By on October 15, 2009

Drag racing. (courtesy GM)

I know these Volt Birth Watches are polarizing. So if you’re a Volt booster, look away now. ‘Cause I’m about to excoriate GM for attempting to keep the cloak of invisibility around its taxpayer-funded plug-in electric – gas hybrid Hail Mary Chevy Volt. Now I’m fully aware that any such criticism may spark (so to speak) charges of editorial hypocrisy. Although TTAC has no “party line” on any given subject, its main voices have consistently taken GM to task for boasting about the Volt—-when they should have just shut the f up, built the thing, tested it and THEN unleashed their PR campaign. This despite (or because of) the fact that the Volt eventually became GM’s poster child for its “Save Detroit, Save The Economy” campaign, that eventually led to the automaker’s nationalization (in case you’d forgotten). GM’s claims for the Volt’s completely untried technology—in terms of performance, reliability, price, profit, mpg (230 city!), this, that and the other thing—have done the company no favors, aside from the salutatory effect on environmentalists’ hope for change. But here’s the thing: GM crossed the e-Rubicon a long time ago. It’s time to tell its “investors” exactly what we’re paying for, or kill the goddamn thing and spend the money turning “May the Best Car Win” from a sad, pathetic, delusional joke to walking the talk. Ahem. Wired. Volt “shakedown cruise.” Irony? Absolutely. Insight (joke)? Nope. More GM lies and deception . . .

GM has always promised the Volt’s 16 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery will provide a range of 40 miles, and Farrah says the prototypes are in that ballpark. “Pre-production (vehicles) still have some improvements to make,” he said. “I myself have not personally gone 40 miles on a charge, but I’ve come close. I don’t see any problems getting to 40.”

So what about GM’s claim that the Volt gets 230 mpg in the city when the engine is driving the generator? And what kind of mileage are they getting on the highway? Farrah isn’t saying.

“We’re working on hitting all the targets we’ve set up, but I’m not going to get into specific numbers, because we’re still looking at the data,” he said.

The crew filled the cars’ gas tanks on Tuesday and topped them off Wednesday. Farrah said “we’re still targeting 300 miles on a tank of fuel.” That doesn’t mean much without knowing how big the tank is, something GM isn’t disclosing yet.

We’re still looking at the data? Is that the engineering equivalent of “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain?” And I’m a little confused. Is that 300 miles AFTER the I-can-just-about-see-it 40 miles on electric power? Or total? At what speed? Grade? Temperature? Passenger load?

Come clean guys (so to speak). It’s not like you have to hide this information from Toyota, lest they decide plug-in serial hybrids are WAY better than their Synergy Drive. And this is my money you’re pissing away, now.

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21 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 168: Shakedown Cruise, In More Ways Than One...”

  • avatar

    Funny that interior and exterior trim were mentioned by Farrah. When did GM start worrying about those items? Or maybe I should ask what their target is.

  • avatar

    My kid was in the ballpark last Friday night, his team got it’s butt kicked 48-0. Indeed three hundred miles on a tank of fuel is meaningless in as much as most cars can achieve this rather modest goal. Farrah says “I don’t see any problem getting to 40,” why is that? Is it because battery development is progressing, is it because drive train efficiency is steadily improving, is it because they’re making the entire vehicle lighter? Why is there no problem with achieving 40 miles?
    I think these guys have been so accustomed to fudging on their EPA mileage figures that they don’t think anyone is going to question them on the Volt’s performance. I think they intend to get close to the number and then say ‘mileage may vary’ banking on the devil remaining irrevocably buried in the details. But they’ve invited an extra measure of scrutiny by their own exorbitant claims. The sub title to “Volt Birth Watch” ought to be “or, how to shoot yourself in the foot 168+ times.”
    I’m not against the Volt per se, but I’m paying for this whether I want to or not, and I expect that GM bloody well better live up to their assertions.

  • avatar

    Every time I see a story about GM, and particularly the Volt, I think to myself, “If I owned stock in GM, I’d sell it.” These people at GM are pissing away our money, and there is nothing we can do about it.

  • avatar

    It should be possible to get a good estimation of the size of the fuel tank by looking at what’s known about the Volt’s sizes so far.

    The fuel tank isn’t forward of the firewall.

    It isn’t in the cabin.

    It likely isn’t under the floor as the “T” shaped battery fits in there, so I’m guessing behind the rear wheels like most cars.

    There’s got to be a trunk and there’s no spare wheel?

    Does anyone have the rear track width or can anyone estimate the likely area available under the trunk floor? (Not all of it usable for fuel obviously).

    Otherwise, the Volt platform is apparently related to the new Cobalt which has a 13gal tank.

    Say GM took the decision to reduce the carry-around weight, and made the tank 8-10gal.

    300 less 40 electric is 260miles on 8-10gal or 32 down-to 26mpg on fuel. Maybe it’s 6gal for 43mpg – I think that’s gotta’ be getting unlikely.

    One thing is for sure; if you took the engine/tank out and then the all-electric range went to 100miles, wouldn’t people be more interested in THAT car? (It would be cheaper too).

  • avatar

    I thought the range was supposed to be 350 miles.

    I’m thinking they have an 8-gallon fuel tank and only get about 32 mpg running on gasoline.

    “Targets” – how about they target a $27k entry price and don’t lose money on it?

  • avatar


    One thing is for sure; if you took the engine/tank out and then the all-electric range went to 100miles, wouldn’t people be more interested in THAT car? (It would be cheaper too).

    It sounds like you are thinking of something like the all-electric Ford Focus that Magna has designed for Ford. “Celebrities” have been driving that on Jay Leno’s show. The whole test track thing Leno has is a joke, so it’s impossible to tell how the car performs.

    But Ford’s car does run, at least, you can tell that. And since I don’t see any Volts being driven on a television show, that is something.

  • avatar

    $27k is still way too much for this overpriced and overhyped promotional effort. Heck, my mother’s 2003 Corolla pushes close to those MPG figures (for that matter, so does my 1997 Tercel). Targeting 300 miles per tank is not at all a stellar target. I can think of more vehicles than I have fingers and toes to count on that can do that. And there are people out there that are seriously a-twitter over this car?

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    “It’s time to tell its “investors” exactly what we’re paying for.”

    Hope. Apparently Americans will sacrifice anything for it.

  • avatar

    I thought that the gas engine was just used as a generator that fed the electric motors after the EV range was depleted. As such, I would imagine that it would turn at a fixed RPM to generate the electricity. That being the case, I would expect excellent MPGs on the highway.

    This is going to be a low power 1.4 liter 4 cylinder. How much gas could it use turning at, say, 1500 RPMs (pick a number)?

    Remember, the gas engine doesn’t ever have to push the car, just create enough electricity to keep the electric motor happy.

  • avatar

    “excoriate GM for attempting to keep the cloak of invisibility around its taxpayer-funded plug-in electric – gas hybrid Hail Mary Chevy Volt”

    That’s exactly what it is…unfortunately.

  • avatar

    For perspective…
    In 1998 (more than 10 freakin’ years ago!)
    Toyota introduced an all-electric RAV-4. No IC engine; a complete rechargeable plug-in.
    They didn’t sell a lot of ’em, but still enough that the line continued through 2003. Even the earliest vehicles were rated at 200 km (125 mi) on a full charge with the A/C on. Likely, farther with no A/C.
    All this from a 20kW motor (max @ 50kW) and NMh batteries.

    Eleven years on, GM is proposing 40 miles per charge on a good day, using possibly-good but yet-unproven battery technology. Anybody else see a bad moon rising here?

    And from personal reference, I put fuel in my ’03 Civic Si this morning. 344 miles on 10.8 gal of fuel or 31.851 mpg in mixed suburban driving.
    And since it’s certainly not the only car capable of similar mpg numbers, GM will have to hit one WAY out of the park to sell on MPG alone.

  • avatar

    It does NOT get 240 mpg on the generator. That number was arrived by taking the fuel mileage of an 11 mile epa test, and then tacking the 40 “free” electric miles on top of that.

    51 miles / 240 mpg = .2125 gallons
    11 miles / .2125 gallons = 52 mpg

    Sounds about right for a hybrid.

  • avatar

    “when they should have just shut the f up, built the thing, tested it and THEN unleashed their PR campaign”

    Right, because the Camaro launch was such a dismal failure with all that lead time that GM simply must reform their marketing practices. Oh wait…

    I’ve said this before, but I really think that the only people this bothers are those who would bother to come to a website like this and obsess over the minutae of press releases. Everyone else is getting informed and jazzed up by the lead in.

    Just to be super clear, I find it annoying too, but if this practice works (it does), then please continue.

  • avatar

    So much debate over a vehicle that doesn’t exist – it’s still in development – why don’t we wait and see what actually happens?

  • avatar

    The debate rages on because they are playing with our money now. Too much went into this project to even think they can allow it to fail. If it doesn’t sell like the 65 mustang did back in the day then GM is not going to get anywhere close to their investment back. This now affects all of us since we are bankrolling this project.

    Toyota is the company that will bring us a plug in vehicle next. Too bad about the EV-1, General Motors could have owned this segment by now.

  • avatar

    This reminds me of the 1970’s when we got the Vega and Pinto and this message: You guys think you want small cars then we will give you small cars and they will be so bad you never again will want a small car. Of course, we found the Civic and Corolla and bought a hell of a lot of them.

    Now after years of obnoxious PR GM will give up or produce a POS and again give us the message: See alternatives to what we want to sell you don’t work.

    But there are too many countries who want/need/must escape from buying oil that GM’s flailing about pretending new ideas don’t work will be in vain – GM will just be left behind again.

    You are correct, GM should have shut up and produced or failed quietly and bought someone else’s technology.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I don’t know why people are wrapped around the spoke about what the Volt gets for gas mileage. The whole point of this car is you drive it and then recharge it before the gas generator ever kicks in. So I don’t really care what your Corolla or Tercel got for mileage last week. Bottom line is your gonna visit a gas station regardless. With the Volt I’ll be draining the gas tank so the fuel doesn’t go bad.

    These things can’t get to the dealers lots fast enough. Screw all you GM haters I’ll take one maybe two.

  • avatar

    “Remember, the gas engine doesn’t ever have to push the car, just create enough electricity to keep the electric motor happy.”

    Yes it does.

  • avatar
    frank rizzo

    lest they decide plug-in serial hybrids are WAY better than their Synergy Drive.

    Is it really Toyota’s Synergy drive? Or Paice LLC’s? Not having property rights over a critical component would seem to destroy Toyota’s high-ground. I’m sure glad they stole US technology, since by doing so they’re in part hurting “your” investment in GM.

    Good research practices require that you don’t open your mouth until you have solid numbers. They don’t so they’re waiting. You should too. And the 230 mpg estimate was considered conservative. I doubt they’d come out with it unless they were damn sure that they’d reach that number.

  • avatar

    I’m sure glad they stole US technology

    Paice brought a patent lawsuit against Toyota, not a trade secret lawsuit. Paice won a jury verdict in Marshall, Texas that Toyota had infringed its patents, not that it had stolen any technology.

    I’m a patent attorney. I’ve looked at Paice’s patents. I’ve talked with Alex Severinsky. And I’ve looked at Toyota’s Synergy Drive technology. I think the jury in the Eastern District of Texas was wrong about patent infringement.

  • avatar

    Eastern Texas is notorious for patent lawsuits. Anyone who wants to file a patent infringement claim files there, despite the fact that neither the plaintiff or defendant are based there.

    In the IT industry, almost all of the dubious patent infringement claims that have been upheld by a court have come from this courthouse. Many are so obviously wrong that a monkey could see through them. Yet, they somehow get upheld.

    There is something very wrong going on there.

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