Nov 12, 2010 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Are you in the doldrums about dimming chances we as a society can seriously address energy security and climate change? Maybe you can refuel from the growing momentum for plug-in cars, and the impending arrival of production vehicles! Before next week's LA Auto Show brings more news, here's your weekend reading: in-depth info & raves about the Volt, car ads, the first cars in consumers' garages, PHEV sports cars on the way, and future fleets.
We expect that many of our readers are already following the daily avalanche of news about the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF at sources like those we list at http://www.calcars.org/partners.html#opb -- so we're highlighting the biggest items for people who don't tracking every announcement.
GM VIDEO ADS FOR CHEVY VOLT: If you've glimpsed print ads that say "Chevrolet Volt: It's More Car than Electric," when you see the 33-second ad that aired during the World Series, you'll understand it. GM is invoking a traditional theme -- the freedom of the open road -- and is comparing the Volt not to conventional combustion cars but to all-electric EVs. If you missed the spot, it's under videos at http://www.chevroletvoltage.com/ or at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-1bxSsTtrU
GM PRINT ADS FOR VOLT: In the December Automobile magazine, it's refreshing to see an eight-page "special advertising section" on the Volt. Some tag lines remind us of our past tag-lines, especially "Beyond Hybrids" and "Gas is optional." (GAS-OPT remains the license plate on Ron Gremban's world's first converted Prius.)
FIRST VOLTS IN CONSUMERS' HANDS: The 15 members of GM's Chevy Volt Customer Advisory Board (list at http://www.chevroletvoltage.com/index.php/Volt/the-chevrolet-volt-customer-advisory-board.html ) got their cars this week. For three months, they'll give the company feedback. Participant Lyle Dennis is hosting a discussion area for reports at his GM-Volt website ; we hope many will participate at http://gm-volt.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?18-VOLT-Consumer-Advisory-Board-Discussion-Forum . For one high-profile member's problems getting the charging system installed right, see links from http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?5412-Chelsea-Sexton-Having-Problem-Getting-Chevrolet-Volt-Charger-Installed . San Francisco isn't part of the test area, but Ron and Felix at CalCars have been told their vehicles are consumer units #24 and 9. We'll see if how well plans the installation /approval process for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) go in the coming weeks.
ENTERTAINING EV ADS: Plug In America has unveiled the first two of seven PSA-style ads inspired by the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" series. We especially like "Cell Phone;" "Ocean Crude" is also amusing. Well-produced by an ace all-volunteer team from around Hollywood and Santa Monica. See them at http://www.pluginamerica.org/drive-electric/ . PIA has a revamped website including an improved vehicle tracker and an "accessory" tracker (charging systems).
"VOLT: THE MAGAZINE" Yes, there's actually an entire magazine about the Volt, and it's worth getting (free online). Don't be intimidated that it's from the Society of Automotive Engineers. To be sure, its 34 pages include tech info for gearheads. But it also profiles the team, highlights supplier partners, explains the design and body, and looks at the challenges of the market launch. Veteran auto journalist and SAE Senior Editor Lindsay Brooke has put together a great package to launch a "one-stop shop" for vehicle electrification at evsae.com. View the magazine online at http://tinyurl.com/saeV01tmag or download a ZIP file of the PDF at http://pages.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/sae/10EVSD1104/offline/sae_10EVSD1104_pdf.zip. Comment at http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?5543-2011-Chevrolet-Volt-Development-Story-Free-Online-Magazine .
SOME TIDBITS & NUGGETS JUMPED OUT AT US (with page #s):
- Since 2007, battery packs have been TESTED for a million miles and four million hours (equivalent of 465 years) (21), and the vehicle has 6,000 welds (37).
- GM says the its testing shows the coefficient of DRAG of the Prius at .30, not the claimed .25, meaning the Volt at .28 is better (39)
- Why are "FENDER SKIRTS" as unpopular as proposing a gas tax? Bring back wheel partial fairings (as on the EV1 and original Honda Insight) that reduce drag significantly! http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/08/calling-raymond/ (39)
- IF THE ENGINE NEVER COMES ON: Engine Maintenance Mode every 45 days and an annual Fuel Maintenance Mode will maintain the car. (Where's the Text Mode to urge those drivers: "Get a pure EV?")
- Full two-page spreads: SPECS (14-15) and TIMELINE (24-25)
- 20 major Vehicle Control Software Calibrations (we hadn't heard the VESCOM acronym before) plus many interim iterations. (3)
- FUN QUOTES from GM team: John Lauckner, "We know that sometime in the future we'll move away from petroleum as the centrality of our whole propulsion strategy." (10) Tony Posawatz: "Looking back the team made many, many smart decisions and maintained a maniacal focus on developing this vehicle." (23) Andrew Farah: "Looking ahead we can optimize many of the technologies as aspects of the car that are somewhat suboptimized on Volt, due to the program timing and our focus on getting the battery absolutely right." (41) Pam Fletcher: "We made a lot of choices and spent a lot of development to make it a comfortable, smooth, quiet, pleasant-driving vehicle as well as making efficiency a big priority." (51) Britta Gross [before we start talking about secondary use of batteries or vehicle-to-grid or vehicle to home]: "Wait a second, guys! We've got to get the car right first." And from David Cole of the Center of Automotive Research: "Volt is perhaps the auto industry's most notable technological advancement of the past 50 years." (8)
IF YOU WANT TO READ ONLY ONE REVIEW, revel in Dan Neil's words in the Wall Street Journal: "Chevrolet Volt: A Win for the Home Team:" GM's futuristic extended-range electric vehicle and the company's most technologically significant car since the 1912 Cadillac... . A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet. And they did it in 29 months while the company they worked for was falling apart around them. That was downright heroic. Somebody ought to make a movie." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304510704575562363168727230.html
USA TODAY'S MOST CONSUMER-FOCUSED REVIEW by James Healey "Chevy's easy-driving Volt could be your only car:" Most of the time, you drive on battery power only. Some of the time, you burn gas to keep the juice flowing. No place to plug in to recharge? No problem. Fill the gas tank and drive on. How, exactly, is that anything but genius? http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/reviews/healey/2010-10-21-test-drive-chevrolet-volt_N.htm
CNN: JUST A VERY GOOD CAR by Peter Valdes-Dapena "Chevy Volt can go the distance:" On a long rainy-day drive from Washington, D.C., to Times Square, the Chevrolet Volt showed itself to be more than just a technological oddity... .The Volt, it turns out, is a really good, fully functional automobile that could just save you a lot of cash on gasoline, too. ... Bottom line, the Volt is a very good car and oh, it can drive for 40 miles without using any gasoline. http://money.cnn.com/2010/11/08/autos/chevy_volt_long_drive/index.htm
CAR & DRIVER CHIMES IN: by Dave Vanderwerp, 2011 Feature Test, "Electric Revival: Not only did it not kill the electric car, GM's reinvented it:" This is without a doubt the most important new car since the advent of hybrids in the late '90s, and GM has nailed it. Is this the handing off of the Prius's very illustrious torch? The Verdict: The ideal, near-term EV solution. http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/car/10q4/2011_chevrolet_volt-feature_test
CARS.COM GETS INTO DETAILS: Expert Review by Joe Wiesenfelder: After years of anticipation and inflated expectations, the Chevrolet Volt still manages to impress, bringing a new type of motoring in a package that's remarkably refined, comfortable and livable. For certain buyers, it's perfect. Who are those buyers? People who want two things: to drive an appreciable distance on electric power and to not worry about what happens if the battery runs out... .With time it could prove to be the model that makes drivers comfortable enough with the experience of plug-in motoring that they'll consider a battery-electric without the safety net of an onboard generator as their next car. http://www.cars.com/chevrolet/volt/2011/reviews/?revid=56683
DETROIT NEWS AUTO CRITIC Scott Burgess "Volt test drive quiet, efficient -- and fun:" Who knew a revolution could feel so normal? http://www.detnews.com/article/20101011/OPINION03/10110362/Volt-test-drive-quiet--efficient-ó-and-fun.
LOS ANGELES TIMES by Susan Carpenter: With its Volt, Chevy has made an EV for the masses that is alluring from all angles - inside, outside and under the hood. The Volt doesn't redeem GM from its past reclamation and crushing of the EV1, but it's a bold and impressive step into the future. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/21/business/la-fi-autos-chevrolet-volt-review-20101021
OTHER REVIEWS: See the Wikipedia entry on the car for much background, including a summary table showing the results and linking to the journalists' reports of average all-electric range (AER) and 35-40MPG fuel economy after the battery is depleted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevy_Volt#Test_drives .
GM REPOSITIONS TWO TECHNICAL ISSUES: Recently GM has shifted from "40-mile all-electric range" (AER) to "your mileage may vary" from 25-50. And once its patent filings were in place, GM revealed that under some conditions, the combustion engine actually joins the electric motor in directly powering the wheels. Experts applauded the refinement (a move away from a pure series hybrid) for permitting the entire system to be further optimized. PHEV originator Andy Frank notes that his company, Efficient Drivetrains, hopes to demonstrate how transmission technologies can further reduce the system's cost and improve efficiency. See GM's explanation at http://www.chevroletvoltage.com/index.php/Volt/clearing-up-confusion-about-the-chevrolet-volt.html, pages 29-34 in the SAE Magazine, and a non-technical explanation at http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2010/10/reality-check-is-the-2011-chevrolet-volt-an-electric-car-or-a-hybrid.html
OPEL AMPERA--EUROPE'S VOLT--NOW FOR SALE: GM is taking orders for the Opel Ampera. It's priced far higher than the Volt, in part because of the European Value Added Tax. http://green.autoblog.com/2010/11/11/opel-ampera-priced-from-42-900-euros-58-718-usd/
WRIGHTSPEED RAISES $5M: Ian Wright is best known for his X1, which he describes as the "world's fastest street legal electric car" (0-60 MPH in 2.9 seconds). He built it in Silicon Valley after leaving Tesla. Less well understood is that the vehicle previews technology destined not only for extreme-performance sports cars but also for PHEV systems in medium-duty trucks. You can understand the company's Digital DriveSystem technology by reading http://www.wrightspeed.com/technology . Now Wrightspeed has raised $5M from private sources, and after more than five years, the company can move forward!
MARKET PENETRATION RATES: JD Power projects poor future prospects for plug-in cars. Its study assumes business-as-usual scenarios for energy policies, stable oil prices, and slow improvements in technology. The report sparked anotherther wave of negative media stories, includng a much-noted editorial in the Washington Post. We posted a comment at Edmunds.com pointing to PlugInCars.com's able critique. (We added, "One more point: whether the penetration rate for new plug-ins is 5% or 20% of new cars by 2020, the resulting reduction in petroleum use will be no more than a drop in the bucket compared to the fuel used by cars already on the road, which makes the case for converting tens of millions of existing vehicles to run partly or entirely on electricity, as we at CalCars.org have been advocating.") See http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2010/10/formidable-roadblocks-remain-to-broad-acceptance-of-electric-drive-vehicles-report-by-jd-power--associates-says-growth-prospects-may-be-over-hyped.html .
Then Bloomberg New Energy Finance came up with better numbers. Looking to 2030 and changing only assumptions about gas prices, plug-ins' percent of new vehicle sales could be 14% at $2.08, 22% at $3.34, and 31% at $5.48. (Less than double in 20 years? What about $10 or $15?) See http://www.plugincars.com/another-week-another-analysis-plug-cars-account-9-auto-sales-2020-102541.html
GE'S GIANT FLEET PURCHASE: General Electric has committed to buy 25,000 PHEVs and EVs in the next five years, plugging in half of its fleet. GM says it will include 1,000 Volts in 2011 and 2-3,000/year after that. And signaling that this and other fleet purchases could increase Volt production volume plans, the Wall Street Journal quotes GM saying the GE purchase 'won't reduce the number of Volts available to the public." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703848204575608323321329514.html . On Monday watch for http://www.electrificationcoalition.org/events.php roundtable and announcement of its Fleet Electrification Roadmap.
SPORTS CARS ARE SPEEDIER ON ELECTRICITY:
Automakers are realizing they can cash in on the immediate, continuous torque of electric motors. Fast, small-volume models won't solve our energy problems, but they'll help make electric drive a must-have for mainstream models. Porsche says it has 2,300 soft orders for its previously announced 918 Spyder PHEV scheduled for 2013, costing up to 500,000 Euros ($682,260). BMW just approved production of its Vision EfficentDynamics 2+2 (smaller seats) "supercar," expected to cost over $140,000.
SPORTS CAR CONCEPTS AT THE PARIS AUTO SHOW:
JAGUAR C-X75 (concept-experimental-75th anniversary) PHEV sportscar with diesel turbo generators and a 68-mile range. 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds is something -- how about 0-200 in 17.5? AUDI E-TRON SPYDER is another diesel PHEV, 0-62 in 4.4 seconds, but speed limited to a mere 155 MPH.