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Will the Chevy Volt Succeed?

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,859
GM is still planning on the Volt coming to the market in 2010. Will the Volt actually be a practical vehicle or is it going to wind up being another step in the R&D process like the EV-1?

I'm leaning towards it being a step forward but nowhere near the completion of the journey. That will require some breakthrough in battery technology.

You can get a little more background on the current state of the Volt on Alternate Route and one of the newest addtions around here, Green Car Advisor

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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I don't think that you can compare the Chevy Volt to the EV1. While the EV1 was an impressive achievement it was somewhat mandated by the state of CA. GM's pursuit of the Chevy Volt is pure capitalism and image. They've seen what Toyota has accomplished with their Prius and they are attempting to leapfrog that effort. I hope they are successful.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,859
    The Volt is going to have a tough enough time on its own breaking through to become a practical electric vehicle.

    And GM seems to realize that the battery technology is still the biggest hurdle.

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  • Well, it seems the breakthrough on the battery system will be liquid cooling - reading from your new Green Car Advisor section. This will hold the overheat problem at bay - at a price. Hey, but it will get product out the door.

    It parallels the liquid cooling of the Prius inverters. I remember thinking that particular Toyota solution was a bit over the top, purely from industrial experience with much larger drives. Obviously they were able to meet the harsher conditions of the automobile; from a population of several hundred thousands, failures of their power modules appear to be minimal.

    Regarding the VOLT, using an HV battery together with a three cylinder engine is hardly something I would do if low cost were the aim, but this vehicle will provide a respectable entry into the hybrid arena.

    Neither power hybrids nor two seaters proved to be volume sellers fior Honda. But the Insight was not promoted. I don't know how universal this was but I have never seen one either on the road or at the dealership. What did they expect ?

    Actually even the Prius was not a fixture in the showroon either until 2003 and then only in the main dealership here.

    Honda's system needed three things to be successful.
    Its introduction would have gone better with the following:
    1. A well insulated battery pack.
    2. A thermal warming blanket.
    3. A trickle charger for the HV battery.

    The latter two to have a convenient single plug-in if the car is to be left for an extended period.
    Lack of those items, IMO, bought them a heap of dissatisfied customers in the snow belt. Edmunds boards fill with complaints come November. That problem not going away, as those vehicles grow older I think we will be hearing more.

    The VOLT'S system is also a scalable system like the Toyota HSD, and offers benefits as I've been propounding in the Advanced Hybrid thread elsewhere. I am sure that with this type of electrical transmission this vehicle is going to generate interest. It was said that the Prius was an enigma in that though its operation was straightforward its working was complex. The Volt on the surface looks simpler for troubleshooting you can seperate the genset from the induction motor transaxle so a mechanic's learning curve will be shorter.

    One other thing, $30k is a bit high, I would hope they bring out a stripper version with a 1.3Kwhr battery like the Prius so that the genset can power the traction motor mostly and still have all the advantages of the Prius with a lower price tag. The three cylinder might be replaced with that 900cc 105Hp turbocharged two cylinder small gasoline engine (SGE) that's been just been announced by Fiat for the Panda Aria.

    This car will generate traffic in GM showrooms and they could use that right now. And let's hope GM dealers are up to the task and start promoting them.
    T2

    Chevy VOLT 1 litre 3-cylinder turbocharged gasoline
    1500-1800rpm max 3200rpm
    12 gal fuel. 53kw generator.
    Traction Motor 160HP/236lbs-ft
    Battery 16kwhr 320-350v 140kw peak.
    max mechanical 120kw
    Cont electrical power 45kw,
    continuous mech power 40kw
    limited duration 120mph top speed
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,859
    The batteries were overheating, they needed to be cooled. That's treating a symptom, not curing the disease.

    It's possible that there isn't going to be much of a "cure" I suppose. A breakthrough would be finding a way to transfer energy to and from the battery without generating any heat (or significantly less heat), something like that.

    I also agree the $30,000 price tag is too high. And if the goal of the Volt is to generate traffic in GM showrooms because they need that right now, then they're doing it for the wrong reason.

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  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,888
    Many people paid $30k plus for the Prius II when it was in short supply. So I think they can get the money from those that have more than they need. I agree that cooling the batteries with water is just another complex system added to an overly complex vehicle. KISS is still my motto. I think it is all part of the push by industry to generate throwaway products. Hybrids are a big step in that direction. Most electronics are throwaway now. GM in hindsight sees the success that Toyota has with hybrids and want to try and capture some of that fake green color.
  • It is much too early to predict, since it is just a concept under development that won't be available until (at least)2010. The available info suggests that it at least is close to the ballpark, if not in it. $30K does seem a bit of a reach for a vehicle as described, but it's not otherworldly. I applaud GM for one of their rare forays into innovation, however, given their history, I wouldn't buy one 'til their reliability was proven.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Here's one vote hoping the Volt is a smashing success, with hundreds of buyers on waiting lists at every GM dealer in the country.

    (Not for the sake of GM, but for the sake of the environment.)
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    The batteries were overheating, they needed to be cooled. That's treating a symptom, not curing the disease.

    ICE's would overheat if it wasn't for radiators, fans, and oil. Do you consider that to be treating a symptom? It would be nice if batteries generated less heat because this represents wasted energy, which is why ICE's are so inherently inefficient.

    I agree that $30k is a little steep. However if the driver can expect to save $1k/year in gasoline he might start seeing it as comparable to a $25k vehicle. If states and/or the feds offer $3k tax credits, which is likely, then it really is getting into the affordable range.
  • nedzelnedzel Posts: 787
    I sure hope that the Volt succeeds. The big question mark is the battery pack: how much will it cost, how long will it last, and what range will it provide in Minnesota during the winter, with the defroster running and the battery pack cold-soaked?
  • 1stpik1stpik Posts: 495
    Since the words "General Motors" and "success" don't seem to go together anymore, I have to make this point: the Volt can only "succeed" if the GM actually MAKES the car. Right now, it's all hype.

    Telling everyone in 2007 that you'll build a revolutionary car by 2010 means nothing. The Big Three have been playing this game since the 1950s. We're all hip to the scam now.

    The Volt project only makes me wonder how advanced electric propulsion technology would ALREADY be if GM had not scrapped the EV-1 project a decade ago. The people who "killed the electric car" are now telling us they're going to build an even better one ..... in a few years.

    Yeah, right.

    I'll believe it when I see it.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,859
    Charging Up

    Still a big hurdle or two if Chevy is going to get the Volt to market by 2010

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  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    You can't compare GM's efforts regarding the Chevy Volt to their EV1. In the case of the EV1 they were mandated by CARB to produce this vehicle and they did so, kicking and screaming. The Chevy Volt is internally motivated and GM has promoted it to the extent that to not deliver would represent a major "black eye". I believe we will see the Chevy Volt. Whether or not GM meets their 2010 timeline will be dependent on battery technology, not their resolve. I believe that GM has seen the light and they realize the EV is the future. I think they also realize this is a chance to leapfrog Toyota and they aren't going to pass it by. I wish them success.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,888
    I agree with that analysis. I do not know how CARB and the state of CA get off the hook on screwing up the EV-1 project. Must be the Hollywood crowd that want to make GM look bad and CA look good. I am cheering for GM and the Volt also.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    ..but it has a lot of hurdles to overcome in 2+ years.

    The vehicle was redesigned as noted in Inside Line this week.
    The battery technology ...and the supplier/subcontractor hasn't been chosen yet.
    GM is floating the trial balloon about leasing the batteries.
    ..to keep the cost down?
    ..to ensure against premature failures?
    ..to ensure against too rapid technological developments?
    The whole concept of plug-ins is still of questionable 'utility' for a large segment of the population ( park on the street in any large city? )

    Beyond that evertthing is going smoothly...
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    The whole concept of plug-ins is still of questionable 'utility' for a large segment of the population ( park on the street in any large city? )


    What's your point? No one is suggesting that everyone currently buying Accords and Camrys will suddenly transition to an EV. I personally have a garage and a place to plug-in an EV. I don't think that makes me all that unique, but I could be wrong. There is no single model of vehicle sold today that accounts for more that 4% of total sales. So apparently you don't have to appeal to everyone to have a marketable vehicle.

    The only question regarding the Chevy Volt is whether or not it will meet their 2010 timeline. There is no question in terms of its viability.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,888
    It is a segment that has no options at present. It gives GM a chance to lead rather than follow. Most of the subdivisions around my area do not allow overnight parking on the street. I thought that was the way most cities were headed.

    Apartments in Anchorage have plug-ins for keeping the car warm. It is a natural for the Volt.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    Right now any vehicle in the US can be purchased and 'kept' just about anywhere, on the street, in a home garage, in a parking lot, in a parking structure, in a field, on the front lawn, etc. All you have to do to get the present fleet of vehicles running is put fuel in the tank and a key in the ignition and turn it. This 'option' is open to everybody in the country right now no matter where you live or park or drive.

    If however a PHEV has to be actually plugged in to get power then for those parking in spots where there is no ready access to a socket the PHEVs have limited utility. A vehicle for the fortunate suburbanites, the inner city dwellers be damned. This is a tricky market conundrum for the vehicle makers. Are these to be seen as a gift to the more fortunate while the less fortunate have to use older less fuel efficient technology?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,888
    This is a tricky market conundrum for the vehicle makers. Are these to be seen as a gift to the more fortunate while the less fortunate have to use older less fuel efficient technology?

    The same thing can be said about the OVERPRICED hybrids. It sounds to me like you are making excuses for Toyota dropping the ball on the plug in Prius. Toyota touted the plug in hybrids in the EU. I saw so many posts here at Edmund's about the 100 MPG Prius it made me want to puke. Now that GM is pushing forward on a PHEV you are very negative about the practicality. Glad to see you have come over to my side that thinks ALL hybrids are only designed to take our money and give very little in return. EVs will someday help with the energy problems. The Volt may help the GM image as the Prius has done for Toyota. I would not hope for much more than giving GM a green glow.

    'kept' just about anywhere, on the street, in a home garage, in a parking lot, in a parking structure, in a field, on the front lawn, etc.

    Not in Santee, CA you cannot. any vehicle has to be on pavement or concrete. No parking on gravel pads or dirt is allowed by city ordnance. Vehicles are not supposed to be parked on the street for more than 24 hours. That is not very well enforced.
  • 1stpik1stpik Posts: 495
    We're not negative on the practicality of an electric vehicle. We're just negative on the idea that GM will ever make one.

    Or, should I say, make one by 2010 (as promised) and at a cost of under $30K (as promised) that has a useful range ..... you get my drift. Even if they put a base price of $29,900 on the thing, it'll be $35K by the time you drive it away, which makes it cost prohibitive from a gas savings payback standpoint (unlike a hybrid).

    Look at the 2008 Malibu -- base price $19,900. But the one in the commercial says $26K in the fine print. That's a lot more than my Civic Hybrid cost, and I know it doesn't get these kind of mpg readings:

    http://www.elementownersclub.com/forums/showthread.php?t=40031

    http://www.elementownersclub.com/forums/showthread.php?t=37754

    http://www.elementownersclub.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35956

    My hybrid took $3,000 extra from me (vs. regular Civic price), and gave me $2,100 tax credit, plus $60/month in gas savings. BTW, I financed the entire purchase price @ 2.9%, so we can skip the "If you put that $21,000 in a CD paying 6%" scanario.

    Hybrids give plenty in return, and the giving gets more plentiful the higher gas prices go. So far, GM only gives promises of an EV, or PEV, or whatever.

    As I've said before, I'll believe it when I see it.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Are these to be seen as a gift to the more fortunate while the less fortunate have to use older less fuel efficient technology?

    When the automobile was first invented it was definitely a luxury item that only the most fortunate could afford. So would that have been a legitimate reason for not developing automobiles? Regardless the same argument can be made against any product or service that is too expensive for poor people to afford. That's the nature of capitalism.

    Before there were automobiles there were probably no gas stations.
    Amazingly when there became a need for gas stations they started popping up. I'm sure it's a lot cheaper to install charging stations than a gas station.

    As far as limited utility I'm not sure I follow you. The Chevy Volt can be driven without ever being plugged in and, according to GM, you will still be getting 50 mpg because the electricity will be generated by a very efficient 1.0 Liter, 3 cylinder engine that will always operate at its peak efficiency. Not having access to an outlet will prevent you from taking advantage of it's plug-in capability but you will still have a series hybrid that get's exceptional mileage.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Or, should I say, make one by 2010 (as promised) and at a cost of under $30K (as promised) that has a useful range

    I've read a lot of GM's press releases regarding the Chevy Volt. I've yet to see one that "promises" anything in regards to production dates and price. They've simply set targets, which I believe they are sincere in trying to make. If the battery technology is not there by 2010 that is somewhat outside of their control. I do believe that the rest of the vehicle will be ready by that date.

    What do you mean by useful range?

    What would be GM's motive for promoting this vehicle if they have no intention of producing it?
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    Those were much much different, less sensitive times, when the auto was first introduced. As I mentioned it's a marketing conundrum initially.

    The utility I was speaking about is that it's of no use to buy a plug-in from any maker unless you can plug it in somewhere. For a huge part of the population this is not an option. What vehicle now do you know that can't be purchased because the power is not available? Yes the Volt has the advantage that it never needs to be plugged in ( purpose then? ) because it can be driven just as a 1.0L gasser or diesel that's powering an electric motor set.

    I wouldn't be sure about getting exceptional mileage with the vehicle unless it's using it's plugin capability. If it's being used as a series hybrid and it's running on the ICE all the time inorder to charge the battery in order to drive the e-motors then it's no different than anyother ICE on the road, except that it's also pushing the battery pack without any benefit from it.

    The PHEVs are a key part of the future but I'm guessing that it will be 5+ yrs before there's a decent infrastructure for plugin stations ( LT parking facilities, Hotels, etc ).
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    I too am pretty certain that the vehicle will be ready well before 2010. That's the easiest part frankly and GM has the part well in hand. The questions that still have to be answered are..
    ..which technology? A123 or LG and their partner?
    ..which company is a better fit for GM with the best prospects for large volume production and longterm suvivability and reliability?
    ..how to market this innovation? Who's actually going to buy it?
    ..how to warrant the battery/hybrid system?
    ..sell or lease the battery pack?
    ..
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    For a huge part of the population this is not an option

    And for a huge part of the population it is an option. Regardless, I've read GM's plan is to sell 30,000 units per year initially. That' about 2/10ths of 1 percent of all vehicle sales. Whether or not this vehicle has a large market is an issue that won't be relevant for some time. It will be like most new products. At first you'll have the early adopters that will pave the way for these vehicles becoming more mainstream.

    If it's being used as a series hybrid and it's running on the ICE all the time inorder to charge the battery in order to drive the e-motors then it's no different than anyother ICE on the road

    The ICE will not be running all the time. It will only kick in whenever the battery falls below a certain level of charge and as soon as this level is brought back up the engine will shut off. I'd guess that the only situation where it might be running all the time would be if you were travelling 80 mph down the highway. This series hybrid setup still has merit even if you never plug it in. I'm sure the electric motors will have a higher power rating than the ICE charging it so you can have a car with considerable power and torque with the high mpg that a small ICE running part of the time can deliver.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,784
    "The ICE will not be running all the time. It will only kick in whenever the battery falls below a certain level of charge and as soon as this level is brought back up the engine will shut off. "

    Oh, like the Prius, which can go about 2 miles or so on battery only, even if kept below 40 MPH? Batteries can only sustain so much discharge. In practice, I think that a series hybrid with current battery technology may not make as much sense as the HSD.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    Actually the first goal I've heard is 100,000 units, which I believe is optimistic. 30,000 sounds much more attainable. I know that it's going to be a small part of the total vehicle population whenever it's released but I'm looking at it from the front line pov. A customer comes in and hears all this wonderful news about the new PHEV technology that will get you up to 100 mpg in the right circumstances. But he/she can't buy it..'Sorry sir, this vehicle isn't for you.' Now pick the wrong audience to say this to and the salesperson, dealership and manufacturer all will have a mess on their hands.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    A customer comes in and hears all this wonderful news about the new PHEV technology that will get you up to 100 mpg in the right circumstances. But he/she can't buy it..'Sorry sir, this vehicle isn't for you

    You've stated previously that that people living in urban areas that have to park on the street wouldn't be able to take advantage of a PHEV. Let's say I agree. Why would this person after hearing about PHEVs ever walk into a dealership thinking that he could take full advantage of this type of vehicle? Your comment implies that the salesman will have to inform this person that he has no place to plug it in as if the customer doesn't already know this. It's an implausible scenario and even if this customer was so dense as to not realize he didn't have a garage I don't believe car salesmen put a lot of effort into talking customers out of buying vehicles. Do you think that when people buy hybrids the salesmen spend much time in pointing out how many years it will take to recover the premium through gas savings?

    If I was a car salesman and a customer was reluctant to buy a PHEV because he didn't have a home outlet to recharge from I'd point out that as these vehicles become more commonplace there will certainly be charging stations installed on streets and in parking lots. It was happening in CA during the few years of the EV1. In the meantime he'd be driving a car that got 50 mpg. Now If I was in this car buyers position a PHEV would still have some appeal.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I think that a series hybrid with current battery technology may not make as much sense as the HSD.

    You're correct in saying that a series hybrid does not offer the same efficiency as the HSD primarily because of an additional conversion loss. However a series hybrid does offer the advantage of being simpler, which could theoretically make it cheaper to manufacture. Also as battery technology improved you could upgrade your battery pack to give it more pure EV range and potentially pull the ICE out altogether since it was never used for propulsion to begin with. You can't separate the drives in an HSD in fact the electric motors don't have enough power to be the sole source of propulsion for most driving circumstances. And a series hybrid definitely has an advantage over the ICE because an ICE does not allow for recapturing energy through regenerative braking. I don't think you can regenerate gasoline.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    Why would this person after hearing about PHEVs ever walk into a dealership thinking that he could take full advantage of this type of vehicle? Your comment implies that the salesman will have to inform this person that he has no place to plug it in as if the customer doesn't already know this. It's an implausible scenario and even if this customer was so dense as to not realize he didn't have a garage I don't believe car salesmen put a lot of effort into talking customers out of buying vehicles.

    Not really implausible simply because there are people in this society that are looking for every chance to pick a fight or file a lawsuit. 'Why should only the privileged few living in certain privileged areas be afforded the latest and most efficient technology to save money?' "So {fill in manufacturer name] you specifically designed this vehicle knowing that only those living in certain areas having access to plugin capabilities would be able to buy it - and power it up - but those living in other areas would not?"

    Now if the manufacturers at least make an honest effort to get plugin capabilities made available all across the country in all sections and to all social strata then at least they will be seen as attempting to develop the infrastructure to assist the whole population. Otherwise there will be complaints, lawsuits and demonstrations about being forced to ride in the back of the bus ( technologically speaking ). It a huge marketing issue to address and overcome.

    The whole purpose of the plugin concept is to be able to charge it during offpeak hours ( generally at night as the owner sleeps ). Charging during the day is adding additional load at peak usage time which is counterproductive. It may even be banned. For example plugin capabilities are only activated from 8PM onward. This is another marketing issue to address with the local power companies.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    good points.
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