Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GM Volt

I have been walking around in amazement at the latest announcement from automobile manufacturer GM (yes, that GM, the one whose financial situation was so horrible it required government intervention and takeover to keep it alive) about the imminent rollout of the GM-Volt. This car runs primarily on electricity and presumably can get up to 40 miles off of a single charge before the fuel-combustion process kicks in. 40 miles of low-intensity city driving! Since my family lives within 5 miles of just about every place we need to get to during the course of the day, it is possible that we would almost never have to use gasoline to drive around the city. And even with the use of gasoline, the car is calculated to get up to 230 miles-per-gallon under the normal usage patterns of the average driver. That's about 9 to 10 times the miles per gallon rate that many vehicles get. Incredible! I have three ancillary thoughts about this:

(1) I would purchase a GM-Volt in a heartbeat; and, as soon as it's on the market, I will. With 10 times the MPG savings, it would more than pay for itself within a very short time.
(2) I wonder why GM, sitting on this gold mine, wouldn't have unveiled this car sooner? Even the simple announcement of this advance in automotive technology would have been enough to bolster GM's standing on Wall Street and would have prevented its financial collapse. It makes me think that the auto industry, in collusion with the oil industry, simply kept this from us.
(3) If it takes a government bailout and takeover to shake the car industry up in such a way, I want to see more of this. Please!


D-BB said...

Hucky, 3 questions:

Do you know what plugging in this unrepairable turkey gonna do to your electric bill?

If we all get one and recharge them when we get home, how will our power grid react?

Do you have a fear of touching an amputee's stump or is it just me?

Huck said...

Yeah, D-BB, the maximum charge of the battery that runs the Volt is 16KW of electricity. The average cost of a KW of electricity in Louisiana is about 8 cents. The fuel combustion kicks in when the battery is drained to about 30% of its charge, which is about when there is 5KW of electricity remainint. This means that, if I can get from a fully charged battery about 40 miles before the fuel combustion kicks in, I will always use a maximum of about 11 KW of electricity from the charge obtained off the grid. Given that the average rate per KW in Louisiana is about 8 cents, it will cost me about $.88 worth of electricity for every 40 miles of travel that does not use combustible fuel -- an insignificant amount. Running a 240 volt window air conditioning unit (not to mention a Cenral AC system) non stop for a month during the summer will cost more in electricity than running the Volt for a year.

Huck said...

Oh, and as for touching an amputee's stump, D-BB, I think that's just you.

Eric said...

First, GM has been promoting this car and this technology since 2007, well before the government takeover. In fact, AFTER the government takeover, they scaled back the first production run from 60,000 cars to 10,000 cars. So I'm not so sure government takeovers are going to be too helpful to your cause.

If the technology is as good as advertised, there is a lot of promise here. I'll always need a truck for some things, but I'd consider an electric car for 'running around' if the range was a little longer and the price tag a lot lower. The problem I foresee for 1st Generation electric cars is that they'll be competing with bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds, and fuel efficient used cars that can be had for under $5k.

However, regarding this particular model, I think the Volt will be D.O.A. Nissan has already announced the Leaf, which can go twice the distance and is predicted to cost at least $10,000 less. It will be coming out shortly after the Volt, so I imagine a lot of 'first adopters' will wait for it, unless the governmetn does somethig to intervene on GM's behalf, which I guess it is sort of obligated to do now (or is it? I don't claim to understand the proper and ethical market role of a government owned car company).

Huck said...

Thanks for the info, Eric. I wasn't fully aware of the Leaf, which sounds great, too. You are probably right about the cost calculations, but I still think it would pay for itself over a used high mileage fully fuel combustion vehicle that one can get for $5K or less. But I think that argument only works for used cars, not for bikes, mopeds, etc. These other options are already on the market with regular cars and offer even more relative savings to the gas guzzlers than to the electric cars, so I don't see them really impacting the market in the way you suggest.

Suffice it to say that I am excited about the prospects for the Volt or the Leaf or any similar electric car for a variety of reasons.

Eric said...

"I still think it would pay for itself over a used high mileage fully fuel combustion vehicle that one can get for $5K or less."

Well, let's take a look. Say you are going to buy a car specifically for short trips, and you'll put around 100 miles per week on it, or 5200 miles a year.

A 2000 model Honda Civic Hatchback w/ 125K miles in good condition will run you about $5,000 and gets about 30MPG.

Brand new Chevy Volt costs about $32K (after government rebates/tax incentives) and gets 230MPG.

Figuring $3.00/gallon the annual gas cost for the used Honda about $520.

Annual gas cost for the Volt would be about $70 (not counting the boost to your electric bill, which should be counted).

So we're spending an extra $27,000 to save $450 per year in gas? Doesn't make sense.

Granted, there are other reason a person may want a newer vehichle, but from a cost standpoint, the old Honda is a better deal.

I'd also note that as electric cars increase their range, thus allowing comparisons to be made to real driving habits (we easily put 30K miles per year on our vehicles) the gas cars quickly lose out on the cost comparison... but we aint there yet.

D-BB said...

So is it my understanding that Comrade Obama and his right wing party are subsidizing cars that will be outdated soon? Why not wait and subsidize those electric cars? If you think the car companies were bad off 8 months ago, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Who in their right mind is going to buy a car after that cash for a clunker thing is over? It isn’t smart to mess around with the “free market” but perhaps those days in America have come to an end. I believe that we all may have traded in a “clunker” for a “lemon“.

Holy Mother of the Incubus, I almost sound intelligent.

Ok, I think that just ruined it.