A Silver Lining to Idling Production of the Chevy Volt?

ImageNews broke recently that Chevrolet has decided to idle production of the their Volt plug-in electric hybrid vehicle due to an expectation that they will miss their 2012 sales goal for the vehicle. Chevy sold 7,671 Volts in 2011 missing their 10,000 unit target by 2,329 units. There’s been a lot of talk about whether this represents a death knell for electric vehicles (EV), including plug-in electric hybrids which run on a combination of gas and electric power. I couldn’t disagree more, and actually see this as rather positive for plug-ins and EVs moving forward.
While more cars running on electric power is a good thing, plug-in electric hybrids like the Volt introduce confusion into a market place already frought with confusion. Money and talent spent on their development can also cut into R & D that could otherwise be used to further technological advancement of 100% electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, and Mitsubishi i MIEV; they do little to rid our reliance on oil; and the price point for the Volt (approx. $44,000) is simply too high to be competitive with internal combustion engine cars.
It is true that all types of hybrids will have a role to play, that includes plug-in hybrid electric cars like the Volt. And no matter what the sales figures look like, GM most likely won’t abandon EVs considering the extreme pressure from politicians and the public, post bailout.
My hope is that this “crisis” helps GM redesign and reintroduce the Volt to the world. I could see a future EV produced by Chevy that has greater electric range, relies less on a gas powered backup or assist as they call it, costs less, and really helps mass EV adoption by helping to minimize the confusion, not add to it.
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4 thoughts on “A Silver Lining to Idling Production of the Chevy Volt?

  1. I drive a Volt.

    Interesting thoughts. I would respectfully ask you to consider this:

    1. The effective price of a Chevy Volt is $24,045 (not a typo).

    The math is not hard:
    $39,145 (from Chevy website) – $7500 tax credit = $31,645

    $31,645 – $7600 fuel saving v. an average car (as detailed on its window sticker) = $24,045 effective price

    The effective price of a Chevy Volt is $6000 (25%) LESS than the average car today (~$30,000)

    I feel confident that those who have driven a Volt would consider that it is far better than average in terms of driving experience (closer to BMW 3 Series, than a typical econobox).

    2. Volt drivers get 273ft-lbs of torque, 360miles of range and save about 121.64 MPG (source: voltstats.net). Assuming that you traded in a car that gets 25MPG, you are using on about 8 gallons of gas v. 40 in the previous car… which is just under 80%.

    Saving 80% in fuel is not 100%…but it is pretty close… and the trade off of never having range anxiety and being able to drive up to a gas station and fill up in 5 mins (v. hours charging) when needed, makes the car extremely practical for most commuters.

  2. Bobbleheadguru

    I would disagree with your effective price argument. If a potential Chevy Volt buyer currently owns a Prius, which achieves better than 25 MPG, doesn’t this change the effective price of the Volt?

    Also, by your calculations, the price of a gallon of gas changes your effective price, does it not? Looking at the Federal Trade Commission’s site, the average price of a new car purchase in the US is $28,400, again making the Volt purchase less attractive, financially speaking.

    Regarding driving experience, I agree that the Volt probably doesn’t feel like an econobox. I find range anxiety interesting because I have never heard an EV owner say they have range anxiety, I have only heard range anxiety used by those who don’t own an EV.

    • The EPA provides an estimate on the Chevy Volt window sticker comparing it to an average car. They estimate that you will save $7600/5 years or about $126/month. I found this to be low side (of course depending on which car you are comparing to). I am not sure if they do this on a Prius.

      Comparing to a Prius is fair to a point… until you get to performance/fun to drive.

      The Volt is a lot closer to a BMW 3 series than a Prius in that department IMO… That is debatable, but I would feel confident in saying that virtually anyone who drives a Volt would consider it “above average”.

      Bottom Line: Get an above average car… at a below average effective price when you factor in fuel.

      The one Nissan Leaf owner I spoke to was at a public charging station with his young child…both of them waiting… so that they could get enough juice to get home.

      Perhaps this was not a representative story. I am only speak to my experience. I need about 60 miles per day… and occasionally over 80 miles. I use it as my primary car.

      If you think about it, even 100 miles of range is about equal to a 1/4 tank of gas. If you look at it that way, most people would feel very uncomfortable if they only had a 1/4 tank of gas in their tank, at most, all of the time… and that is even though they can get to a gas station and fill up within 5 minutes.

  3. Bobbleheadguru

    I agree with you on the performance, and looking at how attractive the Volt is vs. the Leaf (which is what I own) and especially the Prius, the Volt is much easier on the eyes. I am sure its performance and fun quotient is much greater as well.

    I drive 57 – 60 miles a day with my Leaf with no problems. It depends on your lifestyle, that is why I encourage anyone buying any type of car to do their due diligence before buying: you wouldn’t buy a Corolla as your work vehicle if you owned a landscaping company.

    The post was really about how pure EV development in the very near future can get cars 300 miles of range at a price point that is competitive with the initial cost of ICE vehicles. When I bought my Leaf, I factored in the operational costs over 5 years and of course realized the benefit, but EVs and PHEVS won’t reach mass adoption until they are the same price as an ICE. That day is sooner than we think.

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