Mar 21, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
At the New York Auto Show, GM's Vice Chairman Bob Lutz reflects the emerging trend toward an end to business as usual. Here are excerpts from a USA Today story followed by a report and thoughtful response to Lutz by John O'Dell (formely LA Times auto editor, now at Edmunds), to which we've added our two cents.
Then reports by the Detroit Free Presss and Consumer Reports on the unusual event that reflects the new, more public style of many automakers: "Volt Nation, organized by GM-Volt.com with the support and participation of GM spokespeople.
http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2008-03-19-new-york-auto-show_N.htm Move over, big trucks and SUVs: Here come the cars By James R. Healey, Chris Woodyard and Sharon Silke Carty, USA TODAY [excerpted from report on New York Auto Show] Eco-friendly cars make strides
Along with cars that are fuel-stingy by virtue of size, the auto show calendar that began in Los Angeles last November also has, not surprisingly, included plenty of environmentally friendly fuel-sippers.
"Our industry has relied on 95% oil to power our vehicles. Obviously that is going to change," General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner says.
"If oil prices continue the way they're going, I think we jump from hybrids to the next generation of plug-in hybrids much faster than the domestic automakers are planning or have thought about," Tynan [Kevin Tynan, an industry analyst at Argus Research] says.
A fast shift to plug-ins, still in development but some able to average 70 to 120 miles per gallon, sounds like a dream. But they'll cost more than today's hybrids, which in turn cost more than all-gasoline vehicles.
And the shift might be too sudden for Detroit, Tynan says. Domestic automakers are "running to catch up to a market that's gone by them by the time they get there," he says. "If they're working to make midsize sedans more competitive with the import (cars), the import makers are already focusing on the next generation of hybrids. … They're already behind."
Lutz: GM May Be 80 Percent Hybrid by 2020 http://blogs.edmunds.com/.eea5350/0 John O'Dell, Senior Editor Mar 19, 2008
Lord knows what he'll be saying next year, but right now GM's Battling Bob Lutz is telling anyone who'll listen that the company's cars are going to cost more and mostly have some sort of hybrid powertrain with a downsized gas engine in order to meet the recently approved 35 miles per gallon federal fuel efficiency average for 2015.
On Tuesday, talking to reporters in Washington, D.C., GM's vice chairman for global product said that hybrids would account for as much as a third of the company's U.S. sales by 2015.
"We're going to have to sell a ton of hybrids whether people want them or not," he told Bloomberg News, adding that the new fuel economy standards are "basically going to result in the quasi-disappearance of V-8 engines."
On Wednesday, Lutz was ratcheting up the rhetoric at the New York Auto Show.
"By 2020 we figure that 80 percent of vehicles will require some sort of hybridization," he said after introducing three new Pontiac models. "We cannot get to 35 miles per gallon with anything resembling the current product portfolio with anything resembling current technology."
Even with hybrids, he told the Detroit Free Press, GM would still struggle. The company's well-reviewed two-mode hybrid system, he said, was only able to bring fuel economy in GM's full-size sport-utility vehicles to 22 miles per gallon.
"How do you get those from 22 to 35? We don't know," Lutz said. "We're open to ideas."
Build lots of the Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicles you've been touting. Volume production of the 50-60 mpg car with up to 40 miles of all-electric range will help bring down the costs of the system. With gasoline and diesel prices expected to remain in $4-$5 a gallon territory, there will be wquite a few people interested in buying.
Economies of scale would make it possible to fit the system into less expensive models that would sell for more affordable prices than the $35,000 that's been the most recent estimate for the Volt. And slipping it into upscale Escalades and the like would improve profits.
Sales of several hundred thousand Volts and their cousins each year would go a long way toward bringing fleetwide average up to 35 miles per gallon.
felixkramer - Mar 20, 2008:
This is good news from Mr. Lutz. Within GM, there are many who wonder how this company can transition its entire universe of offerings to more efficient cars. The answer, as John O'Dell so ably suggests, is full or partial electrification, thereby displacing gasoline with cleaner, cheaper, domestically-generated electricity. It's almost a sure bet that any one of the three candidates who become President will support such efforts in the early days of their new administrations as a way to reduce fossil fuel dependency -- because it's the end of business as usual. The benefits increase the larger the car, which is more obvious if you look at gallons saved per hundred miles, instead of miles per gallon. -- Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars.org
DETROIT FREE PRESS REPORTS ON "VOLT NATION" EVENT
NEW YORK AUTO SHOW
Volt fans energized
GM execs mingle at gathering ignited by blogger
BY KATIE MERX • FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER • March 20, 2008
NEW YORK -- Enthusiasts eager for General Motors Corp. to bring its Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car to market got a major charge in New York on Wednesday after hearing from the top executives on the program, including a surprise visit by Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.
More than 300 people from across the country traveled to the New York Auto Show for an opportunity to meet with and question some of the top executives responsible for the fast-track development of the car, which is to go into production by the end of 2010.
"We sense the energy from Volt Nation," Lutz said, "and it propels us to get it to market as promised and on time." [snip] While the event, titled Volt Nation, took place at the auto show's Chevrolet display, it was the brainchild of Dr. Lyle Dennis, a 39-year-old New York neurologist for whom the concept of the Volt struck such a strong chord that he started a blog in his spare time: www.gm-volt.com.
"I've always been interested in not burning oil for all the reasons people talk about: environment, financial, social, political," Dennis said. "I recognized right away that the Volt was going to be very important for the future of the country and the world. ... I wanted to create a place for like-minded people to get together and influence this car's development."
With the Volt Nation event, Dennis said earlier in the day, the Web site, which is independent of the automaker, has achieved a milestone.
"For the first time in history, a major U.S. automaker will hold a conference not for the press, not for the government ... but for the consumer," said Dennis, who has become something of a cult hero among those who frequent his Web site. .
The Web site has become so popular -- it averages 100,000 visitors per month -- that in November GM agreed to participate in an in-person meeting with enthusiasts.
"My goal has been to connect people to GM," Dennis said. "At first, I would say, 'Give me your questions and I'll be the guy that carries them to the team.' After that, I realized: Wouldn't it be cool if I could bring 250 people to meet the team?"
GM said yes and agreed to host 300 members of the so-called Volt Nation.
On Wednesday, several top executives, including Lutz, vehicle line executive and chief engineer Frank Weber, vehicle line director Tony Posawatz, Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper, and several other top executives answered questions from a room full of people who'd all like to be first to own the electric vehicle when it comes out. [snip] Jon Lauckner, GM vice president of global program management, called the automaker's interaction with such a large group of potential consumers at an auto show in advance of the production model unprecedented.
Posawatz said the one-on-one method of communication is integral to the development of the Volt and GM's future.
"The very reason we are here is to get input and learn from you," Posawatz told the crowd in formal remarks before the team informally mingled with the Volt Nation visitors.
Peper vowed to keep the lines of communication with the group open.
"We are absolutely thrilled to have so many advocates out there for the Volt," said Peper. "The word of mouth from the advocates we have for this product is the No. 1 thing we can do to make it a success."
AT THE WEBSITE: http://www.gm-volt.com/ STORIES INCLUDE:
Volt Nation VIDEO: Bob Lutz Addresses the Crowd Posted in: Volt Nation Video This is the section of Volt Nation where GM vice chairman Bob Lutz made some comments to the crowd about the car and the event.
Lutz: 94.5% Confident Chevy Volt in Production by November 2010 Soon after the Volt concept was first announced in January 2007 GM vice chairman Bob Lutz told the world he was 90% confident it would be built by 2010. This has become my favorite question to ask him each time I get the chance because it is a good gauge of the programs development […]
Volt Nation Press Coverage: A Million Volts, GM expects to Lose Money at First Another great outcome of the Volt Nation event is that we are getting considerable press coverage. This will help spread the word. It is interesting to see how reporters describe our efforts.
Volt Nation a Success
We did it!
I just got back from the Volt Nation event at the
Jacob Javits Center and I believe it was a
smashing success. Over 200 people braved the
rains and traveled by car bus and plane from as
far away as Chicago, Arizona, Minnesota, and
California to take part in this historic event.
Volt Nation Has Arrived This site has served as a public forum to analyze and observe the production of the car that will change the word. The first mass-produced electrically-driven car built by a major automaker with sufficient infrastructure to see to it that a large proportion of the population will have access to it.
Lutz: Volt Battery Suppliers are in a Horse Race and Expect 100,000 in sales by 2012 GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said GM initially planned to choose between either CPI/LG Chem or Conti/A123 to make the Volts pack by this April, but that the plans have changed somewhat. He now says GM wants to “run the two in parallel for a while longer”. He calls the battle to be the Volt’s […]
CONSUMER REPORTS EDITOR'S BLOG REPORT
http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2008/03/chevrolet-volt.html March 20, 2008 -- Eric Evarts Plugged in: Chevrolet Volt
General Motors' development of the Chevrolet Volt has been conducted with unprecedented publicity for the company. In fact, it has had so much publicity that it has led some skeptics to believe the program is a mere publicity stunt. Given that the American industry needs more good news for multiple reasons, this theory is alluring. Either way, we keep learning more about the GM program at almost every auto show and on many occasions in between.
At a "town hall" meeting with Volt enthusiasts in New York, the company spelled out many more details about its targets for the production car. Here's what we learned:
- It will definitely be a small, four-door hatchback based on GM's global small-car architecture, as the concept car is, and it will be built on an existing assembly line.
- The car will likely be low-slung and narrow, because aerodynamics will be important to achieving the targeted fuel economy. Seats will "fit like a tailored suit, not a bulky winter coat," says the Volt's Chief Engineer Andrew Farah.
- The car's lithium-ion battery pack will have 16 kilowatt/hours of capacity - the amount necessary to travel 40 miles on an electric charge.
- The car will have an "intelligent" on-board battery charger that can automatically charge from any type of typical household electric current - either 110-volt or 220-volt AC.
- The battery pack will consist of 250 individual cells, wired in series. If any one of them fails, the whole pack will be dead. The pack will be liquid-cooled.
- Those batteries will use one of two technologies: lithium-ion nano-phosphate batteries from A123 systems in Massachusetts, or lithium-ion magnesium batteries from LG Chem. Neither technology was used in the lithium batteries that exploded spontaneously in laptop computers. Although lithium battery technology is advancing, GM has frozen this technology for the first-generation Volt to meet its November 2010 production target.
- GM is targeting an acceleration time from 0 to 60 mph of between 7 and 9 seconds, similar to the range of most family sedans today.
- The Volt will initially be sold only in certain states or cities, but will roll out nationwide "within months" after that. [snip]