Yesterday General Motors had some publicity regarding their Volt automobile. That’s their all electric car. It runs entirely on electric power stored up in it’s battery and has a range of 40 miles before a small gasoline engine starts adding additional electricity to the battery pack. With that feature, the car is able to travel over 300 miles before needing a full recharge. At least that’s my own understanding of the vehicle.
The Volt is still about a year from becoming available. But yesterday the publicity was about its EPA stated MPG figure, to be placed on its window sticker for comparison to other vehicles. The big news was that Chevy, or GM, was suggesting that the MPG figure for city driving was 238 MPG. A staggering figure.
To be sure, the Volt derives much of its fuel through an electrical charge done overnight in the owners garage. Electrical power though, taken from the grid during non-peak times as will occur with the Volt is very economical as compared to gasoline. My understanding is that it is less than one-tenth the cost. So we’re onto something here.
Now the offset to that impressive fuel savings is the initial cost that these cars carry – $40,000.00 approximately. That certainly thins the ranks of those preparing to buy a Volt when it first becomes available. But Chevy can’t make these in volume immediately anyway, and they need to recoup the high cost for development. Also, it’s possible that the components – primarily the battery – are so expensive that this price-point is justified.
The general appearance of the car, and I have not seen one personally other than photos, appears to be a typical sized family sedan. Probably not much different in size and functionality to say a Chevy Malibu; a car that might cost something like $25,000.00 nominally when fully equipped. If that’s generally true the Volt has to overcome $15,000.00 in fuel savings before you would achieve a break-even value. I drive about 15,000 miles per year – normal I believe. If I were able to save eight cents per mile, and you do your own math on that calculation, it would take about 12 1/2 years to break-even. So I don’t think that this is a car for the masses.
It’s a beginning. It will likely sell to enough people who are not interested in cost as much as the technology and the greenness factor of the car. Hopefully with positive sales figures and enough time the price can be lowered and made more available to all.
Frankly I am not sure that I would want this car. It might be great, but I would worry about heat in the winter months, and the reduced range resulting from air conditioning use in summer. Honestly, I don’t know if these are legitimate concerns, but they do come to mind.
But it’s important that this car does come to market for a slightly different reason. We need to have an option for transportation when gas and oil become just too expensive. It might not happen in my lifetime, but someday gasoline is going to cost $25.00 a gallon and more. The version of the Volt selling then – maybe version 7 – will be well thought of then. So I’m glad of this new vehicle and the technological features that it represents.
I think that you really have to wonder though at the timing of this product in the General Motors story of late. It seems like a product that ought to be created by a company on a solid footing, not one in bankruptcy, or just coming out of it. It seems like a frivolous product and a distraction to what that company needs to be doing now.
I think that I’ll stop this post here, but will consider GM and the other domestic auto makers in another post soon. What I think about them, their situation, and what they mean to me.