Electric Cars and The Volt Can Transform America and the Auto Industry TODAY!!!
By Seth Leitman


Tue, Jan 6, 2009

Electrifying Times gave me the opportunity to attend a General Motors press event showing off the Volt back in late 2008 after just releasing the book Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, 2nd Edition. In addition, I am finalizing the manuscript for Build Your Own Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Since the Volt claimed to be some sort of plug-in hybrid, it is perfect topic of discussion for the book.

How Does It Work?

One of the engineers explained to me how the car works. It is basically a 40 mile per hour / 40 mile electric car. After that, it kicks into a gas car; basically a series hybrid.

While a series hybrid is good, the Toyota Prius gets 100 miles per gallon because after the 20 miles of pure EV mode, it kicks into a hybrid-electric car.


The funny thing is that the reason they need to make this technology work is the real economic point; it would cost about less than $1.00 a day to charge up! Yup, we are taking about no charging stations. By using a Standard Society of Engineer 1772 standard for chargers, makes the electric car more versatile since you use a 110/120 outlet and safe. That allows the driver while at work or at the train station to charge up. What can that do? Turn the car into a 80 mile range EV.
City Driving – All Electric

Yes, all city driving would then be virtually all electric. That is a emission reduction dream and an ability to make every car in the GM family plug-in hybrid. This idea of a plug-in hybrid electric car by fuel efficiency standards shows how some car companies would choose to go all electric.

The range extended EV provides the consumer with a great start for an electric drive vehicle. While, I might personally like a plug-in hybrid that then goes to hybrid, to get the market ready for the technology, an EV range / dual-fuel car can work.

GM should add the Volt technology to every car.  The GM (Range Extending EV) comes in with 50 miles per gallon. Toyota is basically 100 miles per gallon. If you charge up the Toyota Prius PHEV you would get 200 miles per gallon and 40 mile EV range; the same as the Volt.
Going Backward Before Forward

One reporter at the event asked a GM manager if there is no hybrid-electric vehicle after 40 EV miles, then how will that make a car over $40,000 worth it. I kind of wonder that too since a PHEV should allow for an all electric range, then kick into a hybrid to get more energy savings for your buck. That is what really makes the car more cost effective, efficient and more environmentally benign. In addition, you would think that a dual-fuel EV/gas car would be more cost effective than the Prius. Guess not.

The Electric Part of The Volt Is What People Want!

It brings me back to the electric car. You see, all we are doing is going back to what we started from; which is the essence of the automobile (since the first cars were electric).
While hybrids have been recently criticized for not being as efficient or cost effective as they could be, plug-in hybrids (and more importantly pure EVs) can be much more competitive if all vehicles in the fleet each year were partially battery then hybrid versus dual fuel. Why? It reduces the overall cost of the batteries to purchase more at a single time (car companies from battery companies). This will reduce the overall cost of the car making plug-in hybrids more competitive.
Why Did It Have To Happen This Way?

While GM did just receive money from the Federal Government, it begs the question: Why is GM receiving Federal bailout monies "delaying" the $370 million Flint, Michigan plant to build the engine for the Volt and the 2010 Chevrolet Cruze
40 mpg automobile? Also, how do they plan to meet the 2010 deadline if the plant they wanted to build is being delayed for even a ground breaking?
One can only hope that in the recent future someone in Washington will demand that they clearly explain and prove how they intend to launch to Volt in 2010?

What Could They Do?

Here are some other important aspects to pure electric cars (or the purely electric part of a PHEV).

The big three factors always regarding electric cars that could possibly help the Big Three (I hope) get out of this mess.
1) Electric cars are zero emission vehicles. Also, power plants will reduce emissions overtime making electric cars cleaner per vehicle once the stationary source that powers the vehicle gets cleaner.
More importantly, rather than coal or other unsustainable energy sources, if wind, solar, geothermal and tidal energy become more of the energy portfolio, the vehicles are fully zero emission and oil free!
2) Electric cars cost pennies to charge. In addition, I recently told someone about Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G). This is when the electric car batteries (energy storage) reverse meter your energy costs. So when you recharge the utilities take energy from your car at 15 minute intervals enabling a credit on your energy bill. The greatest part is that GM is working with utilities to coordinate this effort on a national scale!

3) Car company bailouts should inevitably be directed (and I believe can) toward every car being electric drive of some sort of another. While I am an EV purist and will always be, this move would give an immediate boost for green jobs, real jobs. This could only help our discussion for automotive jobs, green jobs and the entire car industry. This will also reduce the overall cost of the battery in each car since car companies would be buying them in bulk orders.

So, what is there to do?

Evolve…Electric cars, plug-in hybrids and hybrids are the solutions for revolutionizing the auto industry. Therefore, they should stop delaying the production. They in fact should accelerate production of the Volt.
GM, Make the Volt Great!

As I was leaving the event I told the General Motors staff that I truly believed that the ultimate goal for GM should be to make a car that exceeds all expectations and sells at a reasonable price with versatility. The Volt can still do it. You see, if GM could embrace the electric car, the electric car will help General Motors. 

Seth Leitman
Founder, Green Living Guy

Author, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle

Author, Build Your Own Plug-in Hybrid (Sept. 2009)
Consulting Editor, Green Guru Guides, McGraw-Hill Professional
100 South Bedford Road, Suite 340
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549