## EPA economy ratings vs. the GM Volt: A square peg in a round hole

What a difference a number makes.

The projected EPA economy rating of the GM Volt has set off a storm of criticism across the Internet.  While a number of blogs played the story straight (1, 2), the Good Math blog attacked it as nonsense, which got picked up by Reddit.  Critics say that the actual fuel economy seen by drivers could be as low as 50 MPG (the claimed figure for charge-sustaining mode), or as high as infinity.  So who's right?

Basically, they all are.  The EPA city-cycle measures the Volt's characteristics about as well as a square peg fits a round hole.  In this mess, the number you get depends how you trim the test to fit the car.

By current standards, the Volt is neither fish nor fowl.  When starting with a fully-charged battery, it can go a nominal 40 miles without burning a drop of fuel (the AER).  After that, it has a nominal rating of 50 MPG.  All of this will be affected by weather, driver style, use of air conditioning, and the whole panoply of real-world complications.  A feather-foot driving in town may get 60 miles on the battery, a leadfoot may get 20 miles AER and just 30 MPG afterward, and sitting in stalled traffic with the A/C going full blast is going to eat into everything.  If you take the EPA city cycle with the provisos agreed between GM and the EPA and measure only the liquid fuel, you get the magic number of 230 MPG.

Green Car Congress gave a rather straightforward analysis:

Based on the same draft EPA methodology, the Volt would also deliver “triple-digit” combined cycle fuel economy along with combined cycle electricity consumption of 25 kWh/100 miles, according to GM. At the US average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), GM calculates that a typical Volt driver would pay about \$2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than three cents per mile.From the data we’ve seen, many Chevy Volt drivers might be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use virtually any gas. EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare a vehicles’ fuel efficiency. So, a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a combined triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer...The key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day.
—GM CEO Fritz Henderson

Since it's obvious that almost nobody would get that 230 MPG figure, or even ±10% of this value, it's worth asking:  what does the prospective Volt buyer need to know?  Off the top of my head, I can think of this:

1. How much electricity they would use.
2. How often they'd have to visit the gas station
• using gasoline
• using E-85
3. Whether plugging in at work, or forgetting to plug in at night, would change those numbers substantially.
4. Whether there are any electric rate plans which would make the car significantly cheaper to own.
5. The overall monthly cost at various fuel prices and electric rates.
6. Comparison with other makes and models.

This doesn't call for a flamewar.  This calls for an on-line calculator, perhaps integrated with a mapping service which can project energy consumption on the typical commute, errands such as shopping, and trip to the relatives or the beach.  But without adjusting for speed limits, traffic, lead feet and hyper-milers, and even the weather, would anyone still get within 10%?  The battle over the numbers does not look to end any time soon.

As cited here,

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090811/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gm_volt_mileage;_ylt=...

GM seems to be using a figure of \$.05/kW-hr for their "mileage" calculation that yielded the 230-mpg figure. That's less than half the price that I'm paying for electricity at home, and I think it would be safe to say that it errs on the optimistic side for the vast majority of would-be car buyers. This seems to be a case of letting the marketing people run wild without proper adult supervision.

There is more than one figure being used. The 40 cents a day figure you see quoted uses 5 cents kWh. In this article, it is characterized as an off-peak rate, that may not be available in most areas.

I found this one on the GM website showing FAQs, and it uses 10 cents kWh, for an average cost of 80 cents a day for the first 40 miles.

This is a link to the GM press release. It uses an estimated average US electricity cost of 11 cents a kWh. According to it:

Applying EPA's methodology, GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in city driving. At the U.S. average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about \$2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile.

"Applying EPA's methodology, GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in city driving."
100 miles/25 kWh = 4 miles per kWh

The Mitsubishi i-MIEV (all-electric) can travel 100 miles using 16 kWh
which equals: 6.25 miles per kWh
[Japanese 10-15 cycle test]

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/05/the-battery-pac.html

The Japanese 10-15 cycle yields very different results from the EPA city cycle even for ICEVs.

I attempted to make sense of the Volt claim using miles per kilowatt-hour, and compare it to standard ICE engines on the same basis. Only then did I examine the relative costs, and came up with some fairly surprising results. The basic data was a bit hard to round up, so if anybody spots any errors in my logic or math, I would appreciate the feedback: 230 MPG and Other Squishy Numbers

Chris,

I left you a comment.

Not to wade into the reality (or lack thereof) of GM's figure, one thing is clear: the roll-out of more plug-in vehicles, along with the rising generation from variable sources such as wind, will make smart-metering all the more essential. If you can plug-in your car to a smart-metered system that will only charge the batteries when, say, the cost is less than \$0.06/kwh, you'll have a significant advantage over flat-rate metering.

Another question: to what degree will the roll-out of plug-in vehicles provide a price-support for wind investment due to increasing demand for electricity during otherwise lowest-demand times (e.g. 0000-0500) when wind is still generating? A lot of potential for synergy here, but I've heard of only little coordination between the wind/smart-metering circles and the plug-in vehicle circles?

If you can plug-in your car to a smart-metered system that will only charge the batteries when, say, the cost is less than \$0.06/kwh, you'll have a significant advantage over flat-rate metering.

I'm not sure that's going to help.  If gasoline is \$3/gallon, the Volt's extended range costs 6¢/mile.  At 250 Wh/mile at the wall, electricity would have to cost 24¢/kWh to equal the cost of gasoline; any less than that and you are better off buying electrons than petroleum.

On the other hand, 24¢/kWh is in the neighborhood of PV-generated electricity.  If you can sell PV juice at afternoon-peak rates (which reach that neighborhood) and buy off-peak at 10¢/kWh or less for the car, you'll be ahead.

Jeff, I think that GM is working very closely with EPRI and a coalition of other partners to make coordination between the wind/smart-metering circles and the plug-in vehicle circles a reality.

Also, I believe the US 2005 Energy Act mandates that all utilities make smart-meters and time-of-day pricing available. I've looked at several large utilities, and found the programs every time. Some utilities are pushing them hard (PG&E is rolling them out for all), and others are drowning their programs in silence - but it's still available.

I did the math for myself (using fairly rough numbers)- I consider myself pretty close to typical for a 'Merkan.
Assumptions
Retail price of the volt: \$40,000
Government subsidy: \$7000
Actual price: \$33,000
Comparitive car (gasoline - 30mpg): \$20,000
price differential = \$13,000

assumed vehicle lifetime: 10 years. Both cars mostly depreciated during that time.

My current driving patterns produce about 18,000 miles per year. Commute is 50 mile round trip each day. this equates to about 1.7 gallons per day. At current gasoline prices (\$2.50/gal) this costs \$4.25 per day. This is equal to about \$1550 per year. I drive a similar pattern on weekends that I do on weekdays so I am assuming a simple 365 days per year calculation.

The volt would run on electricity for the first 40 miles, and run the last 10 in charge sustain mode burning approx 1/5 of a gallon (assuming 50mpg for charge sustain mode)
I would then charge overnight.
Daily cost = \$0.50 in gasoline and about \$1 in electricity.
= \$1.50 per day or about \$550 per year.

My "gas mileage" would be very similar to the advertised figure of 230mpg.

Savings per year at current prices = \$1000
Savings over lifetime of vehicle = \$10,000

Not quite enough to make up the differential in initial purchase price.

BUT
In Europe - where prices for fuel are higher (about twice as much)
and where commutes are generally shorter. The volt would be economically "attractive"

Or in a future US where prices may be \$3 to \$5 per gallon very easily, the volt could make sense.

BUT
that assumes it keeps its government subsidy of \$7000

Without the government subsidy the price of gasoline would need to be about \$5/gallon or more to make the volt attractive. An equivalent cost of \$5/gallon wouldnt bankrupt the world - Europe has managed with similar prices.

Or GM would need to make the volt cheaper, with a 50 mile range (or longer) to help it compete.

it seems likley that GM and its competition can drive down the cost over time but then there are even more questions to be asked if plug-in EVs with gasoline range extenders become wildly popular:

Overnight charging may not require huge additions to the grid, but what are the implications to power generation and capacity?

Would electricity continue to sell for around \$0.10-\$0.12 per kWh?

Is there enough lithium or Cadmium or Nickel or whatever to make batteries for the cars if the world moves over to an EV paradigm?

Can those batteries with an assumed life of 10 years then be recycled into new batteries, thus reclaiming the minerals?

How much energy does it take to recycle those batteries?

I would love to buy a volt, but Im not much of an early adopter, I think I will wait a bit.

An equivalent cost of \$5/gallon wouldn't bankrupt the world - Europe has managed with similar prices.

I'm not sure I agree with this. I thought the high cost in Europe was mainly due to taxes. This means a lot of the money comes back to the citizens in the form of government programs and benefits (public transportation?). In the USA, higher prices would mean more revenue for oil companies and refiners, never to be seen again. Money lost down a rat hole.

Or better yet, arrange it so that you can walk or take mass transit to work, or have a minimal commute to and from small, energy efficient housing.

I agree. My trolley pass costs me ~\$600/year, and zero capital cost. Plus it is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than sitting in traffic.

\$600 plus your share of the government subsidy. How much would passes cost if taxpayers weren't buying the land, track, and vehicles and then subsidizing the operating costs?

How much more capital would you need for expanded roads and parking if everyone on the trolley was driving a personal vehicle instead?

Taxpayers also subsidise private vehicle use (those roads aren't free, you know).

Cost-per-mile or per-year figures miss the Volt's significance as a mostly-electric vehicle. Mercedes-Benz sold almost 160,000 new vehicles in the USA last year. Not one of those purchases could be justified by an objective measure of cost-per-mile or cost-per-year. But most of those buyers could afford a new Volt.

It's not obvious to me that"almost nobody" will get the high mileage figure,although I do agree that it is more public relations "spin" than reality.

I have a number of acquaintances who would stay within the fory mile battery range nearly every day,and simply drive thier other car (s) or truck(s) on the other days,as for vacations,as the other vehicles are bigger and will haul more people and stuff.

The only thing is,none of them are apt to by a Volt,they are pretty well done with GM due to watching thier GM trucks fall apart from rust and paying a couple of thousand bucks for transmission rebuilds.Hillbillies have long memories.

And when I lived in Richmond ,Va ,I seldom put forty miles on my car in a day,other than when I left town for the weekend once every couple of months on the average.

My wag is that half of the owners will "get" over a hundred miles per gallon.

And electricians will find work both installing and either removing or theft proofing outlets all over the place!

It's not obvious to me that"almost nobody" will get the high mileage figure

Almost nobody will get 230±5 MPG on a tank, and very few will get 230±10%.  Some might get 82 MPG on a tank, some might get 537.  Some might get those very numbers on two consecutive tanks.  It all depends on the exact routes and conditions, which can be all over the map.

Here's an idea for GM or some budding entreprenuer who wants to sell advertising to these car makers:

Create a website that lets you simply select two Google map points A and B -and specify how many times you drive between them, whether charging is available at both ends, driving style, etc. and it then gives you a calculation of the how much you might save at various Gas price points...

Nick.

Anybody who sticks close to home running errands,visiting friends,etc and commutes less than fory miles round trip should "get" the high figure nearly every week.

There must be several million people who fall into this category,especially given that anyone who can afford a new Volt may also have another bigger car or truck that would still be used for some extended trips.

I live way out in the boonies but I would get the high figure most weeks anyway,if she will do thirty miles electric on hilly roads-my round trip to town.

Oh, indeed.  Lots of people should get 300+ MPG week after week... or however long they take between visits to the gas station.  It's just that any individual owner hitting the 230 number consistently is pretty unlikely.

E-P,

I suspect you're confusing some people. What you're saying is that the GM/EPA figure is an average. Many people will be below, and just as many will be above.

Most people won't get 230, because they'll be well below or well above, but on average the whole population of Volt-users will get roughly 230.

Actually, the first few years will be dominated by enthusiastic early-adopters, who will do better.

Here's a month-old piece from MSNBC: Traffic congestion dips as economy falters - Autos- msnbc.com

WASHINGTON - Drivers are spending less time stuck in rush-hour traffic for a second straight year, the first-ever two-year decline in congestion as high gas prices and the economic downturn force many Americans to change how they commute.

This is from a Texas Transportation Institute report: TTI: Info For: News Media: News Archive: Economic factors tap the brakes on traffic congestion

Other highlights from the research illustrate the effects of the nation's traffic problems.

* The overall cost (based on wasted fuel and lost productivity) reached \$87.2 billion in 2007 — more than \$750 for every U.S. traveler.
* The total amount of wasted fuel topped 2.8 billion gallons — three weeks' worth of gas for every traveler.
* The amount of wasted time totaled 4.2 billion hours — nearly one full work week (or vacation week) for every traveler.

They point out the obvious fact that with economic recovery congestion will rebound. How these new vehicles will perform is dependent on the circumstances of their owner's needs; if they simply grind along in stop-and-go traffic with the rest of us they're likely to be less effective than, say, an advocacy campaign about keeping tires inflated. I haven't seen a study analyzing commuting patterns broken down by wealth, so can offer little more than suppositions.

if they simply grind along in stop-and-go traffic with the rest of us they're likely to be less effective

Actually, EVs and ErEVs like the Volt do especially well in traffic jams: they don't burn any fuel idling. None at all. Just what the doctor ordered.

There is no way this will be resolved as it stands. PHEV is a paradigm shift, it needs to be played out to see where there shift leads.

In simplistic terms I currently think you need two things:
1) how much electricity to fully charge the battery (kwh) and the resulting range, using the standard cycle tests.
2) the subsequent mpg once the initial charge has been drained, again using standard cycle tests.

This will give a number of results, allowing the user to make up their own mind on what they do, and what it will cost them to do it.

A new test will evolve.

I can't see an online calculator doing much good. traffic.com has an online calculator for determining travel time between places, and its time estimates are wildly inaccurate unless nearly all of your travel is on freeways. In correspondence with them I have found the problem is finding an algorithm to deal with traffic signals and stop signs.

The online calculator proposed for the Volt would run into the same problems.

The only realistic solution is to use a standard kWh to gallon gasoline conversion factor, based on price (such as the annual electricity cost sticker on appliances uses), and calculate an equivalent miles per gallon. Everyone knows mileage will vary depending on conditions, and with most electricity generated from fossil fuels it doesn't matter a whole lot if you're using electricity rather than gasoline.

I run a small video production business. All the gear runs on electricty. Much of it is coming up for replacement. Wonder how much energy that'll consume?

What's the life span of a Volt? How many bits will need replacing over that span? How much energy to replace it?

Business as usual is a wonderful thing.

GM is doing extensive durability testing and discharging the battery pack very conservatively to meet the mandated 10 year warranty. With all their troubles, they still have engineering resources far beyond any of the DIY plug-in battery retrofit companies.

Wear components that need regular replacement are documented in the maintenance schedule, same as any other car. The battery is the big piece of new, unproven technology.

10 year warranty, eh? So I guess the poor schnook who is foolish enough to have one of these things in his hands in its 11th year is all set up to get one hell of a battery replacement bill.

If the AER falls to 35 miles in Year 11, would you care?  Do you think batteries won't be much less expensive by then?

So what does happen as the heater kicks in when driving the Volt in 20 degree below temperature?

This is a very good question. The mileage on the Prius drops significantly (approximately 30mpg) during the winter months because the engine runs to generate heat. I would assume that the Volt also uses the engine in this capacity.

The Prius mileage drops in the winter not just to generate heat for the driver, but to bring the IC engine up to optimal operating temperature. For short trips in the winter, the engine is running for a large proportion of the trip, where in warmer weather the engine would be shut off. Also, the IC engine is much less efficient until it is warmed up, but this is why cars in general get worse mileage in the winter. I'm not sure how the Volt will handle this issue, whether an electric heater would pre-warm the IC engine.

Yeah, the mileage on my all electric Zenn really crashes in the winter, from over 50 miles on a full charge to 10-15. But I'm in MN.

Yikes! PbA? I wonder how all the different chemistries are affected. You might want to insulate the battery compartment and design/add a circulated heating/cooling system with a small propane heater that could heat the cabin and the pack. If you could find one of those small water-cooled scooter motors and plum it into the heating system and rig it to work as a generator as well, that'd be super cool.

It gets worse.

Someone will decide to seal up the cabin and try to recirculate the air so that the energy cost of heating up freshly vented air is reduced. But then what happens is that the air gets saturated with water vapor from the human occupants of the car. After sitting in the parking lot all day, the driver returns and finds a thick layer of ice on the *inside* of the windshield as the vapor condenses. The temptation will be to crank up the defroster to get rid of all the ice-buildup. Better bet will be to keep the windows open and hope it doesn't snow when you leave the car.
Fun stuff.

If you've already got a heat-pump heater, you could combine it with the A/C to run it as a dehumidifier.

Insulated glass is another possibility.  A thin layer of aerogel as a spacer with a hard inner surface would hold heat much better than solid glass.  This could be combined with conductive coatings to give a very fast defrost capability (no big deal, it's been done).

But these are luxury-car features, far too advanced for a Chevy.  One more reason that the Volt is in the wrong market segment.

One more reason that the Volt is in the wrong market segment.

The Volt's price is going to come down pretty quickly. GM made it a Chevy specifically to send the message that it was intended for the traditional middle-income Chevy market.

Samely situated.

Howver, on bike, my performance increases in the winter -- I have to pedal harder to get to work before my toes freeze off.

Absolutely. This is the problem that I run into both during the summer and winter months. I take my son to daycare and then drive to work (unless it's moderately sunny and then we bike it as often as possible). The engine barely gets warmed up, so the mileage is so-so (better than the average 4 cylinder car on the road but generally in the mid 40s during the week). On the weekend when we tend to travel to see friends or family the mileage tends to be low to mid 50s.

I suspect that the Volt will not be as concerned with engine temperature. The Prius engine starts and stops fairly often. With a short trip containing a number of stops it may be more efficient for the Prius to run the engine until a desired operating temperature is achieved, before toggling the engine off and on. The Volt has a large enough battery pack that the engine won't be cycled as frequently, and it seems like it would make sense to only run the engine in extended sessions - a binge mode if you will, where the engine is off until the battery reaches a lower threshold. At that point the engine runs until the batteries are returned to some level and the engine is turned off again. With a small battery it makes sense to always keep the engine warm. But with the large Volt battery it make be unnecessary and perhaps even less efficient.

Jeff,

I live @ 38 degrees latitude and my prius got 46~ MPG last winter. No extreme cold and in summer it gets 50 ish. I'm a bit of a hypermiler but see nothing near your drop. You in way northern VT?

Nope. I live in the Burlington area.

The mileage hit is primarily because my commute is only about 8 miles each way at between 25 and 45 mph with a 10 minute stop in the middle to drop my son off at daycare. The engine never really warms up so the efficiency takes a hit. To make matters worse, we leave the Prius outside, while my wife's car (an Echo) sleeps in the garage throughout the winter. We do this so she doesn't have to scrap the windows on her way to the hospital at 5:30 am. The garage tends to be considerably warmer (+20 degrees) which would probably improve the Prius mileage.

The Echo gets approximately 27 mpg around town (year round) and averages about 45 mpg on longer trips.

During the summer the mileage is much better. Particularly this summer where there has been no real motivation to turn on the AC. We have family in Saratoga (about 150 miles away) and typically see between 52 and 55 mpg on that trip during the warmer months and between 46 and 50 during the winter if we've got the heater turned on.

Echos are good cars - I've managed to convince two of my friends to buy them. One of them has reported consitent 40+ mpg with the automatic. It sounds like you could benefit from a WAI/HAI (warm/hot air intake) and a partial grill block.

Although this is about the UK, it is useful detailed and up to date analysis of short distance car use.

http://www.racfoundation.org/files/The%20Car%20in%20British%20Society%20-%20National%20Travel%20Survey%20(WP1).pdf

I would be interested in a plug in hybrid vehicle if and when once becomes available in the UK, but it would need to match my family's particular requirements.

We are a young family of four. I commute to work by bicycle 8 mile round trip. The kids either cycle or are driven the 2 mile round trip to school. My wife does not work at present. We live in a village near a small city and most of our immediate social and domestic journeys are 1 - 40 miles. My wife tries to car share with other families in the village so we invested in a 5/7 seat vehicle. We are of a practical bent and often have moderate sized loads to carry so we need a reasonable load space in the vehicle. We currently run one vehicle because the overheads of running a second vehicle are quite high (and we do not have room to park a second vehicle off-road). We make a modest number of longer distance journeys (maybe 2 -3 dozen a year) and our total milage is 8 - 10,000 a year.

I estimate that about half those miles are short distance (<40 mile ) journeys. Our current vehicle gets 30 mpg (imperial, urban). A hybrid with a 40 mile electric only range would save 5 - 6000 miles of 30mpg fuel consumption or 200 imperial gallons at \$8 = \$1,600 a year before electricity costs (also much higher in the UK).

We try to be peak oil aware and eco friendly in our deliberately modest ( by our demographic) lifestyle, but there is no such thing as a 7 seater medium sized plug in hybrid on the market or even in the pipeline. Over a 10 year lifetime we could afford a premium price of about \$10,000 to pay for one if it existed. For reference, we bought our current car one year old for about \$10,000.

I like the concept of a plug in hybrid because we would retain day to day mobility in the event of oil shortages. It is in practice a duel fuel vehicle.

We could make similar overall petrol savings by buying a small 5 seat pure EV as a second car for short journeys , or better a small 5 seat hybrid, but the fuel cost savings would be almost entirely lost through the ownership overheads (tax, insurance, maintenance) even before the cost of purchase is considered.

The bottom line is, it is very hard to justify the cost of this sort of car when living an ELP lifestyle.

It would indeed be very hard to justify the cost unless you drive 17,000 or more per year (or whatever your mileage threshold is); however, to do so usually implies driving distances over 40 miles. It would indeed be imprudent to pay that premium for a Volt if you don't drive much.

I would prefer that the mandatory government subsidies that are going to be attached to this car to be linked to total driving; that is, the less you drive it, the more your subsidy. Link subsidies to energy conservation to reduce total energy consumption, not just shift it. Seems wholly irrational to trade a few thousand barrels of Angolan oil for a few train cars of domestic coal...

There is a good article on Drumbeat about the Volt.

Volt vs. Prius: What's the better deal?

It'll take higher gas prices, or a big subsidy from GM, for the new plug-in Volt to be cheaper to drive than the Toyota. But that doesn't mean it won't find buyers.

. . . At current gas prices, the \$421 a year savings over a period of six years that a new car is typically owned, would mean that a Volt would only be cost competitive with a Prius if was about \$34,500 before the tax credit.

That means GM would have to take about a \$5,500 loss on each Volt if it is to be strictly competitive.

If you assume modest sales of 20,000 Volts the first year, that would mean about \$110 million in additional losses for the cash-strapped automaker.

Even if you assume a worst case scenario of \$5 average price for a gallon of gas over those eight years, it's only worth it to pay a \$4,300 premium for a Volt after the tax credit. But that would reduce the loss that GM would need to take on each vehicle by \$2,600 to be competitive.

If everybody who bought a new car for commuting bought either vehicle, the market would be vastly revised. In these sorts of arguments about EV vs PHEV vs Smart cars vs Jetta TDIs it is easy to lose sight of the simple fact that ANY of these go so far beyond a single driver in a Tahoe or F250 as to make the deltas almost insignificant.

The real goal should be to get people to drive ANY small car, if they don't need a truck for work or an SUV/minivan for hauling a large family or soccer team around.

And even then, we neglect the used market. A used car market of high-eff little cars instead of SUVs and trucks would be a very good thing as well. A better cash-for-clunkers program would have covered small, used cars at lower cost-points as well.

Volt vs Prius?
Not comparable, the Volt goes 40 miles without using gasoline, the Prius <1Km. If gasoline supplies are disrupted or we have gas rationing which vehicle would you prefer to have ?

If gasoline supplies are disrupted are you going to have a job to drive to even w/ a Volt?

If only half the workforce can get to work on time, and are not exhausted from walking 5miles I guess they will have a definite advantage in the job market.

If only half the workforce can get to work what kind of economy are we going to have? You're talking Mad Max type stuff here.

Rethin,

Neil was using irony.

My only thought on the Volt is this:

The focus on the MPG is a whopping Red Herring.

Here's where the focus needs to be: MSRP of about 40,000. That's what they're saying now.

For anybody living in a cave (and there are a few!), please note that 40,000 is entry level luxury territory.

Who has 40k to spend on a car in this economy? Not many.

The Volt is DOA.

There is nothing else to discuss, except, perhaps, whether the government will make the miserable decision to place an even greater burden on future taxpayers by borrowing money from the Chinese and the future to pay people to buy this misguided concept of a fuel efficient vehicle.

Make it for 15k, and then call me.

Copying myself from GCC:

The self-inflicted wound on GM's part is that the Volt is a Chevy, not a Cadillac.  A \$40,000 pricetag on a Caddy isn't an issue.  The ultra-smooth drivetrain is just made for a luxury car.  Features like electric A/C are tailor-made for integration with OnStar so you can text the car from the country club or mall and have it cool and comfy by the time you get to it.

If we had stiff guzzler taxes on the luxury segment, this would be a no-brainer.

Interesting observation on the price being a non (or at least lesser) issue on a Cadillac, but I think there's something that everyone is missing - fleet fuel economy.

If you sell ONE Chevy Volt getting say "200" mpg, you can sell six (6) vehicles getting 10 mpg for an average fleet fuel economy of (200+ (6*10))/7 = 37 mpg

So by selling under the Chevy brand, if they sell say 2,000 volts per year, they can then sell 12 times that many vehicles that get at least 20 mpg and still make CAFE. It'll be able to boost their average fleet mileage and allow them to sell the SUVs "that people crave."

nice.

You're right, I missed that. I won't be forgetting it though. Thanks for pointing out what should have been obvious!

If you sell ONE Chevy Volt getting say "200" mpg, you can sell six (6) vehicles getting 10 mpg for an average fleet fuel economy of (200+ (6*10))/7 = 37 mpg

That's not how it works.  CAFE works on the average of fuel consumption (gallons/mile), not average of miles/gallon.  If you have 6 vehicles getting 10 MPG and have a 7th which is fully electric and credited at infinity, the CAFE is calculated this way:
7/((6/10)+(1/infinity))
= 7/(6/10+0)
= 70/6 = 11.7 MPG.

That is some crazy voodoo. Has anyone done a post on the inner workings of CAFE yet?

You look at trivial stuff like this and call it voodoo?  It's something that anyone should be able to do after first-year algebra:

1. Calculate the amount of fuel each model uses to go 1 mile.
2. Multiply the fuel consumption per vehicle of each model by the number of vehicles of each model, and add to get total fuel consumption per fleet-mile.
3. Divide the number of vehicles in the fleet by the consumption per fleet-mile to get fleet MPG.

The equation would be instantly obvious to anyone schooled in the hard sciences; it is almost identical to the equation used to calculate the value of resistances in parallel.

The voodoo is that calculating it the way most people think of it, in miles per gallon (distance against a fixed amount of energy), is vastly different from calculating it in gallons per mile (amount of energy to a fixed distance).

"instantly obvious to anyone schooled in the hard sciences" - It should also be instantly obvious to someone schooled in the hard sciences, that you are cranky today.

No, I'm like this just about every day.

I agree this is trivial. However, you guys really should start using standard SI units. Gallons and miles belong in museums.

Well, it's really the EPA you should talk to.

I suspect their reply would be: "We've got quite enough on our plate right now, without bugging people to go metric.".

Elaborating on this:

The voodoo is that calculating it the way most people think of it, in miles per gallon (distance against a fixed amount of energy)...

What I object to is the tendency to label anything which takes a shred of work to understand as "voodoo".  Voodoo is mumbo-jumbo, handwaving, nonsense.  If you are either too dumb or too lazy to understand something which is perfectly logical, the problem isn't the subject matter, it's you.

[it] is vastly different from calculating it in gallons per mile (amount of energy to a fixed distance).

It is nothing of the sort.  One is the multiplicative inverse of the other.

Example:  Europe's economy labelling is in consumption, liters per 100 km.  Suppose you have 6 vehicles which burn 21 liters per 100 km, and you add an EV to the fleet at 0 liters per 100 km.  The total fuel consumption would be:

6 * 21 + 1 * 0 = 126 l / 100 km

The fleet average is 126 l / 100 km / 7 vehicles, or 18 liters/100 km.  Now, if you convert this to miles per gallon, you get 11.2 MPG before the EV and 13.1 MPG after... a ratio of 7/6, the inverse of the fuel consumption which is 6/7.  There is nothing "voodoo" about it.

It doesn't work that way. The EPA uses gallons per mile, not miles per gallon.

So, a Volt getting 200 MPG uses .005 gallons per mile. That counterbalances only one SUV getting 21 MPG: (.048 gallons per mile + .005)/2 = .026, or 38 MPG. You'll need to sell two Volts to make room to sell one SUV getting 10 MPG.

You can buy a new Chevy Cobalt or fifteen plus or minus.

If that car were to be built really well streamlined,and rustproofed,and stripped of all the gimcrack styling extras,and STANDARDIZED for the duration,it would easily last for four hundred thousand miles and could be built for probably under ten grand,and get SUPERB fuel economy.

Most failures are the same old same old on modern cars,they don't wear out,they just break down due to design flaws or poor qc,and usually in the same component.Most of the cars that are scrapped for breaking down in this country are scrapped for transmission failure,and yet a WORN OUT transmission is almost unheard of.It's almost always a single failed component out of the hundreds in the transmission.
It would be easy to build it so the average young woman who ownsa basic tool kit could do ninety percent of her own maintainence and repair work-simply by providing a complete manual on cd with good on board diagnostics.You can screw out a bad sensor and replace it w/o knowing any more than you have to know to change a light bulb.

It would be easy to make it so that at the twenty year point,the engine could be swapped out for a new one better designed,or even an electric motor.

Of course such a car could only be built in a totalitarian country well aware of the resource issue.

If that car were to be built really well streamlined,and rustproofed,and stripped of all the gimcrack styling extras,and STANDARDIZED for the duration,it would easily last for four hundred thousand miles and could be built for probably under ten grand,and get SUPERB fuel economy.

You've just described a Model T. It sold for about 15 years, with no options at all, for a steadily falling price. Then GM introduced style, and options, and no one wanted the Model T.

Most of the cars that are scrapped for breaking down in this country are scrapped for transmission failure

Do you have any sources for that?

I have no data as such but you can call any wrecking yard sales clerk and ask him why most of the cars in his yard are there ,if not because of an accident that rendered them undriveable,and he will tell you the same thing.

The used mechanical component that is most often sold out is the automatic transmission.
Among lower class working people who drive older cars this is accepted as a given as certain as death and taxes,but no, no collected figures.

You can do your own informal research by reading the swap and sell classified papers or craigs list ,etc,and you will come to the same conclusion pdq.

I am more of a world class jack of all trades(this description fits most small farmers) than anything else and since our farming operation is mostly down to a hobby to keep my elderly Daddy happy and healthy,I work on a lot of cars (between changing Momma's bandages,cooking,following Daddy around to keep him off ladders,etc,)it pays better than farming.

(Or blogging!)

I can easily buy more cars dirt cheap locally-older cars,say1990 to 2000 or so with bad transmissions than all others put together that have broke down in such a way that the repairs exceed the value of the car.

This does not mean that older cars aren't frequently scrapped for other,multiple reasons,such as needing tires ,brakes and exhaust work all at the same time to pass inspection.

And a good many cars are scrapped that are rusted out beyond repair/safe operation in the northern states,but only a few suffer that fate here in the upper south.

But a car that is otherwise in good order is almost always worth a new set of tires,or exhaust pipes,or brakes.Only the engine and/or transmission in and of themselves cost so much,labor and parts, that repairs often exceed the value of the car.

There is a transmission rebuilding shop on damn near every corner that does nothing else but there very few shops that specialize in rebuilding engines and do nothing else.There are at least six transmission shops that I know of in the closest town,probably more,but not a single shop that rebuilds engines and does nothing else,to my knowledge.

You can fix most engine problems with the engine in the car,but fixing most transmission problems requires an Rand R.This adds a big labor charge to what might have otherwise been a minor repair.

Engine failure IS more common in SOME models.

I have no idea what kind of cars people buy in your neck of the woods, or how heavily they are used (which you must admit influences how they wear out), but my experience is very different:

1. Sold for scrap because of a leaking rear engine oil seal, body cancer and hard-to-fix brakes; the auto tranny was fine.
2. Sold for scrap because of badly-repaired crash damage and the on-going problems this caused.
3. Sold because it needed a heater core, wiper-control module, headlamp control module, front struts, door gaskets and too much else to count--engine and (manual) transmission were doing rather well, though it was the second tranny.
4. Engine overheated due to coolant leak, not worth repairing.
5. Sold because of general deterioration, mostly in the interior (4-speed manual).  Also lacked cruise control and other features I needed.
6. Sold because reliability was suffering, though the (auto) transmission was never a problem.

Not one of these cars was GM.  Maybe that's the difference?

1 The ONE relatively minor fialure that is common to engines that results in scrapping is rear seal failure but the seal typically costs less than thirty bucks retail.The irony is that to fix THIS PROBLEM with the engine you have to pull the tranny an "all day" job.Actually installing the seal takes only a few minutes.

No Mexican or working country boy would scrap a car in otherwise good condition for this reason.Rand r of a tranny is a knuckle buster but requires very little in the way of SKILL or real knowledge.Almost any working class Mexican or farm boy can do it in a day with a floor jack,some safety stands and a set of tools you can get at Sears for less than five hundred bucks-plus some extra muscle from a helper for an hour or so.If you normally earn say from ten to tweny bucks per hour,that's a very good way to spend a Saturday.No need to scrap the car UNLESS THE DRIVER FAILS TO HEED HIS OIL PRESSURE GAUGE OR IDIOT LIGHT and ruins the engine.A wrecking yard in this area would pick up say a 95 Cavalier with this problem and pay a hundred and fifty bucks for it.If its otherwise in good condition,It will bring three hundred to five hundred within three days on craigs list and a backyard mechanic will fix it and drive it maybe another hundred thousand miles.

2 I excluded wrecks,which would reasonably be contrued to include poorly repaired wrecks.

3 Sold to some one who fixed it or for scrap?Any one of the problems you mention is no reason to scrap a car,although these things can cost to fix,if you take them to a garage.Perhaps the owner has simply run the car into the dirt,all these things should not be wrong at once.Any one of them is fixable for less than the payment on most cars.All easily and cheaply and routinely repaired by people like me willing to work for two hundred bucks a day,for less than a payment.

4coolant leaks will killya for sure but in my experience nearly all are the result of neglected routine maintainence such as failure to replace hoses and thermostat every four or five years,failure to change antifreeze every two years max(it contains corrosion inhibiting chemicals that become depleted and water pump lubricant),accidental damage,failure to check water pump for wear.( remove or loosen drive belt and try to wiggle pulley-if you can feel it move,its worn out, typically takes five or ten minutes to check,should be done annually on older cars.)

a coolant leak will not ruin a car (and usually is not really expensive to fix) UNLESS the driver ignores the warning light or gauge.But I must add that many late model engines are prone to head gasket failure and that this can really cost-especially if you have a tranversely mounted v6.Four bangers gasket sets are much cheaper,omly one head to resurface,MUCH EASIER and twice faster to fix than a v6.

5,6 Sold? Agian ,to be used or for scrap?I drive a truck so ratty my hound lays down flat in the back so the other dogs won't see him in it.I can afford a better looking truck but could care less and a good looking truck used the way I use mine won't look good very long.Somebody wants and needs that ratty car if it will still run.You must live a long way from any poor people if you advertise such a car and get no response.

Agreed that many cars have multiple problems such that a person lacking any maintainence skills and reliant upon garages is better off to trade.There are lots of crappy cars of just about every make,even Toyota has built a few lemons.(Toyota pickups backin the early nineties with four bangers last nearly forever,the v6 is usally shot and not hardly worth fixing between 150 thousand and 200 thousand miles if not sooner.If I had'em I could sell a half a dozen of those v6 motors in a week for serious money. Quite a few of the four bangers are trucking right along at 300,000 plus,no problems yet.

But only Chevy trucks are immortalized on the bumper sticker that says"This is Ford country.On a quiet night you can hear the Chevys rust."

But to be fair about it,Chevy did get the rust problem under control by the mid nineties.

Most people buy a car without giving any serious thought to what it will cost in swaet or cash to maintain it when it is approaching middle age-around a hundred thouasnd miles or so,typically,for the better models.

Getting nickeled and dimed to death keeping such a car going is the result of not doing your homework before you buy.Most people really don't give a hoot because they expect to trade.

But the people who bought ratty old Hondas and Toyotas when they could afford no better are buying new Hondas and Toyotas today because old ratted out Japanese cars generally gave better service when already ratted out than new Vegas and Pintos.Bean counters and wonder boys waving thier MBA'S can't see past the next quarter or farther back than last year,but the public-the more intelligent part of it,at least,has a long memory.

And if you live in salt country ....well you live in salt country,salt murders cars,no ifs ands or buts.As a matter of fact rust is a primary killer of older Japanese trucks here in the mid south,but the ones that are rusted bad enough to scrap them mainly for that reason are usually twenty five years or so in age, only a little older than most of the Chevys that are scrapped locally for rust out.

The coolant leak was in a car with a 351 V8 which had excessive blow-by even before that.  It wasn't worth fixing.

I've only sent 3 cars to the scrapyard due to natural death.  I sold my last two daily drivers, one an I4 with almost 200,000 miles on it, the other a V6 with almost 170,000 miles on it.  The V6 had an automatic which was running like a top, not even a fluid change.  Both engines were running nicely, though the I4 did appear to have some wear in the bearings.

The current beast is an I4 turbodiesel with an automatic.  110,000 miles and counting, just replaced the timing belt and water pump on schedule.  I expect to retire it at upwards of 250,000 miles unless fuel prices drive me to electric sooner.

Engineer,
As they say,your mileage may vary.You sound like you take fairly good care at least of your cars.
AVERAGES are my tirf in this discussion.
Now as far as blowby went on that 351(Ford? most likely) it probably would have run another four or five years with some minor loss of fuel economy of course.My knees are creaky but I expect to use them for a good while yet.

If you pull the top cover off the valve train when you get ready to trade at 250,000 I will bet that if you have used the specified oil and changed it regularly that none f the visible vale train components will show any wear-certainly not enough to be outside specs for retaining them in case of an overhaul.And if you run a compression test (not at all easy on most diesels!!) the odds are very high it will be fine.

And if you have an oil pressure gauge it most likely will be hanging in the same spot at the same rpm as it always did.

Unless you drive mostly short trips with lots of cold starts.Unless you bought the wrong make/model.There are throwaway diesels on the market these days.Especially turbodiesels.A really good turbo is a very expensive item to manufacture.

If you don't want to replace it someday I suggest you always allow it to idle for two minutes before shutdown.that's pretty much sop for commercial/ industrial turbodiesels.

My history with cars:

Purchased in 1994 (car was 18 years old at that stage) for \$1500. Requirted \$200 in repairs for Roadworthy certificate.
Replaced engine three times, as it was cheaper to simply replace an engine which was starting to smoke than to repair it.
1998. Tore car down completely and commenced a major rebuild (vanity, mostly, there was nothing really wrong with the car apart from faded paint). Had engine professionally rebuilt for once. Purchased identical model for the duration of the rebuild. Still own it (currently shedded).
1999 - 2008. Drove car daily, did next to no maintainence on it apart from regular servicing.
2009. Intermittent issue with fuel system caused me to park the car, and rust was starting to make its presence felt in the boot. Have not driven a car more than a dozen times in six months since (walk, ride, car-pool). Nothing wrong with the car that a new fuel pump probably wouldn't fix, but I don't need it, so cbf. :D

It's a GM (Opel/Isuzu/Holden). :)

Well, EVs (and Extended range EVs like the Volt) don't have transmissions. EVs and ErEVs will need a lot less maintenance, which is one reason why car manufacturers and dealers don't like them:

"Car dealers are nervous a shift from gas to electric cars will mean that they don't see their customers as often as they currently do.

The design of the electric car is really simple. There's not a lot of parts, so there won't be much need for maintenance says Mark Perry, Nissan (NSANY) Americas' head of Product Planning. When he said that, was speaking to a group of dealers at an event in New York to show off Nissan's upcoming electric. (We stood outside the circle of dealers and listened in.) "

Jay Leno has a 1909 Detroit Electric model that's still working just fine - it's even still using the original battery.

I don't buy this at all.

Outside of periodic oil changes what maintenance does a modern engine and transmission require? Almost none at all.

Its all the other moving parts of the car that tend to wear out and need maintenance. And these parts are in common to both the ICE car and the EV.

The article you referenced is the dealers loosing the customer connection because the customers don't come in for oil changes. That's a far cry from claiming EVs need far less maintenance as oil changes are a trivial cost to car ownership.

edit:

I just dug this up again.

The city of Palo-alto released this report about its Rav4 EVs. In it they compare maintenance costs between the RAV4 and a Ford Ranger.

For the 3 year lease the RAV 4 EV's maintenance cost \$1,725. The Ranger cost \$1,860.

For the 10 years the RAV 4 EV's maintenance cost \$6,900. The Ranger cost \$8,100.

EV's still require regular preventive maintenance, as well as tire replacements and brake service. However, the cost for engine-related service, such as oil changes, will be eliminated.

The difference is about \$120 a year over 10 years or about the cost of periodic oil changes.

So, you don't buy oldfarmermac's contention that transmissions are the most important cause of car scrappage? You seem to be talking about maintenance of cars earlier in life. What do you think of what he's saying?

That's an interesting study from Palo Alto. I'd note that the two models don't give a perfect comparison: different manufacturers and models. Also, preventive maintenance depends on history, and they didn't have history for the Rav4. If your PM schedule calls for replacing brakes every 2 years, you don't really know if its needed.

I mention brakes in particular because regenerative braking greatly reduces brake wear. Even Prius brake wear is greatly reduced, and it only has partial regenerative braking. The Rav4 had regenerative braking, so it's brake maintenance costs should have been sharply lower.

Yes, I said regular maintenance not end of life issues.

Okay, I'll concede (for sake of argument) that an EV w/ regenerative breaking needs fewer pads replaced over the long term. Still not a significant cost difference as far as I can tell. And the Palo alto study was over 10 years so presumably that \$120/year includes the breaks as well.

Your point that "EVs and ErEVs will need a lot less maintenance" is still invalid. Your article is talking about something entirely different. Your quoting it is sloppy at best dishonest at worst.

Still not a significant cost difference as far as I can tell.

Brake maintenance is significant. Taxi drivers with Priuses are very happy about that cost reduction.

And the Palo alto study was over 10 years so presumably that \$120/year includes the breaks as well.

Which strongly suggests that the Palo Alto reference isn't very good.

I just took a look at the "study". It's not a review of the city's experience, it's a pre-purchase projection based on "two preventive maintenance inspections per year, one set of tires, one complete brake reline, and a \$250 annual allowance for transportation and minor repairs." That's a wild guess on their part, and isn't based on actual EV maintenance requirements.

Your point that "EVs and ErEVs will need a lot less maintenance" is still invalid. Your article is talking about something entirely different. Your quoting it is sloppy at best dishonest at worst.

You're starting to get emotional and Ad Hominem.

Lets look at the article as a whole:

"Car dealers are nervous a shift from" gas to electric cars
will mean that they don't see their customers as often as they currently do.

The design of the electric car is really simple. There's not a lot of parts, so there won't be much need for maintenance says Mark Perry, Nissan (NSANY) Americas' head of Product Planning. When he said that, was speaking to a group of dealers at an event in New York to show off Nissan's upcoming electric. (We stood outside the circle of dealers and listened in.)

That statement raised some eyebrows amongst the dealers. According to Hoovers, car dealers make about 10% of sales from service and parts for cars. While losing that revenue won't sting too badly, what hurts worse is the fact that the dealer loses contact with its drivers.

If you're not constantly visiting the dealership for oil changes or tune-ups or whatever, then you might forget the dealer. Selling cars is about developing a relationship."

First, Nissan Americas' head of Product Planning says "there won't be much need for maintenance".

Then, the article says: "car dealers make about 10% of sales from service and parts for cars. While losing that revenue won't sting too badly...". That certainly suggests an expectation of a loss of most of that revenue.

Then, we see: "If you're not constantly visiting the dealership for oil changes or tune-ups or whatever, then you might forget the dealer." Not just oil changes, but "oil changes or tune-ups or whatever".

You may disagree with the article, but you certainly can't say I misrepresent it when I describe it as suggesting a sharp reduction of maintenance costs, and car dealers unhappy as a result of that.

You may disagree with the article, but you certainly can't say I misrepresent it when I describe it as suggesting a sharp reduction of maintenance costs, and car dealers unhappy as a result of that.

Sure I can. The article was commenting on the lack of customer/dealer relationship via scheduled oil changes. You completely misrepresented it as signifying "EVs and ErEVs will need a lot less maintenance, which is one reason why car manufacturers and dealers don't like them".

And I conceded brakes. You can have brakes. Its makes no difference. Maintenance (not eol) of ICEs vs EVs is virtually indistinguishable.

You are completely framing that article in an in-honest way. That "10% of sales from service and parts for cars" is exactly the same for ICEs as for EVs minus oil changes and brakes. The dealers were lamenting that without the regularly scheduled oil changes the customer might go else where for their maintenance.

You are twisting that to mean EV's have significantly less maintenance than ICEs. Since I called you on it, you are no longer being sloppy.

edit:
And I concede the Palo-Alto study isn't the most conclusive. But its by far the best I can find. Can you find any other direct comparison between EVs and ICEs?

That said the mechanics and (more importantly) the bean counters in Palo-Alto can't seem to find any significant maintenance issues between the two. I doubt they are throwing a fortune in brakes pads away and just shrugging their shoulders and says oh well.

The article was commenting on the lack of customer/dealer relationship via scheduled oil changes. <.i>

No. When the article referred to oil changes, it said "oil changes or tune-ups or whatever". That's a lot wider than just "oil changes".

"You can have brakes. Its makes no difference."

Brakes don't make a difference?? It was one of the only two specific costs mentioned by the Palo Alto "study". The P-A cost projection mentioned "one set of tires, one complete brake reline", and a complete brake reline is more expensive than tires.

"Maintenance (not eol) of ICEs vs EVs is virtually indistinguishable."

The median car age in the US is more than 9 years old. You can't agree that EV's will have much lower maintenance costs when they're old and not agree that they'll have significantly lower costs overall.

You are completely framing that article in an in-honest way.

Again, you're getting emotional and Ad Hominem. What's worse, you're incorrect about the article.

That "10% of sales from service and parts for cars" is exactly the same for ICEs as for EVs minus oil changes and brakes.

No. The article talks about that 10% going away for EVs. Here's what the article says:"According to Hoovers, car dealers make about 10% of sales from service and parts for cars. While losing that revenue won't sting too badly, what hurts worse is the fact that the dealer loses contact with its drivers."

Clearly, the article is saying that dealers are concerned about "losing that revenue", by which they mean the 10%.

You are twisting that to mean EV's have significantly less maintenance than ICEs.

That's precisely what the article is saying. The article says:"The design of the electric car is really simple. There's not a lot of parts, so there won't be much need for maintenance says Mark Perry, Nissan (NSANY) Americas' head of Product Planning." How can we interpret that as anything other than that EV's have significantly less maintenance than ICEs?

Since I called you on it, you are no longer being sloppy.

I haven't changed my point. I originally said: "EVs and ErEVs will need a lot less maintenance". In my last post i said: "a sharp reduction of maintenance costs". I'd say those are the same thing.

I concede the Palo-Alto study isn't the most conclusive.

Thanks.

But its by far the best I can find.

If it's very low quality, then it doesn't really do us any good. Look at what they said: the major cost was inspections. The next largest was brakes, which we've agreed will be greatly reduced. The next after that is miscellaneous. Obviously, they had no idea how to do the projection, and they were just covering themselves. Given that Rav-4's were new at the time, who can blame them?

I doubt they are throwing a fortune in brakes pads away and just shrugging their shoulders and says oh well.

Again, this was a pre-purchase projection. It was a cost-analysis done for a city council purchase approval - they had no actual experience with the vehicle.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, EV's have no transmissions, mufflers, tuneups (plugs, points, air filters), timing or other belts, fuel pumps, oil & oil filters. The engine has only one moving part, almost no internal friction, and is likely to last forever. Brake costs are greatly reduced.

Wouldn't all of this likely reduce maintenance costs by 50%?

Nick,
You are correct on this one, not many tune-up or oil changes for electric vehicles. Will need to replace tires, wiper blades, crash repairs. I can see a lot of additional "service stations" closing in the near future.

Who has 40k to spend on a car in this economy? Not many.

It's more than a year until it hits the stores and the economy is turning around already.

The Volt is DOA.

Do you know what DVD-players and cellphones cost initially? There are always early adopters that pay for the initial development. Then designs are simplified and volume production sets in.

Everybody knows electric drive is fundamentally better in all aspects but economy. Simpler tech, cheaper drive trains, cheaper maintenance, better acceleration, virtually no engine noise, cheaper fill-ups, no emissions and so on. The "only" problems are all properties of the battery - weight, volume, price, charging-time, capacity, life and so on.

Now, battery properties are all improving over time, which is making the electric drive more and more attractive. Actually, it seems that the evolution of battery technology finally has progressed far enough for the EV (and EREV) to take off in a few specific niche markets. The Tesla has certainly shown it is viable in the luxury sports segment, and now GM is trying to introduce it in other segments. As volumes increase, research will accelerate and drive-train technology will mature.

Of course the Volt is not economical. Of course the sales will be low. But it has finally begun, and once it has, there will be the next generation and the next, and it will likely progress quite fast. I've seen enough battery research findings in Slashdot feeds to become convinced that there are good times ahead.

Actually, it seems that the evolution of battery technology finally has progressed far enough for the EV (and EREV) to take off in a few specific niche markets

I'd put it more strongly: batteries are now good enough. All that remains is cost, and that's falling very quickly. See http://energyfaq.blogspot.com/2009/07/volt-battery-costs-part-3.html

I agree. The link you provide claims the Volt's battery pack costs \$8,000, or \$500/kWh. This is in the same ball-park as Tesla's claim that the replacement cost of its battery-pack is \$36,000, or \$680/kWh.

Now, while the Volt is anticipated to start at \$40,000, the fundamental additional cost of a 40-mile EREV is basically \$8,000 today. (Then probably, the electric drive train and the smaller ICE should shave off a significant portion of this.)

Indyphil calculated the fuel savings to approximately \$1000/year, which means they might be \$2000/year in Europe. So I guess the EREV makes sense, economically. It's more a question of time now.

Compare this with the early days of plasma/LCD-screens. We knew that the new tech was fundamentally more attractive and cheaper, but it was still more expensive for many years. R&D costs had to be recovered and production needed to ramp up before the low fundamental costs were seen by the consumer.

I agree.

A clarification: This is in the same ball-park as Tesla's claim that the replacement cost of its battery-pack is \$36,000, or \$680/kWh.

This is Tesla's battery pack price. Their cost for the cells is about \$20K, or \$400/KWH. That's pretty close to the cost to GM of the cells, which is about \$350/KWH, or \$5,600 per pack.

The additional pack costs are power electronics, battery management, a cooling system, the pack structure and assembly, all of which should come down in cost/price fairly quickly.

Nick42 (up above) gets the prize. It's a paradigm shift so it makes a nonsense of the old measurements. But it's worse than that...

Tim Haab cuts to the chase here (and yes, he's an economist. Deal with it):

Calculating the gas mileage of the Volt is tricky. You get 40 miles of driving gas-free on the electric charge. Beyond that the Volt gets 50 mpg. So the actual mpg is:

mpg=Miles Driven/((Miles Driven-40)/50mpg)

Simplifying, the equation for calculating the mpg for the Volt is:

mpg=(50 * miles driven)/(miles driven-40).

This holds for trips greater than 40 miles. At 40 miles driven or less, the mpg is infinite since no gas is being used. [...]

Now here's a kicker - we can rest assured that "the mpg is infinite" will suggest to some lay people that the car can run on nothing. Indeed, a few will surely scream bloody murder to who whoever will listen, about the unjust increase in their electric bill imposed by the perfidious so-and-so's at the "big" evil utility company. If you doubt this in the slightest, simply reflect on the eternal life of scams about running cars on water, magnets, etc.

Moving on to other reasons affluent people who can afford it might buy a Volt, in particular flaunting faux greenery, the real money quote in Haab's piece is (emphasis added):

Left unanswered: what is the EPA mppc (miles per pound of coal) for the Volt when running off [on] the electric engine?

In short, because hybrid cars are a paradigm shift, the traditional measures don't really fit. Whether the shift is for the better at this time depends on what your concerns are, on the timeframe in which you think they might really bite, and on how you think they are coupled together. For example, within the lifetime of a car sold today, the supply of electricity might become as erratic (or more so) as the supply of gasoline or diesel, due to governments shutting down and/or impeding construction of coal plants without allowing useful alternative supply. In that event, a major possible advantage of an expensive electric car will be lost or at least largely vitiated.

Right - a key question (nod to the ongoing EROEI thread) is how the electricity is produced in the first place. Here in the PNW it makes more sense to go electric/PHEV, since we have such a high % of hydro-generated electricity, with wind making big gains. (I'm 100% wind at home (green salute!).) That said, about half our electricity, in Portland anyway, is generated by burning coal. Where I work in McMinnville, we're 100% hydro. So if I charge the car while I'm at work...

Your hydro is already fully tapped out. Incremental increases in demand for electricity wont' come from hydro. So incremental increases in demand for electricity will come from energy sources that can produce more. Coal is an obvious choice.

As the Volt and other EV's get going, so in the run at LED and OLED lighting. So in Home X we have Family X replacing all their lights with Next-generation LED and OLED light bulbs and fixtures, Saving wattage left and right, then they buy an Electric Car and Plug it in where the wattage used to go to the lights.

OLED's are just a few years away, LED's are here in stores right now. They don't work for all the places you have regular bulbs, but they work enough places that you can knock off several 100 watthours per day.

In ten years we might not be using the same amount of electricity that we use today, just from the savings in Lighting upgrades.

Charles

Sorry, population growth and plasma TVs will end up any power saved by LEDs.

Yes, we have to get busy building wind power (or nuclear) to do something about that.

Electric supply will not be an issue for a while.  If the cars are charged overnight, it will take quite some time before the existing plant capacity will be fully employed to keep up with the additional demand.

If PHEVs form 5% of new sales in 2014, the writing will be on the wall and planning for new electric plants will go forward.

Do we know they'll be charged only at night? Since electricity is so much cheaper than gasoline - no road tax for one thing - won't a good many people want to charge during the day, possibly for the PM commute, or even for an evening trip? Since the grid is already on the verge of collapse in some areas on very hot days, it would only take a little of that to cause big problems.

Pie in the sky ahead, veer right to avoid:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_1-litre_car

If the electric car of the future looked like the VW 1 liter, which gets aroudn 235 mpg on diesel - a straight conversion yeilding approximately 170 watt-hours per mile, lets say actual electrical efficiency factored in would put it around 110 watt-hours per mile. For a 40 mile usable range (i.e. 20% added) using LiFePO4 batteries, would cost on the order of \$6,000 and last on average 60,000 miles before dropping below the stardard cycling efficiency point. They would still be useable beyond that, but range would be compromised - there would surely be a used battery market for such batteries. There are some NiMH pack RAV4 Ev's running around with 100,000+ miles on the original pack. But, the lower the initial energy that the vehicle needs, the less expensive the pack can cost to go the same distance. Also, a sustainer motor could be sized much much smaller.

I still sigh everytime I hear about the Volt's "really super-duper small gasoline motor" - it's as big as my ONLY motor. It should be at most half the size and half the cylinders it's going to be.

I still sigh everytime I hear about the Volt's "really super-duper small gasoline motor" - it's as big as my ONLY motor. It should be at most half the size and half the cylinders it's going to be.

Since I've made that point myself, I suppose you could count me in violent agreement.

Engineer_Poet,
The US is adding wind power at 24,000GWh per year, so could provide all of the additional power to charge an additional 2.4 Million Volts per year. It's unlikely that EV will put stress the grid while we continue to expand wind energy at 30% per year. The need to reduce CO2 emissions may stress the grid, but EV's will help to intergrate the additional nuclear and renewables needed.

Your comments about the Volt being marketed as a Chevy, only apply if the prices doesn't drop with volume production and battery advances. My guess is they will be selling for less than \$30,000 very soon. Another crude oil price spike could see 1million sold per year.

The Volt PHEV drive train would be capable of support a larger Cadillac type vehicle( with an extra battery pack), priced in the \$40-50,000 luxury range. This is probably the reason for the over capacity 1.5 l engine and generator.

The US is adding wind power at 24,000GWh per year, so could provide all of the additional power to charge an additional 2.4 Million Volts per year. It's unlikely that EV will put stress the grid while we continue to expand wind energy at 30% per year.

Also a point I have made myself.

All this violent agreement going on!  It must be time for kumbaya; who's got the guitar?

They're using this engine because it's cheap and off the shelf - they'll use something more customized for later generations.

It doesn't really matter, as it won't be used much anyway.

Let's just get them electric for now? Elecricity can be produced in different ways. Coal and gas now. Renewables and nukes later. One problem at a time.

the supply of electricity might become as erratic (or more so) as the supply of gasoline or diesel, due to governments shutting down and/or impeding construction of coal plants without allowing useful alternative supply. In that event, a major possible advantage of an expensive electric car will be lost or at least largely vitiated.

ErEVs like the Volt are dual-fuel. If electricity is unreliable, you can use gas exclusively. If gas is short, you can use electricity exclusively.

If you anticipate a Mad Max world, I'd say that's a very, very valuable feature.

ErEVs like the Volt are dual-fuel. If electricity is unreliable, you can use gas exclusively. If gas is short, you can use electricity exclusively.

You are out of your mind if you think having a plug in hybrid will insulate you from such economic upheaval.

What do you mean by 'Insulate' then?

It doesn't mean you're untouchable.. just that you're more resilient. You can spin the wheels even if all the local stations are dry.

If all the local stations are dry then the economy is effectively shut down.

So you can "spin the wheels" for that one last charge only. Because the power plant people aren't getting to work either. Nor are the people selling you your food at the supermarket, delivering your heating oil, cops patrolling the streets etc etc.

The economy is never fully shut down as long as there are people.

Even in the "Mad Max" scenario there is still trade, and still secure enclaves.

Socially, the worst case scenario would be something similar to 14th century Europe or current Ethiopia. Are you trying to convince us that there is no trade, travel, or need for such in Ethiopia?

What if all these people (or any significant fraction) also own Hybrids (Parallel or Serial)? ;)

Right!

Besides, it doesn't take many key personnel to run a power plant, and utilities typically have their own fleet of vehicles supplied by their own fuel pumps with which to pick them up. In an extended fuel shortage they could out-bid private car owners, and would get priority in any rationing scheme. Finally, utilities love EVs and hybrids, and are adopting them as quickly as they can.

This idea that fuel shortages would cause a shutdown of the grid is highly unrealistic.

More to the point, having a PHEV with sufficient AER would allow you to:

• Get to work without burning fuel... and perhaps carry several co-workers too.
• Take your neighbors for shopping trips.

With enough of them around, it's the difference between being inconvenienced and being crippled.

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Miles per gallon (mpg) is an inappropriate metric for expressing the energy efficiency of a car that consumes both gasoline and electricity.

Sure, one can easily convert kilowatt-hours per mile into equivalent mpg using simple conversion factors (i.e, a gallon of gasoline has a heat content of about 119,000 BTU/gallon and there are 3,413 BTUs per kilowatt-hour). However, the fundamental flaw imbedded in this simple conversion is that it only considers the electrical energy at the outlet, and not the fossil fuel that had to be burned to produce that electrical energy.

A large fossil-fuel power plant (w/o cogeneration) typically has an efficiency in the range of 35 -40%. So, to accurately measure the energy consumed by the plug-in hybrid, one has to multiply the electrical component of the total energy input by the inverse of that efficiency or 2.86 to 2.5. Only when one adds that number to the energy input of the gasoline consumed, can one arrive at an accurate measure of the total amount of energy actually consumed by the car per mile driven.

To avoid comparing apples and oranges, the mileage of a plug-in hybrid should really be expressed in miles per BTU (or miles per kilowatt-hour) but not in miles per gallon. The problem is that the consumer is only accustomed to relating to miles per gallon, so all sorts of games will most likely still be played in making conversions in a manner that makes the car appear more energy-efficient than it really is.

To avoid comparing apples and oranges, the mileage of a plug-in hybrid should really be expressed in miles per BTU (or miles per kilowatt-hour) but not in miles per gallon.

This disregards the fact that electric generation fuel is not fungible with motor fuel (especially nuclear), and how do you measure wind or PV?

The consumer is really concerned about \$.  That's why the on-line calculator should estimate cost.

One of our biggest concerns should be economic security.  Substituting domestic energy for imported oil is a big win on that scale.

Engineer-Poet -

Well, while it is true that electrical generating fuel is not fungible with motor fuel, you can't get around the fact that both are energy inputs into the same vehicle. The problem is how to come up with a reasonable way of measuring the realistic energy-efficiency of that vehicle that is meaningful to the general consuming public. Not easy.

Putting it in terms of cost per mile gets to the bottom line quite nicely, but whenever you do that you have the problem of what cost do you assign to gasoline and what cost to electricity? Given the tremendous volatility of gasoline prices during the past few years, what price do you use for gasoline in the cost-per-mile figure? Or will we have to have some sort of built-in software for the car that is connected directly to daily spot market prices for gasoline and then reads out, "YOUR DOLLARS PER MILE FOR TODAY IS ..........." Ditto for electricity prices, but those are less volatile.

(I hope no one at General Motors is reading this, as they just might develop such a thing, probably thus adding a few more hundred dollars to a car that is already way too expensive.)

You're complaining about apples and oranges, but you want to compare petroleum, coal and wind on a per-BTU basis?  Would you extend this to the solar BTUs incident on a PV panel charging the car?

Given the tremendous volatility of gasoline prices during the past few years, what price do you use for gasoline in the cost-per-mile figure?

It's very easy to calculate the cost at today's average price, \$3, \$4, \$5.... Electricity prices are far less volatile.

If people are concerned about the future price of fuel (as they should be), showing them how various vehicle choices affect their financial risk if the price of gasoline jumps is just good sense.

Engineer-Poet -

With a plug-in hybrid either basis of comparison is problematic.

If one uses the basis of dollars per mile, then one has to contend with changing energy prices, and one can easily have one figure for this year and a different figure for next year, leading to all sorts of confusion. On the other hand, if one uses something like BTUs per mile (or miles per 1,000 BTUs if one so chooses), then regarding the electrical component, one has to be careful about delineating WHICH BTUs, i.e., just the ones coming out of the power plant or the total BTUs going into it. Either way, there is plenty of room for mischief.

Regarding the case where the electricity comes from either wind turbines or PV panels, I think that can be dealt with more straightforward than with a fossil fuel power plant, as one need not concern oneself with wind and solar energy conversion efficiencies, only the power made available for charging. (Having said that, I fully recognize that efficiencies are very important in determining capital costs, which when amortized, are a very large component of the total cost of delivering wind and solar power).

At any rate, even the EPA mileage figures for gasoline powered cars have always been somewhat of a construct based on highly artificial test conditions. As far as I'm concerned, their sole value is in comparing one car against another and not as something that is going to predict what mileage you will actually get (..."Your own mileage may vary"...). I don't know about you, but I have never owned a car that achieved the EPA city and highway mileage numbers. Some didn't even come close, even when driving 'nice'.

I guess one just has to be an intelligent consumer and do one's homework to see whether the plug-in hybrid makes sense for one's own set of circumstances.

On the other hand, if one uses something like BTUs per mile (or miles per 1,000 BTUs if one so chooses), then regarding the electrical component, one has to be careful about delineating WHICH BTUs, i.e., just the ones coming out of the power plant or the total BTUs going into it.

You'll have plenty of trouble even coming up with accurate figures for input.  It takes about half the BTUs to make electricity in a new gas-fired CCGT compared to an older coal-fired steam plant, and about half the carbon per BTU.  The latest simple-cycle gas turbines hit 46% efficiency.  Nuclear requires a few more BTUs but no carbon, and wind and hydro don't have any conversions from heat.

Measuring the output is trivial, but the exercise is essentially meaningless; it doesn't yield anything worth knowing.

At any rate, even the EPA mileage figures for gasoline powered cars have always been somewhat of a construct based on highly artificial test conditions. As far as I'm concerned, their sole value is in comparing one car against another

That's all they are advertised to be, though they have recently been adjusted to get closer to what real drivers see.

I have never owned a car that achieved the EPA city and highway mileage numbers.

I'm consistently beating the EPA numbers for mine.  I must be living right.

So to add one more nut to the pie. How much energy does it take to produce the car? That has to be figured in to really get a measure of how costly it all is.

I am sure someone somewhere has it all figured out online.

I use public transit or share rides with others, I don't own a car. If I had the cash to spend on a car, I'd buy the smallest one I could fit into, that would get the best range possible.

Who knows what the range of the Volt is? What is the tank size? Scatters off to the web to hunt the info down, but if you know post it here.

Charles.

The consumer is really concerned about \$. That's why the on-line calculator should estimate cost.

That's true. But I wonder if the 'typical' buyer of a Volt would be motivated to choose only the most cost-effective vehicle, with cost measured the way it's being discussed here. I think not. The Volt's target demographic is middle class people driven (sorry;)) by a healthy concern for minimizing fossil fuel use. Like the Prius, it will have green cachet: car, \$40K; sense of doing right, priceless.

I agree, the energy consumed from a battery (i.e. after electricity is "delivered" to the car) certainly does not tell the whole story, as there may be inefficiencies incurred in delivering electrical power. But exactly the same thing can be said about the energy consumed after gasoline is delivered to the car. The gasoline didn't get there by itself. It had to be pumped out of an underground tank, after having been pumped into that tank from a tanker truck, after having been driven some unknown distance from the regional distribution point, at which it was pumped out of a big tank, ...

... then there is the energy cost of the refining process, and then we repeat the whole distribution loss chain back to the original source - oil well or offshore oil platform, which, btw, does not operate for free. Consider, for example, even just the cost of maintaining a work force on an offshore oil rig, flying people, equipment and materials sometimes hundreds of miles on a regular basis. Then, of course, there was the cost of constructing that oil rig....

... and we haven't even considered exploration costs yet.

In short: I think you have a false dichotomy. Rather than making up yet another approximation (multiply energy input by 2.5 to 2.86), why not simply state what is REALLY THERE. It consumes x units of energy per unit distance, for each type of energy consumption. Thus, for the Volt, approximately

4 L/100 km (50 mpg) gasoline (in charge sustaining mode)
25 kWh/

Oops, I didn't mean to hit "save" there. Anyways, the point is that there has to be two ratings. Then you can compare cars in a relatively fair way.

e.g.
Prius: 50 mpg
Volt: 50 mpg gasoline (guess), 25 kWh/100mi electric (best case claimed)

Conclusion: Prius and Volt are roughly same efficiency on gasoline, but Volt offers the option of consuming only electric. If there were a standard rating for electrics (my suggestion would be kWh/100 km, analogous to the worldwide standard of L/100 km, and allowing that, I'll bet, every electric utility charges by kWh) then you could compare the efficiency of the Volt in that mode to the full-electric car as well.

Note, by the way, the particular insanity of claiming 230 mpg for a car which in gasoline mode gets 50 mpg and in electric gets roughly 130 mpg gasoline equivalent (using 32 MJ/L energy density of gasoline). The 230 figure is, frankly, complete bullshit - it suggests the car is 5 times more efficient than it is. Unfortunately there are too many people out there gullible enough to believe that order of magnitude improvements in efficiency of cars is possible.

Personally I think the whole 230 announcement had more to do with papering over the 1/3 increase in the estimated price of the car, than on anything else. "Bury the lead", as they say.

Until someone replies to your comment, there's an "Edit" link on it.  It works; I suggest using it next time.

We have plenty of electricity, and a shortage of oil. It makes perfect sense to ignore the electricity.

"We have plenty of electricity..."

I think you mean generating capacity, particularily at night.
What the US does NOT have is enough fossil fuel production and transportation capacity (same goes for renewable since wind does not blow hardest where population is). Our cheap natural gas prices would rise to former record high levels once fleet is 10% EV and PHEV. The railroads, which haul coal for the 52% of electricity which is generated from coal, do not have the extra track capacity for running these extra trains. Also the NG production capacity (more wells) and transmission capacity would have to be expanded.

I can see the use of electric powered vehicles quickly causing energy distribution problems and big cost increases for all other users of electricity.

I started writing this as prose, but decided it needed to be an item-by-item list.

• Others have noted that wind power alone is growing fast enough to supply a large fraction of each year's new vehicles even if they were all PHEVs.
• Low natural gas prices are a problem for domestic production; keeping new shale gas profitable is an advantage.
• Inadequate rail capacity may have come from RR's stripping track to reduce property taxes; so long as the rights-of-way still exist, this track can be replaced.
• New nuclear capacity, particularly disruptive technologies like LFTR (to expand the nuclear fuel supply beyond uranium and shrink the waste problem) and CANDU (to put the US supply of spent LWR fuel, which is still about 40% more enriched than natural uranium, to use), can bypass the transport and transmission issues without adding to carbon emissions.
• It's arguable that we SHOULD have increases in electric prices.  We have many uses of electricity which are far less efficient than they could be.  Higher prices create the incentive to exploit the available efficiencies, freeing up energy for other uses (like replacing gasoline).

Something to keep in mind: PHEVs and EVs will charge at night, and can be charged whenever electricity is cheap. This means they'll support the deployment of wind power, which needs night time demand and intermittency buffering.

If you like wind power, you should really like vehicles like the Volt.

There needs to be a new paradigm for measuring the efficiency of hybrids and electric vehicles. Using the conventional measure of mpg is inadequate because it is only a measure of fuel USED over distance. Mpg is fine for measuring conventional ICE efficiency because these engine's only manage fuel use over distance. Hybrids and electrics manage fuel use over distance like conventional technology but unlike conventional ICEs they also mange fuel use over elapsed trip TIME. As a hybrid owner, this is something I have tried and tried to explain to people, but few seem to "get it".

Trip distance is a constant between any two points using the same route, but elapsed time may vary depending upon traffic and weather conditions. This is why a simple measure of mpg cannot be used to measure the efficiency of hybrid and electric engines which are configured to manage fuel use over time as well as distance. It is impossible to measure fuel SAVED over time by employing a yardstick which only measures fuel USED over distance.

Also whether or not the Volt is a good value for the dollar depends entirely upon the car it replaces in the consumer's garage. If its combined features place it in close proximity to the luxury car category, then it's \$40,000 price is no problem. If people view it as a \$40,000 "economy" car, then there will be a big problem with sales. But I take it for granted that regardless of where these new technology cars fit on the price point, they are not solutions for poor people. The Prius isn't either. It's a middle class person's car, too. I own one, fortunately, I'm not poor.

What happens when we have millions of PHEVs that are making the rounds every day sans the need for fuel, and the fuel that they do have on board was bought six months ago, thus isn't the correct blend for that time of year?

Probably pretty minor as snags go, but still. Don't hybrid drivers rely more on gasoline during winter, owing to degraded performance in the electrical system due to the cold?

What would be a good number to have is
1) Cents per mile
2) CO2 per 100 miles

For 1) The cost you will have to pay to drive
2) The environment cost of supply that electricity/gas for you to drive.

Until people understand there is an "environment cost" with this "230MPG" car, it's hopeless to fight the hype.

To give the car that kind of stupid rating is just beyond ridiculous. You wonder if our government really cares what the sheesh is going on.

Why not use proven and reliable technology like diesel instead? My Jetta TDI gets 6.2 litres/100 km (38mpg) booting around town (and I mean booting - no hyper-miler driving here) and 5.5 litres/100 km highway. The highway figures include 5 adults, fully loaded with A/C on and doing 130 km/h. In Europe some countries use of diesel cars is around 70%. Even rich folk drive top end mercedes diesels for sheer driving pleasure. Time there was more talk of diesel vehicles and not only electrics. I agree with an earlier poster - that if the Volt was around 15K, it would have mass appeal. I'm sure the Chinese market has already thought of this.

I calculated about 10 pounds of coal for the 40 miles on battery. Figures not w/ me. I used about 3500 BTU for delivered electricty from a pound of coal and IIRC adjusting for 35% efficiency of coal plants. Math check welcome.

3400 or so BTU/kWh i think.

I used 10200 BTU/kWh heat rate and 25mmBTU/ton and got 8.2 lb for 40 miles.

On a pound 4 pound basis coal has roughly have the energy as gasoline. Therefore over that 40 mile AER you use the energy equivalent of 4.1 pounds of gasoline or 0.68 gallons equivalent Which works out to about 58 mpg. Not that much different than the 50 mpg predicted for the extended range fuel use. No where near 230 mpg.

But a BTU of coal costs less than 1/10 as much as a BTU of oil.

If you want to talk carbon, a mile's worth of coal-fired electricity at 33% efficiency and 250 Wh/mile probably generates more than a mile's worth of gasoline at 50 MPG (I can't be bothered to check right now).  However, a CCGT fired by NG can hit 60% thermal efficiency with a fuel which has far less carbon per BTU than oil, and wind and nuclear produce no carbon at all.  Even in the near term, the PHEV's upside is very good.

You are missing the point. It runs on ELECTRICITY. Not coal.

A third of electricity is generated by nuclear, hydro and wind.

A third of electricity is generated by nuclear, hydro and wind.

That's a pretty blanket statement. Are you talking about the United States as a whole?

Given that the Canadian grid is interconnected with the U.S. grid, and that Canada is a net exporter of electrical power to the United States, you might want to note that nearly 60% of electricity generated in Canada is hydroelectric, and 12% is nuclear.

A Volt, or true EV, operated in many locations in Canada (e.g. B.C., Manitoba, Quebec), really is as close to a zero emission vehicle as is possible.

Canada also imports electricity from the US. The net balance is a net import to the US of 10-30 billion kwh/year over the last decade or so. But this is small compared to US production of 4 trillion kwh, so it doesn't have much of an effect on the US electricity mix.

Let see - my 1991 Chevy Sprint managed 50 mpg all summer.
People hypermiling the 1993 engine (about 10% better milage as they changed the cam for better milage) got >100 mpg using the burn and coast technique of the fuelathon cars (engine full throttle upto speed, engine off and coast, then engine on ..).
So - a 1991 car can get 100 mpg. If one were to hybrid that car and put in a 10 to 15 hp IC engine just charging the batteries then >100 mpg is easily achieved as the part throttle efficiency of an IC engine is lower than full throttle (more so for the turbine engine and that's what killed the Chrysler turbine - 20 mpg, 150 hp and 500 ft-lb torque was about the best they did).
I still want to see a hybrid done properly:

1) IC engine with a max of 15 hp providing cabin heat and stead state power draw for highway cruising. The bit about cabin heat is important as we have cold for 4 months of the year.

2) Electric engine at a peak of perhaps 40 hp (hell a VW Bettle was fine with 35 hp and my Sprint was nice with 52 hp and VW Jetta's were just fine with 48 hp).

3) That way the battery pack is only sized for acceleration - only a few minutes of energy. Then the batteries are small and cheap and light.

As it is I'll settle for an EV that goes 30 miles on a charge and peaks at 40 mph for in-town cruising.

I called the insurance company (most of the cost of my cars has been purchase price, next is maintaince and insurance, last is fuel. But my agent doesn't know anyone who will touch a home-brew EV!

It's a real shame that the governments are throwing cash out the window to buy the current guzzlers in production - and the high powered EV/hybrids that are coming - but the cars that really make sense are not even thought of yet.

The Nissan Leaf looks great - if only they'd put it into production this year with NiMH or lead-acid batteries! I sure as hell don't want exotic LiIon batteries in my car. Make the battery pack small and cheap!

They need to rate these cars in steady state mpg (hybrids) and in kW per km or something similar for electric mode.

As much room as there is for "hybrids done right", the present insurance structure will not allow you to use anything except a commercial option. In fact, I would imagine that in a slow-decline scenario (which is what is on the table here because we are talking about futuristic cars), if most North Americans rode bicycles instead of cars (which would solve a lot of our problems), then Americans would start paying out the nose for "bicycle insurance" once the insurance companies lobbied TPTB to make bicycle insurance/licensing a requirement. Don't forget that moneyed interests made America car dependent, and that moneyed interests are much more powerful now than they were then. For the tinfoil hat minded, the same people who brought us Standard Oil and were a big player in the destruction of light rail are now setting their sights on the internet, so getting accurate information through the internet might end before the internet does.

On the subject of hybrid cars: Finding ways to continue BAU is not what is required. The issue is suburbia and car dependency, not the lack of advanced power systems for cars. But, after all, I am a mechanical engineering student, and I like the idea of hybrid vehicles because they are really cool. I think that 15 hp (at the output shaft of the ICE) per 1000 kg of car is what is needed for current city driving habits, with no regenerative braking and 70%+alternator-battery-motor-wheels efficiency. That gives you one 0-50 km/h acceleration every 40 s or so, and can probably keep the car going at more or less highway speeds.

There is going to be a push for Bicycle Insurance soon. There has been talk here abouts that bikes and cars and people are all getting in each other's way and letters to the Editor have suggested it already. Which means soon the Money grabbers will start seeing \$'s and as more people Bike to work, riding one will cost you more than now.

Sorry for the off topic thought.
Charles.

NO NO NO! You are considering small, efficient automobiles - this cannot be allowed. We must have big cars, we cannot consider changing our habits or making any sacrifices in any way. If we start driving small cars, people will think were losers - remember, we are extensions of our car's personalities (yes, I did mean to write it that way).

Sometimes I think the idea that we must develop whole new technologies and infrastructure is an excuse to avoid actually doing something. My 1500cc Hyundai has been running around for 10years saving fuel - I love it, and there is no sacrifice to driving it - power windows, leather wheel, great seats, A/C, sunroof, alloy wheels, etc, and it is a performance car. But most people would shudder at the thought of driving it, because of what they think it would say about them. Clearly my Accent has at least twice as much power as it needs to be a perfectly fine transportation device. With a smaller engine and a few upgrades like variable valve timing, direct injection, automatic engine shut off, and lower weight such a vehicle could easily get the kind of mileage you are talking about. We could start building them in a couple of months - no change to infrastructure, no new technology. But it's more comforting to talk about our future of flying cars that we saw at the motorama than to do anything

Same for electric light rail - ancient technology implemented with modern design tools. We could do it now. But that's the problem - we would have to do something now. And once you think about doing something now, you run smack into the scale, and the fact that we're broke, and that the money's all been given away to the wealthiest few. We aren't going to do anything like this on a large scale - Chevy will sell some (probably quite a few initially) to the affluent, still employed crowd, but that's it.

Yup. I'd put my 1500cc crashed-Accent up against a Volt.

I picked it up pre-crashed and pre-vandalized but still able to pass safety check. Big dents, locks punched out, and I caulked a cheap piece of plexi over the sunroof hole. Mine was the 2002 version built without A/C and power windows, which is fine.

By consolidating trips to one or less per week to town, I use it about 500 miles/year as my only vehicle. It'll haul a La-z-boy chair, lumber, bunches of groceries, dogs, etc. Nobody will ever steal it. I keep the tires over-inflated and do modified hypermiling so it's generally just under 50mpg unless someone has borrowed it.

And it's fun to drive. It cost me \$1100 to buy three years ago plus \$8 for the piece of plexi over the sunroof. I only wish it were smaller and funkier, but such I could not find.

This reminds me of El Civico, the motorcycle hauling car: http://jalopnik.com/377144/wrecked-civic-%252B-drag-bike--el-civico

There are two cars that most people don't know about, one is the Honda Civic VX of which few were sold, the other is the Civic VTi which never hit American soil.

The VX, which was produced from '92 to '95, had a 92 horsepower 1.5 liter engine with VTEC-e and lean-burn mode and EPA rating of 39 city, 49 highway. It's an ecomodder's wet dream and reducing the drag allows more time spent in lean-burn mode at higher speeds.

The VTi, which was produced around the same time but never made it to the USA, had a 1.5 liter engine that produced 130 hp on the top end which used VTEC-e, lean burn, and Wild-Cam mode to make a car with mad power on demand, but driven conservatively would give 40+ mpg figures.

This technology was around 17 years ago. Yay progress.

Hell, there was the Honda CRX HF in the '80s that would do in the 50mpg range I believe. It's no big deal - light weight, small engines. But it does nothing for your cred compared to driving the Volt. These are all social issues. The real problems are the hard limits of over population, resource depletion, climate change and ecosystem collapse which are not solvable - but social constraints keep us from doing anything useful. Even the simple stuff like driving small efficient cars.

Yeah, the CRX HF used a 1.3 liter 8 valve 4 cylinder putting out around 65 horsepower in a car that weighed about 1800 pounds or something like that. It only had two seats, and was thusly doomed, like my CRX Si which has a 1.6 liter 105 horsepower engine, 16 valve, that I squeeze 40 mpg out of (overall conditions) through driving technique - it's EPA rating is an abysmal 25 city, 33 highway.

The VX and VTi's were 4 passenger cars with some cargo space - i.e. basic practical. With those engines they had plenty of zip - especially the VTi's. I'd like to see a 1.0 liter twin cylinder putting out 105 horsepower mated to a six-speed manumatic in a car the size of the Suzuki Swift/Metro but with much better aerodynamics. It'd be all laughs until it started outrunning mustangs and getting better gas mileage than a Prius down the highway.

But I agree, we're screwed - overpopulation will trump all.

Geo Metro, especially standard transmission, got something like that as I recall. I agree that part of the tragedy is trying to continue the idiocy of dragging a ton of metal and plastic around just to deliver a couple hundred pounds down the street.

Another sign that we're not getting serious is that we have not reduced the highway speed limits. Such a simple move that could save so many gallons as well as so many lives, and it's not even in discussion (as far as I've heard).

That's what I would build if I was a car company. Make it able to run on natural gas as well and its can be a backup generator for the house, connect a heat exchanger to the exhaust and it becomes a co-generation unit too. If your set up with a smart meter there is no reason you couldn't sell peak rate electricity to the grid while the engine warms up your house, heats the water for your bath and morning shower.

At 30% electrical efficiency running on natural gas costing a few cents per kWh and selling the electricity to the grid for ~50 cents and free heat would be good use of an engine which already paid for.

That's a neat-sounding idea, but having worked with vehicles which tried to deal with disconnects in the coolant lines, I can tell you from personal experience that the operational hassles will kill the idea if the plumbing bills don't rule it out at the outset.

Stationary cogenerators have very different constraints than vehicular engines.  You're better off with a separate system (and besides, you want your house heated even when you're not home).

3) That way the battery pack is only sized for acceleration - only a few minutes of energy. Then the batteries are small and cheap and light.

But: That way you lose out on most of the energy regenerative brakes could generate, unless you live on the prairies. The battery pack in a Prius isn't even large enough to store the energy generated going down a big hill (about 1000' elevation). Plus, you would lose out on the ability - and energy efficiency advantage - of operating in pure electric mode.

Certainly a smaller battery pack helps in terms of cost, but I don't think it's such a big deal in terms of weight. The traction battery in a Prius weighs on the order of 150 pounds. (Some online sources say less; I can't find the official figure from Toyota). The Toyota Prius curb weight is about 3050 pounds. That's not heavy for a vehicle of its size. Indeed, I think it's actually much lighter than most. (Compare against today's cars, which are all much heavier than those from two decades ago, like your Sprint).

The main reason a Chevy Sprint can get good fuel economy is that it is a very small, light car. I agree that it would be great to see a similar sized car with a hybrid powertrain, but I'm not sure that what you suggest is better than what Toyota has done.

Actually, I'd rather see a small car that's pure EV. e.g. Mitsubishi i-MiEV. But cost is likely to be an issue for some time.

As I understand it, the Volt is a series driven hybrid(like a diesel electric train); i.e. the IC engine drives a generator that recharges the battery that turns the electric motor of the EV.

GM doesn't count electricity at all in the mpg.

230 mpg = 207 miles on electricity plus 1 gallon for 23 miles on IC charging the battery at 23 miles per gallon. So the engine is probably good for 23/.75 (battery charging/discharging efficiency) = 30.7 mpg.

But I don't think EPA will let them get away with this.

In terms of GGE (NIST),
we get 207 miles x something .25 kwh/mi?/33.4kwh per GGE +
1 gallon = 2.54.

230/2.54 GGE = 90 mpg.
Still, I think the Volt is an excellent way to reduce oil consumption.

I agree with prior comments about comparing like entities. 49% of US electricity is generated by coal. That will not change in the short term. So let's assume coal generated electricity. The Volt requires 25 kwh per 100 miles. Coal (averaged over types actually used) contains 6.67 kwh (24 MJ) per kg. Electricity generation is 30% efficient, so figure 2.0 kwh / kg of electricity
is actually generated from coal. So the Volt needs 12.5 kg coal to go 100 miles. Now we convert to oil equivalent units. Oil is more energy dense than coal by a factor of 1.48. So we need 8.43 kg of oil to go 100 miles. Be generous and assume 100% of the crude oil is refined into fuel oil. There are 3.26 kg per gallon of oil. So we need 2.58 gallons of oil to go 100 miles. That is 38.6 miles per gallon. It's not a dramatic improvement.

We cannot assume that electricity just magically appears in our wall socket. It has to be produced and you have to consider the energy inputs to that production.

You are right. I guess we should just leave all cars ICEs. That way, when we run out of oil, we can put coal into the tank. And then when we run out of coal, we'll fill them full of windmills and PV panels and reactor core walls and light a match. Yee haw.

"49% of US electricity is generated by coal. That will not change in the short term. So let's assume coal generated electricity."
51% of electricity is generated from NG, nuclear and renewable energy, and it IS changing ( ie increasing) why not assume these sources of electricity?

I am 100% in favor of the Chevy Volt. I hope they are successful. Maybe I will buy one. I am 100% in favor of renewable energy. My gripe is with the 230 MPG figure. I think their sales campaign would be more successful if they did not sweep inconvenient details under the rug.

The "230" is one of the most hideous advertising campaigns ever. It's amazing how GM can screw up the selling of something that is so easy to sell. Consumers have been screaming for a production electric car for a decade, and GM wants to somehow make us feel more attracted to the idea by putting it in the frame of miles per gallon, which is clearly not even applicable. huh?

This advertising c%#* reinforces every bad thing I have heard about GM. I've read before that GMs real root problem was bad taste. And it's true, their products are fugly. But the worst of it all was the car commercials. Throughout the decade of 2000 I have been subjected to painful, I mean really painful car commercials. Watching a modern commercial is like being put in the black maiden torture machine.

Now they've even moved their bad taste commercials to my youtube watching and internet videos. The message: you can't run from our bad taste as we sell the product we resisted with all our might and only produced after your president bailed us out with your money and forced us to make this. But here, allow us to spin the product with our bad taste to make you not want to buy it.

The worse part of it is the assumed stupidity of GM's customer. It's like they're assuming that we can't think in any terms different from what we're used to. We've always used mpg, so GM feels like they need to use that to convince us of the merit of electric cars. Even though it's GM itself who was slow to see the merit of electric cars. This company should be dead. I've grown to despise anything with a GM logo behind it. The biggest mistake in the restructuring the company was to keep it in one piece.

Just die already GM. I hate your products, but I hate your advertising even more. I hate that fact that you failed once and now use my taxpayer dollars to force your fuglyness upon me still.

"230" won't sell this car. The word "electric" will sell this car.

Dude...don't you know that if you drive a GM SUV that you'll be magically transported to a pristinely vegetated planet that has no other cars or people?

Don't forget the drop dead beautiful young lady who will be found in the passenger seat...

E. Swanson

Miles per gallon as presented by GM is pure fiction, as pointed out so far. However, the real cost to the consumer is not so much a function of MPG but the cost per mile over the life of the vehicle. For a new vehicle, the depreciation is a major fraction of the cost per mile. Our local cost of gasoline today is about \$2.59 a gallon, so for a car which achieves 30 mpg, just the fuel fraction works out to be less than \$0.09 per mile. If the GM Volt costs \$40,000 up front and lasts 150,000 miles, this works out to \$0.27 a mile.

Next, one must add in the cost of insurance, tires and ﻿maintenance. The cost of tires might be around \$0.01 a mile and a similar amount might be required for oil changes in the small engine and for brake work, etc. But, I suspect that insurance may turn out to be a large number. That's because of the fact that the battery pack is very expensive and may need to be replaced after minor crashes. Like air bags, which are expensive to replace after deployment, we may find that batteries also must be replaced whenever the air bags pop, since that is a sure fire indication of large accelerations, thus potential internal battery damage, which would not be visible from the outside.

My WAG is that if this scenario turns out to be true, then the cost of insuring these cars might be much larger than the collision insurance for a similar vehicle without the batteries. Or, these cars may be totaled as unrepairable at much lower levels of damage than comparable vehicles fueled by gasoline or diesel. Either way, I would not be surprised to learn that the insurance companies won't be friendly to the purchasers of these cars...

E. Swanson

Leave it to the EPA to come up with this nonsense.

EPA is charging ethanol for emissions from changes in land use (Indirect Land Use Change) in foreign countries for which it has no scientific justification. Why does it not consider Indirect Fossil Fuel Usage when calculating the miles per gallon? We know that a lot of electricity in the U.S. comes from coal and natural gas. We also know that producing electricity from fossil fuels has an efficiency much less than one since some energy is lost to heat in the process.

The EPA if it is to be consistent should take into account the pollution and lost energy in the electricity production from fossil fuels.

It any case what is going on here is very typical of energy analysis. Things are being compared which are different. The EPA and GM are engaged in fallacious logic similar to EROEI nonsense. What is the point? The car gets about 50 miles per gallon in the gas mode and it costs about 3 cents more or less per mile in the electric mode if we are to believe GM and the EPA. Leave it at that.

This comparing things that are different leads nowhere. It can not be done. If it is done anyway it is silly nonsense whether it be EROEI across different forms of energy or MPG of a vehicle which operates in two different energy modes. Gasoline and electricity are different and can not be compared, added, subtracted, multiplied or divided.

This controversy is more evidence that the EPA does not have its head screwed on straight. And neither does GM.

"This comparing things that are different leads nowhere."

x, I think many of us wish you would dump this trope and stick to things that at least have a possibility to make sense. All of us, even you, compare different things all the time - for example, is that bit of discretionary money going for a pair of shoes or a pair of concert tickets. Shoes are quite obviously not the same thing as concerts, but despite politicians' promises, we can't have either without limit, so we compare them and choose. Just as money makes shoes and concert tickets somewhat comparable (at least along one dimension), plug-in hybrids make gasoline and electricity comparable.

Of course hybrids are not the ONLY way to compare them. Instead of comparing volume of gas and kWh of electricity in terms of miles driven, we could use a gasoline camping stove and an electric stove, and compare them in terms of quantity of noodles cooked. Or we could look at price in dollars. And if the EPA comparison is nonsense, it's not nonsense merely because electricity and gasoline "differ" it's a little more subtle than that.

The world is complex, and despite an abundance of wishful thinking, it's hardly likely to become simpler (except according to narrow cherry-picked measures) any time soon. Deal with it. But please quit telling us we "can't" do what we and you both do routinely, and what others have done routinely since time immemorial.

Questions for the crowd.

1 - If a vehicle weighs x-thousand pounds, does it not take the same amount of energy to move it x miles, regardless of the fuel?

2 - If so, doesn't that mean that we're simply trading gasoline for coal, NG, wind, solar, etc? (I'm in a 95% coal powered community and I'd be trading gas for coal. If I lived in Portland OR (or France) I could benefit from Hydro and Nuclear.) Are these legitimate buyer's considerations or not?

3 - What is the real prize for PHEV's? Reducing gasoline demand, prolonging the production "plateau," or something else?

1. It does take the same amount of energy to move it but, some fuels and motors are more efficient than others. Electric motors are vastly more efficient than ICE, so less total energy is used.

2. Less total energy is being used with electric motors. Of course you are trading one energy source for another.

3. The big advantage of using electricity is that many different sources can be used to generate it. Coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, etc. A small group of countries produce most of the world's oil and can basically name their price. Also with electricity, it's possible for individual homeowners and business owners to generate their own electricity with solar, or wind. Eliminating the need to buy it from a utility, or to buy fuel for an electric vehicle.

What is the real prize for PHEV's?

Clearly reducing gasoline demand under BAU, allowing some personnel transport during the next oil supply crisis.

If a vehicle weighs x-thousand pounds, does it not take the same amount of energy to move it x miles, regardless of the fuel?

No.  Weight matters for acceleration to speed and climing grades, but the bulk of the energy consumption over about 40 MPH is used to overcome air drag; aerodynamics quickly become a very big factor.

If you doubt this, realize that Wal-Mart is looking to get 13 MPG out of its fleet of semis using improved tires, only one driven axle and full fairings from the cab to the box and under the trailer.  That's better than some big SUVs.

Agreed. I believe that it is theoretically possible to move a vehicle with 0 net energy, assuming no friction, gradient or air resistance, and full recovery of acceleration energy via regenerative braking.

Ok, sure 230 mpg is completely outlandish. Just another case of the govt. working with big business to perpetrate a lie for the mighty dollar.

Beyond those considerations, my biggest concern in purchasing a Volt would be the life of the battery. If they're willing to lie about the mileage per gallon, then why wouldn't they lie about the estimated life of the battery? How much charging capacity will be lost over time? There are so many unanswered questions regarding the batteries, that my recommendation is to take a wait and see approach. Wait 3-5 years and get testimonials from owners.

There's nothing like in the field testing by regular people willing to tell the truth about their experience with a product.

I never drive my own vehicles more than 40 miles at a time, so I don't need to own an EREV. The Nissan Leaf would work better for me than the Volt. It will be interesting to see the Focus EV. Ford should hurry up with that.

http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/

A strange aspect of a long hilly commute in a PHEV is likely to be be the difference between the morning and afternoon drives. With the battery fully charged the journey into work is going to seem like a magic carpet ride. Assuming the car is parked all day without being recharged the return home will need the small ICE motor to work hard. It seems to me a 1.5L engine pushing a 2500kg (?) car is going to scream its head off on hill climbs when the battery is flat.

That factor and price is why I think many will prefer NGVs. Trouble is that cap-and-trade will also see more natgas used for electrical generation.

It seems to me a 1.5L engine pushing a 2500kg (?) car is going to scream its head off on hill climbs when the battery is flat.

The Volt won't be more than 1,500kg. The original ICE engine was smaller, and wasn't going to be overstrained. This ICE is over-sized: when in charge-sustaining mode, the ICE won't run for a large % of the time in most situations.

As a measure of how ridiculously overpowered the Volt sustainer is (53 kW), I drove my car up mountains in top gear at 65 MPH at a vehicle weight of roughly 6150 pounds (car, trailer, and cargo).  Based on rated engine torque and the tachometer reading, I estimate this required about 95 HP (71 kW).  This means the Volt could maintain upwards of 56 MPH on that grade pulling the same load even with its battery flat; making up the 18 kW difference between the sustainer's output and power demand to hold 65 MPH over the 6 mile grade would take about 1.8 kWh.

A reasonable sustainer power would be enough to hold 75 MPH on the flats with a headwind, with a 50% excess.  That's probably more like 30 kW.

I think that it is impossible to truly compare the Volt to a Prius, unless we adopt an energy currency unit, and use it as actual money. It would be interesting if a nation adopted an energy standard, but I don't see its replacing fiat money for some time yet, simply because it would make the Saudis too rich. :)

The economy is not just energy. We buy and sell other things too.

I agree with the above comments that the Volt is overpriced. Look at it from a \$/mile perspective, amortizing fuel and capital costs, and a cheap small Honda that runs forever is more cost-effective, convenient, and total-fuel-efficient. Its marketing strategy is about appealing to those who want to make a 'green' statement. I don't expect it to be a success.

However, the really promising thing about plug-in electric vehicles is that combined with smart, 2-way electric metering, a hundred million cars plugged in at work on a hot day with a half a charge remaining provides opportunity for load-leveling at a large scale. Share a ride with your friend/take a bus and pocket your tidy sum of peak-priced power profits. Storage capacity to load level is one of the major impediments to intermittent solar/wind, and utilities can't afford to purchase that quantity of conventional batteries.

Since you've mentioned utilities and the affordability of batteries...

EV/PHEV traction batteries don't become useless just because they've lost too much capacity to supply the desired vehicle range.  One of the prospects is for them to live a second life as load-levelling units for utilities.  Only after their losses grew too high, or their scrap value exceeded what their services were worth, would they be recycled.

Speaking of scrap, lots of different batteries recycle quite well.  I'm not sure about Li-ion, but:

• Firefly Energy's lead-acid units can be recycled along with conventional cells; the vitreous carbon burns off.
• Zebra (sodium nickel chloride) cells can be recycled whole as scrap to make stainless steel.

I doubt that it would be very difficult to recover lithium and the like from Li-ion cells either, I just haven't studied the issue yet.

What about the macro perspective? Is anyone planning to estimate the reductions in energy use in the United States under certain scenarios, e.g. 1 million Volts sold in the first year compared with one million cars averaging, say, 25 mpg? A Herculean task, to be sure. I am skeptical, though, that the introduction of the Volt will do very much to lower oil consumption or reduce CO2 emissions more than a couple of percent. Of course, some people don't care about such changes and it'll be a nice, shiny new toy, which I hear is quite important for many social climbers.

I don't understand why nobody considers externalities. Nobody asks the question, why?

Why even bother with this electric car building nonsense? Why even have such a toy? The problems of the world - all these pesky climate/resource problems - are caused by consumption. Why add even more consumption? Won't more consumption make things worse?

Aren't the different measurements of 'electricity- watts' v. 'gasoline- btus' simply convenient ways of fooling yourself?

In an energy constrained future, does it make sense to waste energy of any kind on a toy? Wouldn't a battery powered tractor make more sense? Not sexy but much more useful. There are battery powered forklifts, why not a battery powered tractor?

How is this electric car going to support the massive 'regular car' infrastructure? How will that enormous and crumbling edifice be paid for with a relative handful of electric cars? A modest decline in gas consumption has emptied the Transportation fund of gasoline tax dollars requiring yet another bailout from the Treasury. How are the numbers going to work? Believe me, no good roads makes cars of any kind unworkable. Will the general non- electric car using public agree with tripling electric rates or more - including the massive increases in taxes - to support road repair? Wouldn't this increase exclude other infrastructure investment needs, such as rail? The characteristic of the current economic crisis is the lack of available money; taking from one need to invest in another requires making a form of 'investment triage'. The pressing need is for making the food production/distribution system more robust. A second priority is providing transit accessible housing for all, a third would be insuring public order and security all within the context of keeping some rational means of merchantile exchange (valuable money). How will taking investment away from these areas and giving it to personal transport be accomplished? Isn't the '230 mpg' simply a lie to facilitate this 'cutting ahead' in the investment cue?

Why is it the 'car people' never look outside the engine compartment?

A large factor in any vehicle efficiency (aerodybanics being the other) is tire design. The assumption here is a large and vibrant (oil dependent) tire industry will always be available to provide various types of tires at all times for the hundreds of millions of vehicles both petrol and electric at a very reasonable cost. What supports this assumption? The tire industry is facing the same resource constraints as all other industries.

Will tires be made out of electricity, too? Or will the investment necessary to make 'exotic' tires from coal or natgas or vegetable oil be taken from the need to use coal, natgas or vegetable oils for more useful purposes than making recreational tires?

Has anyone taken the time to oonsider that the Volt is a GM scheme to gain billions of subsidies from the Obama Adminstration energy initiative? GM is still basically bankrupt, it has a few models that sell - SUV's and pickup trucks. It needs constant infusions of billions of dollars. With sales running @ 50% of 2006, how will GM pay its bills? By all appearances GM is on a treadmill that is faster than it can run.

Even with an energy efficiency grant, GM will likely fail anyway; this is my opinion but it is reasonable. GM still emphasises SUV's and giant pickup trucks because that is what its customers prefer. Blame the idiot customers, but no business can succeed by ignoring them and if the customers are wrong, well too bad for GM!

There are hundreds of millions of cars in the USSA. There is no need for more of them. Keeping a percentage of the current fleet running will be challenging enough; if the fleet shrinks by 4/5, the remainder will use 4/5 of current fuel consumption (or less as there would be fewer large vehicles, less conjestion and the reasons for driving reduced). The remaining 1/5 of vehicles would be used where the question 'why' can be answered; to take the injured to hospitals, to deliver food to stores, to carry policemen to crime scenes, to take firefighters and their tools to fight fires as well as tradesmen and their tools to jobs. There would be no toys except for those who could bear the entire (unsubsidized) costs by themselves, completely.

The dire consequences of peak oil would be pressed forward into the future.

4/5 of domestic fuel consumption for transport would be eliminated; 4/5 of power consumption for auto- related manufacturing plus 4/5 of money mis- investment in auto infrastructure would be redirected toward pressing needs; recovery of watersheds, reclamation of arable land and natural services attended thereto, development of infinitely- re- recoverable energy supplies, removal of unneeded auto- friendly infrastructure and development of human- friendly replacements which would generate energy saving externalities downstream.

Eventually we might get away from the idea that machines are some kind of 'solution' since they have not existed long enough to solve anything but create more problems instead. More and more and more and more problems. Like the 1 million auto traffic deaths worldwide each and every year. Consider how long the airline industry would last if there were a million worldwide deaths from airline crashes each year.

In the post- modern world, the unthinkable becomes ignorable. 1 million here; why not 200 million in a nuclear attack?

Just the cost of doing nuclear business, no?

This whole EV/PHEV fantasy is just people extrapolating the continuation of infinite growth. The future will look just like the present, only more so. When presented with the problems of infinite growth they run around with their fingers in their ears saying "nah nah nah I can't hear you". But it's been a lifetime of conditioning and it is unrealistic to expect many to accept such major changes, and so we try to engineer ways to continue the status quo. Cognitive dissonance is the usual result when people are presented with information outside of what they are prepared to accept, and that's what this represents.

We'll switch to electric cars, and we'll make the smart grid to keep them going. Never mind that we're broke, that we could make efficient cars tomorrow but nobody wants them, that the size of the auto market is now 50% of what it was a few years ago.

The smart grid is the same stuff - we've been talking about substation automation for years, and there are perfectly fine automation products available off the shelf. But most distribution subs are still simple electromechanical relays with little or no communication or automation. Now we're talking about finishing all of that and extending it to every home, which is orders of magnitude more complex and expensive. At the same time we're going to develop EVs and batteries and renewable energy and use all sorts of stimulus money to fix our roads. And we're shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. And now a bankrupt automaker that's lost half its market (more considering the loss in market share) will bring out the Volt, a large car selling for \$40k at a loss, and it is going to change our world.

There will be no Volt in my driveway, and I will consider myself to have been very successful if I manage to keep the driveway and the property it's on. I would very much like to have an electric Gravely convertible for the garden, and if I ever get some free time I may work on modifying mine. On the other hand, it does an incredible amount of work on a gallon or so of gasoline as it is, so there's not much incentive.

You might think so, and maybe it is what's going on in the heads of the people designing and marketing EV's and Hybrids, but there are good reasons to have them around especially if BAU falls apart completely.

The big one: there are one whole heck of a lot more ways to get a reasonable electric current at a desired voltage than there are to obtain a liquid fuel of any particular spec.

we've been talking about substation automation for years, and there are perfectly fine automation products available off the shelf. But most distribution subs are still simple electromechanical relays with little or no communication or automation. Now we're talking about finishing all of that and extending it to every home, which is orders of magnitude more complex and expensive.

I wasn't aware that smart meters/time-of-day pricing necessarily required substation automation - do you have any good links for that?

No I don't, but I would point out that:

1. The effort required to add a communication channel and some off the shelf measurement, protection or control devices to a substation is vastly less than to run communication and control devices at every node that substation services. So even if it were possible to bypass an old sub and control the end loads from some other point, it won't save much anyway.

2. I would seriously doubt that you can create a system where loads and possibly generation can be controlled at all the endpoints while using dumb EM relays in the sub that feeds them - not to mention maintain voltage control, etc. You might be able to skip upgrading the sub if all you do is control timing of loads at the endpoints, and you know what the protection scheme and settings are at the sub, and you don't have to increase the capacity. But if you have to upgrade anyway or you're going to accommodate distributed generation, then I would think you'd be installing some modern protection and/or measurement and control devices and a communication link.

My general point was that we've never been able to do the simple, obvious stuff, but now suddenly we're going to leapfrog that and tackle simultaneous projects of vastly more cost and complexity - in a time of economic crisis. I doubt it.

Adding communications and control at nodes is roughly as difficult as putting the receiver portion of a cell phone into the meter.  We can do this very, very cheaply.

Actually, by law, all Swedish electricity meters are required to be automatically read from distance. Most meters use GSM technology (2-way), but some use the electricity grid itself for communication. Some electricity companies here offers broadband over the electricity grid, btw.

Yup - I design such things. How much harder is it to replace a EM relay with an off the shelf unit, or to supplement it with a measurement device with communications? Let's see - add an IED and a communications link.

Terrorist!!! ;-P

Sigh. Yes, I forgot - Intelligent Electronic Device.

we've never been able to do the simple, obvious stuff, but now suddenly we're going to leapfrog that and tackle simultaneous projects of vastly more cost and complexity - in a time of economic crisis. I doubt it.

I'm puzzled.

This article ( http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5592 ) says that 10% of US meters have already been replaced with smart meters. In California, SCE and PGE (which serve most CA customers) are right in the middle of upgrading all their meters.

All US utilities are required to offer smart meters, and as far I can tell, they do, though many don't publicize it.

So, it seems like we're successfully handling this upgrade. It might be a little slower than ideal, but it's definitely happening. Given that the major drivers of the smart grid aren't here yet (wind power isn't going to approach it's market saturation with current grid tech for at least 5 years and probably 10, and EVs and ErEVs are only just starting to ramp up), I'd say we're doing ok.

What am I missing?

What is it you think the "smart grid" is, and what do you expect it to do?* What percentage of the way toward that goal are we?

* There isn't a wrong answer to this - everyone I know thinks it's something different!

1) time-of-day pricing, to encourage charging of ErEV/PHEV/EV charging at night,

2) dynamic pricing, to allow ErEV/PHEV/EV and smart appliances to charge when wind is blowing especially strongly, and defer charging when it's especially weak, and later and least importantly,

3) support for V2G.

I think one fair way to compute mpg for the Volt is to require that the battery be full both before and after the test that is used to compute mpg. The vehicle must charge the battery back up before the test is over. In addition to mpg, people would want that other set of numbers: how far the vehicle can go on electricity alone (city/highway).

That's exactly what would have been done if the Volt was subjected to the same protocol used for the Prius and other hybrids. But the Volt would have come in no better than the Prius, and the marketing problem was obvious. So they pressed for a change...

Why? Because most consumers would not refill the battery this way. They would plug it back in, not fill it full of gas and wait for it to recharge. That's the point of the PLUG-IN part.

What it comes down to is square peg/round hole, like the article title says. MPG doesn't cut it for PHEVs. It will probably require several numbers: all electric range, mpg for recharge, etc... anyone with a little common sense can see this.

And to all of the people saying that GM is being disingenuous, I disagree (at least no more than any other car maker). The Times article I read about the Volt the other day has GM spokespeople directly saying that the MPG number is really more or less an abstraction. But cars must have MPG ratings right now. A new standardized rating system will eventually be adopted.

Even GM has its doubts about the Volt, it seems. After reading this article http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.ASpx?AR=242395, I wonder why anyone would consider it seriously.

It seems that GM is saying that if it can be made ready, the Volt will be sold at a loss until it can be developed to a point where it is commercially viable. Even if GM lasts this long, they are worried that their technology may be overtaken. This is the car that is going to turn GM around? Am I missing something?

When you've got assembly line workers that make \$70/hour to put a nut on a bolt, it's hard to not sell anything at a loss. GM made big expensive gas guzzling cars because that's the only thing they could have made with enough profit margin to pay the union contracts. When gas prices went up to \$5 and people stopped buying, the business ended. Did anyone think Obama and the Democrats would lift a hand against the unions? NO! They fired the CEO! I guess the politicians figured they would get more votes from union members than management. It's only a matter of time before GM will be completely liquidated.

What a load of crap. Can you provide documentation that any employee made \$70/hr just to put on one bolt - just one bolt, nothing else? How many productive employees could have been hired for what the top execs make? The GM bailout was designed to make GM's large creditors whole (i.e. the big banks), no one really gives a crap about the unions.

twilight,
They make a hell of a lot more than is justified for the work they do ,I have heard fiugures ranging from thirty five to 70 ,one thing is for sure you can read a hundred articles w/o actually seeing a qouted hourly dollar and cent per hour wage for a senior worker..But they do screw one bolt on righ after another and they have to get a "floater" to cover thier spot on the line if they gotta potty,they do really work.

I don't think there are any UAW workers making more than \$35 per hour.

What you hear about is the total cost of pension and health benefits for retirees, combined with health and other benefits for workers, divided by worker hours.

It's meant to show the competitive disadvantage of US car companies, vs Asian transplants and imports.

Agreed,but also possibly to keep every one else working for a lot less or about the same,and frequently with much greater training and responsibilities from realizing JUST HOW GOOD the UAW berths are?

Now it really wouldn't be good pr to remind a teacher grading papers at night and chaperoning bal games and drawing up lesson plans etc for say fifty to fity five hours per week that an autowrker who can barely spell his name maybe earns more.would it?

Unions are damn good things if you are a member of a good union , but if all the guys at Mcdonalds were represented by the UAW,Big Macs WOULD COST BIG BUCKS!

And Mcdonalds would probably be busted too!

Now it really wouldn't be good pr to remind a teacher grading papers at night and chaperoning bal games and drawing up lesson plans etc for say fifty to fity five hours per week that an autowrker who can barely spell his name maybe earns more.would it?

A lot of teachers in affluent school districts make a lot more than \$35/hour: they only work 180 days per year. Let's say they work an average of 52.5 hours (many only work 35 hours per week, but let's take your number): that's 10.5 hours per day; 180 days x 10.5 = 1,890 hours. Now, many make \$80K/yr: that's 80K/1,890 = \$41/hour.

And they have very good pensions.

Unions are damn good things if you are a member of a good union

If it weren't for unions, everyone's pay would have been a lot lower. And, who do you think fought for 40 hour work-weeks?

There's no question that UAW benefits and pay (especially the pensions) became untenable in the last 40 years, but let's not demonize unions.

yeah but there are a lot of school disrricts where pay tops out WITH TWENTY YEARS SENIORITY at less than fifty grand,and FOR THE AUTO WORKER every thing over eight,over forty,on holidays,Sunday's,etc,is generally either ot or dt.So the semiliterate auto worker making thirty five at forty is getting 70 grand plus benefits,and at fifty hours, he gets an extra five hundred plus for the week.And while school is open for only 180 days mostly,teachers generally are there ,contracted,for two hundred two hundred to hunderd and ten.

And the auto workers have arranged things such that the old guys get boohoo overtime when business is good because it's cheaper and easier for the company to pay it because it is virtually impossible to hire new workers that might not be needed later-there's no way to get rid of them,you see.Amnd if you have seniority,you work,if there is any work.Even unemployment in the heyday of the UAW was a damn sweet deal .

I have probably never mentioned it here but I have been reading the Teamsters members magazine more or less forever,cause my Daddy was a Teamster for forty years,and on his plants negotiating team for most of that time..That was his PARTTIME job.

I am a farmer (semi,mostly retired) but I am also a former prodigal son who wandered a bit and I have worked some big union construction jobs.At one time I was a dues paying member of the Operating Engineers.If work is the least bit slow,you can't get the "the card" needed for a temporary job,and the old guys fix everything possible so as to make it hard for the young guys-very often thier own sons.

I feel the same way about unions that the old time politician did about whiskey.

He was for that kind of whiskey that put a gleam in an old mans eye and a spring in his step,but
against the kind that starts fights and causes little children to go to bed hungry.

In the last analysis unions have had some incredibly positive effects on our country and society,but they are also conbinations in restraint of trade.-BUT NOT MORE,PROBABLY LESS SO, THAN COMPANIES THAT ARE BIG ENOUGH TO DOMINATE A GIVEN INDUSTRY.

A union that is effective can improve it's members status in comparision to the owner/managerial /professional class but this improvement comes at the expense of non unionized workers who must pay a premium for union made goods or sevices.

And if every body is unionized the the result is paralysis viz the English preThacher.

And only industries that are huge and concentrated and hard to move can be effectively unionized.A company that makes blue jeans can move and restart it's operations very easily,so a union can never become really powerful in such a situation.The company will go broke fast if it gives in too easily to demands for higher wages.A really big company in most industries becomes too top heavy to compete with it's smaller competitors-if there are any.

He was for that kind of whiskey that put a gleam in an old mans eye and a spring in his step,but against the kind that starts fights and causes little children to go to bed hungry.

In other words, all things in moderation, including unions.

Funny - earning more than you are worth is the American way, and I assure you that people working on assembly lines are not the champions. Have you read the excerpts Darwinian posted lately from the Mike Whitney article concerning the 400 wealthiest Americans?

Twilight,

I am a free marketer at heart,but I realize that markets must be regulated for the common good.

If I could figure out a way to put a stop to the accumulation of personal fortunes beyond some point or pay schemes above some certain dollar figure,I would do it in the interest of preserving the free enterprise system for the rest of us.

If this trend towards the accumulation of wealth into a few hands is not eventually stopped,we will either degenerate into a fuedal type society,or else we will have a French Revolution of our own.I can't say that either result appears to be in the public interest.

I can assure you that if I had the bully pulpit there would be an income tax law passed that goes like this somewhere in it:all annual compensation of any sort whatsoever beyond one million dollars(or five million,or ten,or fifty, but no higher) is taxed at 90 percent,inflation adjusted. No loopholes.

Except possibly for the guy who actually invents(new tech) or creates(novel) something.I might let him off at fifty percent at the top end.

And a real death tax,one that will leave a family business intact ,or a farm,but one that somehow actually disperses the fortune.

A foundation with hundreds of millions of dollars under the control of hand picked trustees,etc,might be even more dangerous than the individual who sets it up.

.

As I thought about it while I was writing my Future Tech storyline back in the 1980's, I designed a Car of the Future, that was based on Solar and Gas powered. The ideas have been around for decades of blending the two for use in a vehicle.

With the Volt I would test it the same way I wrote about back then. Fill up the batteries, and fill up the gas tank. Pack my bags and head out cross country using secondary highways traveling through the small towns and seeing the countryside.

Given that they say the Volt will do 40 Miles on a charge, and get 50 mpg after that, a 5 to 10 gallon tank would get me at least (40 + 5*25mpg = 165 miles to max of (40 + 10*50mpg = 540 miles))

Small roads have hills and curves that bigger highways have smoothed out, they also have more places to stop and go like you would in a city traffic-scape, due to the smaller towns you go through.

That would be a great test for the Volt. Take several of them out drive them different ways, lead foot to conservative, Then bunch all the numbers together and get an average MPG in the real world.

Pity my story was just fiction, I solved a lot of things with light batteries using things like "Poly-ion batteries, something like the nanotube-paper battery they recently developed, mine used polymers" Also "solar cells molded over all the car's surface" "fictional elements 122 thru 126, Which should be possible by the Island of Stability theory, just aren't possible yet" Science Fiction has a way of showing up in the real world every once in a while. My "Sol-3" Got 700 miles between fill-ups.

Okay we just need the cash for clunkers to last long enough for me to trade in one of my dad's vans for a Volt. Then I can test it and let you know the results.

Generally though if these cars can get better and better, maybe they will offset all the Hummers still running around out there.

Charles

That would be a great test for the Volt. Take several of them out drive them different ways, lead foot to conservative, Then bunch all the numbers together and get an average MPG in the real world.

But is this average interesting? When EREVs take off for real, I think the battery pack will be modular and extendable, and each customer will dimension the battery pack for his or her commute. At the car dealer, they will say something like: "This car is \$20,000 including 20 miles of battery capacity. Extra miles can be bought for \$100/mile, with a maximum of 100 miles. If you wish, we will install extra miles for you at a later time. If you don't need range extension, we can remove the ICE and shave \$2000 off the price for you."

The ideas have been around for decades of blending the two for use in a vehicle.

Actually, Ferdinand Porsche created an ErEV like the Volt back in 1904!