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Volt: A Chevy facade

Chevy delivered the first of their new line of “Volt” electric cars yesterday, bringing a smile to the Californian recipient and a pang to the gut of all those who know what the car could – no, should – have been.

The Volt brags 35 miles (56 kms) on a single charge before a gas-powered generator kicks in. For those first 56 kilometres, the car gets the astonishing equivalent of 93 mpg. But that drops to 37 mpg as soon as you’re using the generator – less than a regular old VW Jetta.

What ever happened to the maximum range of 80–100 miles (130-160 kms) per charge on GM’s EV1 in the mid 90s? I mean, that was the 90s. There’s no way technology has gotten 65 per cent worse over the last 15 years. Come to think of it, wasn’t that right about the same time Microsoft decided they should add internet capabilities to their products?

OK, what about the Nissan Leaf, the other new electric car that shipped to its first customer this week? 160 kms per charge, 145 km/h top speed; that’s about on par with what GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Chrysler were shipping in the 90s.

A bit better, but still assumes scientists have been doing nothing for a decade and a half.

But I seem to remember hearing something about some still-mass-produced electric car getting 501 kms on a single charge about a year ago. An electric car that averages 320 kms between battery top-ups – and doesn’t need a gas generator. As a matter of fact, all it needs is an antifreeze change once every five to seven years.

Yeah, I’m thinking the Tesla Roadster.

Why, if this car has been in production for the last four years, and has been sold in 28 countries, is this not the measuring stick? The standard for new cars to beat?

Could it all have something to do with the fact that in electric cars, there’s no oil to change, no exhaust or muffler to wear out, and no spark plugs, hoses, pistons or belts to replace? Where’s the long-term income for automakers if they’re all as functional as the Roadster proves they can be? How will Chevy keep making money if its hippie-car is a more attractive option than the ones full of tiny pieces that move and break?

But you know what? In spite of everything I’ve just said, if you live in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan or Washington D.C., go out and buy yourself a Volt. The last time car companies put all-electric vehicles on the market, it seems they got the impression that there’s no demand to meet their supply; no reason to look for better batteries.

[Inside Line via Chevy, GM]



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  1. I think that instead of pointing out all the things the author got wrong in this article we should be searching for things he got right.




    . I got nothing. You?


  2. The author clearly knows little about battery technology.

    The battery in the EV1 weighed 1200 pounds. Thats about one half the weight of the vehicle. Although GM claimed it went 80 miles on a charge – the actual was more like 55.

    Electric vehicles have come light years in the last decade…..and they’re still not competitive with gas/diesel engines. Even with the Federal subsidy an EV costs nearly twice what a gas equivalent costs.

    Sure – the Tesla can go 200 miles – but it costs $110,000. The power train alone probably adds $60,000 to the cost of the Lotus body.

  3. “Could it all have something to do with the fact that in electric cars, there’s no oil to change, no exhaust or muffler to wear out, and no spark plugs, hoses, pistons or belts to replace?”

    Most Volt owners are going to drive 75%+ of their miles using electricity. At that rate, they will put less than 38,000 miles of wear on the gas engine over 150,000 miles of driving.

    If you follow the Volt’s recommended maintenance schedule, you will need to replace the oil once every 2 years. That’s about it…. They suggest changing the spark plugs after 100,000 miles of total driving but that’s unlikely to be needed.

    Otherwise, they suggest changing the coolant a couple of times but that also applies to the battery pack and inverter so additionally changing the same kind of coolant for the engine doesn’t add much extra cost. Oh yeah, there is one cheap, simple, easy to replace belt that drives the engine coolant pump so maybe that gets replaced once along the way.

  4. “But that drops to 37 mpg as soon as you’re using the generator – less than a regular old VW Jetta.”

    Not really. Bother yourself to look at http://www.fueleconomy.gov.

    The EPA combined city/hwy estimate for the Volt is 37. The estimate for the VW Jetta is 34 (diesel) and 27 (gasoline). After the Volt’s battery is depleted, it gets better gas mileage than the Toyota Camry hybrid and better combined mileage than any subcompact or larger non-hybrid car. Most Volt owners will be using electricity for the vast majority of their driving so even modest differences in gas mileage don’t matter much at the end of the month.

  5. I assume the author owns a Tesla.

  6. Automobile Fan

    Raggy Jin: You really shouldn’t be writing about anything auto related until you actually do your homework.

    I’m gonna keep this article with your name on it just to remind me not to ever read anything you might right about within the auto industry.

    It appears you just don’t know or understand the subject matter you have written about or are bias toward science fiction solutions that are not technologically available yet.

    • @Automobile Fan, What’s the homework professor? Really you haven’t made any valid points. I see some questions posed by the author, and some very valid ones. Are you working for the oil industry yourself? It’s no secret that they have played a huge hand in keeping this industry moving as slowly as possible. You should be a fan of the earth, not automobiles, because once this place tuns into a toxic cesspool you’ll really not have much to say.

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