By on January 19, 2010

Busted! (

In case you were wondering, Ed Whitacre’s assessment that the Volt will “make a margin” at a price point “in the low 30s” is the GM Chairman/CEO’s second big lie in as many weeks. Well, lie might be a bit harsh. Gross and willful misrepresentation is probably more accurate. GreenCarReports‘ John Voelcker got in touch with a GM spokesman who confirms what we all pretty much knew from the get go: GM “has not officially announced final Volt pricing, a price in the low 30’s after a $7,500 tax credit is in the range of possibilities.” In other words, we’re back to the same old $40k-ish number that GM execs have been throwing around for ages. Unless GM is talking about the electric-only (non-range-extended) Volt that Bob Lutz recently confirmed. But what about the margin thing?

The only real explanation for any reduction in Volt build costs would probably come on the battery side, and sure enough GM has already bragged that it will get Li-ion packs down to $500 per kw/h within the next year or so. Of course Toyota has basically laughed off this possibility, saying they’d buy up any of these mythical battery packs if they were actually available.

But mass production is a wonderful thing. Maybe, just maybe, GM could order enough battery packs from its Volt Li-ion supplier LG Chem to bring the price down, right? Wait, what’s that? GM has just signed a deal with an all-new batter supplier called  SB LiMotive (a JV between Bosch and Samsung)? “We have been conducting joint research into automotive batteries with SB LiMotive and there is a strong possibility that the company will be chosen,” a GM source tells the Chosun Ilbo. “However, that does not mean we will change our supply orders from LG Chem.” Huh? Unless these (relative) newcomers have come up with something that A123, BYD, LG Chem, Panasonic and the other big battery firms aren’t aware/capable of, how does it makes sense for GM to not stick with LG Chem and work out the costs of the already-chosen battery pack? Color us confused.

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14 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 183: A Crucial Clarification...”

  • avatar

    That should be “kWh” (kilowatt-hours) not “kW/h” (kilowatts-per-hour).

  • avatar

    Meet the new boss. same as the old boss!

  • avatar

    Again, look at the Hybrid success of units above $30,000, a dismal failure.  Without the volume,  batteries will never be cheaper. Volt’s price point right now, will be much more important than any technology. I don’t see the volume here.

  • avatar

    GM still believes Americans can afford a $40k car.  NOT.   And if people could, why would they want to pay that price to be beta testers for GM’s rushed to market car.  Didn’t work so well with the Corvair or the Citation or the GM diesel cars.  Won’t work now either.

  • avatar

    You can make the Volt a profitable car on paper which is all the quarterly financials require.
    Simply take as much corporate R&D as you can, and apportion it among all the other vehicles that might ever use a hybrid system (which could be all of them), and viola!  Or some other flimsy justification for cost-shifting Volt overhead to other projects and platforms.  Ta Da! The Volt contributes to margin.  Promise kept.
    Just don’t ask about the other platforms that got the short, sharp end.

  • avatar

    Anyone (well, almost anyone) with 40K to spend on a car will buy an entry level Audi or a BMW, or just about anything but a Volt, I’m guessing.  Anyone with 30K to spend on a car will buy a Toyota, or a Honda, or just about anything but a Volt, I’m also guessing.  Someone, somewhere, should have put a stop to this nonsense a long time ago.  But that would have taken someone with real management skill, someone with at least an average level of insight, and maybe someone with an adult view of reality.  But what do I know?  After all, we’re talking GM, here.  What the hell, it’s only the taxpayers money, and everyone understands that we taxpayers have more money than we know what to do with, and that we’re all just waiting for our Volt subsidy.  This is making me nauseous to even contemplate any longer, however I suspect that even after massive subsidies Volt goes the way of Edsel.

  • avatar

    So they might make a battery only Volt…..Ford is comming out with an electric only Focus with a range of 100 miles…if they can warrantee the battery for 120k miles and keep the cost to about 20-25k  they’ed have my bussiness…so much for a pricey volt, I’d just be happy saving 3100 a year in fuel, I drive 80 mile round trip 5 days a week to and from work..

    • 0 avatar

      If you have an 80 mile round trip commute, an EV with a nominal range of 100 miles won’t do it for you unless you live in climate zone that stays between 50-80 degrees all year round.  Once it gets cold you will have to charge at work to make it home before the battery runs out of power and if gets hot you will have to sweat a lot to avoid depleting the battery.  If you live in Minnesota you probably won’t get 5 miles before the battery empty light goes on in the January deep freeze.   A  nominal range of 100 miles translates into a operating radius of 25-30 miles.  Trust me, I have a good bit of knowledge on how large battery driven vehicles manage power.

  • avatar

    The car isnt even ready. Of course they cant name a price.

  • avatar

    SB LiMotive…. Hmmm why does that name sound familiar?

    I’m a little surprised none of the other best and the brightest noticed this.

    In the late 90’s GM owned controlling interest in the Battery Company that INVENTED the NiMH battery. Ovonic Battery ltd… Of course you can add the sale of this company to the long list of STUPID things that Wagoner did.

    Ovonic Battery was sold to Texaco in 2000 and was flipped to Chevron when Texaco merged in 2001. In 2003 Chevron reorganized this firm into a company called Cobasys. And in July of 2009 Cobasys was sold to Yup, you guessed it… SB LiMotive

    Thanks Rick! You sold off THE very firm that now we need to supply batteries for the Volt… I ask, could one CEO, be that unlucky? That stupid?

  • avatar

    CamaroKid, follow the money. Wagoner is not stupid but he is greedy. Just speculating here but a lot of what he did was to raise money to give shareholders so he kept his job or maybe he got a kick back for the deal. Unless the price point on the Volt is only $3K to $5K over a nicely equipped Cruze it will only sell to the well heeled Hollywood type greenies.

  • avatar

    This in reply to Angela von Arlington in the light that she may now be remotely interested : –

    It is true a small battery will freeze in the dark but this is not a small battery like the 1.3Kwh installed in the Prius. The VOLT’s 16.8 Kwh batttery pack is a honking great mass of at least 1000lbs and will not cool down easily. Its thermal time constant will be in the tens of hours.

    It is envisaged that the designers will have the pack well insulated against the outside ambient temperature and that internal battery warmers are sized to maintain the pack at an operational temperature. There should be ample time to do any necessary reheating during an overnight re-charge. The dilemma here is that ideally you should want to keep the battery cold when not in use both to reduce self discharge and improve battery longevity.

    Finally, I am disappointed that this vehicle was conceived at all. At the price point necessary to be profitable it will undoubtedly be a flop. That said, I believe there is still a strong case for a pure electric which doesn’t have to compete with a gasoline vehicle over the range issue. And there could also be a demand for a gasoline vehicle with a simple electric transmission which relies on electricity generated on demand.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    GM doesn’t need volume from the Volt immediately to get the cost down. It’s the platform that’s important, not the car. Having range extension in the form of an on-board fueled generator is a huge advantage over electric-only limited range. 10,000 – 40,000 cars sold in first iteration will crack open the door to cost reduction.

    As cars become more electric and electronic, the economics familiar to us in consumer electronics and computing will ramp in to some degree. How quickly is in some respect related to volume adoption but not strictly so. When laptop computers were over $10,000 in today’s money and the meager batteries for them cost a similarly-inflation adjusted $600, sales were quite modest, but deflation in cost began in earnest because everyone in the market was certain demand would uncork as price fell. Still, it took early adopters to get such devices into circulation for common visibility. Same with everything else that’s Li-Ion powered digital.

    Yes, cars are more complex and are electro-mechanical in a scalar way, and the batteries are much bigger. Change comes much more slowly in battery chemistry than in electronics. But electronics efficiency is on an upward ramp, as it true of motors, so the entire burden doesn’t rest on battery chemistry advancements alone.

    There are still *plenty* of people who can afford $40,000 cars, a subset of whom will pony up for a thumb in the eye to OPEC. All GM needs is for the Volt to have a perception impact far in excess of its actual volume, and for owners to come to understand (as few people do now) the reality of an electro-motive car with an onboard range extender. If they achieve momentum in the perceptual arena (which they did on tiny volume with the EV-1), the $40K intro price will come to be seen as moderate, with mainstream affordability on the horizon.

    As for me, it’s hard to imagine paying *less* than $40k for a car, so I’ll be a candidate for early adoption. There will be enough people who want to be part of moving this platform forward.


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