First though, a little disclosure: I am an engineer in the Auto Industry. Secondly: I love the Volt, as a Liberal, yes, but as an ENGINEER first and foremost. I am still blown away by what GM has finally managed to do: Design and market a TRULY electric car. And while the price is too high, and the gas-free range not nearly long enough, with time and further development? I predict that THIS is the fundamental power-plant model that will eventually ween us off of gasoline entirely and forever.
A little math, and I'll get back to the article. The current Volt costs around $45,000. And not only GM sell them at a loss, but even their #1 fan (ME!) will admit that in no one's wildest fantasies in this a $45,000 car. So to anyone who wants to argue the BUSINESS CASE of the Volt? Let me save you the time: I concede on all points! For a purely business perspective, and by itself, in a vacuum? The Volt is a loser. But what GM has designed here remains a TECHNICAL marvel. Lemme 'splain:
Fully charged, the current Volt can go ~35 miles without consuming a drop of gas. And personally? If I were going to even CONSIDER spending that kind of money? I need AT LEAST a 50 mile range to get me to and from work every day. But, as you may or may not know, the range of an electric car, at any assumed speed, is a purely linear function of it MASS. Put simply? Cut the weight in half and you DOUBLE the range! So, let's see... How do we get from 35 to 50 miles, gas free...? Well, TAKE OUT THE INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE for a start! See the Volt, unlike the Prius, just doesn't need it! So take it out! Save that weight! And the weight of the Alternator. And Radiator. And 10+ Gallons of fuel. And any extra Body Sheet Metal that you no longer need. And the engine mounts... You get the idea. Because of how the Volt works, you don't actually NEED any gas at all. The BATTERY drives the wheels, and the engine only acts to keep the battery going once it's depleted. But once the range is adequate for your daily needs? You can pull the engine out and never miss it!
Can't do that with a Prius. Because the Prius' wheels are still driven primarily but the Internal Combustion Engine, which is only ASSISTED by an electric motor. So while more efficient that standard vehicles, you still NEED gas. It's like Doctor Emmet Brown said:
"[While] Mr. Fusion [...] powers the time circuits and the flux capacitor, [...] the internal combustion engine runs on ordinary gasoline; it always has."
And in the Prius? It still does. Not so in the Volt. And that? Is fucking AMAZING.
SO, with my personal biases disclosed and out of the way, I would like to refer you back to a story that NPR (and others) ran awhile back about FIRES in the Chevy Volt. See... I'd like to file this under"Behold:Your Liberal Media!" And at first blush, some may miss the sarcasm in that. After all" General Motors? FIRES? Sounds familiar no? And what could be more Liberal than showing how a HUGE CORPORATION is putting out UNSAFE PRODUCTS and MISINFORMING THE PUBLIC, right?
Except that this in the VOLT. And apparently the media's oil-industry sponsors are as afraid of it's implication as I am impressed by them. How do I mean?
Well... While NPR was fair - fairer than most - there were some small details that they failed to give proper prominence to in their story. Like the fact that the fires happened anywhere from three days to three WEEKS after the NHTSA Crash Test: 35 mph into a solid, unmoving barrier.
So what? What does that matter? The cars still caught fire, right? What if it were parked in my garage? It could burn my house down, no?!
Well... That's the impression I felt the NPR stories would leave people with. But it's utter hogwash.
The fires occurred due to a COOLANT leak that corroded the terminals and after three days to three weeks caught fire. Where was the car at the time? In the equivalent of A FUCKING GOVERNMENT JUNKYARD! Which is exactly where YOUR CAR would be after a 35+ mph crash! And, OK, suppose your car's not totalled. I can still guarantee you it's IN THE DAMNED SHOP!
I've been on both the receiving and giving end of SEVERAL crashes in my ~22 years of driving. NONE of them were over 35 mph. I know this for a fact because my airbags never deployed, and airbag typically deploy between 15 and 20 mph. So these were LOW SPEED crashes. But anything over ~10? And my car (and usually the other guy's) was definitely IN THE SHOP. It NEEDED repairs. And if your mechanic notices a LEAK? Of literally fucking ANYTHING? That's pretty much the FIRST thing s/he's going to address!
(BTW... "she or he" (s/he) is used here as MY mechanic happens to be female. Odd but true, and she's AWESOME at it!)
See... These kinds of things: fires after a crash? Are a HUGE problem if it's something like GAS that's leaking. Mainly because that can catch fire while you're still in the car! But as GM chairman Dan Ackerson was quoted as saying:
And that's it. This? Is NOT A PROBLEM. "Fire" might make for a good story, but it a non-issue here, folks! Do you what GM has to do about this? Precisely NOTHING. (Although they still are reinforcing the battery.) But in all seriousness? As a bit of an industry insider? Alert the mechanics that the coolant could be flammable if allowed to sit on the battery terminal for several days and that's pretty much IT."[...] as one of our customers put it: If they couldn't cut him out of the vehicle in two or three weeks, he had a bigger problem to worry about."
Here are some FACTS about the Volt:
For you flag waving types? It's made in the USA, exclusively in GM's Hammtramack plant...
For you anti-supply-siders? ...by UAW, Union labor.
For you flag waving types? It will break your / our dependence on foreign oil.
For you eco-warriors? It can potentially eliminate your personal transportation carbon footprint.
And for you car enthusiasts? This thing looks COOL:
OK, so it's not the Corvette, or the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Skye. THOSE? Were some damned fine lookin' cars. (The 'Vette still is, though I'm a Mustang-man through and through myself!) But other than those? GM's not exactly known for it's bold styling. They've been making ugly Cadillacs for decades now, and I'm sure y'all remember the Aztek and wish you didn't, am I right? But hey: I'll put this up against any comparably priced Toyota or Honda in terms of style and performance - not to mention SAFETY. Yes, SAFETY, as it was award a FIVE-STAR CRASH TEST RATING in both Driver and Passenger Frontal Impacts, Side Impacts and Rollover Rating.
Now... At $45,000...?
Nah, still too much. But lose the engine - which this power-plant makes possible - extend the range and reduce the cost? (Starting with the cost of the engine you've got to pull out ayway?) And this thing will one day be regarded as the Car that changed the world...
...or at least the point at which it all started!
...And the oil industry KNOWS IT!