News 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.