It was the good, the bad and the ugly this week in extended-range electric vehicle land.

Fortunately for Volt fans, news is pretty good. What’s “bad” is it’s too bad Volvo’s hybrid-diesel wunder-car is so exclusive now. What was “ugly” was a review of Fisker’s Karma.

(Disclaimer: despite a loose reference to a Clint Eastwood movie title, Mr. Eastwood did not contribute to this report.)

The Good Volt


The Volt really is “good.” It’s a good car, a well-kept secret hidden from some in plain sight by smokescreens thrown up by malcontents, but then you knew that.

So does Bob Lutz, who, quotable as ever, offered comments amounting to ... the Volt is a good car. And, it will outlive the malcontents!


Manwai Wright (right) and her husband Mark Wright charge their Chevy Volt Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 at Capitol Chevrolet in San Jose, Calif.

Not to suggest a conspiracy theory or anything, but he was quoted by the Detroit Free Press at AutoBeat Group conference in Dearborn saying “somebody is waging a deliberate war of misinformation.”

Any guesses on who this is? After saying the Reuters report declaring GM loses $49k per sale is “stupid,” Lutz only suggested the backers of all such misinfo trying to discredit GM and the Volt has something to do with someone who wants to get into the Oval Office.

“And then you wonder who would do such a thing?” Lutz said.

But as a GM-Volt forum poster James McQuaid observed , the Volt is no sales flop just by looking at how it ranks against round 260 models sold in the U.S.

This forum post was noted by Jon Voelcker, posted with commentary as a blog post to the Christian Science Monitor , and picked up by other publications as well.

Good job James!

That the Volt is far from being a loser would also lend support to Lutz’s next quotable quote:

“The Chevrolet Volt will survive, it will survive on its own merit, it will become the landmark vehicle it was destined to be,” he said. “It is by far the No. 1 selling vehicle of its type in the world. It’s doing better at this stage in its life than the Toyota Prius did at a similar stage in its history.”

In related Volt news, Scientific American did a blog post examining the constant retort that coal plants make the Volt environmentally dirty.

In her post “Are Chevy Volts Really Cheaper and Cleaner? A Case Study," author Evelyn Lamb says the answer in short is yes, and yes again.

You can read the whole article about her parents’’ car here , but in the interest of brevity, I’ll just quote her last paragraph:

With their typical driving, my parents pay less per mile than they would in a traditional hybrid or gas-powered car. They also emit less carbon dioxide. Overall, they are happy with the car, and we had a lot of fun running the numbers together.

Has anyone else noticed an increasing frequency of positive reports on the Volt despite the major slam campaign that’s been waged against it?

Maybe this really is a good car, after all? Hmmm.

The Bad

It’s too bad Volvo’s neato 130 mpg (Euro cycle) plug-in diesel hybrid wagon is limited to an initial 1,000 units. And all these are already spoken for as Volvo is launching a similar V40 in Paris.


We wrote about this car before , and it is pretty competitive to the Volt, though maybe not in price. MSRP for "Pure Limited" editions is believed to be about $73,600 (€57,000) including VAT. (The Euro Volt is around $54,200 (€41,950.)

By Philippe Crowe

Volvo announced yesterday in Paris that the first batch of the diesel-electric Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid has sold out before the car has even reached the showrooms.

Volvo also stated that the order books for next year's cars are already filling up. Volvo also announced that the rapid renewal of the model lineup is continuing next year.

Diesel has 11.2-kwh battery, 31 miles AER up to 74 mph. If it comes here in 2013 or 2014 it will likely be as a gasoline plug-in hybrid.

“2013 will be one of the most intense years in the company's history. Including the all-new V40 versions in 2012, we are renewing more or less our whole model range in less than two years,” said Doug Speck, senior vice president, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service at Volvo Car Corporation.

The V60 Plug-in Hybrid, the world's first diesel plug-in hybrid, is another important part of Volvo Car Corporation's rapid transformation - and Doug Speck is not surprised by the keen customer interest in the ingenious model. “None of our competitors can offer customers an equally ingenious car. Its uncompromising attitude to green motoring elevates hybrid technology to an entirely new level,” he said.

The first 1,000 units of the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid are only available in a “Pure Limited” edition with Electric Silver paint. The diesel-electric car is also distinguished by aero-designed 17-inch wheels, integrated exhaust tailpipes and a number of bodywork features highlighted in glossy black.

After this initial batch of 1,000 2013 cars, production of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid will increase to 5,000 cars for model year 2014.


The Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is the result of a close cooperation between Volvo Car Corporation and Swedish electricity supplier Vattenfall. The two companies have financed the development project jointly.

Volvo says the driver of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is putting an end to compromise via three driving mode buttons on the dashboard: Pure, Hybrid and Power.

According to Volvo, fuel consumption is just 1.8 l/100 km (130 mpg) in Hybrid mode. In addition, the driver can choose to cover up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) on electric power with zero emissions - or release the combined capacity of the diesel engine and electric motor to create a driving machine with 285 total system horsepower and acceleration from 0-100 kph (62 mph) in 6.1 seconds.


The Ugly


How can anyone use the word “ugly” and Fisker Karma in the same sentence? It is a stretch, given it has been widely described as a very beautiful car, but Consumer Reports did not think that for the money its functionality, cramped interior, or GM generator noise were at all pretty.

The $107,850 paid for the Karma was the most it had ever spent on a test car. And, the good folks whose other departments review toaster ovens and vacuum cleaners said while the car did get a Volt-matching 38 miles AER, it was not up to the standards, of say, a Porsche Panamera.


It's anything but actually ugly. Consumer Reports does in fact concede it's visually "stunning." But the Karma got an F grade for several other perceived issues.

“Despite the car’s huge dimensions, it’s very cramped inside. The overcomplicated controls are frustrating and it’s hard to see out,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center. “When it’s running, the gasoline engine has an unrefined roar. And the Karma’s heavy weight affects agility and performance, as the Karma lacks the oomph you expect.”

The editors at CR did not like the layout of the interior controls, and its "badly designed touch-screen system makes the dash controls an ergonomic disaster.”

It probably does not help the Karma also died on a test track earlier this year , and was the beginning of A123's recall and eventual selling out to the Chinese, which Bob Lutz also commented on .

But Fisker replied in a press release .

“Since its launch in December 2011 the award-winning Fisker Karma has defined a new automotive segment of luxury electric vehicles,” the company said.

The opinion that it has minimally useful space utilization was also minimized by Fisker.


“As the Karma is a concept car come to life, packaging and visibility will of course not be that of a minivan,” the company said.

And whether it’s a bad car or not, $100 million more venture capital funds have recently been raised by folks – who also spend their own money and expect a return on it.

Fisker is in a different orbit, appealing to a different psychographic profile than does the Volt, but it is attracting similar intent to wean the world from oil.

Certainly former Volt line director Tony Posawatz must think so, as he is now the company's CEO and is hoped to take know-how developed in launching the Volt to help Fisker in like manner.


Photo shot in Missouri ;) (Copyright kdawg syndicated productions. All rights reserved)

Fisker also recently noted in another statement its customers average 150 mpg, and described what would be necessary to meet 2025 CAFE efficiency mandates: nothing.

It is already compliant, says Fisker of a car penned before 2010. It is thus up to a standard decried as onerous to the industry by the likes of the NADA, certain Republicans, and others a good 15 years ahead of schedule.

“It’s a testament to the disruptive power of technology that a premium luxury sedan like the 2012 Fisker Karma beats its fuel economy target for 2025 – today,” said Posawatz.

Then again, that could probably also be said of the Volt.