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Bob Lutz says that GM dropped the ball by taking an already fuel efficient vehicle and making it electric

Bob Lutz knows a thing or two about automobiles. The man has spent decades in the automotive industry at such companies like Ford, BMW, Chrysler, and General Motors. In the previous decade, Lutz was one of the men who spearheaded the development of the Chevrolet Volt — GM’s answer to the Toyota Prius.
However, in a new interview with the Seattle Times, Lutz explains that putting the Voltec powertrain in a small car first was a bad idea. “The whole automotive industry made the intellectual mistake of thinking EVs were all about maximum range, so we all started with small vehicles that are basically very economical anyway.”

Bob Lutz
He goes on to add, “It makes less sense to take a 40 mpg vehicle and make it electric than it does to take a full-size pickup or SUV, which in town realistically gets 11 to 12 mpg. If you take that to 100 mpg, now you’re really saving money and saving a scarce natural resource and reducing CO2 emissions drastically.”
But of course, Lutz already has a horse in this race. His current company, VIA Motors, has developed plugin-in hybrid pickups, SUVs, and vans that can travel up to 40 miles on battery power (and up to 300 miles once the gasoline engine/generator kicks in).
And while it’s true that the best-selling full-size trucks and SUVs are some of the most fuel-guzzling vehicles on American roads, auto manufactures are already taking steps to dramatically increase fuel economy. Chrysler is offering a VM Motori diesel engine in its half-ton Ram 1500 and the next generation Chevrolet Colorado will also be available with a diesel engine option. For its part, Ford is using aluminum to trim hundreds of pounds from its best-selling F-150 and efficient EcoBoost engines to boost highway fuel economy to near 30 mpg.

Volt MPV5 Concept
As for using the Voltec powertrain for vehicles larger than a compact-class car, General Motors had the chance to do so with the Volt MPV5 concept. That concept offered 5-passenger seating (versus four for the Volt) and up to 62 cu ft of cargo space. Instead, General Motors sought to recoup some of the initial costs of developing the Voltec powertrain by instead offering it in the $75,000 Cadillac ELR luxury coupe.

Source: Seattle Times

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Turck Owners...
By mmatis on 1/1/2014 10:31:35 AM , Rating: 3
demand more reliability from their vehicles than this power train would deliver. It would be like going back to the 700R4 transmission, which failed regularly. Of course, the Rhinestone Cowboys would be fine with such a vehicle. But then maybe they are not a large percentage of the truck buying public...

RE: Turck Owners...
By dgingerich on 1/1/2014 10:39:10 AM , Rating: 2
I would agree with this statement, with limitations. Truck owners who actually use the truck for hauling and work do want a more reliable truck. There are a great many truck owners around here (Denver, Colorado) who get trucks just because they're big. It's more of a macho thing. These guys, and sometimes women, get these for image rather than practicality.

RE: Turck Owners...
By bildan on 1/1/2014 12:03:19 PM , Rating: 1
Lutz is right. VIA trucks will be MORE reliable than the gas-only dinosaurs they replace. With substantial AC power for electrical tools, they'll also be more useful to the handful of owners who do actual work with them. For fleet operators, the economics make VIA a no-brainer.

The other 99% of truck owners really are "Rhinestone Cowboys".

RE: Turck Owners...
By Souka on 1/1/2014 12:55:29 PM , Rating: 1
My wife drives an Acura MDX... 17mpg mostly city.

The only time it see's dirt is when we take the family camping, but even then a Prius could handle most of the dirt roads we go in on.

I guess she's a Rhinestone Cowgirl. :)

BTW: I drive a Prius...48-55mpg is typical for me, with almost 600mile range. Except for slippery snow/ice, I get everywhere on standard tires. For snow/ice I have to chain up much earlier than our Acura MDX

RE: Turck Owners...
By Monkey's Uncle on 1/1/2014 2:40:46 PM , Rating: 5
I really don't see luxury crossovers like the MDX, RDX or ZDX as SUVs. Had a Lexus RX300 a few years back and the last place I would have taken that is off road.

SUVs are built on truck chassis & suspensions to handle the rigors of offroad use. Crossovers are built with car suspensions and chassis which makes them suitable only for on-road use - though you can get away with using them on rough country roads.

RE: Turck Owners...
By JediJeb on 1/3/2014 2:04:11 PM , Rating: 2
True, there are very few true SUV's being made now and even fewer real Utility Vehicles. About the only reasonable priced vehicle I would want to take completely off road, as in not even a dirt trail, in near stock form would be a Jeep Wrangler. To be honest even the Wranglers need better tires than what they come with for such trips. A Nissan Xterra would come close second, but even their suspensions are not a well suited for off road as the Jeep's old style solid axles.

Around here most of the off road clubs use only older Jeep CJs, Wranglers,and XJ Cherokees along with Ford Broncos, Chevy Blazers and older pickups. For some things old style is just better.

RE: Turck Owners...
By p05esto on 1/1/2014 7:10:32 PM , Rating: 2
I highly doubt too many people buy pick-up trucks for the fun of it. That would be a strange vehicle choice if you never haul anything.... not sure, but I've never met a truck person that dind't haul around an ATV or work tools or something. I use my truck all the time for various stuff. Trucks also are very strong and great in accidents. There are a lot of reasons to own a truck.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Spuke on 1/2/2014 12:09:57 AM , Rating: 2
It's rare but I've meet some people that simply just like trucks and don't haul or tow anything. But most people I know with trucks use them for something other than as a commuter.

RE: Turck Owners...
By jimbojimbo on 1/2/2014 11:41:27 AM , Rating: 1
It all depends on where you drive. It seems to be a cultural thing with men. For example in Illinois where I live now you don't see that many pickup trucks and those that do own one actually use them for they cargo bays. I also used to live in North Carolina and more than half the cars around were pickup trucks and hardly anybody used their cargo bays except for very minor items that could easily fit in any other truck. Men feel like they need the biggest trucks as well to make them feel manly or something. I found it odd but it was normal there.
It's all a cultural thing.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Motoman on 1/2/2014 1:52:46 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, there's *vast* numbers of people like that. Go poke around at a used car lot and see how many 5-year old trucks have perfect paint in the bed...

RE: Turck Owners...
By JediJeb on 1/3/2014 2:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
You will find some 20 year old trucks without a single scratch in the bed. Once they started making the upscale trim models(leather seats, high end stereo, power everything,ect) people started using them for regular transportation not just utility.

Mine has a plain bench seat, vinyl flooring and only delay wipers, A/C and a AM/FM radio. You can't find anything nearly that plain now days on a lot, you can hardly even order one like that now.

RE: Turck Owners...
By npcomplete on 1/1/2014 12:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
Electric motors are already inherently more reliable from an engineering perspective than gas engines. The design is orders of magnitude simpler, and much smaller, with much less moving parts.

From VIA motors:
"The VIA 402 hp electric motor called the VR300 provides as much power as a V-8 gas engine. The new electric motor is just 11" x 11" (about the size of a basketball) and weighs just 108 lbs, yet puts out over 402 hp! With very few moving parts, and over 95% efficient, it can last much longer than a combustion engine and comes with an 8 year warranty."

RE: Turck Owners...
By Jeffk464 on 1/1/2014 1:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
The only "rubbing" parts are the bearings, a high quality motor should last a very very long time.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Dorkyman on 1/1/2014 1:51:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, an electric motor is inherently more reliable than an engine with hundreds of moving parts, but it's not relevant. When do you hear someone say, "Well, I'm buying an EV because those gasoline engines are just so darned unreliable!"

The fact is that engines are remarkably reliable for many, many miles. Not a factor in the buying decision.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Monkey's Uncle on 1/1/2014 2:43:36 PM , Rating: 1
The motors themselves may be more reliable, but what about the transmissions you need in a truck. What about the heavy weight and reliability of the batteries?

RE: Turck Owners...
By jimbojimbo on 1/2/2014 11:52:43 AM , Rating: 2
Transmissions? We're talking electric vehicles here. They just have motors. It all depends on the type of hybrid I guess but pure electric wouldn't have any sort of transmission, just four motors driving the wheels.

RE: Turck Owners...
By EricMartello on 1/5/2014 10:20:40 PM , Rating: 2
Electric motors are already inherently more reliable from an engineering perspective than gas engines. The design is orders of magnitude simpler, and much smaller, with much less moving parts.

A simpler design doesn't translate to more reliable, and your "much smaller" claim is misleading since you are ignoring the fact that AC induction electric motors (aka brushless) require a 3-phase inverter to drive the engine, along with a heavy and large bank of batteries. So who cares if the actual motor itself (electric motor, not engine) is "less complicated" when the supporting electronics required to drive it are a lot more complex.

The weight savings is a myth; electric cars are at best as heavy as or in most cases heavier than their gas/diesel counterparts.

Furthermore, driving range is often stated for ideal conditions at optimal temperatures with minimal loads. Try towing something on battery power alone - it will require substantially more current to be drawn from the batteries, depleting them faster and reducing their effective capacity from the paltry 30-40 miles they claim to offer down to 5-10 try that same test in freezing weather like we're having right now in most of the USA and you may not even get more than 5 miles on battery power.

Do yourself a favor and stop believing everything you read on a website that's trying to sell you something like it's gospel...until battery technology matches or surpasses the energy density of chemical fuels, electric vehicles will remain little more than a novelty.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Jeffk464 on 1/1/2014 1:01:18 PM , Rating: 4
Nope, GM is getting it right with their upcoming 4cyl turbo diesel truck.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Jeffk464 on 1/1/2014 1:02:12 PM , Rating: 2
Battery packs for heavy vehicles cost way to much.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Mint on 1/1/2014 3:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
Battery packs also save more per mile on trucks/SUVs. It actually more economical overall, not less. Lutz is right in this sense.

But that's not the issue. It's that truck/SUV buyers don't care much about fuel economy. >7% of car sales are hybrid and/or plugin, while only 0.2% of light truck sales are:

The only way trucks will become hybrids is by adopting a cellphone model: charge them $3 per 30 miles (i.e. cheaper than 30MPG diesel) for plugging in, and use that revenue to front the cost of the battery/motor. The motor should also give it massive towing capacity (which should be easy due to high torque at zero RPM).

RE: Turck Owners...
By JediJeb on 1/3/2014 2:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
The motor should also give it massive towing capacity (which should be easy due to high torque at zero RPM).

That right there would be what would sell me on an EV Truck. You would have so much more control of the vehicle by being able to have the torque you need at any speed you wish to drive it. No more having to rev the engine and hope you can start your load moving without having to jerk it when taking off. That would be wonderful when hauling livestock, so much more gentle on them.

Worse thing I ever saw was someone who installed a high stall torque converter in a pickup then thought they could pull a trailer with horses in it.

RE: Turck Owners...
By EricMartello on 1/5/2014 10:36:12 PM , Rating: 2
Battery packs also save more per mile on trucks/SUVs. It actually more economical overall, not less. Lutz is right in this sense.

He's not right; he's trying to sell people something. He realized there's a lot of dim-witted folks out there who breath through their mouths and think that "global warming" is a real thing and that switching to electric cars is "good".

Neither is true, and batteries being put through harsh charging and discharging cycles at the substantially higher currents they'd face in a truck actually used for work would wear them out a lot faster than a compact car weighing 1/3 or less as much as the truck and never being asked to tow or haul tons of cargo.

The only way trucks will become hybrids is by adopting a cellphone model: charge them $3 per 30 miles (i.e. cheaper than 30MPG diesel) for plugging in, and use that revenue to front the cost of the battery/motor. The motor should also give it massive towing capacity (which should be easy due to high torque at zero RPM).

Please get over this whole "torque at zero RPM" crap. Like that matters. If the electric motor is drawing current and is at zero RPM it's only a matter of seconds until it overheats and welds itself together. This is perhaps the most idiotic nonsense being spewed out whenever talk about "the benefits of electric motors" comes up. Both gas and diesel engines are able to provide more than enough torque to move heavy loads when the vehicle is stopped and that's all that matters.

If most cars on the road were electric the price of electricity would rise. Again, liberal, economics 101 eludes you. Since most people drive cars fueled by gasoline or diesel, the price of electricity remains relatively low. This would NOT be the case if the demand for electricity were to spike due to a massive adoption of electric vehicles, it's price would rise accordingly and the frequently touted "cost savings" (which itself is an illusion) would quickly evaporate. Never mind the fact that charging batteries is among the most INEFFICIENT uses of electricity out there, so suggesting that this is "to save the environment" is just as much a load of crap as everything else from the left.

RE: Turck Owners...
By tayb on 1/1/2014 5:05:37 PM , Rating: 2
The vast majority of truck buyers are buying them for absolutely no reason other than they like the way they look or they feel safer in a truck. For the tiny minority of people who buy trucks to do actual work this might not be an added benefit for the overwhelming majority of truck buyers the higher MPG would be a welcome improvement.

Most trucks don't even come with a hitch for crying out loud. I love the commercials that imply that truck owners are doing actual work in their truck. Well they are, they just don't need the truck to do it.

RE: Turck Owners...
By FITCamaro on 1/2/2014 8:56:34 AM , Rating: 2
The 700R4 was a pretty stout transmission. Now sure if you wanted to put 500 hp through one in stock form it failed.

But they could be easily built to handle that kind of power.

RE: Turck Owners...
By JediJeb on 1/3/2014 2:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
The last truck I used with an automatic was my Dad's 79 F150 with the C6. That was a very tough transmission, but even then I would prefer a manual in a truck for doing work with it.

RE: Turck Owners...
By Argon18 on 1/6/2014 1:22:53 AM , Rating: 1
IMO the rhinestone cowboys are indeed a significant percentage of truck buyers nowadays. Trucks and SUV's both used to be bare bones utilitarian vehicles. Get the interior covered in horse shit, no problem, grab the hose and hose out the whole interior. Not any more, they're all leather and dvd and chintzy faux bling.

In the 1980's, a small red sports car was short balding middle aged man's "image" car. Today it's an oversized truck or suv. It makes them feel macho, like a big man.

Go big!
By jihadjoe on 1/2/2014 6:30:28 AM , Rating: 2
IMO he's right, but I'd have gone even bigger and introduced the powertrain in trailer trucks. It makes more sense to maxime economy in a vehicle that does thousands of miles and is purely used for work, plus the larger size of trailer trucks means they can bear the added weight of a hybrid drivetrain much easier.

Diesel-electrics were first introduced in locomotives, after all. The natural progression would have been big big trucks afterward, not jumping directly to the smallest cars.

RE: Go big!
By jimbojimbo on 1/2/2014 11:47:42 AM , Rating: 2
Hybrids are best for city driving and often get worse mileage on highways. Trailer trucks get most of their miles on highways so it wouldn't be logical. Also, the powertrain they're discussing is also of the plugin variety which get maximum benefits from shorter drives like 40-50 miles since it can drive that just on the charge alone. If you're driving long distances, like trailer trucks, you don't get any benefit out of it at all.
I think the ideal situation is every regular driver winds up driving plugins since they drive shorter distances which leaves the oil reserves for the semis. At least for now.

RE: Go big!
By JediJeb on 1/3/2014 2:23:40 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, most long haul trucks would only benefit if you could travel 500-1000 miles on a charge.

As for the OP talking about the large trucks being able to handle the heavier power train, that is true but it is counter productive for such applications since you are limited to total vehicle weight on the road and a heavier truck only reduces the amount of cargo you can carry.

Everyone agrees ??
By Dr of crap on 1/2/2014 12:43:47 PM , Rating: 1
All I have read here is that this guy is right - really?

What about this -
"Bob Lutz knows a thing or two about automobiles. The man has spent decades in the automotive industry at such companies like Ford, BMW, Chrysler, and General Motors. In the previous decade, Lutz was one of the men who spearheaded the development of the Chevrolet Volt — GM’s answer to the Toyota Prius."

Don't know about everyone else but the Volt is not be the answer to the Prius. Doesn't sell as much and is just a different car completely.

And as far as this guy knowing cars - I'd say he's just a paper pusher that's all.

No way any truck with the Volt setup would even come close to selling in any numbers. It wouldn't sell. Where's the torque? Whether it's used at all isn't the issue. The buyer want it in the truck that's WHY they buy it. Doesn't matter if they never haul anything, IF the buyers want it to have the ability to haul 10,000 lbs it had better be able to. Save gas with other things like Eco boost. Now that sells well.

RE: Everyone agrees ??
By milktea on 1/2/2014 4:49:45 PM , Rating: 2
In case you didn't know, electric motor has nearly constant torque starting from 0 rpm. So torque was never an issue.

One of the fastest train in the world is powered by electromagnets. The 'L-Zero' maglev, soon to be fastest, reaches 310mph. Hauling 10k lbs using electic is not an issue.

RE: Everyone agrees ??
By JediJeb on 1/3/2014 2:28:07 PM , Rating: 2
The torque is definitely not the problem as you said.

The only issue with using electric to haul the heavy load is how you supply the electric to the motor because you need a lot of it. It would take quite a large battery to haul 10K pounds of cargo 40 miles up and down hills. It would help reducing fuel usage in a hybrid design, but pure electric would be something altogether different.

Delta II
By btc909 on 1/1/2014 2:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
Truck, no. But GM needs to lose that clown car Delta II platform. Big money for a dinky car. I can get past the loser exterior styling. I'm fully fine with the T Bar battery for a 1st gen electric car for now. I could effeminately go for that MPV5 Concept.

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