Well, you have likely heard GM’s proclamation that its Chevy Volt will get 230
mpg. That is a great number, but is GM going in the right direction with the
car? After all, the Volt may well represent swim or sink for the automaker!
How GM exactly came up with the mileage per gallon of the Volt remains
to be determined. Regardless however, we know that the car will be
efficient gas saver.
What has GM done right with the car? First off, the Volt is different from
most hybrids at this stage of the game. The other hybrids offered by Toyota,
Honda, Kia, Mercedes, and Lexus use an internal combustion engine and
an electric motor adds additional power and better fuel mileage. This can
be considered conventional (internal combustion engine) with an electric
motor added to the setup.
With the Volt, however, an electric motor powers the car and a small internal
combustion engine powers a generator that makes electricity for the electric
motor. A small engine, as used on the Volt, has a much easier time spinning a
generator than moving the weight of a car. An electric motor provides consistent
torque characteristics and is thus highly effective in moving a car like the Volt.
Another good point about the Volt is that it uses lithium-ion batteries, which are
about the best batteries on the market at this point.
Now, in what ways might GM be going in the wrong direction with the Volt?
Well, about one-half of an electric vehicle’s price is related to the cost of the
batteries, and the Volt will cost about $40,000. Likely half of the car’s price
is in the batteries! What if the price of fuel stays at about $2.80 per gallon or if
it even goes lower? What if GM has difficulty selling the Volt in volume based
on “reasonable” fuel prices? Will the company’s future be tied to fuel prices that
GM cannot control? Such would not be a good situation for GM!
GM should possibly consider taking Nissan’s lead by selling consumers the Volt
and leasing its batteries. Thus, the car could possibly be then sold for say $23,000 –
$25,000 (a bit above the average price of a mid sized sedan – however, remember
that great mpg). Consumers would not need to fear a possibility of an expensive
battery pack going bad since they would be leasing the batteries. Thus, GM would
be taking another “unknown” out of the situation.
Battery technology will improve every year. Leasing the batteries would
allow consumers to “upgrade” the battery pack as improvements come to market.
What good would a new and improved battery pack be if it costs half the price of
In summary, the Volt has some very good things going for it and it has some
“risk factors.” GM needs to eliminate or at least control the Volt’s risk factors.
Mr. Henderson, GM’s current CEO, can make the Volt a success no matter what
happens to the car market or fuel prices.
Since Mr. Henderson’s business partner is the American taxpayer (you and me!),
the American taxpayer should be able to afford to buy the Volt and not take undo
risks when doing so.
Mr. Henderson – no missteps as in the past with this one! It is up to GM to make
the Volt and itself a success!
Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price…” He
welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: