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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
2011 Chevy Volt: Will GM Get It Done?​
A Progress Report on GM's Plug-in EV From a Former EV1 Insider
By Gary Witzenburg, Contributor Email

When Rick Wagoner, the chairman and CEO of General Motors, walked onto the stage at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show to introduce what has become the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, he might as well have said that GM was going to build a flying car.

Sure, it's a cool idea to have an electric vehicle (EV) that has the ability to drive 40 miles on power from a lithium-ion battery pack, recharge its batteries on the go from a small gasoline engine for a total cruising range of 400 miles, and then plug into the electric power grid at night for a complete recharge. But it sounds like another one of GM's pronouncements of its intention to remake the American industrial landscape, something it does with comical frequency. Remember the 1960 Chevy Corvair, 1971 Chevy Vega, 1976 Chevy Chevette, 1985 Chevy Nova and 1990 Saturn S1?

And what has come of it all? Did you see any flying cars on the way to work today?

It makes you wonder about the chances that GM will come through with the 2011 Chevy Volt with its E-Flex electric powertrain. After all, haven't we been through this before with the 1996 GM EV1?

It's a question I've asked myself, since I was there inside General Motors, working on the GM EV1.

Who Killed the Electric Car? You Did
Most people view the GM EV1 as a dismal failure. Viewed from strictly a marketing perspective, they are right.

The auto industry's first (and so far only) modern, purpose-built, battery-powered electric car for the wide-open American highway was an absolute technology triumph, the most practical, energy-efficient four-wheeled vehicle ever to roll down the road. Even so, fewer than 1,000 EV1s were built between 1996 and 1999. Barely 800 were leased to customers before GM pulled the car's (ahem) plug.

*****​

The Truth About GM and Electricity
How serious was GM about electric propulsion? ATV's business plan was to lead technology development and then dominate the market so completely that other automakers would purchase GM technology under license rather than invest billions developing their own. What went wrong?

Well, a lithium-polymer battery that was supposed to provide safe, reliable power with the same range as a gasoline power plant in a small, light and affordable package just never happened. The low-energy lead-acid (PbA) battery was quickly discarded because of its size and weight, while nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) held twice the energy but in a package that not only was as big and heavy as an internal combustion engine but also cost substantially more as well.

We made the cars and put the EV1 into use as a lease vehicle. People liked the idea (well, everybody but automotive journalists, anyway), but it was a commute-car package that didn't really have enough utility for anything else but commuting. Also, no one seemed to be willing to pay even a reasonable fraction of what it would cost to build an EV1 as a production vehicle. And electronic controls for the internal combustion engine improved so drastically that the whole clean-air question became moot for most people.

In truth, GM cared about electricity, but no one else really did. Conspiracy theorists might complain that GM had an evil agenda, but they'd be better off either taking a short course in high school economics about supply and demand or looking for flying saucers in Roswell, New Mexico.

*****​

Looking Good
Bob Boniface did the early work on the 2010 Camaro's proportions and design language while in GM's advanced studio and now he's directing the Chevy Volt design. Its drag coefficient (Cd) is now 120 counts lower than that of the showcar, which is critically important to battery range. "Short of EV1, Volt is the most aerodynamically efficient production car GM has ever done," Boniface asserts.

Other challenges in the design? "It's a big battery, in the shape of a T," Boniface says, "and the majority of it goes down the centerline; the rest is sideways under the rear seat. We needed to make sure we didn't displace the occupants or take away storage or convenience features, and we wanted to keep the roof low. Making all that battery invisible to the occupants was tough.

"The showcar had a lot more 'dash-to-axle' — the front axle was very far forward — and a very long hood. The production car has a lot of plan view [curvature as viewed from above] in front for aero, and the executions of surfaces and details are more sophisticated. But it has a great stance, large wheels, a nice wide track and a lot of wedge."
http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=131546?tid=edmunds.il.home.photopanel..3.*
 

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Excellent find Ambalanche!
 

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In truth, GM cared about electricity, but no one else really did. Conspiracy theorists might complain that GM had an evil agenda, but they'd be better off either taking a short course in high school economics about supply and demand or looking for flying saucers in Roswell, New Mexico.
nice.
 

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Great article. I have great confidence the Volt will be a great car, I just hope they can get the price MUCH lower asap. I'm worried the cost will be a big issue.
 

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Great article. I have great confidence the Volt will be a great car, I just hope they can get the price MUCH lower asap. I'm worried the cost will be a big issue.
I expect it to be like any electronic device... expensive at first.

There is one thing that the Volt will get that your plasma TV, Blu-Ray player and I-Phone didn't: a government subsidy. That will hopefully accelerate cost reductions that will take the technology mainstream.
 

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Interesting article. Thanks for posting it!

Also interesting, operating costs for the Volt at $0.02, which translates into $200/year vs. a 30mpg car's cost of $1300. Across the full 10 year battery warranty, and assuming 100,000 miles (160,000 kms) the Volt would cost $3200 vs. $20,800. That's an appreciable difference. Even across 6 years you'd end up saving $6,600 vs. a 30mpg car.

Is that sufficient to erase the initial premium the Volt will command? Across 10 years, it just might, especially with government credits.
 

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Interesting article. Thanks for posting it!

Also interesting, operating costs for the Volt at $0.02, which translates into $200/year vs. a 30mpg car's cost of $1300. Across the full 10 year battery warranty, and assuming 100,000 miles (160,000 kms) the Volt would cost $3200 vs. $20,800. That's an appreciable difference. Even across 6 years you'd end up saving $6,600 vs. a 30mpg car.

Is that sufficient to erase the initial premium the Volt will command? Across 10 years, it just might, especially with government credits.
It does look very promising, but I don't know anyone who buys new cars anymore that keep them for 10 years. Especially cars priced over 30k. That being said, even the savings over 6 years is impressive. If the 30mpg car you're buying is half the price of a Volt, though, is it still worth it? I guess it is going to come down to the price of the car.
 

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LOVE IT.

Thanks so much for posting this. I was having a bad day and this cheered me right-up!


(Check my new signature.....)

.
 

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The Volt has to be a success. 70% of people drive less than 40 miles a day, that means 70% of people that buy a volt won't use gas. That's a huge reduction in oil consumption. Aside from the savings in gas it'll have great performance with the electric motor driving the wheels, 100% peak torque from RPM 1. That's something to write home about.
 

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It does look very promising, but I don't know anyone who buys new cars anymore that keep them for 10 years. Especially cars priced over 30k. That being said, even the savings over 6 years is impressive. If the 30mpg car you're buying is half the price of a Volt, though, is it still worth it? I guess it is going to come down to the price of the car.
I keep cars until they are much older than that and expect to keep at least two of the cars I own now more than 10 years, one of them bought new.

However, I'm way too cheap to be an early adopter.
I do own a 1st gen Blu-Ray player, but I bought it on Ebay for $150.

I don't expect early Volts to be bought to save money... they'll have enormous green and techno-geek cachet and that's what'll sell them.
 

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It does look very promising, but I don't know anyone who buys new cars anymore that keep them for 10 years. Especially cars priced over 30k. That being said, even the savings over 6 years is impressive. If the 30mpg car you're buying is half the price of a Volt, though, is it still worth it? I guess it is going to come down to the price of the car.
I put in the 10 year number as that's the battery's warranty according to information we've gotten on the Volt.

The other consideration will be resale and what GM will do with 10+ year old Volts -- will you be able to swap out the battery for a new one with a 10 year warranty?

I also figure the generator will last a long time as it's running at a constant speed and therefore will experience less wear and tear than a typical motor forced to power a car.

I do understand that many folks don't own a car for that long, but with GM abandoning leasing in Canada it becomes an option -- own it for 5 or 6 years and then trade it in. Plus, there's the entire cachet the Volt already carries. It'll hold value, methinks.

Then again, as I get older, I've been thinking that the next two cars we buy we'll drive for 8 - 10 years. I'd love get a Volt (or a CUV E-Flex) and a Corvette, that's once the kids are off on their own, of course. For my wife and I that would be a perfect pairing once we become empty nesters.
 

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I keep cars until they are much older than that and expect to keep at least two of the cars I own now more than 10 years, one of them bought new.

However, I'm way too cheap to be an early adopter.
I do own a 1st gen Blu-Ray player, but I bought it on Ebay for $150.

I don't expect early Volts to be bought to save money... they'll have enormous green and techno-geek cachet and that's what'll sell them.
And I doubt you'll be able to get one for love or money for the first 2 years. I see folks buying them, driving them for a bit, then selling them for more than they paid for it -- much like many Priuses owners did early on.
 

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And I doubt you'll be able to get one for love or money for the first 2 years. I see folks buying them, driving them for a bit, then selling them for more than they paid for it -- much like many Priuses owners did early on.
I expect an older Volt to be either a great buy or impossible to sell.

If they keep the gizmos available and batteries improve / get cheaper an older Volt could be a great buy... you drop in a new battery pack and continue on for many years. The engine should go forever... it'll have very low hours compared to most cars.

But... if they don't maintain availability on the gizmos, it'll be like any other obsolete electronic device - undesirable and worth little. However, I was able to get rebuilt engine computer (it was discontinued) for my 17 year old Montero and there's reason to beleive there will be an expanding industry revolving around rebuilding electric car components. If you can get a computer for an old Montero, getting Volt parts should be a snap.

This could also be strongly driven by green interests due to lower manufacturing energy requirements and pollution created by recycling existing electrics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Especially the first year Zete since Lutz said they are looking at only around 11K or so. If you remember how hard it was to get a Solstice, imagine what this will be like!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Who Killed the Electric Car? You Did

I LOVE THAT!! I wish GM would grow some balls and tell the media that!
 

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It does look very promising, but I don't know anyone who buys new cars anymore that keep them for 10 years. Especially cars priced over 30k. That being said, even the savings over 6 years is impressive. If the 30mpg car you're buying is half the price of a Volt, though, is it still worth it? I guess it is going to come down to the price of the car.
That is an "interesting" question - "Is it worth it?". Who knows what the price of gas will be in 6 years but, I think the more important consequence is the countries ability to become completely independent from an oil stand point. If you consider that only about 22% of the oil we use comes form the most objectionable sources (read between the lines) then having a vehicle that would allow 78% of it's users to buy ZERO gasoline is worth a lot - in my opinion. The fact that the Volt includes the range extender which virtually guarantees that you will never be stranded (unlike the EV1 - a consequence of CA's ZERO emission mandate) is a real differentiator. Not to mention the potential impact this may have on the environment. The fact that 100% of the needed infrastructure is in place TODAY to not only recharge the vehicle at home during off peak times (assuming you have 120V outlet) but even for long distance trips that would require the range extender (any gasoline station) makes a plug-in electric vehicle an even better solution. Besides, if 78% of us use zero gasoline - the domestic oil we have access to will likely last century’s (especially since battery and recharging technology will continue to increase the 78% number over time).

I think it is worth it for many reasons.
 

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I expect an older Volt to be either a great buy or impossible to sell.

If they keep the gizmos available and batteries improve / get cheaper an older Volt could be a great buy... you drop in a new battery pack and continue on for many years. The engine should go forever... it'll have very low hours compared to most cars.

But... if they don't maintain availability on the gizmos, it'll be like any other obsolete electronic device - undesirable and worth little. However, I was able to get a new rebuilt engine computer (it was discontinued) for my 17 year old Montero, so there's reason to beleive there will be an expanding industry revolving around rebuilding electric car components.

This could also be strongly driven by green interests due to lower manufacturing energy requirements and pollution created by recycling existing electrics.
Last I read (correct me if I'm wrong) the battery pack for the Volt is supposed to cost $8000.00. One would have to imagine that the cost will almost certainly come down over the next ten years so lets assume it only cost $6000.00 to replace it in ten years (150,000 miles). That would only increase the cost of the vehicle by $600 per year to extend its "useful" life another ten years (then total input for battery would be only $300 per year (6000/20)) - just about what you would save in a month of two vs. buying gas today. I doubt many people would want to do that - but it doesn't sound "crazy" if you are so inclined.
 

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I only hope there is @ least $10K worth of tax credits for this car. I'm starting to warm up to the idea of purchasing a Volt or the E-Flex.

Can't wait to see the unveiling of this car!!!!!

Ken
 
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