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GM says the 2011 Chevy Volt, America's first mass-market electric vehicle, will be offered in the low 30s (possibly before tax credit), and that it will make a profit.
Its unclear whether Volt's price tag in the low 30s is with or without tax credit

The 2011 Chevy Volt, designed and manufactured by General Motors, faces tremendous challenges as the highest profile electric vehicle launch to date.  Among the most pressing are performance -- currently the Volt can not tolerate very hot climates well -- and pricing.

Many factors, including the cost of the battery pack, the cost of the vehicle warranty (which could possibly include limited battery replacement coverage), and cost of design have led analysts to predict that the Volt will be quite expensive for a mass market vehicle -- in the range of $40,000 USD.  A $7,500 USD tax credit on electric vehicles will bump this price down substantially, but many have voiced doubts about how many consumers will bite at a $32,500 USD price point.

However, according to, the cost may be significantly less, improving the Volt's prospects.  The blog spoke with GM CEO Ed Whitacre and quotes him as saying, "We’re not in business to lose money, we did enough of that already.  [The Volt] is going to sell in the low 30s.  We’ll get a margin on that."

Noticeably absent was any mention that the low 30s price estimate included the government tax credit.  If that figure indeed proves to be before the credit, it could mean GM has a major surprise in store for the market.  If GM can hit the market in the high 20s after a  tax credit, it could steal a substantial amount of business from hybrid makers like Toyota and Honda.

Again, Mr. Whitacre's comments do not entirely rule out that the "price" he's quoting is after tax credit, though that is how has interpreted them.  Regardless, if GM can merely make a profit on the electric vehicles it is producing, that will be impressive.

If GM can achieve either goal -- a price in the 20s after tax credit, or a margin on the vehicles it sells, its bold experiment could pay off.  After all, its position is similar to that of Toyota, when the Japanese automaker entered the world market with the Prius in 2001.  At the time hybrids were unproven and doubts were high; now the car is the bestselling car in Japan and climbing U.S. sales charts.  The Volt has the potential to achieve similar success, if GM can live up to its big promises.

Update 1: Tues., January 19, 2009, 11:05 p.m. -

Turns out that like most things that sound to good to be true, the notion that a "low 30s" price might be pre-tax credit turned out to be wishful thinking.  A GM spokesperson contacted AutoBlog, commenting that while GM "has not officially announced final Volt pricing, a price in the low 30's after a $7,500 tax credit is in the range of possibilities."

While it may be disappointing to many that the Chevy Volt won't hit in the high 20s, this comes as little surprise.  Returning to the Prius parallel, if GM can indeed turn a profit, though, that will still be quite impressive.  Hopefully that prediction by Mr. Whitacre was not simply more wishful thinking.


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By Mint on 1/19/2010 5:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
If you charge at night, utilities practically give electricity away. Nuclear power doesn't ramp down because fuel cost is dirt cheap, and even coal plants usually prefer to avoid the thermal stresses of daily cycling. 1 cent per kWh is better than nothing.

From what you guys are saying about CA and FL, they badly need some smart meters. It's peak demand that strains the system and requires new generation capacity to be built.

By Solandri on 1/20/2010 1:15:37 AM , Rating: 2
If you charge at night, utilities practically give electricity away. Nuclear power doesn't ramp down because fuel cost is dirt cheap, and even coal plants usually prefer to avoid the thermal stresses of daily cycling. 1 cent per kWh is better than nothing.

That's how how things are right now. Prices are cheapest at night because electricity use then is lowest and the power plants have the most excess capacity. The average electricity use in the U.S. is about 31 kWh per day per household. The Volt is supposed to have a 16 kWh battery of which half (8 kWh) is used.

So if the Volt and future electric vehicles are actually successful and every household has one, you're talking about a 25% increase in daily household electricity use mostly hitting the grid at night. It would no longer be the period of lowest electricity use, and thus the price you're charged during those hours would go up.

I grant you, charging these will be cheap initially when only a few tens of thousands of households have one and they don't have a significant impact on the power grid. But long-term, I think you're better off using the average electricity price to gauge how expensive it'll be to charge an electric car. I mean, if the number of people who drove gasoline cars in the U.S. dropped to 100k overnight, gas prices would probably be like 10 cents a gallon. You have to compare these things long-term, assuming tens or hundreds of millions of them are in use.

By Mint on 1/20/2010 11:01:34 PM , Rating: 2
That's reeeeaaally long term. For each household to have one even 30 years from now, we'd need ~4M PHEVs sold per year on average.

If PHEVs become that popular, by then we'll have charging outlets everywhere to fill up during the day, too. Hopefully people will stop being scared of nuclear power in 10 years, and we can get some plants built well before that 30 year timeframe. Maybe we'll have high altitude wind (estimated 1.2c/kWh) and compressed air storage working, too.

In any case, electricity will always be far, far cheaper than gas. Unless, of course, those predictions of $1/gallon cellulosic ethanol come true...

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