New York Times headline calls the Chevy Volt “G.M.’s Electric Lemon”

by editor on August 4, 2010

chevy volt prototype

An early prototype for the electric, but hardly electrifying Chevy Volt

Edward Niedermeyer, editor of The Truth About Cars, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times about the new Government Motors’ (GM) new Chevy Volt. Let’s be generous and say it was less than complimentary:

GENERAL MOTORS introduced America to the Chevrolet Volt at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show as a low-slung concept car that would someday be the future of motorized transportation. It would go 40 miles on battery power alone, promised G.M., after which it would create its own electricity with a gas engine. Three and a half years — and one government-assisted bankruptcy later – G.M. is bringing a Volt to market that makes good on those two promises. The problem is, well, everything else.

For starters, G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks … but after billions of dollars of government loans and grants for the Volt’s development and production. And instead of the sleek coupe of 2007, it looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius. It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt.

In short, the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build. Unfortunately for this theory, G.M. was already committed to the Volt when it entered bankruptcy. And though President Obama’s task force reported in 2009 that the Volt “will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short term,” it didn’t cancel the project.

Cancel the project? Are you insane, Niedermeyer?

The Chevy Volt is the car Hollywood hypocrites need to park between their Ferraris and their Lamborghinis to show that they’re environmentally conscious. It’s the car in Laurie David needs to terrorize Santa Monica’s quiet residential neighborhoods. It’s the car Leonard DiCaprio needs to travel between his mansion and his private jet.

But most of all, it’s the car that Barack Obama needs to demonstrate his scorn for market forces.

Source: New York Times

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[…] question sales potential for the Chevy Volt Last week the New York Times called the Chevy Volt “GM’s Electric Lemon“. Now please allow us to sum up the Boston Globe’s opinion in seven short […]

The Obumbly Obomster
Member
The Obumbly Obomster

Ouch.

You know what we really need? An electric car that goes ~100 miles on a charge and costs around $10000-$15000. Make it a commuter’s car. Let’s face it. How many of you drive farther than 100 miles a day? Not very many. Most families have 2 cars anyways. Why not replace one car with an electric car? You still have the gas guzzler for vacations and such.

We really need to get off of oil before we are forced to. And quite frankly, the only other alternative is electricity. Granted, it’s not perfect, but it’s the best that we have. And by the time that we really need to ditch oil, battery technology will have progressed much further.

Maybe instead of bailing out the failing auto industry, Washing would have done better to invest that money into alternative fuel research.

The problem with the Volt is that it combines the worst of the electric car and gasoline. You have the complicated (and huge space taker) internal combustion engine, along with the cost of the batteries. And then you have the added expense of all that specialized equipment to make the two systems work together. It’s rather remarkable that a new Prius costs ~$25,000. With a fully electric car, you loose a lot of the complicated gear box and drive system. With some careful programming, a motor can be put in each wheel of the car, leaving the entire car body open for batteries and passengers. An ICE car is far more complicated than an electric car.

GM proved that the electric car is possible with the EV-1. With the battery technology today, electric cars can take a very real role in transportation today. All this fooling around with hybrid cars is just turning people off of the idea of a fully electric car.

Omar
Member
Omar

What we need is a truly free market, where each individual out there gets to buy the type of vehicle that suits his or her needs, whether it runs on gasoline, diesel, rechargeable batteries, pedal power, hopes and dreams, or whatever. Some people need to haul lots of stuff or lots of family members and they can’t do that on a Prius or a Volt because it isn’t practical for their particular case. Other people don’t need a big truck, so a small car like a Prius or a Civic is better suited for them.The physical and chemical properties of oil and oil products cannot be ignored though. Gasoline and diesel produce huge amounts of energy (BTU/hr, or kW) per unit of volume when compared to other sources (like wind or solar power, or even ethanol). This alone will ensure that oil will not go away anytime soon. As long as there is a need, people will use whatever will make their lives easier. That is human nature, and that’s what the market caters to.

Then there are also the economic realities that we all face: oil is relatively less expensive than other sources of energy. The refinement and delivery methods for these products have been improved for over 100 years and make them relatively cheaper and more readily available than other sources. The cracking methods for oil have become more efficient; we can get more diesel (or gasoline or kerosene or 10w30) per unit volume of oil now than we could 50 or 100 years ago. And internal combustion engines are continually engineered to produce more power while consuming less fuel. That is why they are still so widely used. Can you get the same amount of power from an electric lawn mower than a gasoline-powered one? It’s all in the laws of physics and thermodynamics.

Should there be alternate methods looked into other than oil? Of course!! But we would all be better off if the market itself decides. The market is driven by what people need and are willing to pay for. The moment that Something better than oil comes along, Something that produces more energy per unit of measurement, is cheaper, and is as widely available as oil or more, then it won’t be long before the Big Oil companies are driven out of business, to be replaced by the Big Something business…and every car manufacturer in the world will make their vehicles to run on that Something.
It is good that car manufacturers and other private firms are trying to come up with alternatives to cater to specific needs and wants out there. Hybrid engines are a good example, and hybrid cars sold like hotcakes when gasoline hit $5 a gallon, while big trucks and SUV’s were rusting out in used car lots, remember?

What we do not need however, is government ARTIFICIALLY inflating the cost of oil or gas or whatever other source of energy that is not considered “green” in order to FORCE us into an alternative that is not as efficient or as practical for us. That would be economically painful for most of us who live and work in the real world. This is the essence of the infamous cap & trade scheme. They don’t seek to lower the price of “green” energies…they intend to make oil, coal and gas so insanely expensive that we won’t have a choice but to try something else, and pay through the nose for it in the process.
We also don’t need government taking over a private car company and pushing them to produce a car that is not very practical (but will allow politicians to have a big show for the cameras touting how great this new car is, in order to buy votes). If it’s not practical or economical for most people, not many will buy it, no matter how much in tax credits or subsidies or other incentives they offer, and the car will be a flop, and they will discontinue it. Unless they pass a law FORCING us to buy it…like they did with health insurance…but I digress.
The problem is, since government is involved, they can keep running at a loss in perpetuity, since they have an unlimited amount of revenue (or so they think!) to draw from to keep their little pet experiment going: that source of revenue is us, through our taxes. Even if not one single Chevy Volt sells, they can keep subsidizing GM to keep production going.

Also, electricity has to be generated from somewhere…burning diesel, or coal or natural gas to turn a crankshaft or generate steam to spin a turbine, or a nuclear power plant that cools radioactive fuel rods to generate steam to spin a turbine, or a hydroelectric plant with a turbine that is turned from the flow of water in a river, or several square miles of windmills waiting for wind to turn the fan blades…the point is, just because a car is electric, doesn’t mean it’s “greener” than a car with an internal combustion engine in it, and it’s not necessarily cheaper or more practical for some people. The electric car still has to be plugged in somewhere, and requires raw materials and energy to be built (and that lithium-ion battery has to be disposed somewhere later in an environmentally conscious way). And not all towns have a wind farm or hydroelectric or nuclear plant nearby. A lot of households get their electricity from coal plants, or even diesel or other fuel derived from oil. As they say in thermodynamics class, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Oil itself seems to be pretty abundant though…just looking at that well in the Gulf of Mexico, several thousand feet under water (immense water pressure down there), and it kept pushing oil and gas up at an even higher pressure than what the water pressure at that depth was, gushing, for months…
Of course, the spill itself was horrible and had a huge environmental and economic impact in the area, but the point is that there is A LOT of oil down there, just on that one well…
Now visualize how big the planet is, and the potential for more wells like that one, not just in deep water, but on land, and in more accessible places where it’s easier, less risky, and less expensive to get to it. But alas, a lot of places like that in the US are off-limits for oil and gas drilling…so harvesting for oil has to be done offshore in the deep ocean. And if we don’t get to it, the Chinese, or Venezuelans, or Russians, or whoever else has the resources to go after it will (and they will gladly sell it back to us, for a jacked up price of course!)
But the SNAFU’s like the one from BP, or the Exxon Valdez, or the IXTOC-1 (in the Gulf of Mexico, 1979), or Chernobyl, or Saddam burning the oil wells in Kuwait while his army ran away….obviously we do not need or want any of that.

David
Guest
David

Wow Omar, very well said!

David
Guest
David

So where does the electricity come from to power an electric car? Can you say coal… Were not solving much if we’re just trading gas power engines for more coal burning power plants to produce more electricity.

TokyoCarrot
Guest
TokyoCarrot

We source the coal from within US borders. Not true for petroleum.

Peak oil is a problem in and of itself but the longstanding, not-likely-to-be-solved-in-my-lifetime geopolitical issues are at least as onerous. Remember, it was a geopolitical issue that caused the oil shocks of the 1970’s, not a peak oil-type issue.

As we have already seen this summer with how Russia banned exports of wheat until next year, and how other countries were banning or drastically curtailing food exports left and right in early 2000 when grain and other prices started to rise, when there is a shortage, even those countries still producing start cutting off supplies and stockpiling.

Switching to coal or nuclear wherever possible would be a huge improvement, and this is clearly an area with great potential. We’ll still need petroleum for plastics and fertilizers and so on, but at least an increase in electric cars would take some of the edge off another oil shock.

If you are too young to remember having to wait in line three hours to buy gasoline at pumps that shut off automatically at $5 worth of gas, ask your parents how much fun that was.

Margaret
Guest
Margaret

Since the Nissan Leaf gets more than twice the mileage on a charge and costs half as much, this article title is accurate.

deepthinker
Member
deepthinker

Can any one say Corvair? Government Motors will do its utmost to see to it that every one is driving this turd.

danybhoy
Member
danybhoy

Where is Ralph Nader when you need him?

Kenny
Guest
Kenny

one word…”ugly”

jim9101
Member
jim9101

or another word “fugly”

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