it in “LA-La land”. Or, go only down hill “Joe”

  • avatar
    JoeEgo

    ktm:

    I’m sure you remember joeaverage mentioning he has two cars already. I’ll say what I said earlier a slightly different way: I will buy a Volt as a second car if the costs work out to my advantage – and the fact that it might only burn 1 gallon of gas per year with my usage pattern is already a big point in its favor. And that is always going to be compared to a car of similar fuel economy.

    Finally, all those college students, apartment dwellers and lower/middle income people unable to buy an economical Volt should continue to cry because (should their requirements dictate) they also cannot afford a massive 8-passenger vehicle. Hell, many people would love to buy an economical Prius but they can’t because they realize in many cases it costs more than a traditional Civic, Corolla, Yaris, etc and/or they just plain cannot afford it with or without dealer premiums.

    blindfaith: exactly. What about all those poor, poor people living in mountainous areas? The Volt just will not work for them! The Volt is teh sux0r! QED

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    ktm: you are not going to put ANY gasoline in your Volt? Based on your financial caculations that seems to be the case.

    If I can help it – no, I’d drive it as solely an EV. Yes, I’d rather have a pure EV.

    Look up the Phoenix Motor Cars SUT. That would serve my needs fine.

    I have an older ICE powered car (11 yrs old) that literally has not been out of the county we live in since cold weather last winter when I drove it to the next town 30 miles away. FWIW that means the car has no been further than ~20 miles or so from my house since last winter.

    When we travel outside of the county we take our primary car which gets ~26 mpg. My second car gets with my lead foot about ~28-29 mpg most of the time. That’s where the 28 mpg came from in my numbers.

    I realize some of you live in large metropolitan areas where you cross multiple counties to get home. Maybe you live in the middle states where a 50 mile drive only gets you to the grocery. A big “your mileage may vary” for you from me.

    My main point was to say – this car is not the solution for everyone’s expectations but it will be a good solution for alot of people.

    Probably more people than will consider would be well served by a car like the Volt unless gas spikes over $5. I got a little heated this morning reading some of the naysayer comments who may have been trolling for controversy or maybe really couldn’t see how a car like this would ever be useful for a person and thus believe it would immediately fail to sell.

    I want America’s daily driver fleet to EVOLVE. Constant belittling of alternatives or the belief that a single vehicle must meet the expectations of all people and all occasions leaves us driving Suburbans or Expeditions or minivans. Again those big vehicle may be what you NEED but I’d like to see the American drivers rediscover Miatas, MR2s, real compacts where compacts are useful.

    What about the need for a second car? Are you never, ever, EVER going to go more than 40 miles? Your vacations will be to the mall I guess.

    I live in small town and the mall has gone broke – we might thank three Wal-marts within a 30 minute drive for that one. That said, I’m not a fan of malls so no I wouldn’t go there for anything – shopping or entertainment. The movie theater is down the road a bit or there is a good drive-in 20 miles from home.

    No we’ve only taken our second car on vacation once. Way back when we only had one child. It would be possible now but our luggage would have to ride in a trailer. Not unappealing but we’d likely choose the slightly larger CR-V for those trips.

    I grew up in the 80s when folks had Mom’s big wagon or Minivan, and Dad drove a Celica or Corolla. Maybe that is where the disconnect is for me. Maybe in places different from mine people actually operate two large vehicles. A big minivan for Mom and a big pickup for Dad. I dunno.

    That’s not really how the people I know do it but it would explain the fair number of large vehicles I see with one person on board.

    Your calculations are comparing a Volt to a regular ICE car (much less a Prius). I guess comparing it to, oh say, a car of comparable fuel economy is just unfair now.

    Yes, I could choose to compare the Volt to a Prius or a Sherman tank or an SUV or the HMS Queen Mary.

    I just picked an average mileage vehicle to show how close the numbers work out. I could choose the 55 mpg VW Jetta TDI or the Prius too I suppose but I’ll let you do the math for your needs. I think 28 mpg was a fair number to use as the American fleet average is lower by a bit. The 2004 requirement was 27 mpg.

    I might not consider a Volt after a Prius but I certainly would consider a Volt after a mere mortal car’s gas mileage.

    The point is with a gasoline car you have to buy the vehicle and then the gasoline forever. If you choose to drive that vehicle two years and trade to something newer, you are still buying gasoline. If you drive for 80 years of your life that is 80 years of gasoline. That’s $123,500 worth of gasoline in a lifetime at 12K miles per year, 28 mpg, $3.60 per gallon. Doesn’t take into account the rise of gasoline of course.

    I came up with either ~$180 or ~$500 worth of electricity per year or $40K worth of power for a lifetime. Another way would be to say that an electric costs 1/6th as much to drive gas compared to electricity according to some EV sites I have read. That would be $20,600 over a lifetime. I don’t know about you but if the numbers were real I’d rather pay off my mortgage and then travel Europe and America in my ICE powered first car with the savings.

    To simplify the math I just imagined that a consumer actually kept it 200,000 miles. I will keep mine though I expect that the average person might trade or buy another at ~125K miles causing higher overall TOC.

    I felt like 200K miles was a pretty low TOC because the person got more miles out of their vehicle before they bought something newer and had to absorb depreciation again. That is to say that a vehicle depreciates the first 100K miles of ownership more than the second in my mind. An example is a Ford Taurus-X I recently heard a someone mention for $5K with under 100K miles. So it lost $15K the first 100K miles and only has another $5K to depreciate no matter how many miles the next guy drives it.

    We could run the numbers again. $20K vehicle driven for 200K miles worth $5K at the end, I am being generous here. So it has a $15K cost to purchase/sell, $25,700 worth of gasoline for that same 200K miles for a total cost of $40,700.

    For the Volt that would be original purchase price of $40K – $7500 tax break, 12 years of $500 electricity, and let’s make up a residual value of $5K working out to $40K – $7.5K + $5K + $6K = $43,500 total operating costs.

    Again that really makes some huge assumptions. Will the battery or the car last 200,000 miles? Could the car have a higher residual value? The RAV4-EV has gone UP in value. I doubt the Volt would. I expect however it would be worth more than $5K.

    Especially if updated battery technology could be installed at a later date for a reasonable cost giving it more life and more range per charge.

    I am also assuming that GM won’t still be heavily discounting their vehicles after just the first year. Imagine another $5K off because GM still can’t move the metal? An additional $10K in savings (resale, lower price new).

    In fact imagine buying a used one with some of the depreciation paid by the first driver. Starting to look really good now. Approaching the value of a Toyota Prius AND you potentially aren’t sending any of your greenbacks to big oil ever especially if some better battery like a NiMH arrived on the scene (important to me to minimize the big oil drain on my budget).

    Finally, all of you claiming that those who do not have the infrastructure should not buy one clearly must work for GM, as you have the same lack of foresight as Rickie and the Boyz. Anybody can buy a Prius without worrying about the infrastructure to support it at home. The proverbial “poor” college students and the lower and middle income families in America who can not buy a house would love a economical car like the Volt. I guess that they are not “rich” enough to enjoy such a luxury…..

    Capitalism will provide infrastructure whenever the owner sees big enough savings to justify installing it wher they are or when some proprietor sees an opportunity to install it for profit.

    I like the coming choices. Question is will any of us be able to afford it. Tough launching a new product into a recession.

    Sorry if all of the numbers give you a headache. I didn’t even want to go back and check my spelling.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    I couldn’t edit my comment so hear are a few extra thoughts.

    Let’s use the 1/6th figure for the cost of energy I have been seeing in the EV enthusiast websites. $40K purchase price – $7.5K tax break + $5K residual value + $4300 for electricity for 200K miles = $41,800 to drive a Volt 200K miles. Up the resale residual $2K and the TCO drops the same $2K.

    Up gasoline to $5.75 per gallon b/c we are talking about a twelve year period where gasoline is always increasing in cost and the cost to operate the 28 mpg vehicle is $41,000 alone.

    Anybody got some easy percentages for how much more gasoline costs now compared to 12 years ago?

    The RAV4-EV has gone UP in value. The oldest Rav4-EVs now have over 150,000 miles on their original NiMH batteries and GM would like us to believe that Li-Ion is a superior battery.

    I doubt the Volt would ever increase in value but I expect however it would be worth more than $5K unless this is another Vega/Corvair/Olds98 diesel.

    Something to consider – how well do GM’s $40K Caddilacs, $40K SUVs, and $40K Corvettes hold their values?

  • avatar
    bumpy

    “But, I would hope that the regenerative braking –this car does have it no?– would charge the batteries.”

    Regen only gives you back some fraction of what you use up in accelerating, which is a rather small portion of the energy that would be used on a 40-mile electric round trip.

    150hp for 10 seconds = (150 x 746 /1000 /60 /6) = 0.31 kilowatt-hours

    200 watt-hours per mile (a generous guess for a car as big as the Volt) x 40 miles = 8 kilowatt-hours

  • avatar
    ctoan

    Capitalism will provide infrastructure whenever the owner sees big enough savings to justify installing it wher they are or when some proprietor sees an opportunity to install it for profit.

    It will be profitable to install the infrastructure when there are enough EV users. There will be enough EV users when there is enough infrastructure.

    Unless the government gets involved, infrastructure will never get built.

    And, you’re still comparing the Volt to a typical car, which is still a faulty comparison. The math versus a typical car is how you decide if you need a more fuel efficient vehicle, not how you decide if you need a Volt. If the Volt is to be a viable option, it needs to compete with, and preferably be superior to, the Prius, the TDI, and similar options.

  • avatar
    nonce

    It will be profitable to install the infrastructure when there are enough EV users. There will be enough EV users when there is enough infrastructure.

    Unless the government gets involved, infrastructure will never get built.We already have the infrastructure of EV’s. It’s called the power grid.

  • avatar
    bumpy

    Now that I think about it, the Volt’s main claim to fame might be as a source of battery packs suitable for the electric car conversion hobby.

  • avatar
    jeremyk

    The Edmunds article is aweful and misinformed. Here’s how I explained GM’s charge stratagy to a friend of mine, when he saw the original article and asked me about it:

    In fact, it’s good that the gas engine does not recharge the batteries because then you would be using gasoline to charge them instead of grid power. The cost per kWh using the engine to recharge is much more than the cost per kWh using grid electricity. So, why would you want the engine to kick on to charge your batteries when you’re only 10 miles from your house (where you can charge it for much less $$)? What they don’t say is that the gas engine is sized so that, when acting as a generator, the car will still have full power to accelerate, climb hills, etc. I believe it can actually dip into the battery reserve for sudden bursts of power if needed. The batteries are never allowed to fully discharge anyway. The will only be discharged to 30%. That’s the only way to make then survive for >100K miles. Unlike NiCd batteries, Li batteries don’t like a full charge or a full discharge. So, the engine “maintains” battery levels at 30% of charge once you’ve driven 40 miles. It will still “charge” the batteries during regenerative breaking, etc and dip into that 30% for short bursts, it just won’t waste any more gasoline than necessary to move the car around between plug in points. I think it’s supposed to still get over 50 mpg when the gasoline engine is running as an alternator and the battery is discharged to the minimum level (30%).

    It may seem unconventional compared to a parallel hybrid (this is a SERIES hybrid), but will probably save the consumer the most money.

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