By on March 16, 2009

Inside sources reiterate what we’ve heard before: the mission critical battery for GM’s plug-in Hail Mary hybrid gas electric Volt is not achieving its performance requirements. Not even close. In fact, we’ve heard that the battery is failing to meet ANY of its targets: range, recharge time, battery life expectancy, cold weather performance, cost, nada. That said, this is a rumor [see: question mark above]. Therefore, we invite representatives of GM to contact TTAC ([email protected]) to spin the story until we pass out from dizziness—I mean, assure GM’s many stakeholders that mass production of the single most important vehicle in their portfolio—if not the last—will begin on the date promised. Wait, what was that date again?

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38 Comments on “Wild Ass Rumor of the Day: Volt Battery = Epic Fail?...”


  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    Hold on guys, I got this one

    *Facepalm*

    [/comments]

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    But wait – Bob Lutz himself said the battery will not delay the car…

    I guess you can’t delay something that doesn’t have a deadline.

    -ted

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The PHEV fanboys are going to be upset.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    GM should have built a credible Prius fighter before going for a moon-shot car. GM has been grasping at moon-shots for ages now, and most of them have been an embarrassment of underdevelopment.

    This goes as far back as the copper-cooled Chevy disaster of 1923 ( http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1923-chevrolet-series-m-copper-cooled.htm ), on to the almost-done Corvair, oil burning Vega engines, craptastic diesel V-8, troublesome Cadillac V-4-6-8, Fiero, oil burning original Saturns, horrific Cadillac HT engine series, millions of prematurely failing V-6 engine intake manifold gaskets …. the list is endless. All too often, GM hypes, promises and launches products without really doing their homework first. Buying the first few years production of almost any new GM technology is a big gamble.

  • avatar
    law stud

    I remember emailing Bob Lutz when he asked who had an answer for their troubles with getting mileage. I sent off a reply for a hydraulic hybrid. Costs +$400 for the hardware to a truck or car but no transmission or driveshaft also means greater efficiency and savings elsewhere of a $1,000 a car, so that = cheaper than a regular car and +40% better mileage city and +20-30% improvement highway. For a pickup or any GM car to get that big of an improvement and only cost +400 more is a no-brainer. Who thinks they can run their own car company, I do! Just license that hydraulic hybrid patents and get going GM, stupid! +400 to dramatically increase mileage and lower costs…. hmm that could be a stop-gap for the volt and boost pickup sales and bring them back to the black and out of the red…

    VOLT/electric car bailout bait is totally correct. Lithium ion batteries? My laptop lasts only 30 seconds after being unplugged from the wall. Plus they lose their charge over time. The god damn EV1 had a better battery pack and a far lower cost, but no one wants to mention they sold those patents off to a subsidiary of Texaco!

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Now that we taxpayers are paying a good chunk of GM’s operating expenses, I’ll be very surprised if GM does not launch the Chevy Volt on time in 2011. With a battery pack that works reasonably well.

    Sure, the batteries will cost more than they thought. And they won’t work as well as GM would like them to. But they will work well enough. There is no rocket science involved here. Even GM and its battery queen Denise Gray can do this.

    Just a wild ass rumor, in my opinion, hardly worth passing on.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    As I pointed out back in January, GM was just then announcing they picked a battery which means they were now able to BEGIN the 2 YEAR test cycle. Do the math people. Either they are going to roll out a beta version of the car on time or none at all.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Why is it that no one ever mentions the EV1. GM had an operational EV that worked well, and looks like it was liked by its owners and the list was growing? why not re-introduce the EV1 tecnology and architecture until the Hail Mary’s technology is up to spec? you can make it look like a Volt if you want just do it….

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @Ronman

    That would be admitting a mistake, something GM honchos really don’t like doing. It starts at home: “Honey, I swear, you’ve got me mixed up with someone else.”

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    GM’s EV-1 and Toyota’s RAV4 EV were good vehicles, with many of the latter still being driven. But they were very expensive to make. Some estimates I heard were that they would need to be sold for over $80,000 to make a profit.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    [long rant retracted]

    RF, C’mon. That’s not the most important car in GM’s portfolio. Maybe, in a separate thread, you should ask, which one IS?

    tankd0g, Sure. But the manufacturer has probably been testing the cells, at least, for longer.

    In fact, it never made sense for GM to spend a lot of time and energy, except as a PR exercise, on battery testing. The manufacturer cares as deeply as GM about what the cells can do and has certainly been wringing them out for as long as possible.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I always predicted that the Volt will never get built. I am further proven by the fact that the Volt has been rebranded as a 2011 model, and that their battery pack seems all wrong.

    As for the dude that said that GM needed to build a credible Prius fighter, I bet the rencen Kool-Aid drinking idiots consider the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu hybrids – the ones that only get 1 MPG better than their gas counterparts – credible Prius fighters.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    If the volt does everything right as advetised it is still a marginal vehicle. At $40,000 plus options, it will be in with the near luxury segement and since it is not luxury will be the round peg in a square hole. Let’s get real here, the market for this car is between $20-25K. The new prius was to start at 25K but because honda is coming in at 20K for their new hybrid, the toyota will be decontented and hit in the low $20s. So you can buy two (new generation) hybrids from our friends in Japan or one Volt. Cadillac always cost twice what chevy did and was successful, but chevy sold the volume models. Honda and Toyota will gladly seed a few thousand volts a month if they can joust to see who can sell a million units.

  • avatar
    segfault

    @ runfromcheney:

    Clearly, the solution is to hybridize the last remaining U.S. Epsilon-platform car, the G6. They should also offer a G6 Hybrid Coupe (something you can’t get with the Honda Civic), and the world’s first hybrid convertible. If they don’t sell, blame the exchange rate and the “perception gap.”

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    Wow, just wow, a rumor comes out on the internet about the Volt batteries and instantly everyone jumps on the bandwagon to hammer GM into the ground, yet again.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to hear some actual confirmation and/or facts before jumping to conclusions. If the rumor is verified, then go on a rant about GM screwing up yet again and I will join you. But until then …

  • avatar
    mel23

    I don’t see the problem here. Lots of stuff is sold with some medium-fine print on the package: “Batteries sold separately”. The batteries will be ready, and available, when they’re ready.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    SkiD666:
    If it weren’t for the rumor that GM was getting $30B of our money based (unreasonably largely) on the viability of this vehicle then nobody would care.

    Oh wait, that wasn’t a rumor….

  • avatar
    gslippy

    It would be miraculous for lithium ion cells to work the way GM claims they should.

    The $40k Volt will be an epic fail, but I guess that’s what taxpayer-funded government subsidies are for….

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    RetardedSparks–unless I’ve gone completely Alzheimers, the hammer GM bandwagon left the station here LONG before the taxpayer bailout. Don’t blame it on that.

    Let’s see if this one picks up momentum: I heard on the internets that Asimo the robot was caught in a “compromising position” with Takanobu Ito’s daughter. Can we speculate on how Ito will save face?

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    The real boogieman in the battery development, IMO, is the calendar life of the pack. Present lithium battery chemistries have major problems with this, and while newer chemistries are very promising in this regard, it’s simply impossible to validate that the issue is fixed without years of testing. Accelerated testing is limited in its ability to precipitate failures in this particular case due to the number of independent failure modes.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    Good point, Eric Bryant. A few Tesla Roadsters are coming up on their one-year anniversaries soon. I wonder how their batteries are holding out. If we had accurate data on that, we might know better.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Raskolnikov :
    March 17th, 2009 at 10:22 am

    RetardedSparks–unless I’ve gone completely Alzheimers, the hammer GM bandwagon left the station here LONG before the taxpayer bailout. Don’t blame it on that.

    Foresight is always better than hindsight. All GM did was to prove TTAC was right all along.

    This is about the truth. If “the hammer GM bandwagon” represents the truth, so be it.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Putting aside the questionable merit of reporting a rumor, and the grammatical crudity of “epic fail”….

    The Volt is important regardless of its initial battery performance. Volt is not a hybrid. It is an electric car, pure and simple. It just has a gasoline-powered generator as one of the sources for its electricity, the other being electric power stored in its battery. Now, this arrangement has becone known as “serial hybrid,” but the term just confuses people because they know hybrids by the kluge known as “parallel.” The ICE generator only outputs electricity, heat and some exhaust. All the motive power is via electric motors. Once this motive architecture is in production, battery improvements can be retrofitted, and gasoline electricity generation can be replaced by fuel cells, propane, methanol, LPG, LNG, CNG, diesel, whatever. Volt is an electric car.

    Notwithstanding GM’s advance marketing on the gasoline-free range, there are many who will benefit from Volt’s battery-only range whether it’s 20 miles or 40 miles. Arguably, GM should just have released a NiMH version with 20 miles of battery range earlier. The important point is to get the vehicle’s motive architecture in the market and on the road. They’re only planning on producing 10,000 in the first year anyway. They could sell that many in California alone, even at $40,000. A Malibu interior would be a huge upgrade over the Prius interior, and a few other tweaks would give the car sufficient perception of value to please the early adopters who will buy Volt for what it is. It’s even OK if early versions of the car have insufficient cold weather battery performance. Don’t sell it in cold regions initially. Getting the car on the market in warmer climes alone will accelerate learning about how to evolve this motive architecture.

    We’re getting electric cars in our private transportation mix, whether we like it or not. Volt’s power arrangement removes the risk in range associated with battery limits, and makes the car viable as a person’s sole automobile. The gasoline generator should be very low in emissions given the narrow operating parameters for the internal combustion engine. The car moves away from heavy passive driveline components (bulky transmission, differential, drive shafts, lighter brakes) and power generation can be supplemented by photovoltaics. The key point is Volt is a start, not a finish. It is a modern revival of the interrupted vector of electric personal transportation, intelligently addressing the traditional liabilities of electric drive.

    The first one will have limits that further iterations will address. But none of that progress will happen if the car is continually held back to be made more perfect. Volt is a perfectly good idea as it is. Get it out in form of truncated range, and iterate.

    In a few weeks, my commute will shrink from 30 miles each way to seven. 20 miles of battery range would let me go days on end without burning gasoline, while never worrying about having the range to make it to an appointment a hundred miles away on no notice. I see hundreds of people every day on my commute alone whose needs would be largely met by battery-only range in the 20 -30 miles window.

    While the battery supplier continues to tune the battery, GM can do more work on the system’s active power management. Whatever the situation is now, it will improve and likely be good enough, and not perfect, for first release.

    As another article here points out, the rich (or at least well-off) subsidize accelerated evolution of new technology for mainstream economics and marketability. Think of $20,000 42″ plasma TVs in 2000 and how compromised they were by all standard criteria for evaluating television picture quality. The rich were happy to have them for what they were. And so it will be with early Volt customers who will be happy to accept the car for what it is: the point-of-departure for evolving personal transportation on the flexible motive vector of electric power. A gasoline range extender is a bridge. Volt’s early buyers won’t be comparing it to a 4 cylinder gasoline car, nor a Prius. Their acceptance will change the way people evaluate Volt now.

    Phil

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Phil:

    Early Volt buyers will be tree-huggers, so it will be OK with them no matter what the price and performance shortcomings of the vehicle are.

    The rest of us who evaluate vehicles on their benefit to us will not be as generous.

    And while early-adopter technology is expensive, it must also perform. Electric cars have been around for 100 years, and they have always been limited by volumetric energy storage, and have enjoyed few sales. GM is not providing any evidence that this nut has been cracked.

    At least Tesla is honest about their claims (and they actually sell real electric cars), and they obviously aren’t trying to sell against competitors in the economy car market. They have a lot more battery, and a lot more cost, but they get the job done.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @ Phil Ressler:

    Releasing a car with reliability/durability issues may work for a handful of early adopters but I do not believe this is a sound business plan for an automaker. People tolerate being beta testers for electronics, but that model will not work for $20-40k cars.

    Once word gets out that the Volts being sold are breaking down or catching fire or experiencing any other failure mode it will conjure up all of the negative perceptions people have about GM and electric cars. It will be catastrophic to the Volt for it to be released into production with anything less than Chrysler level reliability and Prius level utility. GM could release the vehicle as a beta test model to early adopeters, a la Mini E, to avoid this, but that would represent a drastic departure from their current plan.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Ressler: “… but the term just confuses people because they know hybrids by the kluge known as “parallel.” ”

    There’s a million of those “kluges” on the road, people are happy with them and the manufacturer is making money on it.

    Toyota started from a business case and went forward from there. GM started from Maximum Bob’s desire to be some sort of electro-Alpha-male and went downhill from that.

    I heard a story that I considered to be entirely bogus… that Lutz went ape over Tesla’s plans (plans – not success) to produce an electric car based on notebook batteries. Lutz was entirely ignoring the 800lb gorilla in the room (Toyota selling 150-180K Priuses in the US at a profit) and freaked out over a boutique manfacturer that had yet to get a single car on the road (and didn’t for another two years).

    Then, I learned that this was true. GM didn’t get into the Volt program from a desire to be the world’s biggest and most profitable automaker but because Lutz’ vanity was pricked by a startup company.

    That’s where the Volt came from. Lutz’ prick. And it has been a hash ever since. Lutz decreed what it would look like and the range and other characteristics without a real appreciation of how it could or would be accomplished or what it would cost and whether or not the components would be ready for prime time.

    Lut brought nothing but ego to the party. After his first short test-ride of one of the development cars, he signed the hood with “we are making history today,” ignoring all the EVs that have come before and accompllished more, including the 400-odd Toytoa Rav4-EVs still on the public roads.

    GM showed off a (to some) exciting-looking concept and then ended up backing away from it. Many of the fanbois at gm-volt are still livid over this.

    The estimate of price has varied by $20K (it was under $30K at one point, $48K at another time). It needs a massive tax credit to be competitive. With anything.

    Along the way, it has also lost a seat and about 300 miles in unrefuelled range. The original forecast was for 600 miles. It’s down to a 6-gallon tank. Charge + fuel to exhaustion will be on the order of 340 miles (and, since its CD is higher than the Prius, very likely significantly less). You can drive a 2009 Prius about 600 miles. The occasion of the loss of the middle seat was funny, too, when one of the GM talking heads referred to the T-configuration of the battery and then the seating arrangements (“we took advantage of the t-shaped battery to move the two rear seats apart…”)

    And it has been a constant PR parade for two years, trotted out every month or two by an automaker that does not have the resources to build it.

    This will not restore the interrupted vector of electric transportation. This is how a corporation runs itself further into the ground.

    Electric transportation is waiting for one thing and one thing only: An electric power source (fuel cells with H2 or CH3OH supply or a battery) with sufficient energy density, power density and packaging to successfully build a vehicle that will go at least a hundred miles at a whack and can be refuelled/recharged in a hurry.

    That electric power source DOES NOT EXIST. So, GM offers a kluge of their own… an electric vehicle with all advantages and handicaps of an electric vehicle, which is pulling around and ICE and all if its trappings and disadvantages.

    GM has not one but two highly unsuccessful hybrid programs out on the street today. I can admire unsold copies of these efforts at the Chevy dealer down the road.

    Toyota and Ford both have hybrids on the road. Toyota’s is very successful; Ford’s somewhat less so (but there’s a waiting list for their vehicle and they do build 2500/month). Both have looked down this path and said, “no, thanks.”

    Imagine that… the two leaders in this race both agree that the EREV isn’t the way to go at this time.

    And now we have Frank Weber picking and choosing his words v-e-r-y carefully and if not expressing outright pessimism, certainly failing to sound confident and optimistic. Maybe what’s happening here is that Frank Weber is finding out what Toyota and Ford already knew.

    Now, maybe the thing will work. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it but certainly a lot of very bright people are giving it their all.

    But GM’s purpose is not to change the transportation paradigm, GM’s purpose is to make money. GM, at present, is a welfare client. The Volt is not going to change that, certainly not any time soon.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    Phil, you don’t get it. Everyone knows that the volt is not a pure hybrid. It’s not pure electric either if it still needs a gas engine on board. Toyota and Honda knew that to get to pure electric you have got to cut your teeth on hybrids. IT sounds good that GM can skip the ding dong school of selling a couple of million hybrids and go right to the real thing, an almost pure electric. But I tell you this, when pure electric is really ready for prime time, you will buy it from the builders of hybrids. Toyota and Honda will have the thing released when it is ready and can make money. Is this volt just another GM halo car? If it is than the rest of the loss leader line will have to keep piling up the losses for us taxpayers. Bring on the spring rebates, after all it was GM who truly did invent and perfect rebates all on it’s own.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    The rest of us who evaluate vehicles on their benefit to us will not be as generous.

    Perhaps not, but the opinion of the mainstream nitpicker won’t be so important initially. The point is, like most technology shifts, getting to market requires a more forgiving cadre of early adopters who see the benefits as worth the imperfections.

    And while early-adopter technology is expensive, it must also perform. Electric cars have been around for 100 years, and they have always been limited by volumetric energy storage, and have enjoyed few sales. GM is not providing any evidence that this nut has been cracked.

    In fact GM is being honest about the volumetric energy limts of electric cars by supplementing the battery with a gasoline powered generator for range extension. The motive architecture of the car itself is admission that electric cars need practical mitigating solutions to their limits to become single vehicle alternatives for individuals.

    Releasing a car with reliability/durability issues may work for a handful of early adopters but I do not believe this is a sound business plan for an automaker. People tolerate being beta testers for electronics, but that model will not work for $20-40k cars.

    It will for some and it will also become a more common release strategy for alternative vehicles. Not that such a release strategy will put unreliable vehicles on the market. Instead they will have known documented limits and early adopters will buy what’s desirable to them within limits they accept as worth the advancement. The key is limiting production. If we’re going to move to a mixed-propulsion fleet, alternatives will be tried in part through early-adoption experience. It’s just what’s going to happen and some technologies and vehicle architectures will be vetted from others.

    Once word gets out that the Volts being sold are breaking down or catching fire or experiencing any other failure mode it will conjure up all of the negative perceptions people have about GM and electric cars.

    We’ll just have to see if any of these catastrophic liabilities materialize. Gasoline cars have been breaking down and catching fire for a hundred years but that didn’t keep people on horses.

    There’s a million of those “kluges” on the road, people are happy with them and the manufacturer is making money on it.

    Which doesn’t in any way change that parallel hybrid motive architecture is a kludge.

    On March 17th, The Los Angeles Times ran an article headlined, “Hybrid Car Sales Go From 60 to 0.” In it, this idea that Toyota has been making money on Prius for any significant length of time is undermined by the following from that article:

    “…Toyota said last year that it was finally making money on the Prius after nearly a decade producing it, but executives at other automakers acknowledge that they lose money on every hybrid sold. “If we were making money on the Civic hybrid, we weren’t making a lot,” Honda spokesman Chris Martin said.”

    http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-fi-hybrid17-2009mar17,0,2035027.story

    “…finally making money…after nearly a decade…” more than suggests a substantial direct and opportunity-cost investment in breathing that market to life.

    Toyota started from a business case and went forward from there. GM started from Maximum Bob’s desire to be some sort of electro-Alpha-male and went downhill from that.

    Well, no one outside can really say. But GM had electric car expertise and had made a large investment to bring it to market well before Bob Lutz showed up. The business case for the Volt is sound, but the sequencing and pre-launch communications should have been better managed.

    Along the way, it has also lost a seat and about 300 miles in unrefuelled range. The original forecast was for 600 miles. It’s down to a 6-gallon tank. Charge + fuel to exhaustion will be on the order of 340 miles (and, since its CD is higher than the Prius, very likely significantly less). You can drive a 2009 Prius about 600 miles. The occasion of the loss of the middle seat was funny, too, when one of the GM talking heads referred to the T-configuration of the battery and then the seating arrangements (”we took advantage of the t-shaped battery to move the two rear seats apart…”)

    All of which is irrelevant to whether the Volt should be developed and produced. It isn’t a Prius nor is it intended to be a direct competitor in its launch form. What is true is that GM handled the announcement marketing ham-handedly.

    Electric transportation is waiting for one thing and one thing only: An electric power source (fuel cells with H2 or CH3OH supply or a battery) with sufficient energy density, power density and packaging to successfully build a vehicle that will go at least a hundred miles at a whack and can be refuelled/recharged in a hurry.

    All prior electric personal transportation was introduced into an environment where its characteristics were not perceived as an imperative. That’s what’s fundamentally changed about the current and coming market as context for the wave of electric car development. And I don’t say this as a fan of electric cars. It’s simply a reality. We’re going to get electric cars in the personal transportation mix because part of the market now considers their attributes an imperative. Right or wrong, that’s reality. We don’t have to, and won’t, be waiting for the fuel cells to get started.

    That electric power source DOES NOT EXIST. So, GM offers a kluge of their own… an electric vehicle with all advantages and handicaps of an electric vehicle, which is pulling around and ICE and all if its trappings and disadvantages.

    The serial hybrid model is not a kludge. It’s comparatively elegant. The drive is electric motors and carries all the advantages of simplicity attached to that choice. There’s simply a range-extending generator, which can architecturally be substituted by any other portable form of electricity storage or generation as alternatives emerge. Capacitors, more battery, fuel cells, or alt-fuel generators can all be substituted for the gasoline ICE generator. Want to make a 70 – 100 mile pure battery model? Easy. Dump the generator and add more battery. If a nuclear power plant fits, that too. The drive remains electric motors irrespective of range-extender. Until lightweight high-density storage batteries emerge — if ever — the range extender is an elegant bridge to truly practical battery or fuel cell range.

    But GM’s purpose is not to change the transportation paradigm, GM’s purpose is to make money. GM, at present, is a welfare client. The Volt is not going to change that, certainly not any time soon.

    Loans are not welfare. Did America’s student loan program help put you through university? If so, student loans bridged you through a period of economic unviability. This idea that GM’s (or any corporation’s) exclusive purpose is to make money has been peculiarly villified when they were making money by cubic mile building and selling trucks to a willing market. Even a distressed company operating under bridge loans should be investing in alternatives that help to pave their own road for the future. It’s not an either/or game. GM has a stable of excellent cars, whose market perception is diluted by some others that bring less merit to the customer. The things they have to do to improve their competitive footing in conventional cars are not mysterious nor resource-intensive in a manner that must displace development of a clean, simple and practical change of motive architecture for light-duty cars.

    Ford and Toyota, whom you refer to as the “two leaders in this race” (what race is that?) have managed, not led. This is sufficient for a conservative outlook and GM is playing in the kludged category belately too. Parallel hybrid motive architecture is a fearful approach to vehicle advancement (except possibly for 2Mode in heavier vehicles), benignly cynical for delivering results that are marginal in combined mileage over efficient single-technology cars. Parallel hybrids change personal transportation very little. They are moved mostly by the ICE, are iterative, and that baby-steps approach appeals to some.

    GM could have been active in the kludge market earlier. It could have kept the EV program going and retained its direct involvement in NiMH battery development. It could have done a lot of things but all that’s water under the bridge. Given where they were by 2005 or so, Volt was and is a legitimate market advance. But they failed to see the advantage of bringing it to market sooner with less magical battery chemistry.

    Phil, you don’t get it. Everyone knows that the volt is not a pure hybrid. It’s not pure electric either if it still needs a gas engine on board. Toyota and Honda knew that to get to pure electric you have got to cut your teeth on hybrids. IT sounds good that GM can skip the ding dong school of selling a couple of million hybrids and go right to the real thing, an almost pure electric. But I tell you this, when pure electric is really ready for prime time, you will buy it from the builders of hybrids. Toyota and Honda will have the thing released when it is ready and can make money.

    Obviously, it’s me who thinks *you* don’t get it. Volt is a pure electric car. The only thing that moves it is electricity. The gasoline engine cannot directly move the car. Whether the car’s electricity comes from a battery storing energy derived from a coal, gas, wind, hydro or nuclear power generator or an on-board fossil-fuel range extender, it’s still running exclusively on electricity. Start down this path and cars can evolve rapidly in new packaging, range extension technology, software control, solar incorporation, etc.

    But I tell you this, when pure electric is really ready for prime time, you will buy it from the builders of hybrids. Toyota and Honda will have the thing released when it is ready and can make money.

    Well, sure, if the Volt project gets killed or GM is stymied in its effort for revival. But if Volt makes it to market, Toyota and Honda will not be the default leaders in EV.

    Phil

  • avatar
    KixStart

    qslippy: “Early Volt buyers will be tree-huggers, so it will be OK with them no matter what the price and performance shortcomings of the vehicle are.”

    Not even the tree-huggers can rescue this thing. For $40K, the tree-huggers can get a Prius or Insight and then put the leftover $20K into alternative energy production or conservation projects that makes a helluva bigger difference in GHGs than they’d get purchasing a Volt instead of a Prius.

    Ressler: “But GM had electric car expertise and had made a large investment to bring it to market well before Bob Lutz showed up.”

    And after Lutz showed up, that expertise was lost, ignored or sidelined (a characteristic of under-performing organizations). One of the key features of the EV-1 was its incredibly low drag. The Volt concept and project went a long way before GM re-learned the lost lesson… this thing must be slippery. And, in that, they have failed. The Volt checks in at .28. The new Prius will hit .25.

    Ressler: “The business case for the Volt is sound, but the sequencing and pre-launch communications should have been better managed.”

    The best way to manage the “sequencing and pre-launch communications” would have been to stuff a sock in Lutz and otherwise just keep their mouths shut. But this vehicle is not about a business case. Toyota thinks that, with sufficient effort and innovation, that they can sell their car and make money. GM is all about the PR benefits of the Volt. Profit is nowhere in view. The price changes by $20K over two years and you hear GM execs say, “We’ll lose money on this for years.”

    Toyota is in the position where they can leverage their existing investment to push the car in any direction that looks good. They can remove parts to build an E-REV or they can just bulk up components as they see fit to hit other performance marks. They can wait on battery technology until they can use it to make money.

    Ressler: [Argues kluge]

    The Volt is a kluge. It has both an engine big enough to move a compact 4-passenger car (which is what it is, functionally) and a battery big enough to make a 50-60 mile compact 4-passenger BEV (which is what is also is, functionally).

    Toyota was able to build a car with a too-small engine and get improved performance and efficiency all around. The Volt ends up carrying boat anchors at both ends.

    GM is building a $40K “economy” car targeted at tree-huggers who are going to understand that there are far better ways to spend their money.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    One of the key features of the EV-1 was its incredibly low drag. The Volt concept and project went a long way before GM re-learned the lost lesson… this thing must be slippery. And, in that, they have failed. The Volt checks in at .28. The new Prius will hit .25.

    EV-1 was a two-seater. You’re hilarious: Cd of .28 is a “failure” in a well-proportioned car. There’s more to design efficiency than a .03 difference in Cd.

    The best way to manage the “sequencing and pre-launch communications” would have been to stuff a sock in Lutz and otherwise just keep their mouths shut. But this vehicle is not about a business case. Toyota thinks that, with sufficient effort and innovation, that they can sell their car and make money. GM is all about the PR benefits of the Volt. Profit is nowhere in view. The price changes by $20K over two years and you hear GM execs say, “We’ll lose money on this for years.”

    Agreed. Lutz should have been more subtle and reticent. However, there’s no difference between the two companies discussed here. At the outset, Toyota didn’t have profit in view on their Prius either. Toyota lost money on Prius “for years.” It’s OK for GM to lose money on Volt for awhile, so long as they manage the program to lose progressively less until they cross over to unit profitability.

    The Volt is a kluge. It has both an engine big enough to move a compact 4-passenger car (which is what it is, functionally) and a battery big enough to make a 50-60 mile compact 4-passenger BEV (which is what is also is, functionally).

    No, it has power generation and storage sufficient to move an electric car in real traffic for 300 – 400 miles of range.

    Toyota was able to build a car with a too-small engine and get improved performance and efficiency all around. The Volt ends up carrying boat anchors at both ends.

    Toyota was able to build a largely conventional car for marginal improvement in efficiency that rapidly vanishes at speed, with uninspired — even questionable — handling. Well, as an alternative, one can get a better Ford parallel hybrid sans the Toyota’s blighted appearance and skittish dynamics. Volt doesn’t carry boat anchors — it carries a fully integrated extended-range electric drive system.

    GM is building a $40K “economy” car targeted at tree-huggers who are going to understand that there are far better ways to spend their money.

    Volt in its initial iteration is not an economy car. It is an “ecology” car to be embraced by an early-adopter market that views electric cars as an environmental (and aesthetic) imperative. It should lead to economy, mainstream and luxury versons of its essential features. The $40K price is not reflective of the longer term possibilities for this vehicle architecture, which can be fielded near-term for economics that are reasonable to it’s natural constituency.

    Phil

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Ressler: “You’re hilarious: Cd of .28 is a “failure” in a well-proportioned car. There’s more to design efficiency than a .03 difference in Cd.”

    Nope. The Volt is alleged to be GM’s game-changer. They went with a conventional shape, rather than pick up additional performance by going all out. They failed to carry through. And that’s additional performance they’re going to need. There are a lot of things that are going to challenge that 40 mile range and highway speed is one of them. Telling people it will go 40 miles at 55… that will be good for a laugh.

    Ressler: “Toyota was able to build a largely conventional car for marginal improvement in efficiency that rapidly vanishes at speed…”

    It’s largely conventional, except it’s a much less compromising aerodynamic shape than almost anything on the road, packs mid-size utility into a compact footprint, runs on electric, gas or both and contains parts and techniques that few have matched and only years later. Yeah… purely conventional.

    Ressler: “Volt in its initial iteration is not an economy car.”

    Sure it is. It’s just that somebody failed to notify the price tag that it’s an economy car.

    Ressler: “It is an “ecology” car to be embraced by an early-adopter market that views electric cars as an environmental (and aesthetic) imperative.”

    The greenies may be obsessive but they’re not stupid. There are lots better ways to reduce GHGs. The natural market for the Volt is over at the Ultimate Volt Fanboi site… it’s the people that don’t understand economics, are all in a later to “get off oil,” without actually changing their lifestyles, think that avoiding Citgo (or whatever) gas means they aren’t supporting Hugo Chavez and probably can’t afford the car, anyway.

    Ressler: “At the outset, Toyota didn’t have profit in view on their Prius either. Toyota lost money on Prius “for years.” It’s OK for GM to lose money on Volt for awhile, so long as they manage the program to lose progressively less until they cross over to unit profitability.”

    The LATimes may well ahve it wrong; they didn’t quote a particular source. I’ve seen it reported (Businessweek, I think) that Toyota was making money on it at the end of 2002. Certainly, Toyota can make money off a mix of vehicles that is rich in small and inexpensive cars. If Toyota can put a Yaris on the road for $10K, it’s entirely reasonable to expect they can market the Prius profitably for $22K.

    Ressler: “It’s OK for GM to lose money on Volt for awhile, so long as they manage the program to lose progressively less until they cross over to unit profitability.”

    Well, there’s the rub. It’s actually not OK for GM to lose money on the Volt because they don’t have any to lose. GM has no profitable operations to prop this thing up until it can pay.

    Ressler: “Volt doesn’t carry boat anchors — it carries a fully integrated extended-range electric drive system.”

    The engine is fully large enough to move a compact car along pretty well, especially without a boat anchor battery in the back (when the charge is gone… that’s all it is).

    The battery is big enough that a smaller car with the same interior room (remove the engine and chop off the front) would get significantly more EV range. When the battery has a charge and the engine is off, the engine is a boat anchor.

    Ressler: “The $40K price is not reflective of the longer term possibilities for this vehicle architecture, which can be fielded near-term for economics that are reasonable to it’s natural constituency.”

    What longer term possibilities? When battery prices drop, everybody who already knows how to build a gas-electric or electric drivetrain can take advantage of it. Right now, the battery is the part that propels the price of the car to $40K. It’s senseless to build it at these prices. GM’s doing it, anyway. If this earned them some sort of strategic advantage, hey, that would be great. But it doesn’t.

    And it’s a sign of GM’s general screwed-up-edness that this is the follow-on to two other unsuccessful programs that they can’t bring themselves to cancel if The Volt really is is The Way To The Future. GM’s acting like they’ve got unlimited development funds and we know they haven’t got any.

  • avatar
    incog43

    Toyota lost money on Prius “for years.” It’s OK for GM to lose money on Volt for awhile, so long as they manage the program to lose progressively less until they cross over to unit profitability.

    Toyota could afford to lose money, GM can’t. The Prius lost money for “years”. but the Volt will only lose money for a “while”..GM manage a program….ok, I will sleep better this evening.

    Toyota was able to build a largely conventional car for marginal improvement in efficiency that rapidly vanishes at speed..

    Agreed, this is important however, they were able to build it and sell them.

    Volt doesn’t carry boat anchors — it carries a fully integrated extended-range electric drive system.
    Volt in its initial iteration is not an economy car. It is an “ecology” car to be embraced by an early-adopter market that views electric cars as an environmental (and aesthetic) imperative.

    I love your 1/2 glass is full outlook, I truly do, there is no Volt, its an idea that may or may not eventuate, it’s an expensive program, if it actually ever makes it to the showroom floor, they will lose big time on it, lets say for “years” and “years” shall we.

    Lets not also forget little things like GM’s insolvency issues, lack of ability to actually run their business either efficiently or profitably….build quality anyone, its just going to be so much fun to be one of the first to own one of these…

    I like the concept, and I agree with you in many ways(and as such GM), but, GM is just the wrong company to be doing this, they are broke, inept and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

    Don’t read to much into GM’s hype over the Volt, if they can’t manage a bank account how the hell we they be able to manage this.

    BTW, its only a loan if it is repaid, see you actually think GM is going to repay these billions, more GM hype I suspect.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Nope. The Volt is alleged to be GM’s game-changer. They went with a conventional shape, rather than pick up additional performance by going all out. They failed to carry through.

    The game-changing aspects are under the skin. Hy-Wire was the game-changing concept but it’s a bid too far for immediate marketing. However, the principles of Hy-Wire start here, with Volt. There is marketing value to a more distinctly breaktrhough shape but it’s also limiting. Aptera is a breakthrough design, but most people won’t consider one no matter how advanced it is in principle. Volt combines a four-seat form that people can relate to without being generic.

    The greenies may be obsessive but they’re not stupid. There are lots better ways to reduce GHGs. The natural market for the Volt is over at the Ultimate Volt Fanboi site… it’s the people that don’t understand economics, are all in a later to “get off oil,” without actually changing their lifestyles, think that avoiding Citgo (or whatever) gas means they aren’t supporting Hugo Chavez and probably can’t afford the car, anyway.

    Greenhouse gases aren’t exclusively driving interest in electric cars. No one can comment on the Volt’s relative economics yet, since the car in shipped form isn’t in anyone’s hands yet. There are lots of Americans who would like to be less dependent on oil, wherever it is sourced, who can afford a mere $40K car. Nothing about that price puts it in a rarefied econometric, even in a downturn. It’s just above average, and the Feds will tax credit it. There are many people in urban and near-suburban areas in matrix commutes who will be happy to limit their modest gasoline consumption to longer trips.

    If Toyota can put a Yaris on the road for $10K, it’s entirely reasonable to expect they can market the Prius profitably for $22K.

    Perhaps Business Week has it wrong. I am not concerned about GM’s ability to find a path to profitability for the Volt within the same eight or nine year span it took Toyota to sell their first profitable Prius. Given the content and increasing economies of scale it’s presumptuous to assume they can’t. Whether GM will, we’ll see.

    Well, there’s the rub. It’s actually not OK for GM to lose money on the Volt because they don’t have any to lose. GM has no profitable operations to prop this thing up until it can pay.

    Of course they have money. They have public bridge loans and given the current Federal agenda for vehicle alternatives, absorbing initial losses on Volt is exactly what taxpayer assistance ought to be directed to while the company is reconfigured and reflated appropriately.

    The engine is fully large enough to move a compact car along pretty well, especially without a boat anchor battery in the back (when the charge is gone… that’s all it is).

    The battery is big enough that a smaller car with the same interior room (remove the engine and chop off the front) would get significantly more EV range. When the battery has a charge and the engine is off, the engine is a boat anchor.

    But in neither case would you have the advantages of an electric car with gasoline range. You don’t get this, but people who do are very interested in precisely this combination. Neither the battery nor the engine are “boat anchors” when both are necessary to deliver an automobile that is both pure electric drive and imposes no penalty on range using reasonably economical technology.

    What longer term possibilities? When battery prices drop, everybody who already knows how to build a gas-electric or electric drivetrain can take advantage of it. Right now, the battery is the part that propels the price of the car to $40K. It’s senseless to build it at these prices. GM’s doing it, anyway. If this earned them some sort of strategic advantage, hey, that would be great. But it doesn’t.

    Every current automotive manufacturer knows how to build internal combustion engines too, but qualitative differences remain after 100 years. A drop in battery prices does not ensure everyone with design, engineering and assembly knowledge can or will build an equally appealing electric drive car. Delivering the first practical, range-competitive electric drive car can be brand architected to strategic advantage.

    …there is no Volt, its an idea that may or may not eventuate, it’s an expensive program, if it actually ever makes it to the showroom floor, they will lose big time on it, lets say for “years” and “years” shall we.

    Sure there’s a Volt. It’s somewhere between prototype and Beta. v0.8 perhaps. It’s not at First Customer Ship stage and while there are threats to it reaching launch, intent is clearly present to see it through.

    I like the concept, and I agree with you in many ways(and as such GM), but, GM is just the wrong company to be doing this, they are broke, inept and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

    GM is a vast and varied organization with deep competencies and many excellent vehicles in spite of its known dysfunctions and latticework of operating incompetence. The fact of the matter is that *no other* company (well, give Fisker credit too) is doing the heavy lifting to bring an extended range electric drive vehicle to market, for mass utility and appeal. Wrong company to be doing this? Well, they seem uniquely capable and willing to push it. As long as they are operating through their intended turnaround, Volt is a program that accumulates value around the company and gives it an extended vector for future worth.

    Don’t read too much into GM’s hype over the Volt, if they can’t manage a bank account how the hell we they be able to manage this.

    It’s not engineers and designers who have been mismanaging GM’s bank account.

    BTW, its only a loan if it is repaid, see you actually think GM is going to repay these billions, more GM hype I suspect.

    At the moment no one knows whether GM will be able to repay the loans. But the salient point is that it’s in fact loans that are being extended to GM and there are terms. Personally, I’d be happy to see the loan terms have a 40 years payback schedule. I don’t really care how long, since the money needed to bridge GM through a non-BK reorganization is relatively cheap, and a substantial savings over the aggregate costs of precipitous extinction. Management can be replaced if the overseeing parties simply exercise their authority to do so. GM’s competitive cars show there is essential carmaking capability in the company. Volt and many more advanced concept projects in GM’s recent past demonstrate there’s also imagination, innovation and the energy to make them real.

    Phil

  • avatar
    incog43

    It’s not engineers and designers who have been mismanaging GM’s bank account.

    But they are the product guys are they not, they put the final product on the floor, GM does have some nice cars, they have a lot of basket case’s as well. Big is Lutz’s legacy, he sure had a lot of help getting there though.

    It’s not engineers and designers who have been mismanaging GM’s bank account.

    I could not have put that any better myself, I agree with you. They are simply incompetent.

    GM is a vast and varied organization with deep competencies and many excellent vehicles in spite of its known dysfunctions and latticework of operating incompetence.

    Many excellent vehicles…a couple maybe. Listen when you type this known dysfunctions and latticework of operating incompetence I read 80 billion dollars of debt, welfare recipient, and an organization that is rotten to its core.

    Wrong company to be doing this? Well, they seem uniquely capable and willing to push it. As long as they are operating through their intended turnaround, Volt is a program that accumulates value around the company and gives it an extended vector for future worth.

    Uniquely capable..goodness, really. Intended turnaround..this is GM we are talking about. Future worth..sure, but see how much is it going to cost, the losses will continue to accumulate with every unit sold. GM is insolvent, do you understand that.

    GM’s competitive cars show there is essential carmaking capability in the company. Volt and many more advanced concept projects in GM’s recent past demonstrate there’s also imagination, innovation and the energy to make them real.

    It was around about here I cam to a firm conclusion that your employed by GM or a related entity. It’s not about making the cars, its about making money, GM can make them, but its really the next part that matters, making money.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I read 80 billion dollars of debt, welfare recipient, and an organization that is rotten to its core.

    GM isn’t rotten to the core; it is deeply flawed with massive dysfunction that has lumpy distribution. There is also lumpy distribution of brilliance, vision and competence. Fixing the company is a giant project that will require elevation and empowerment of talent already in the company, recruitment of talent not resident and removal of poor human assets that are obstacles to progress. And persistence. But no amount of effort to fix GM will bring it back to profitability in a market suffering credit drought, fear and oversupply. This is the objective of bridge loans: to fund reform through a period of inevitable losses so the company can reposition itself to compete upon return of a healthy and normal market.

    Future worth..sure, but see how much is it going to cost, the losses will continue to accumulate with every unit sold. GM is insolvent, do you understand that.

    Yes. This is why the government is lender of last resort to change the circumstances you describe. GM loses money on some — not every — unit sold in normal market circumstances. It has a path to profitability available to it, which it has to demonstrate it can find and walk.

    It was around about here I cam to a firm conclusion that you’re employed by GM or a related entity. It’s not about making the cars, its about making money, GM can make them, but its really the next part that matters, making money.

    I post here under my name. It’s an elementary search engine exercise to research me, and if you do you will see that professionally I am far removed from the automobile industry. My only relationship to the automotive domain is as a consumer.

    As the Malibu, for example, demonstrates, GM can make an excellent mainstream car, even raising its material costs in key areas. Now they have to reduce their overall costs of doing business, streamline distribution, raise perception of their brands and gradually regain pricing power in the market to make money on what they can make well. The essential point of debate is whether it is cheaper and better to get to that point by fixing GM or letting it die and starting over. In terms of holistic examination of the total costs, I come down on the side of fixing the company and bridging it through a collapsed market. You might have a different view.

    Phil

  • avatar
    nonce

    If the Volt performs roughly as advertised, they will have no problem selling 10,000 of them at $40K each.

    You might think someone is foolish for making that decision. It doesn’t matter if you think that. There are easily 10,000 people in the country willing to pay a premium to give a big F-U to OPEC, even if you think they could make a better choice doing something else. It doesn’t matter what you think.

    Will there be another 40 thousand the next year? Probably. Costs will need to come down after that.

  • avatar
    incog43

    But no amount of effort to fix GM will bring it back to profitability in a market suffering credit drought, fear and oversupply. This is the objective of bridge loans: to fund reform through a period of inevitable losses so the company can reposition itself to compete upon return of a healthy and normal market.

    Actually Phil, their problems were apparent prior to the market collapse, that would be when the market was having record highs. Losses in this record high period as well, the reality is, GM will struggle in a normal market. I think the first post on “GM must die” was made in 2005, perhaps others can see what you won’t.

    GM loses money on some — not every — unit sold in normal market circumstances. It has a path to profitability available to it, which it has to demonstrate it can find and walk.

    Fair call, you overlook one fact however, they have already demonstrated how not to make money, rack up 80 odd billion in debt and tell porkies to the taxpayer, I know what they can do..

    Now they have to reduce their overall costs of doing business, streamline distribution, raise perception of their brands and gradually regain pricing power in the market to make money on what they can make well.

    See, you know it, I know it, everyone know’s it, but GM has reacted to late. I dont mind your arguement, but its not the 60’s or 70’s anymore, the market has changed and the competition is intense, GM is not competitive. It has not been for a while.

    Now they have to reduce their overall costs of doing business, streamline distribution, raise perception of their brands and gradually regain pricing power in the market to make money on what they can make well.

    You mean like a normal business would. These are fundermentals, thats how bad their situation is.
    Its sounds easy, but they are out of time, competition will see to that. By the time this is done, we will se nearly 100 billion put through GM and chrysler, and they will be bck for more within 10 years.

    We do have different view, you dont work for GM, okay, I am sorry for suggesting otherwise. I dont google people. But its getting a bit thick Phil.Its often much easier to dream, than to face reality, isnt that GM’s problem to a certain extent.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Actually Phil, their problems were apparent prior to the market collapse, that would be when the market was having record highs. Losses in this record high period as well, the reality is, GM will struggle in a normal market. I think the first post on “GM must die” was made in 2005, perhaps others can see what you won’t.

    Citing their prior problems is a non-sequitur to my post. What matters now is fixing the company so it can perform in a normal market or worse. That will require bridge financing. There’s a difference between seeing dysfunction in an organization and concluding that “GM must die.” I recognize the former but disagree with the latter.

    Fair call, you overlook one fact however, they have already demonstrated how not to make money, rack up 80 odd billion in debt and tell porkies to the taxpayer, I know what they can do..

    Again your language is past tense. I’m looking forward, not back.

    See, you know it, I know it, everyone know’s it, but GM has reacted to late. I dont mind your arguement, but its not the 60’s or 70’s anymore, the market has changed and the competition is intense, GM is not competitive. It has not been for a while.

    “Is not competitive” is your issue. That’s the known problem. Reforming the company so it *will be* bompetitive is mine.

    Its sounds easy, but they are out of time, competition will see to that. By the time this is done, we will se nearly 100 billion put through GM and chrysler, and they will be bck for more within 10 years.

    You think $100B to fix them is expensive; I say it’s cheap, so long as the project is seriously undertaken. $100B and ten years to see it through is fine with me. I’m sure they’ll make something I like in the meantime.

    We do have different view, you dont work for GM, okay, I am sorry for suggesting otherwise. I dont google people. But its getting a bit thick Phil.Its often much easier to dream, than to face reality, isnt that GM’s problem to a certain extent.

    No offense taken. People think, somehow, that the only way I can stand up for bailout, bridging and reform is if my income is derived from a domestic automaker. Not true, though I’m fully aware I’m in the minority among people who contribute here at TTAC.

    Having done this many times on a smaller scale, I know that reforming a dysfunctional business requires a blend of hard core discipline and decisionmaking in the context of recognizing reality, and a measure of vision (or what you might call dreaming) to get both internal staff and the market to understand why you’re putting in the effort, why you seek patience and what you intend to accomplish by when. Current leadership at GM hasn’t given us reason to believe they can operate with both vision, discipline & results derived from reality-oriented execution. So bridging should be accompanied by conditions, beginning with reconstituting the Board of Directors, who in turn have a responsibility to shareholders to recruit effective executive management.

    As a taxpayer, US citizen, educated business professional, and buyer of cars, I’m up for repair over abandonment.

    Phil

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