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Engineers have started to hand assemble the first "real" Chevy Volts -- the finalized pre-production test models.  (Source: General Motors)
Newly built car will be used for critical testing

The Chevy Volt, General Motors' pride and great hope for the future, has entered the pre-production phase, with engineers assembling a vehicle that looks identical to the design that is planned to be coming off the assembly  line late this year.  After months and years of waiting, GM's launch of the first mainstream electric vehicle is almost at hand.

GM Executive Director for Research and Development Dr. Alan Taub, speaking at a conference at the North Carolina Solar Center at NCSU, says that he believes the Volt will be integral to GM's turnaround.  He stated, "The key is to be ready when the market rebounds with technologies and vehicles that people got to have.  We really think the Volt represents the next generation in propulsion technology around what we are calling the reinvention of the vehicle.  It's going to be electrified drive. It's going to be connected to the world through electronics."

The new pre-production models will be play a critical role in preparing for the vehicles deployment.  They will be used as integration models, tweaking minor parameters to help lower wind resistance.  They will also be battered and bruised to make sure the vehicle is road-worthy.

Previous "test drives" by the press in "Volts" were not really a Chevy Volt -- rather, they were a similarly designed Chevy Malibu or Cruze-based test mule.  The current production marks the first Volt of the finalized design to be produced.  The cars are being built at the Technical Center in Detroit, MI.  It takes two weeks for engineers to hand-assemble one of the cars.

GM spokesman Rob Peterson cheered the news, stating, "The purpose for the integration vehicle builds is two-fold.  First, they validate our production design, vehicle safety and performance capabilities. Just as important, the build activity provides valuable insight into the final vehicle assembly process to ensure a high-level of build quality and manufacturing efficiency when production begins in November 2010."

By mid-July, GM will have ramped up the pre-production to a rate of 10 vehicles per week.  GM will have a fleet of 80 pre-production Volts by the fall.  The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly will start mass producing pre-production models next spring, providing "several hundred" vehicles to invade showrooms across the country.

Automotive industry experts say that vehicles like the Volt face a tough road ahead, but may offer solutions to critical environmental and national security problems.  States, Anne Tazewell, of the North Carolina Solar Center at NCSU, "There are a lot of variables, and one is our will to continue investing in this.  We have an environmental imperative and we really do have an economic imperative because of our reliance on imported oil. But we're also kind of battling the more immediate economic situation.”

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$40K for a Civic?
By Pneumothorax on 5/28/2009 11:45:48 AM , Rating: 2
Let's see, I can get a loaded Civic EX-L with leather/heated seats/stability control for about $20K and get at least 30MPG if not better. OR I can spend $40K for a Volt that gets 50MPG. Reliability concerns aside, assuming I drive 15K miles per year and gas averages $5.00 per gallon (I'm trying to make a better case for the volt here), it's still going to take about 20 years to break even. What a bargain! Plus I love how we basically paid for the development in this car.

RE: $40K for a Civic?
By igedit on 5/28/2009 12:19:38 PM , Rating: 5
I agree the Volt is not for everyone and Gen-1 will certainly be expensive. But you have to start somewhere.

You can't calculate your Volt's gas usage by how many miles you drive a year. It all depends on how many miles/day you drive. I very rarely drive more than 40 miles/day and would hardly use any gas at all.

It would still take several years to break even, but certainly not 20 (for me).

RE: $40K for a Civic?
By Pneumothorax on 5/28/09, Rating: 0
RE: $40K for a Civic?
By Keeir on 5/28/2009 2:34:47 PM , Rating: 2

You need to pay attention. First the government passed into law a credit of upto 7,500 dollar based on battery pack size for plug-in autos up to a fairly large number of units.

The Volt's goal is to travel 40 miles on 8kWh of electricity. 40 miles a day every day works out to be 14240 miles.

Assuming you use this pattern of driving (maximum that can be saved)

My Current Prices
Electric Cost 0.09 dollars/kWh
Gas Cost 2.59 dollars/gallon

Civic will cost .086 dollars/mile in fuel costs
Volt will cost .018 dollars/mile in electric costs

In a year, the difference in fuel/electric costs could be as much as .068 dollars/mile or 968.32 dollars a year.

Now back when gasoline was 4.40 dollars/gallon and my electricity was .10 dollars/kwh the yearly savings was 1,794.24 dollars a year.

A price difference of approx 15,000 dollars gives payback periods of 8 to 15 years on fuel savings alone. But since your unlikely to be using your gasoline engine for significant wear and tear, you also will save on maintaince costs. Oil Changes should be cut in 1/2 or 1/3 for example.

RE: $40K for a Civic?
By Doormat on 5/28/2009 5:51:24 PM , Rating: 2
Also consider resale value - the Volt has more internal parts (gasoline generator + electric motor) than a Civic, whether for resale or scrap.

I wouldn't be surprised to see refurbished Volt's selling for $12,500. New battery and cleaned up on the inside. Your trade in value might be in the range of $5000-7000 since the new battery would only be about $3,000 plus labor (10kWh - $300/kWh, increased depth of discharge and sufficient W/kg to power the Volt's engine allow the battery capacity to go down since only 8kWh is used), and the old battery can be refurbished and put to good use backing up renewables or your home (or both if you have PV panels on your roof).

Meanwhile a 10 year old Civic might fetch $4-5K. So that differential of $1500 or so is an additional year of savings.

RE: $40K for a Civic?
By SpaceJumper on 5/28/09, Rating: 0
RE: $40K for a Civic?
By Spuke on 5/28/2009 2:00:17 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know how GM is going to compete with BYD.
Does BYD meet US safety and emissions standards? How long is the warranty on the BYD? And where in the US can I get the BYD serviced? Thanks.

RE: $40K for a Civic?
By gregpet on 5/28/2009 1:58:55 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you won't spend $40,000 for a Volt because:
#1 GM hasn't announced pricing so $40,000 is just a guess by people who don't know
#2 The govt is giving you a $7500 credit for buying an electric vehicle
#3 The biggest cost component of any electric vehicle is the battery and if you think batteries are going to stay at $20K (where the $40k Volt estimate comes from) I have a cell phone I want to sell to you for $1000! (this car won't go on sale for another 18 months)

RE: $40K for a Civic?
By Doormat on 5/28/2009 2:05:30 PM , Rating: 2
Your math is wrong.

Look to previous DT threads on the Volt, in one of them I posted the complete math as to the ROI on a Volt vs a Civic for someone who drives 35 miles per day (the national average daily commute). The ROI is highly dependent on the price of gas - at $3.50 or less its not a positive return within 10 years (the length of the battery warranty). Once you get past $4.50 its down to about 5 years.

I factored in price, fuel, resale value, etc.

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