General Motors' Chevrolet Volt will launch late in 2010 and is expected to usher in a new era for vehicles powered primarily by batteries. The four-passenger Volt can travel 40 miles on battery power alone and can be recharged either via its onboard gasoline engine-generator (which gets 50 mpg) or from a household outlet overnight (or at local charging stations).
Now that GM is getting closer to the launch of the vehicle, more information is being revealed about how the company plans to keep the vehicle up to date while at the same time lowering production costs and space requirements for critical components.
GM says that Volt customers can expect to see frequent updates each year, something virtually unheard of in the automotive world. Frank Weber, GM's global vehicle line executive for the Volt describes, "This is almost like getting software updates into your car. This is not a mechanical world. This is suddenly you get updates, improvements much more rapidly. So, even within a vehicle lifecycle you will see updates that are very significant."
Top on GM's wish list is improving the Volt's battery. GM wants to cut the costs of producing the battery, so that the Volt can be cost competitive with its other offerings eventually. On the same note, it wants the battery to be smaller as well. The battery, a 400-pound (181 kg) T-shaped battery pack, has cells manufactured by Korea's LG Chem, while the pack itself is assembled by GM in the U.S. GM has not ruled out using A123's competitive designs, should they mature sufficiently.
GM officials reiterate that the goal with the battery improvements is not to extend the range the vehicle can go before burning gas, which they believe is already sufficient. Rather, size and cost are the driving concerns. States Mr. Weber, "My goal is not to go from 40 to 60 (miles) in the next generation vehicles. My expectation is that the battery is equally capable, but they are half the size and half the cost of the batteries that go into the car right now."
Mr. Weber believes that the Volt is much more competitive than other plug-in hybrids coming to the market or pure electrics. He believes the Volt's battery system is a solid platform, and should last several generations of vehicles via iterative improvements. Furthermore, he believes the general market just isn't ready for battery-pack only vehicles like Tesla Motors' Roadster (without gasoline generators like the Volt). Given the lengths GM had to go to deliver a 40 mile range on a battery pack not priced astronomically high -- including reducing friction on the tires and the battery drain from electronics such as stereo systems -- this assertion seems fair.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is providing the special new tires to the Volt to help reduce its friction with the road. Bose is applying its expertise to developing a lightweight extra energy efficient premium stereo system for the car as well.
Before porting the Volt's drive system to other vehicles in its lineup, GM plans on focusing on the Volt's success. States Weber, "Before we talk about diversification on the portfolio side, there is enough market for a vehicle that provides this level of functionality and performance."
In 2010, GM plans on putting 10,000 Volts on the market. It plans to increase this number to 60,000 a year within a few years. GM has already stated that it expects to see no profits on the first generation of the Volt, which cost $750M USD already to develop. The company, though, sees the vehicle as the defining symbol of its new forward-looking image and a critical component to its long term success.
quote: Very few businesses take huge risks building a product that they don't see a market for. And sorry but there was very little market share available for econoboxes until recently, and the niche that was there was already being filled by the Japanese makers.
quote: That being said, most of the technological advancement we see today were developed by those who took risks, not those who focused exclusively on margins and profitability.
quote: In hindsight to do you really think it was a good business decision for GM to put all the eggs in one basket on high margin vehicles such as SUV's and trucks?
quote: If they had just sat back, and continued only selling computers, do you really think they would be in the position they are in today?
quote: And sorry but there was very little market share available for econoboxes until recently, and the niche that was there was already being filled by the Japanese makers.
quote: And until very recently, the US market had very little demand for high fuel efficiency.
quote: which is ironic really since the chevy aveo at like 9,999 has 50mpg, ford focus at 15,599 also has 50mpg.
quote: The point is that in the US, consumers want larger vehicles. We have larger roads, bigger parking spaces, and gas is cheaper
quote: The point is that in the US, consumers want larger vehicles. We have larger posteriors, bigger stomachs, and soda is cheaper.
quote: Err...then why did those tiny cars grow up to be american-esque land barges with lower MPG ratings than they had in the 70s and 80s?
quote: That's kind of funny considering they have been losing money for many quarters now.
quote: Nearly ALL automakers are in the red at the moment due to the recession.
quote: Also, Brasil has offered to export their Ethanol to the US for a cheaper price then we can afford to produce it ourselves. But the US refuses to do it.
quote: As for the vehicle I rode in that was a GM that achieved 46mpg and was a flex fuel ... I would bet they could easily make the vehicles US ready.
quote: I would think that a lot of the green mentality actually leads into us becoming more self-sufficient again.
quote: When did I ever mention a plan?
quote: No. I am blaming GM and the other big American auto manufacturers for not trying to do something different back in the 70's. Why is it that the most powerful and richest nation in the world is still dependent upon Mid East oil while now Brasil, seeing the need to change in 1978 did what it had to do and is now almost completely foreign oil free?
quote: Why can't GM and Ford produce and sell those same vehicles here in the US?
quote: Market reaction back then......We don't want small tiny cars with high mpg. End result, models were canceled.
quote: Unless of course GM plans on taking the hit, and not passing on the cost increase to the consumer.
quote: The four-passenger Volt can travel 40 miles on battery power alone and can be recharged either via its onboard gasoline engine-generator (which gets 50 mpg)
quote: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is providing the special new tires to the Volt to help reduce its friction with the road.
quote: special new tires
quote: recharged either via its onboard gasoline engine-generator (which gets 50 mpg)
quote: Its once the gasoline engine kicks on that recharges the battery (although it is not connected directly to the drivetrain) that has the 50MPG rating is applied.
quote: If that were true, then GM could make a traditional gasoline-engine version of the Volt that achieved 50+ MPG, which is not feasible.
quote: This is almost like getting software updates into your car.
quote: Bose is applying its expertise to developing a lightweight extra energy efficient premium stereo system for the car as well.
quote: Bose is applying its expertise to developing a lightweight...