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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Green Living Guy
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