Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Volt: Is this the answer for motorists and GM?

Short answer: Not likely, at least under current circumstances.

Read this Atlantic article for some great insight to the car and the process.

So why do I say that Volt is not the answer?

This excerpt is the key:

"Given the challenges, standard procedure dictates first building and testing the battery, and only then designing a car around it. That process, however, would take until 2012 or 2013—time GM does not have if it wants to beat Toyota.

The only hope of meeting the 2010 deadline is to invent the battery while simultaneously designing the car. Just-in-time inventory is common now in the car business, but just-in-time invention on the Volt’s scale is new to GM and probably to the modern automotive industry.

Many in the industry will tell you there’s a good reason car companies don’t do things this way. Toyota, which is proceeding much more cautiously with its own plug-in car, has made no secret of its belief that neither GM nor anyone else can keep the Volt’s promises.

When I called Menahem Anderman, a prominent battery consultant in California, he said the lithium-ion battery will be expensive—far too expensive to make sense as a business proposition as long as gas is $3 or $4 a gallon. ('At $10 a gallon we can have a different discussion.') Its life is unproven, and unprovable in the short time GM has allotted. To deliver tens of thousands of vehicles in 2010, Anderman said, 'they should have had hundreds of them already driving around for two or three years. Hundreds.'

Not everybody can say it publicly, but everybody in the high-volume industry is saying, "What are they thinking about?"' An executive with a GM competitor, after making some of the same points, offered forthrightness in exchange for anonymity: 'They’re making a huge mistake.'"

As indicated, the technology and practicality are not in place, and probably will NOT be in place in the time frame required.

Battery technology is the main sticking point because of heat, reliability, size and cost issues.

Practicality and infrastructure are issues primarily because of battery technology. Building a car before you have the drive train in place is a recipe for disaster. GM's got the accumulated disasters to prove it. They'll be lucky if the car actually DRIVES like a car, not a horse cart, given the approach they're taking.

And a price tag of 40-50k is not going to do the job. In addition, price point swill only get worse if the bean-counters regain control of GM, as they have been successful in doing every 10 years or so througout the company's history.

GM's replies that the usual protocols don't apply here remind me of the "Redneck's Famous Last Words" line:

"Hey, y'all! Watch THIS!"


  1. Being GM owns Toyota they have a vantage point unlike any car manufacture. There are numerous ev and ev pluggables capable of demonstrating the Volt technology on the road currently. It's no shock!

  2. "Being GM owns Toyota..."

    Ummm, you want to try that again, liv?