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Will the Chevy Volt Succeed?



  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    Speaking in Nevada about the rising cost of gasoline, Obama put in a plug for the administration’s favorite flop, GM’s Chevy Volt: “I’ve been in one of these Chevy Volts. This is a nice car. It drives well.”

    It Drives Well? and how would Obama know?

    When Obama toured a General Motors assembly plant Friday, he was invited to test drive a battery-powered Chevrolet Volt inside the cavernous facility.

    He looked beseechingly to his top aides, including press secretary Robert Gibbs, all of whom shook their heads. Obama appealed to the chief of his Secret Service detail, who threw up his hands in resignation.

    The smiling president got in, buckled his seat belt and proceeded to drive — drum roll, please — 10 feet, and probably not above 2 mph, as news cameras clicked away.

    "I hope it has an air bag," Gibbs said.

    Obama, who almost never gets to drive, pronounced the ride "pretty smooth."
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    This is a handy experiment for potential buyers to know about:

    A lot has been written about the General Motors' green darling, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt--it's been poked, prodded and picked apart by every automotive pundit on the planet.

    But up to this point, most of the stories about the Volt have been based on drives conducted under the watchful and overprotective eye of the General. Individual consumers' impressions have been largely colored by their pride of ownership and their righteous zeal to wring the maximum level of efficiency from their shiny electric chariots.

    Now, with 2,000 Volts built since last December's start of production, and 1,000 in consumer's driveways in seven states, a pretty red Volt landed in our test fleet for some real-world driving. We decided to push the limits, steadily driving for a day up Michigan's mitten and back.

    For an added twist, we tossed an empty gas can in the hatchback (hermetically sealed in a trash bag) with the deliberate intention of running our Volt out of fuel. GM told us we wouldn't hurt the car, and that in fact, we'd get a pleasant surprise of a few extra battery miles once the on-board gasoline generator went tango uniform.

    A bit of gas gets the Volt back on the road after we intentionally ran down the fuel tank and the battery pack.

    Sure enough, when the Volt ran out of its 9.3 gallons of premium fuel, the gasoline-powered generator shut down, the instruments issued warnings, but the speedometer never wavered from 70 mph as the car immediately tapped into the battery for extra power. Think of it as an electric "reserve" tank, designed to provide an extra three or four miles of range if you run out of gas. About three miles later, we ran low on reserve battery power and safely slowed to a stop on the shoulder of the road.

    We sent a chase car for gas, poured in two gallons on the roadside, turned the key, and we were on our way again. The generator ran at maximum capacity for the next three miles to replenish the battery before the powertrain settled back into normal operating mode. Very little drama.

    On our one-day adventure, we posted 36.5 mpg, including the initial 26 miles on battery power alone, over a 560-mile trip.

    Our little experiment showed us that while Chevy's little electric sedan might seem like a pricey science project, for us it's earned its real-world stripes.

  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    On our one-day adventure, we posted 36.5 mpg, including the initial 26 miles on battery power alone, over a 560-mile trip.

    So how much electricity did they use. If a full charge takes 24 KWHs it would be $8.16 in San Diego. That is right at 2 more gallons of gas. That would drop the mileage down to about 33 MPG. Hardly a good deal. Better off buying an ugly Prius.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Well, not every car is for every purpose.

    If you are driving 560 miles on a consistent basis, then NO, the Volt is not the best car for you !!!

    If you drive 30-40 miles a day, MAX, then the Volt is a primary consideration for you !!

    DUH !!!
  • fushigifushigi Chicago suburbsPosts: 1,381
    OTOH for me 24KWH would run about $3.90 or under one gallon of Chicago-land gas. I live in the suburbs and about an hour ago I was surprised to find a single station under $4 ($3.999, of course). I also saw a station @ $4.399, though. :sick:

    My round trip commute is 46 miles and I make occasional trips that are around 90 miles round-trip for work. A Volt would work pretty well for me since my electric rate, with taxes, is around $0.13/KWH.
    2017 Infiniti QX60 (me), 2012 Hyundai Elantra (wife)
  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    my electric rate, with taxes, is around $0.13/KWH.

    That made me check my rate... current marginal rate is about $0.06/KWH. Gotta love hydro-electric. :)
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    current marginal rate is about $0.06/KWH. Gotta love hydro-electric.

    If I could depend on rates as low as that or even 10 cents a KWH, I would consider an EV. No way with our horrible rates would I want one.
  • fushigifushigi Chicago suburbsPosts: 1,381
    My base rate is under 7 cents per. It's the taxes & spreading the fixed monthly fees across the usage that raise it to ~13.

    I'm on wind energy, BTW.
    2017 Infiniti QX60 (me), 2012 Hyundai Elantra (wife)
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    This is interesting:

    Txch: You recently released data showing that people are going 1,000 miles between fill ups in their Volts.
    TP: The sampling of data I shared were all Volt customers that had their OnStar account activated. For the month of March, the average Volt customer was filling their gas tank up every 1,000 miles. Some hadn’t filled up at all because they’re driving small distances and plugging in all the time. Others weren’t plugging in and driving long distances. About 67 percent of the miles were driven by grid power or battery power only.
    And we know that infrastructure [for EVs] is still not in place. We know that a lot of our customers are still charging using their 120-volt cord.
    The fascinating thing about the electrification of the car is it has tremendous value chain and ecosystem ramifications. There are so many opportunities, whether it’s renewable energy, whether it’s smart grid, whether it’s the basic utility functions of transmission distribution.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    edited April 2011
    Did you expect anything but a glowing report from the guy behind the Volt? Did he address those of US stuck with horrible electric rates? We shall soon see if they are selling as well as the GM pundits claim. There are plenty in inventory around here. Same goes for the Leaf that was supposedly pre-sold out for a while. Several Leaves available at local dealers.

    40 miles on $8 with of electricity is not a bargain yet.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    I wasn't "expecting" anything.

    It was just the first data I had seen on how "real world owners" were utilizing the Volt.

    And your math is off.

    First of all, 40 miles does not run the battery to ZERO. It runs it to a level around 30-35% I think. So you get 40 miles for about $5.60. Still not great, but not as bad as you make it sound.
  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    edited April 2011
    spreading the fixed monthly fees across the usage

    Assuming that you already have electric service, the fixed cost is irrelevant to the calculation of the cost of charging the vehicle. What matters is the marginal cost, (the cost per KWH of the additional usage). Of course, taxes based on usage would be part of the marginal cost. :shades:
  • fushigifushigi Chicago suburbsPosts: 1,381
    Marginal cost and average cost are both valid measures. Marginal cost being the added cost for KWH + usage-based taxes and average cost being total cost / total KWH used.

    IMO for determining what electricity actually costs, the average cost is more realistic if you have a single, non-variable rate. That the fees are flat doesn't really matter. It's a cost I have to bear in order to have electric service and it makes sense to spread it across all electricity used. I don't think it's reasonable to say my first pot of coffee in a given month costs $18 in electricity (4 cents in KWH + $17.96 in fees) while the rest cost 4 cents per.

    Besides, ask a manufacturer how much it costs them to make a product. Whatever they tell you is a blend of fixed (physical plant, equipment, sunk R&D) + variable (people, raw materials, shipping, support/warranty) costs. Chevy isn't going to say the first Volt cost $1.2 billion while the rest cost $26K; they're going to spread the $1.2B across the expected production run and give an average cost of, say, $31K (numbers pulled from the air).
    2017 Infiniti QX60 (me), 2012 Hyundai Elantra (wife)
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    edited April 2011
    It's a cost I have to bear in order to have electric service and it makes sense to spread it across all electricity used.

    If your electric company has a fixed rate that is true. Ours is tiered with the top rate after 626 KWH set at 34 cents per KWH including taxes. If I add an EV to the mix I will be in the top tier. If it takes 24 KWH to charge fully that is $8.16. Our charges jump to 30 cents per KWH after 407 KWH in a month. I average around 500 KWH per month. If I have to turn the AC on it jumps up a lot. I just don't see it saving any money driving on EV with the Volt.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,759
    Is it Leaves or Leafs? :P

    I couldn't let that one just hang there

    Back to the Voltages!

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  • fushigifushigi Chicago suburbsPosts: 1,381
    I agree that at your electricity rate the Volt, or any plug-in type vehicle, isn't going to make much sense from a financial standpoint. But your rate is nearly 3 times mine so for people in my area it can make sense from an operating cost perspective.

    Still, I imagine most buyers of the Leaf, Volt, upcoming Mitsubishi i, etc. are buying them for reasons other than cost. Zero emissions at the tailpipe, low carbon footprint (depends on how their power is generated), no (foreign) oil dependency, access to HOV lanes, "look at how green I am" factor, etc.
    2017 Infiniti QX60 (me), 2012 Hyundai Elantra (wife)
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    Have you talked with them to see if they have any plans for people buying electric vehicles. Lots of electric Companies are doing this.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    No, but that is a good idea. SDG&E does not have night rates or buy back if you have solar. Solar would be the only option I know of and charging the car during the day. I will give them a call though. I fear if you get a separate service for an EV it will make it too easy for the government to add a road tax. Which at this point is a gimme for the EV owners. If they figure it on the 27 MPG average for CA it would add another $1.04 to a charge. That would be for me about $9.20 to fully charge a Volt or Leaf. Just give them time to figure it out. They do know who has these non paying vehicles.
  • dmathews3dmathews3 Posts: 1,739
    I believe there is a fed. law that says they have to buy back solar.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    You are correct. And SDG&E has the formula on their website. The way I read it they only have to allow so many customers Net Energy Metering. And they only allow up to 100% of your usage. In other words they do not buy back excess past your needs. It looks like that is reset annually. I would imagine they have a minimum monthly bill as well as all the various taxes.
  • piperboy72piperboy72 Posts: 15
    I live in MN and I have concerns about the temperature challenges and effects on any PHEV/BEV. I read that the Volt will always use the ICE when the battery temperature is colder than 32F and the vehicle is not plugged in. The average max temp here is well below 32F for at least a quarter of the year. So for a person commuting 20 miles and parking outside unplugged during the day, the engine would typically need to run every day for at least few miles (I would guess). My other concern is how the cabin is kept warm, both when plugged in and when operating from a cold start unplugged.

    Any northern owners care to comment? A local Chevy dealer has the Volt in stock, but they have not been able answer my concerns. For someone driving less than 10000 miles a year, I would guess that it would take $5/gallon and 10 years to break even compared to a conventional car (purchase prices) getting a combined 33mpg. However after 10 years the batteries may need to be replaced negating any savings. Also China seems to control the market on the type of resources that are required for BEV technology, so this just seems to spread our dependence on imports from oil to oil and rare minerals especially if you look at the batteries as a consumable.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    I think you have pinpointed several flaws in the plug-in hybrid plans. If you live in a mild climate with cheap electricity or a solar system installed, the Volt could be practical. Running the engine to keep it going and charged is not that economical. If you can park in a garage that is warm. And have the same at work, it could be usable in cold climate. I know in AK most people do not heat their garages, as it is bad for the car.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    You appear to be "not a good candidate" for the Volt.

    It, like all other cars, is not perfect for every person with any need. No car is.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Gary says, "I think you have pinpointed several flaws in the plug-in hybrid plans."

    No, not a "flaw in the plan" at all. There is no PLAN to get EVERYONE into a plug-in or EV.

    A point which has seemingly not been comprehended by some is that:


    No one selling or promoting plug-ins has ever said, "EVERY American buyer can use our vehicle."

    That will NEVER, EVER be the case with ANY future technology that we currently know about.

    We are in an era right now where we are SEARCHING for a clean technology to replace the ICE forever, but we have not yet succeeded.

    That DOES NOT mean to ignore the options and quit trying and start poo-pooing the efforts.

    Every single clean emission car that replaces a dirtier one is a step in the right direction.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 31,111
    No, not a "flaw in the plan" at all. There is no PLAN to get EVERYONE into a plug-in or EV.

    Sounds to me like Obama thinks we can replace the ICE with hybrids.

    Obama commits to plugin hybrids, battery manufacturing
    In any case, the announcements make it clear that the US government is putting its money behind the plugin hybrid concept, rather than a pure electric vehicle. They also make it clear that the administration is viewing the issue as part of a larger whole—Obama specifically mentioned that this effort shouldn't be seen as separate from the efforts to upgrade the electric grid. "It won't come without cost, nor will it be easy," he said. "We've got 240 million cars already on the road. We've got to upgrade the world's largest energy grid while it's already in use."

    Not sure what he means.
  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    Sounds to me like Obama thinks we can replace the ICE with hybrids....
    Not sure what he means.

    I see a slight contradiction there.

    "the administration is viewing the issue as part of a larger whole"

    It's a complex problem. Simple answers are insufficient, regardless of how good they may look on a bumper sticker. :surprise:
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Just because he wants to increase the number of plug-ins (a good thing) does not automagically mean he wants to use them to replace the ICE engine all around.

    He's about 100 years to early for that comment.
  • piperboy72piperboy72 Posts: 15
    While I agree that no one car could be perfect for every single person, I do not believe that I am some extreme exception in the population. I would guess that a significant portion of the US market resides in locations with climates that have extended periods of cold temperatures (roughly 25% of the US population). Since federal funds are being used to subsidize this technology then it should be targeted towards at least 95% of the population.

    And yes, the Volt will have "cleaner" tailpipe emissions, but for people that are environmentally mindful, you might want to consider the overall impact including manufacturing, mining and processing, along with global component transportation, plus the estimate that the batteries could have as little as one third the lifespan that a modern ICE could provide. Also when the engine is running on the Volt you could expect to get 35mpg on premium fuel. To me it seems that this car will only be ideal for people that live less than 20 miles from work in a moderate climate (something like Southern California).

    There is no magical transportation solution, and while I like the idea of encouraging people to try more efficient cars, I don't think it should be in the form of a $7.5k tax credit. I think when this credit runs out that Volt sales will plummet.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 22,084
    Since federal funds are being used to subsidize this technology then it should be targeted towards at least 95% of the population.

    It is doing even better than that. It is targeting 100% of the population because all of us will benefit from lower fuel consumption and lower emissions.

    I'm not a target consumer for the Volt, but I'm all for those who have the means and need buying them.

    '17 F150 Crew 2.7; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '09 LR2 HSE. 44-car history and counting!

  • That is the argument unamericans make to justify buying a foreign brand. If you really want to know where your money is going when you buy a foreign brand, look at the employment to sales rate ratio. For example Toyota employs a tiny fraction of the amount of people that GM employ in the US. Plus I am sure you do not consider the engineers and innovation in the US.
    Actually I am just kidding about the unamerican thing. If you want a foreign brand, then I want you to have it. I just prefer GM's.
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