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'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.

Feel free to contact me at niceguy9418@usa.com. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and Tumblr, and support my Patreon. Also, if you don't mind the stench, you can find my unofficial "fan club" over HERE. ;)

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Monday, January 30, 2012

News About the Chevy Volt

So I'm grabbing lunch today and I happen to pick up a copy of this week's "Tech Center News"- basically an industry rag that you can get for free, usually at Donut Shops or Gas Stations.  And I'm reading an article that I would like to share with you all regarding the Cheverolet Volt.  Called "Volt Is Not a Political Punching Bag."

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?
Yeeeeeah...

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?!
*sigh*
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:
"[...] 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."

 
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.

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!

11 comments:

  1. I appreciate your support of electric cars I am also in the auto industry (repair side of it--note my website : ) Personally, I don't like the Volt. While it 'technically' is an electric car, that gas engine sure takes a lot away from the real idea of electric cars. And some even call it a hybrid because of the potential for the gas engine to drive the wheels under extreme conditions.

    "For you flag waving types? It will break your / our dependence on foreign oil."

    Actually, (with the Volt) that is absolutely NOT true. It will get about 25 miles on electric then a 1.4 liter GAS ENGINE turns on and runs the rest of the time. So, plenty of gasoline (premium only) being used and plenty of engine oil being used (if the car is maintained properly). Those products are coming from your local "foreign oil" distributor. But, if you drive around the block a couple of times a day as your only driving, then you are correct ... sort of. The internal PCM programming forces the gas engine on even if you drive 'electric only' all the time.

    "For you eco-warriors? It can potentially eliminate your personal transportation carbon footprint."

    Again, NOT true. For the same reasons stated (above) about foreign oil. The only way it could eliminate any carbon footprint is if the owner doesn't drive it. At $38K, that would be an expensive lawn ornament.

    The one I am waiting for is the Tesla Model S (to be released this summer). It costs around $49K and will have a range of 160 miles per charge. Plus the performance of it rivals even Chevy's Corvette. The more expensive version (costing around $80K) will have a 300 mile range. They have also developed a way to replace battery packs in less than 1/2 hour. So if you take a long trip and stop for lunch, you can have the battery pack replaced while you eat and be ready to go another however-many miles quickly. Now THAT is a real electric car. I hope it succeeds with it's launch date time-table.
    BTW, Eddie, the Tesla is "made in the USA" also.

    I think electric vehicles should be the car of the future. If there's one thing this world does NOT need that is more gas powered cars.

    Just for fun let's compare performance of the Chevy Volt v. Tesla Model S v. Corvette (base)

    0-60 mph (in seconds): Volt= 9.2 Model S= 5.6 Corvette = 4.5
    cost (in US $) $34K $49-74K $49-111K
    Seats (persons) 4 7 2
    Range (approx) 380 160-300 300

    Another good buy would be the Nissan Leaf ($28K). Another true electric car with a range of around 80 miles (0-60 = 9.9 seconds). Over 100 if you drive under ideal conditions, or as little as 40 during heavy commute/using accessories. Remember, electric cars get the Federal discount of $7,500 (factored into costs above)


    BTW, if anyone is interested in increasing their income this year, I would say purchasing Tesla stock is a good idea. Most experts predict $60-100 per/share range as the Model S is released (assuming no mechanical failures). Right now it is at $28. So, in less than a half year you could potentially double/triple/quadruple your investment. With little downside danger since Toyota and Mercedes are both heavily invested in the company, any losses would be minimal and very predictable if failures occur. But, that's just my opinion on that subject.

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  2. Dang, the spacing for the comparisons didn't work. I hope you can figure out what is what.

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  3. (Yeah - the spacing doesn't work any better in the blog posts either. Otherwise I'd have way more charts!)

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  4. Write down the date, folks: I concur with everything William has just said! Well done.

    Admittedly, I know very little about the Leaf. Nissan always seems to have a hard time breaking through. They're like the Chrysler of Japan's "Big-3." But if you've got your figures right, it seems that Leaf should have been the 2011 Car of the Year, rather than the Volt. (Must be some buy-American bias going on there.)

    OTOH, I'm very familiar with Tesla, as we do business with them, and also with Fisker. In fact: I'll take take bet in about a year: You can have the Model-S and I'll take the Fisker KARMA. Of course, the Karma is crazy expensive, but everything I've read about it suggests it's going to be a BEAST.

    And in all seriousness, I think you're right about any investments in Tesla. I prefer to think about it long-term, rather than as a get-rich-quick thing, but their products are going to rock, assuming they can ever manufacture anything.

    And see... THAT'S the risk there. It's been our experiencce dealing with Tesla as a COMPANY that they really have no idea how to PRDOUCE anything. Great DESIGNS. Great IDEAS. But they have next to no knowledge of manufacturing pretty much ANYTHING. And that's been holding them up BIG TIME, at least for our stuff.

    But you're right: their designs are just TOO GOOD. I could see them getting big, or possibly even being bought out by one of the Big-3, once they get their electric car platform into production.

    But keep your eyes out for the Fisker Karma and the more moderately priced Fisker Nina as well.

    And uh... unless they start making batteries, sell your ExxonMobil stock in the next 3-5 years!

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  5. Well, you guys know a heck of a lot more than I, so I'll concur (and thanks for the investment advice, William) mostly.

    Two cavils: A) Most of our electric grid, if I'm not mistaken, is coal fired. If we switch over to predominantly electric cars in the next generation or so, won't we: 1) level the mountains of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, etc. and, 2) have basically the same carbon footprint?

    B) Mustang man, hey Eddie? Ford forever?! My first car was a '55 Fairlane (used). I'm still carrying a torch for the '56 T-Bird. (I could strangle the guy who put those silly little fins on the '57.)

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  6. I wouldn't be too profuse in praise of GM if I were you, Eddie. EV tech is old tech. It hasn't been allowed to be properly developed over the years because the American auto companies have conspired with the oil companies to make it that way. They've made it a practice, for decades, of acquiring the intellectual property rights associated with such tech (either by buying it up, or, more commonly, developing it in-house), then shelving it. To cite but one incident, Toyota created a successful EV over a decade ago; Chevron and General Motors successfully conspired to destroy it (they acquired the rights to the battery used by the design then refused to license it for further use).

    Conchobhar, the future of EVs, if we can ever get these corporate behemoths out of the way, will be in self-charging designs (probably preceded by replaceable batteries).

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  7. It is true that much of our electricity is created by coal. However, there are ways around that. Create your own electricity. There are plenty of companies that sell solar panels and other electricity creating equipment. Solyndra is NOT one of them. You can put solar panels on your roof and create enough electricity to charge your electric car. That would result in NO carbon footprint. And the technology will only get better, the only thing that can stop the electric car now is by some 'unknown' cause of failure of Tesla's car. Maybe someone will try to cause a plane crash with Tesla engineers in it. Maybe they will sabotage certain vehicles and make it seem they are incapable of common use.

    I think the other auto manufacturers would be better off just waiting for the car to succeed and steal the technology and maybe even improve it, like they do for all other technology they need to improve their product. Although I have little faith in American auto engineers (sorry Eddie). I work on the results of their 'genius' daily.

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  8. " EV tech is old tech."

    Yeah, as old as the late 1800's.


    "Conchobhar, the future of EVs ... will be in self-charging designs (probably preceded by replaceable batteries)."

    Replaceable batteries are already here. Tesla has them.

    The self-charging aspect is an idea I've thought about for years. My conclusion is that we need to rebuild the main highway system (job creation) and install metal pegs into the asphalt in specifically/constantly spaced increments. The vehicle will have the magnetic portion of the system and as the vehicle drives over the pegs with the magnetic 'pick-up' electricity is formed (green energy). Similar to taking an electric motor and spinning it my hand-- it creates electricity. My idea would equate to the road and car becoming the electric motor that is being spun only, as the car drives over the pegs, the magnet and metal pegs act as the spinning motor and create electricity that way. The size and strength of either part is an unknown to me. But, Eddie (being an engineer) can figure that part out and I'll let him steal my idea and become filthy rich(er). Although, I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this. The only draw-back is having a leader in this country who isn't afraid of the Auto and Oil companies. One day we'll get one.

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  9. Great idea, William.
    My only disagreement is with your last sentence. It will take more than one leader, it will take many. In the days before the 17th Amendment, some legislators were known as "the 'honorable' Senator from Standard Oil." We have popular election of senators now, and Standard Oil was broken up, but...

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  10. Eddie, I was following some news on Tesla, the other day, and saw that Fisker isn't doing as well as you had hoped. I googled their car and did you know that the Karma is similar to the Volt (gas engine to run a generator) and only gets 30 miles (all electric) before the gas engine kicks in? For the price, you could have gotten a Tesla Roadster that outperforms EVERY American made car today and most foreign made cars costing more than double. However, they stopped making that car in order to focus on the Model S.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/07/us-fisker-idUSTRE8161BE20120207

    Quick comparison:
    Tesla Model S 0-60 = 5.6 seconds $50K
    Fisker Karma 0-60 = 5.8 seconds $103K
    2011 Tesla Roadster 0-60 = 3.7 seconds $103K
    2012 ZR1 Corvette 0-60 = 3.4 seconds $111K

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  11. For those paying attention: TSLA is at $35. Just 2 weeks ago it was at $29. I believe that is a 17% increase.

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