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Multiple choice - What could GM do to increase EREV sales? Ideas? (2nd try)

  • Business - Increase and improve advertising/marketing

    Votes: 28 54.9%
  • Business - Highlight that used GM EREVs are holding their value nicely

    Votes: 4 7.8%
  • Business/Tech- Decrease the MSRP of GM EREVs, if possible

    Votes: 12 23.5%
  • Business - Make GM EREV vehicles widely available for conventional rental (work with conventional ag

    Votes: 5 9.8%
  • Business - Partner more strongly with residential and business solar and energy storage installers

    Votes: 1 2.0%
  • Increase battery size / EV-only range

    Votes: 15 29.4%
  • Improve engine options, maybe focus on some performance and "vroom-vroom" fun performance aspects

    Votes: 3 5.9%
  • Offer quick charging capability

    Votes: 14 27.5%
  • improve home and public opportunity charging including possibly offering options of higher kW and wi

    Votes: 9 17.6%
  • Simplify - decrease complexity of operating the vehicle

    Votes: 4 7.8%
  • Offer EREV powertrain in a large sedan, SUV, crossover or other vehicles with enough rear legroom fo

    Votes: 36 70.6%
  • Offer EREV powertrain in a pickup

    Votes: 19 37.3%
  • Offer and stand behind renewable liquid fuel (flex-fuel with E85, renewable diesel, etc.) capability

    Votes: 3 5.9%
  • Offer a hydrogen fuel cell instead of an internal combustion engine, combined with battery EREV powe

    Votes: 2 3.9%
  • If possible, offer a fuel cell powered by some renewable fuel other than hydrogen

    Votes: 3 5.9%
  • Do more to take advantage of the lower NVH and smooth wonderful ride of the EREV architecture, both

    Votes: 8 15.7%
  • Offer some form of manumatic/stick shift or paddles to increase driver involvement and fun level for

    Votes: 1 2.0%
  • Other things not presented in this poll (please if possible specify below in the discussion area)

    Votes: 4 7.8%
  • (don't try to prolong EREV sales. It's no big deal... the technology has served its purpose as a br

    Votes: 3 5.9%
  • (don't bother, EREV technology just simply will never sell well and allow for a good profit)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

Multiple choice - What could GM do to increase EREV sales? Ideas? (2nd try)

7281 Views 62 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  jlsoaz
[Disclaimer - opinions and poll setup here entirely my own - not speaking for anyone else].
[Also - sorry to a few who already voted - the original setup I had was missing at least one key option, so it seemed best to delete and repost.]

There have been stories recently that GM is considering ending Volt sales. As well there is some indication it is headed in a strong BEV direction. This poll is to brainstorm a bit as to ways that GM could improve sales of vehicles equipped with its impressive EREV technology.
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Make less expensive versions with about 25 mile range (sub $30k) and maybe more expensive versions with 50+ mile range that are also larger and better equipped vehicles.

It is a hard sell to sell a $35-$40k MSRP vehicle that is a compact car, doesn't come standard with safety features like ACC, AEB, LKAS, no power seats. Granted they often sell with good lease deals and other incentives, but this is probably costing GM money. Making a cheaper Volt that remains compact and a more expensive "Volt" (call it something else) that moves more upscale might help.

For example, I think the Clarity PHEV has potential to sell very well. It is a large midsize car priced the same as a Volt Premier, has comparable or more features, similar range (6 miles less, but it actually does so on a battery the size of a Gen 1 Volt), more space, and better efficiency on both gas and electric. In a car that is larger. Could we have the Malibu version of the Volt, but priced the same as the outgoing Volt, and add all the safety features as standard?
Really agree with some of this. I would love to see an EREV Impala (full size sedan). Malibu (mid-sized) also, sure. I must admit if you give me a choice between an EREV Impala and a BEV-60 Impala for the same price, I'll take the BEV, but it does seem worth exploring if there's a place for the EREV powertrain.

I'm still a bit unclear whether it is absolutely necessary to have such large cost differences between compact/mid-sized and full-sized cars. Does it really require that much more material and manufacturing cost just to have 6 or 12 or more inches of more rear space? Is this about the added length itself or luxuriousness that is thrown in or larger engine options or other things or some combination? If the engine options typically have to be larger and more expensive, does the EREV architecture somewhat change that old equation?
other suggestions

I ran up against the limit of 20 poll options. One other would be to market powerful full-sized EREVs to police departments and taxi services looking to save money on fuel and finding it difficult to identify full-sized vehicles which check off the boxes they need including performance, style, general reliability, quality, quick refueling times and economical use of fuel.
GM and others are pretty good at marketing. Having them spend more and do a better job explaining these wonderful vehicles isn't likely to lead to big changes in the proportion of EREV or BEV vehicles on the road. ...
Yes, they are pretty good at marketing. My impression though is they have done relatively little of it recently on the their EREV or BEVS. I do think they probably did a fair amount on the Volt back in the day. If they are good at marketing and have done little of it, then I think increasing it might well lead to (or contribute to) changes in the proportion on the road. So, I guess I disagree with your syllogism on that.

By the way, as far as I know, the Bolt is doing ok in sales (increasing little by slow, every month, and now up to nearly 3k per month). Has GM done a lot to market and advertise the Bolt? Not that I'm aware (I've seen some GM ads prominently on TV recently, but none for the Bolt that I recall). So, there might be room for marketing to help with sales growth there, I don't know.

Even with more aggressive marketing I think there may be some early limits on Bolt sales (kind of a limited addressable market in the US for less-than-great-looking $35k small wagon hatchbacks), but, regardless of whether marketing (or lack of it) is helping or hindering, I am really enjoying seeing the vehicle garner sales - it is the first highway-capable BEV ever sold in this country, and maybe in the world, above a certain range and below a certain MSRP, and I think the demand for that will not soon be saturated, despite any drawbacks.
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I think the two most important things are to offer them in more popular segments and to increase the range to over 100 miles. At 100 miles it's a true EV because that would push the fleet average to over 90% electric vs about 75% now (I get 55%). EVs and EREVs should be marketed as premium vehicles not as economy or green cars, they should be positioned as better than turbos and V8s because they are. EVs and EREVs don't have transmissions and that's a huge advantage because you don't have any gear hunting or jerking. They accelerate faster than equivalent ICE cars and they are quiet. Regen braking increases the controlability of the car, I've noticed this not only while going down mountain roads but also on icy roads. I think we are still a long way from having an affordable BEV that has 300 miles of winter range, until that's possible EREVs are a practical solution. However I think the best way to sell them is not to make them cheaper but to make them worth the higher price.
Some good points. I like the idea of including them in a list of marketing ideas including (arguably) the superior range in winter over a BEV, the good control on icy surfaces, etc. I agree, I think overall both good BEVs and PHEV/EREV can be marketed simply as good/better vehicles in many cases and not positioned as niche/green choices. I have said a version of this going back to the late 90s and I test-drove my first few BEVS and then would say to people that the thing that maybe wasn't talked about enough was that in some ways EVs are simply better vehicles.
interesting to be having this discussion, and see the leading suggestion as of this writing is for the EREV powertrain to be put into a bigger interior volume vehicle, and at the same time Mitsubishi just in the last few days finally has started to sell its Outlander PHEV in the US (several years late?). I wonder what the hesitation is on the part of manufacturers to put such vehicles on the US markets. Don't they want to increase sales?

It seems like BMW has started (predictably, IMO) to do well in this area of PHEV options on some established decent-sized models, and as far as I know their PHEV architecture is not the equal of GM's, so maybe GM can take a look at that.
IMO most important are
1) offer it in all vehicles, every shape and size
2) offer the fastest charging you can, including DCFC
(before the inevitable comments come up - this one has nothing to do with whether it makes sense or is necessary, but entirely about optics - to the general public, they see "charges in 4 hours"? / "charges in 10 hours"?! That's an eternity. "Can be fully charged in as little as 20 minutes!" would sell them on it instantly. Even though they'd maybe do that only once a year and their standard charge at home would be ~2 hours)
I have been wondering - if DCFC is moving toward higher kW (maybe 50 kW on a decent CHAdeMO station back when I had a Leaf, but that looks to be improving), and if the Volt offers less than 20 kWh usable (my 2013 only seems to use 10.x kWh for each drive but I don't know about Gen2) then maybe the charge time on a Volt at a DCFC could get down to as little as 10 minutes using present tech, and even less in the future.
It looks like the Subyukonade option is winning!!!!
Ok, this is pretty funny, and yes it is winning. I wonder if the results would be useful to GM to get a quick additional idea of what folks want. I've always thought it was pretty obvious that EV powertrains should be offered in larger-interior-volume vehicles, but so far there have been very few by the US manufacturers other than Tesla.
Clarity doesn’t work for most of us who are far away from a fuel source.
Hi - Clarity PHEV is roughly comparable to the Volt in its specifications and EV-only range and (as a PHEV) is as close to any fuel source as any Volt is.

Unfortunately, as Foxtrot points out, the Clarity PHEV is not exactly being pushed by Honda. For example:
I suppose another choice in a not-really-within-their-power way is to get the price of fossil fuel to go up. As an adjunct, I suppose GM could be more supportive of policies that encourage higher mileage requirements of manufacturers, as the EREV powertrain helps them satisfy those requirements more readily.
The trick is that battery charge rates are kind of limited by chemistry. Lithium Ion batteries should never be charged faster than in 30 minutes, from "empty" to "full" (actual capacity, not including state of charge buffers at the top and bottom end). That's a "2C charge rate" -- twice the capacity of the battery per hour. Going faster is very hard on their eventual useful number of charge cycles, even with good thermal management. Keeping the charge rate below 1C (an hour from "empty" to "full") gains about 30% MORE charge cycles to end-of-life. And limiting to 0.5C charge rates add another 15% to the expected cycle count or so. Plus, you can actually get more electrons in before "full" at slower rates. A battery that takes 100kwh at some small fractional C might reach "full" by voltage after only accepting 85-90kwh at 2C, and there's nothing you can do at that point. There's only 85 in there so you've lost 15% of your range being in a hurry for that charge. Slow charges, slow discharge, avoiding deep charge/discharges and good thermal management is how Volts take batteries that usually only last for 1000 cycles and push them to 5000-6000 cycles and warranty the batteries for eight years. (Twice a day charging for eight years is 4380 cycles.)
Hi - someone mentioned that they see this as good information, and it does seem like it, but are there any additional sources we could reference on some of this? And, are you saying it is all-encompassing (across all chemistries, thermal management, charge management, etc.) or are there exceptions? Just for one example, would Toshiba's recently announced improvements look like they could be an exception (or perhaps some batteries would not be considered conventional lithium ion and so not fit the rule?.... or perhaps some other consideration such as insufficient testing as yet?)
Toshiba claims 6-minute recharge for new electric-car battery cell
Sean Szymkowski
162 CommentsOct 19, 2017

"...Engineers tested a 50-amp (0.6 kilowatt-hour) prototype battery with the same technology and, Toshiba said, the results showed the latest anode structure retained the lithium-ion battery's longevity, safe operation, and low temperatures.

"Specifically, the prototype retained 90 percent of its capacity after 5,000 charge and discharge cycles; Toshiba says the six-minute fast charging operated in colder conditions, too...."
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As for the original question, right now, people are buying CUV's and only CUV's. In lower gas price states, trucks are also a big mix. Take a look at a vehicle that gets 15-20 mpg in mixed driving and think about the battery pack size to even get ~45-50 miles of EV range. You'd need probably 35-40 kW minimum, nevermind that you'd probably be looking at ~7000-7500 lb curb weights for an EREV powertrain combo on existing huge "half ton" trucks.

So just the EV powertrain and battery by itself would be edging up against the starting price for stripper models of the trucks. Add in an ICE range extender, making the interior fit for the probably $60-70k selling price, and all that sweet truck profit that GM/Ford enjoy would suddenly go away.

On the CUV side, most are <$30k base price, with well optioned ones eeking into the mid-high 30's, or low 40's for some. There are premium nameplates that get much pricier, but that's the general price range for the high volume sellers. Add in ~25 kW of batteries for ~45-50 miles of EV range, and the EV drivetrain, and it's going to be hard to hit anywhere near those prices.

I ultimately feel the inefficient vehicle choices most consumers gravitate towards are why EVs haven't started to be offered in those vehicle types. It's just too pricey for the EV range. I'm sure most public think they could get a 50 mile range EREV CUV, if they even know what that is, but the reality is you need a lot more battery capacity to do that due to the aero drag and weight increase over a small to midsized car.
I think you may be exaggerating or over-simplifying a bit..... in my opinion there's a middle ground here where there can be a good EREV modest-sized crossover or similar, or full-sized sedan giving more interior volume, with the present usable 11 or 12 kWh (or whatever it is). Not all calls for larger interior volume vehicles have to be followed by assumptions of towing capacity or that we are only talking about very large vehicles, or even that we have to be talking about EV-range similar to the Volt.

I think this vehicle (which has been selling well in Europe and is about to go on sale in the US... not sure if it's a CUV or SUV, but whatever....) is a decent example of the affordability of a middle-ground vehicle in this area.
Eco-friendly. Adventure focused.
Coming December 2017.
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The PHEV Clarity is a nice vehicle, honestly much nicer than the 2nd gen Volt at the same MSRP price point. Chevy puts enough cash on the hood of the gen 2 Volt that it's a little bit better of a bargain on the entry level models, but the loaded Premiers are really outclassed by the Touring Clarity IMO, since their price points are almost identical, or cheaper for the Clarity.
I think the Clarity PHEV does seem to shape up to be very competitive.

The number of kWh of the battery is competitive and the interior volume seems at least somewhat better. I don't know enough about the powertrain engineering they protect the battery well.... will it hold up in the Arizona heat? ... what sort of thermal management? much of the kWh is bracketed? I don't know. To look at it another way, in some ways a used Ford Fusion Energi looked competitive with the Volt, but I am not sure the powertrain was really competitive....
Best single source for all this is

You're correct with the implication that not all lithium ion batteries are the same. When most people, me included, say "lithium ion", they're talking about normal lithium cobalt oxide cathodes with carbon anodes, and the characteristics I talked about are appropriate for those. Technically, lithium iron phosphate, lithium manganese oxide, etc are all "lithium ion" as well, but LiCo had a half-decade head start and does a lot of stuff really well that the others just don't get a lot of time.

The Toshiba battery is a lithium–titanate battery, and the big difference is that the anode (positive pole of the cell) is a titanium crystal lattice instead of a carbonate crystal, which is strong enough to make an anode with about 25 times as much surface area, and THAT is what makes the faster recharge rates possible. The downside (not mentioned in the greencar article) is that these batteries are rather more expensive than LiCo and are only about 60% as energy dense, due to the cells having a lower voltage. So you need more battery to make a kwh of storage, which is heavier and bigger than the same power's worth of LiCo. A Bolt with the same battery form-factor would probably have only about 40kwh, have a practical range of about 150 miles, but if you got access to a 350kw charger, it'll charge up in 10 minutes.
Thanks for the prompt response. I try not to post during my work hours, so that's why I didn't get back on this sooner. The points about lithium cobalt oxide make a bit more sense - your initial claim seemed too sweeping.

I don't know enough about batteries to really say too much specific, but

- at this point I'm not sure what % of good PEVs use a battery chemistry that would really fit within this definition of lithium cobalt oxide. Maybe a higher % than I realize, but I doubt 100%.

- I am not sure that the Volt uses a lithium cobalt oxide battery, at least not one "strictly defined"... perhaps one that is "somewhat" that. For example:

"...Most Li-manganese batteries blend with lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) to improve the specific energy and prolong the life span. This combination brings out the best in each system, and the LMO (NMC) is chosen for most electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and BMW i3. The LMO part of the battery, which can be about 30 percent, provides high current boost on acceleration; the NMC part gives the long driving range...."
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Mitsubishi has been saying “coming soon” for what, 3 or 4 years now? What’s the all-electric range on the outlander PHEV?
Yes, they have dragged this out forever. Nonetheless, the vehicle has been selling quite well in some areas outside the US.

EV Specs and performance, apparently a 12 kWh battery and a claimed (I don't see anything yet at 22 mile EV range

example of sales outside the US (and this link is more than a year old)
Mitsubishi Sells 100,000th Outlander PHEV
by Jeff Cobb May 3, 2016
If Elon can make a semi truck have a lower Cd than a Ferrari, anything is possible with a little CUV
Indeed. In the end, a large EREV with strong towing capability might well have an EV-range issue depending on various choices, but there is I think a middle ground where one can have a more modest-sized vehicle such as an Impala-sized sedan, old-style wagon, crossover or small or medium-sized SUV where I think some smart compromises can be made to keep costs down and performance up. We are probably already there with some competing PHEVs, depending on the EV range one considers acceptable. I think this probably applies to pickups as well. For the large towing capability vehicles, can cost be kept down? I guess it also depends on desired EV-only range and other factors. So far, there does seem an issue (looking for examples at the reported costs of future Workhorse trucks (I can't recall, are they EREV or BEV or both?) or modified aftermarket PHEV pickups from 3rd parties) but we are seeing lower costs and higher pack sizes here and there, and that should help. One can also increase engine size.

On the BEV side, Tesla is planning a crossover and a pickup. Sure, one can make cynical comments, but they have so far delivered four light-duty vehicles, it is not a stretch to suppose they may get in those other two. So, a question becomes whether a cost- and performance- competitive EREV crossover (or the like) and pickup could be built to compete with the BEVs. Even if it could be built, if GM may build its own competing BEVS, there could be a question of whether it is worth it. So far, 6.67% of poll respondents have checked off the option "(don't try to prolong EREV sales. It's no big deal... the technology has served its purpose as a bridge to full BEV once the batteries were good enough, which they now are)".
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I think a potential end game (which looks nothing like today's market) could easily involve some modularity. You chose the car, then you choose what propulsion system makes sense for you. Instead of choosing between a V8 and a V6, you choose between an ICE or a battery.
This modularity seems to me an interesting point. I do think this already exists to some extent in the market. We see it in the Prius line (HEV or PHEV), Honda Clarity (FCEV, BEV, PHEV), Hyundai Sonata (ICE, HEV, PHEV), Ford Fusion (ICE, HEV, PHEV) and in some others. I'm not sure if we then see some battery sizing options yet, but within some BEV lines (Tesla Model S, upcoming Leaf) that has been going on awhile. As to battery sizing options in a PHEV or EREV line, I'm not sure if that's out there.
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