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If you were GM what would you do about the 2019 model year

5983 Views 56 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  unimacs
In reviewing the state of where the volt sits now in 2018, there are some things that are painfully clear.

Discounts on the volts can be $3k to $6k off MSRP. Then the consumer can take federal tax credit of $7500 and potentially state tax credit too.

All this— and dealers still cannot move the 2018 volts. There are even 2017 volts still around.

The volt is a good car and one of the most technologically challenging and inventive mass market cars ever built. But it’s a compact sedan is an SUV/Crossover world and initial sticker scare of $40k for a Chevy might hurt too. The Bolt cousin certainly didn’t help clarify the consumer space.

So, if you were GM what would you do about the 2019 model year?

Would you simply halt production on volt since you are clearly losing money on each one?

Would you double down on the volt and give it a refresh plus battery boost?

Or would you simply produce a 2019 in small volumes but with minor changes such as new paint colors?
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My dream is that they double it's EV range, if they did I'd upgrade in a heartbeat. My bet is that they don't do anything. I think they see the Volt as a dead end and that all of their efforts are going into the next generation of BEVs which are still a couple of years away. It's possible that they will put Voltec into a truck or a large SUV, but chances are it's range won't be any greater than the Volt's, it will just be a bigger vehicle. I'm waiting to see what they do with their Gen2 BEVs. I want a BEV with at least 350 miles of range. I'm worried that they won't produce any BEV sedans, just trucks and SUVs which is all anyone is buying these days. If they don't produce a BEV sedan I'll look elsewhere.
I just talked to a Bolt owner today. He told me his range is right around 350 miles and he routinely gets over 300 miles of range.
What kind of range does he get in highway driving? The Bolt has more than enough range for any local trip but I doubt it would be good enough for a long trip. I'm getting 70 miles of range in my Volt on my 60 mile commute, but I do that mostly on back roads where the Volt gets 145MPGE, on highways I get the promised 103MPGe in the summer, much less in the winter. I expect the Bolt behaves the same way, 300-350 on back roads but only 238 on highways. Unfortunately road trips are where you need to use highways.

I do 250-300 mile trips every Saturday in good weather, no problem for the Volt. I also do a couple of trips that are over 400 miles, this spring's trip was 450 miles. The Volt did that without refueling albeit it was on fumes when I got home and I only had 5 miles left in the battery which I had left there as a reserve (I used Mountain Mode on the way home). A 450 mile BEV would have been able to do that also but no such thing exists today. Tesla's have fast chargers in known places so a 450 mile trip is theoretically possible in a Model 3, although the trip I did this spring wouldn't have been possible because they don't have any fast chargers in Maine in the the right places, they promise to fix that. A Bolt probably couldn't do trips like that because the CCS charging network is pretty sparse.

BTW even though a Tesla is theoretically usable I won't buy one as long as they refuse to support Android Auto. There is a Model 3 in a garage that I park in, sitting on the windshield is a phone mount. The Model 3 has this ridiculous desktop monitor stuck in the middle of it's dash and yet you still need to mount a phone on the windshield because Elon Musk has the worlds worst NIH syndrome.
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As for the original post, I think GM should do several things with the Volt.

First, is to increase the EV range (probably 80 to 100 miles). A 20 kWh usable battery capacity should be enough. Second, is to move away from an internal combustion range extender. Instead, I think they should start leveraging fuel cells (hydrogen and natural gas). Essentially, keep the Volt around as a continuing emerging technology test platform and simply accept that it's never going to sell more than a couple thousand units a month.

The Bolt EV doesn't really serve as an EV replacement for the Volt (and I don't buy into the Bolt EV stealing Volt sales theory); however, I do think GM needs one (really two) BEV alternatives to the Volt. They need to make a Cruise EV and Malibu EV to cover the segment. A 50-60 kWh Cruise EV would come in with an MSRP in the low $30,000s (similar to the Volt) and have a 200 to 250 mile range. And a 60-70 kWh Malibu EV would come in with an MSRP in the high $30,000s to low $40,000s with a 300+ mile range. Give them both 100-150 kW charging, and GM dominates the segment until VW and others finally catch up.
Hydrogen makes no sense for any application, it's expensive, it's filthy because it's made from reformed natural gas in an inefficient process, and there will never by a hydrogen infrastructure because hydrogen fueling stations cost $4M a piece and there is no demand for them because there are no hydrogen cars, and there will be no hydrogen cars because there is no hydrogen fueling infrastructure, the classic chicken and egg problem which doesn't exist for electric cars because electricity is everywhere and the cost of installing a charge station is so low. Natural gas makes no sense for personal vehicles, it's fine for buses because they don't travel very far and installing a natural gas fueling system at a bus depot is reasonably cost effective. Gasoline or diesel are the only possible choices for range extending. Range extenders are a stop gap measure which will become unnecessary in the next few years as batteries get better and the fast charging network gets built out. The purpose of a range extender is to allow you to go anywhere, that requires a fueling infrastructure that exists today and that's gasoline. I don't think GM needs to put a penny into improving the gas engine it the Volt, it's good enough. Doubling the battery size on the other hand would make a huge difference. The average Gen2 Volt runs on gas 25% of the time according to Voltstats, if you doubled it's range I'm sure that percentage would drop to under 10%. My Volt is only 55% electric because I do most of my miles in the summer on long day trips. Doubling the battery range would have a huge impact on my gas use. In the winter when I only do local travel I would be 100% electric with 2X the range, in the summer my day trips are 20-25% electric, doubling the range means that even on my 200-250 mile trips I'd be 40 to 50% electric. That's a good way closer to a pure EV in a car that can go anywhere in a world where fast charges are still sparse. By 2025 range extenders won't be necessary but I think until then they still serve a valuable purpose.
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I would rather see the price of the Volt go down as battery prices go down, rather than increasing EV range.

The Volt with ~50 miles of range will allow most people to drive most miles on electricity, with no range anxiety and no need to find a charging station and wait.

Also keeping the current battery pack size means most already have the electric capacity at home for a full overnight charge. You increase the range , and then you create another barrier for those who can't easily afford to upgrade their electrical system. They will have to spend more money to take full advantage of the range.

Lower the price of the Volt so it can become truly available to a large number of consumers. This can be done as battery prices come down, by not increasing the range.

The Prime starts at just over 27k, and even with its measly 25 mile range, that price makes it very appealing. Lower the price of the Volt and market the heck out of it. That may stem the sales losses to the Prius Prime. Adding range and keeping the price where it is won't do that.

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I disagree about price, people aren't buying EVs because they aren't good enough yet not because of their price. Step 1 is to get EVs to the good enough stage, step 2 is to lower the price. Good enough for an EREV is 100 miles of EV range, at 100 miles it's a true EV for all local driving, it's only a hybrid on road trips. For BEVs the number is 350 miles with wide spread fast charging or 450 miles with sparse fast charging. The only BEV that comes close to the good enough level is the Model 3, but of course it cost's $20K more than the Volt or Bolt. I think it will be a couple of years before you can build a Bolt with 350 miles of range at it's current price point, but I don't see why you couldn't put a 30KW battery into a Volt at near it's current price point, may be a few K more. I'd be cool with them making a long range Volt a $5K option, standard at the current range, 100 miles with the optional battery.

The Volt will never be a big seller at any price because it's a small sedan which is the least popular category. I like it's size and I am only interested in sedans, but apparently I'm in a small minority. Chrysler gave up on sedans years ago, virtually all of their sales are Jeeps and trucks. Ford has just dropped almost all of their sedans, save for the Mustang. GM hasn't followed suit although it looks like they will reduce their portfolio of sedans, for example they are replacing three Cadillacs with two and there is a persistent rumor that the Impala is for the chopping block.
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We don't have to guess anymore, the specs for the 2019 Volt are out. There is no reason to upgrade because the improvements are so minor, however if you were looking to buy a new Volt this year I'd get the 2019 over the 2018. The most important upgrade is a power seat. There is also a 7.2KW charger option, hardly compelling but if I were going to buy a new Volt anyway I'd get that option, it will make a difference when doing destination charging, for home charging who cars if it takes 2 hours or 4.
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