For some of us interested in electrification of the automobile, it can't happen soon enough.
The Volt is a great first step, though as GM says it is a car for most people, not a car for everyone. Even considering the wide swath of those for whom it will be ideal, production volumes are expected to remain relatively low; 10,000 the first year, and around 60,000 in the second according to reports.
Since the Voltec propulsion system is so flexible and scalable, it seems reasonable to believe GM will eventually use it in other vehicle types and sizes. We have seen the Cadillac Converj concept though the car has not be approved for production. We have also heard that GM is at least studying putting a Voltec drivetrain into the upcoming Orlando MPV.
Clearly GM is proceeding with caution largely due to the very high cost and likely, some uncertainty, not too mention the high initial price for consumers. Recently it was disclosed that the Volt will likely start at $32,000 after tax credits.
GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz was recently asked in a webchat whether he believes GM will generalize Voltec technology.
"The Volt technology is very exciting, but costs will have to come down before it can become generalized," he said. "And US fuel prices will have to rise to world levels, meaning $5 or $6 per gallon."
Larry Burns, who has been GM's chief of R&D at GM for 11 years, and will retire on October 1st put it this way:
It is important to recognize that first generation technology in the auto industry, or industry in general, is usually costly vs. the mature alternatives that it competes with. The key is to kick off a generation-by-generation learning cycle that allows the new technology to reach its mature, high-volume potential. GM believes that Lithium Ion batteries at maturity and in high volume will be cost competitive for personal mobility. This is why we are launching the Volt, to kick off the commercialization dynamic.
So how long will it take for technology costs to come down or gas prices to get so high, and do we have time to wait?