Volt Birth Watch 164: Audi Prez Facebooks on the "Car for Idiots" Volt Diss

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
volt birth watch 164 audi prez facebooks on the car for idiots volt diss

I tell my kids, if you’re going to apologize for something, never use the word “if.” I’m sorry if I offended you” is not an apology. Audi of America Prez Johann De Nysschen is not, by nature, a word-mincing machine. Only now he is, ish, via Audi’s Facebook page.

An online report today, subsequently picked up by various other forums, left an unflattering sense of my feelings toward electric vehicles and the people who support their development. Let me clearly state that, in my opinion, electric vehicles will be part of the future transportation of society – but only if we go about it the right way. In fact, Audi is working on electric vehicles. I do not specifically recall using the term “car for idiots” during my informal conversation with the writer. It was certainly not my intention to leave the impression that I’m opposed to electrical vehicles, and if I was unclear on either of those points then I need to eat crow.

What I do recall is the essence of my contention, namely that the feasibility of the Chevrolet Volt as a concept is questionable. And that policy decisions – and the industry’s reactions to those decisions – are leading us toward a technology that may sound tempting on the surface, but, as of now, also contains many deep and unsolved economic and technological compromises.

“Mass electrification” of the vehicles on American roads could lead to problems like a strained electric grid. Large-scale utilization of electric vehicles will require massive investment in new power stations that are much cleaner than the ones in use in the U.S. today. Otherwise, it could merely shift greenhouse gas emissions from the tailpipes of cars to the smokestacks of coal-burning utilities. That’s not just my opinion. The California Air Resource Board this past April concluded that electric vehicles presently are second only to hydrogen cars in greenhouse gas impact when measured on a well-to-wheel basis.

Returning to the Volt, my point was simply one of its economic feasibility today. The 50% or so price increase that the Volt represents over a similar gasoline car cannot be offset through the savings from reduced fuel consumption. The only way to offset the extreme premium for the Volt is through taxpayer-funded subsidies. So I question if that makes economic sense.

Does that mean the Volt and other electric vehicles are forever impractical? Of course not.

In recent broadcast interviews, discussions with journalists and meetings with policy makers I have asserted that the future of automotive transportation lies not in any one “silver bullet”, but in a range of technologies that meet different needs – all while lowering emissions and fuel consumption. That includes plug-in electric cars when technological and economic hurdles make them more practical. It includes hybrid vehicles. And it includes clean diesel along with substantially more efficient takes on today’s gasoline internal combustion engines.

Admittedly I am a passionate advocate for the role that clean diesel technology can play in easing this nation’s challenges. Cutting through misperceptions about clean diesel and other technologies can be frustrating. If you’d like to hear my thoughts on these issues, go to a video of my recent remarks at http://www.audiusanews.com. Meanwhile, know that we are working toward a more sustainable future.

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  • Mpresley Mpresley on Sep 05, 2009

    Hank: the EOS is more or less the same size as the Jetta, but different engine (it has the GLI engine), and a nicer interior than basic Jedi. Also, you can garage an EOS for about 32, not 39, so let's not be idiotic, here. Finally, any drop top coupe is probably going to be about 5-6 thousand dollars above the comparable hard top coupe/sedan. Think of an EOS as a convertible GLI, and you'll understand. So, the EOS may be an idiotic car, but it is not nearly as idiotic as an electric Chevy.

  • ZekeToronto ZekeToronto on Sep 06, 2009

    Banger wrote: Sure, they’ve had turbos here for as long as anyone can remember, but they’re not accomplishing fuel efficiency gains from that technology because they’re not downsizing their North American engines to capitalize on the “similar performance from smaller displacement” that a turbo can provide. I don't think that's strictly true. To my knowledge, both the 2010 A4 and A3 are solely available in the NA market with turbocharged 4-cylinder engines--making Audi the only European manufacturer to not offer a V6 in those segments. Elsewhere in their range supercharged V6s are replacing V8s and turbos are giving diesels better performance than equivalent displacement petrol engines.

  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.
  • Dartdude Lorenzo, the reason for low manual transmission here is that most dealers won't stock them. I wanted a 2012 Kia Koup with manual tranny it was available, but no dealers ordered any from the factory hence there was none available. Go on any car manufacture's web site and price and build and build your model and you would be lucky if the model existed and was available.
  • The Oracle Good news is that based on the model years many of these have already been junked or experienced terminal engine failure.