Chevrolet Volt's Discontinuation Leaves Battery Plant Employees Out of a Job

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The vehicle they provide batteries for has less than three months to live, and this week brought news to 50 workers at General Motors’ Brownstown Battery plant that their positions are even more short-lived. In a filing with the state of Michigan, GM said it will cut 37 hourly and 13 salaried workers at the Detroit-area facility, adding an extra dollop of job losses to the mass culling announced late last month.

If the idea of owning a plug-in hybrid with real electric range tickles your fancy, your time’s running out fast.

GM plans to axe the battery employees in February, Automotive News reports, with the Volt itself leaving this earth the following month. The plant also makes batteries for other GM vehicles, including the doomed mild hybrid Buick LaCrosse. After their departure, Brownstown’s staffing levels should sit at 66.

Also in February, GM plans to lay off nearly 700 employees at the Volt’s home — Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, builder of the LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Cadillac CT6. The LaCrosse follows the Volt to the grave in March, while a roughly equal number of employees will continue producing the Impala and CT6 until June.

Last week, an embattled GM announced some 2,800 workers at its soon-to-be-mothballed assembly plants were eligible for jobs at other plants.

The Volt first appeared in late 2010 as a 2011 model; at the time, the innovative model served as a flagbearer for the “New GM” — a technologically advanced powerhouse with its finger on the pulse of the future. Indeed, the Volt was in many ways the perfect “electric vehicle,” especially in second-generation form. Its 53 miles of all-electric range accomodated most commutes, while the 1.5-liter four-cylinder generator eliminated range anxiety and made road trips a breeze. The automaker even upgraded the model for 2019, adding a power driver’s seat and quicker charging capability.

Despite the presence of the 238-mile, fully electric Chevrolet Bolt, GM felt the Volt could still serve as a nearly gas-free alternative to conventional vehicles. Faster charging would encourage owners to use it as an EV, the automaker said. Alas, cost-cutting got in the way.

Volt sales peaked in 2016 when GM sold 24,738 of them in the United States. 2012 and 2012 figures came close to this high water mark, with sales of 23,461 and 23,094 units, respectively. While the model faltered somewhat over the past two years (the presidential election can be credited for a surge in late-2016 sales from buyers hoping to collect a seemingly endangered EV tax credit), third-quarter 2018 sales numbers beat those from a year earlier.

Given that the feds still offer the credit, it’s looking like last-chance buyers might send the Volt out on a high note.

[Image: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Dec 22, 2018

    @geozinger: "if the car didn’t have to use the ICE to haul around the battery, the ICE fuel mileage could be better. My comment isn’t entirely about weight, although it would have an effect on the ICE operation end of the car." Regeneration does not go away just because a hybrid is using the gas engine. I think we need to look at this again. What hurts mileage? Frontal area. For given equivalent cars, this will be the same. Rolling resistance. A heavier car will have very slightly more rolling resistance from the tires and bearings. Lifting extra weight up hills. This hurts an ice-only car because the additional energy is lost. Getting extra weight up to speed. This hurts an ice-only car because the additional energy is lost. It may seem that a hybrid does not recapture as much energy as was used to get it up to speed or up a hill. But that energy does not disappear. The laws of physics say so. It may have shown up as needing less application of the throttle to get down a less steep descent. It may have meant coming off the throttle sooner which approaching a stop. My hybrid gets the same apparent mileage regardless of the load. Theoretically it should be very slightly less due to friction and the factors mentioned below.Substitute a couple of passengers for another ice, and the mileage should stay the same. Four caveats: Hybrids can only regenerate a certain rate. Exceed that rate and the normal brakes engage. Which wastes energy and is a little more likely to happen the heavier the load. Hybrids switch from regeneration to the normal brakes just before they come to a full stop. The heavier the load, the more energy this will waste. Front wheel based hybrids engage the rear brakes a little during braking that is otherwise done with regeneration. This is for stability. Additional weight will waste a little more energy because of this setup. There will also be larger conversion losses, as additional weight means greater amounts of energy are put through the system. These four factors will not hurt mileage much, because they apply only to the additional weight, which is not much relative to the gross weight of the vehicle plus contents. I can't help it that because of thorough education that additional weight hurts mileage on cars, people cannot grasp this is basically not true for hybrids and electric cars. The same dynamic is what makes electric buses and trucks feasible. In urban use, they will recapture most of the energy needed to move heavier loads, when slowing or stopping.

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Dec 23, 2018

      An Ice car does recapture some of the engergy used to increase altitude. Much less fuel is needed to go down the hill at a given speed vs the amount needed for the same speed on a level road. Many modern cars also have deceleration fuel cut off which means the engine can use zero fuel while coasting, in the right conditions. Of course the engine is still pumping away creating drag. In a good hybrid if speed control is needed on that down hill you can put power back into the battery to power the vehicle later.

  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Dec 26, 2018

    GM’s affirmative action CEO has really worked out well. I offer my services to dismantle the company for half her salary.

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.