By Mark Halper
Posting in Design
Last week the plug-in hybrid EV was flat on its face, with GM suspending production. Now it picks itself up and gets back in the race with a triumphant vote at the Geneva Motor Show.
It's not often that we invoke Frank Sinatra as an energy industry observer, but get this: General Motor's Chevy Volt, which last week found itself flat on its face, yesterday picked itself up and got back in the race.
Just three days after GM said it was suspending production of the poor selling plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, journalists voted it European Car of the Year 2012, beating out finalists including the Volkswagen Up! and Toyota Yaris at the Geneva Motor Show.
The Volt powers its wheels with electric motors fueled initially by a lithium-ion battery, which lasts for between 25 miles and 50 miles. When the battery runs low a generator takes over, driven by a gasoline engine that gives the Volt a 310 mile range, according to GM.
Judges seemed particularly impressed that the hybrid gasoline/electric feature eliminates "range anxiety" - the fear that a purely electric car will lose its charge and strand the motorist on the highway. GM, which in Europe calls the Volt the Opel Ampera, refers to the hybrid system as a range extender.
"With its range extender the Ampera presents a very sound new concept on our way to e-mobility," Hakan Matson, president of the judge's panel and a Swedish journalist, said in a Geneva Motor Show press release. "By solving the problem of range anxiety, it is a remarkable step into future of electrification. A Car of the Year has to show excellence in a number of categories - with special attention to the needs of consumers."
Criteria included innovation, value for money, quality, design and environmental aspects, according to the release.
In addition to the Up! and the Yaris, other finalists from an original field of 35 entrants included the Citroen DS5, Fiat Panda, Ford Focus and Range Rover Evoque.
The Volt's victory might come as a shock to many who are just absorbing last Friday's GM announcement that it is halting production of the car for 5 weeks starting March 19, as inventories swell. The stoppage also applies to the Ampera according to Yahoo News, which cited a Ward's report that inventories had hit 154 days, well above the targeted 60 days, and that 2011 sales fell well below GM's goal of 10,000 units, at 7,681.
That's life in the electric vehicle business, where consumers are balking at high price tags and range anxiety, and where the car industry is improving the efficiency of gasoline and deisel-fueled vehicles. In the U.S., the Volt sells for $41,000 before a $7,500 government rebates, compared to $16,800 for the Chevrolet Cruze.
GM will welcome the vote of confidence from Geneva, but don't expect it to croon soon about the Volt riding high in April.
Tomorrow: Sammy Davis on solar power. Thursday: Dean Martin on martini-based jet fuel. Just kidding.
A mere sampler of more EV volts and shocks on SmartPlanet:
- Ford Focus Electric exceeds 100MPGe
- Following weak sales, GM throttles Chevy Volt production
- Japan, S. Korea, dominate electric car and hybrid battery market
- BAE turns LeMans race car’s carbon fiber body into battery
- U.S. battery startups face strong headwinds
- No EVs please, we’re British
- China turning its back on EVs
Mar 5, 2012
The car is beautiful and apparently great to drive but the math does not work even if one actually gets a small tax break. Compared to a Prius (regular version), assuming a 20% gas price increase per year, excise tax where applicable, it breaks even in 8-10 years if it gets the 95mpg equivalent, which in real life it will not. The car is "just" $15,000 overpriced right now until gas hits 8 to $10 a gallon; give it 10 years and we will be there. Additionally, if you do not own a garage, you can't recharge it so you only get 35mpg, which further more restricts the market to people owning a house with a car garage and definitively excludes those living in apartments.
There are an aftermarket battery kit and wired charging lit for the Prius that gives it nearly the same performance as the Volt plug in hybrid for a lot less money. The Volt is both a design and a marketing failure.
Great point. You hit on a big limitation of all current EVs. No all weather charging ability. If you have no shelter, you cannot safely charge them. Taken right off the SPX web site. https://www.homecharging.spx.com/volt/Home.aspx?l=1 - - - The technical specifications for home charging installation will vary for each individual customer based on their desired home charging location and home information (i.e. year home was built, attached or detached garage, existing 240-volt line, etc). - - -
Perhaps Obama can buy my vote by offering a $25,000 tax credit for building a garage so I can charge an EV.