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As one of the "eager cadre of early adopters", I was disappointed in several of your ill-informed assumptions. The two most egregious are the sticker price of 44K and the AER in the 20's. Once those assumptions were made, there was no hope that you could come to an accurate conclusion.
I do admire the Cajones it took to post your article here.
God Bless (duck and cover)
Tagamet
 

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Discussion Starter #3
"Ill-informed": Straight from the father of the Volt (Lutz): "it should sell for $48k, possibly $40k (at a loss)" What are you assuming the price will be, and what are you basing it on?

"Ill-informed": GM has confirmed the range will be "closer to 32 miles" at highway speed driving. Drive like most folks on the freeway (10 over the limit), with the A/C and audio on, and let's see if that 32 mile range doesn't quickly melt into the twenties (or less).
 

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"Ill-informed": Straight from the father of the Volt (Lutz): "it should sell for $48k, possibly $40k (at a loss)" What are you assuming the price will be, and what are you basing it on?

"Ill-informed": GM has confirmed the range will be "closer to 32 miles" at highway speed driving. Drive like most folks on the freeway (10 over the limit), with the A/C and audio on, and let's see if that 32 mile range doesn't quickly melt into the twenties (or less).
ILL-INFORMED as in not current. I could quote the Pope that the Earth was the center of the Universe, but given that that is not what he currently espouses, I'd consider relying on the quotes from the past as ill-informed and ill-advised. Even for a nacient pseudo-journalist.

And probably MOST ill-advised was the idea of writing an article to compare two vehicles which are still in development.
 

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My problem with your article is that it is 30 months too early!

You are comparing two different types of vehicles, neither of which yet exist, and making some very large assumptions. With the Prius, you give it the benefit of the doubt. With the Volt, you assume the absolute worst and then make your comparisons.

Examples:

You assume $4.00 per gallon by 2011. Many "experts" are predicting $5.00 per gallon in 2008!!!

GM has said the 40 mile AER is at "end of life", so a new pack should do considerably better than 40 miles.

You seem to think that the newer model Prius will be priced about the same as the existing models. How did you get that information? And for your comparisons, you used a "base" price Prius, but a "max" price for the Volt.

Your bias to the Prius is all over your article. Here is just one quote: "The Volt’s efficiency losses of generation, conversion, battery storage, re-conversion to AC, and electric drive-motor losses equal or exceed the minimal efficiency loss of the Prius’ mechanical transmission." Unless you are a mechanical or electrical engineer, and have access to design and performance information that we do not believe has been released, how do you come to this conclusion?

Or how about this quote? "Unless GM is willing to heavily subsidize the Volt for many years, no matter how good it is, the Prius will kick its ass." So your opinion is based on pricing that is not really set, and you do not really care how the Volt performs, just that you think the Prius is a better vehicle!

That sure seems fair and balanced to me!!!!!

:p
 

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I agree with Tagamet and Jim I, You should change the title to "The Great Concept Hybrid Showdown: Chevrolet Volt vs. Toyota Prius".

You may not be aware while you were writting that you were leading on the Prius. The URL name is giving itself a bad name. I wouldn't says "Truth" yet. I hope you learn something about from this. In many user's view may think that you were trying to troll the GM volt.
 

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Paul Niedermeyer's article was interesting and useful in pulling together a lot of details for comparison. The last word I saw on pricing from Lutz was $48K and maybe $40K if they were willing to make some sacrifices. GM has a bad track record on their hybrid vehicle costs and I expect the Volt to be no exception.

Is projecting the 2010/2011 fight realistic at this stage? Yes and No.

The Yes: Toyota has a perfectly good car on the road today, clearly stated goals which are incremental and probably achievable and a lot of experience. They have firm plans and are actually building production facilities. I expect they know what they're doing. What Niedermeyer projects is probably realistic, except, perhaps the price. I think he's high, Toyota's got a lot of energy going into cost containment and volume increases can only help. If it wasn't for currency effects, I think we'be be looking at a $19K Prius very soon.

The No: The Volt is entirely speculative. GM's done nothing like it, their track record is bad, they've sent shifting messages about capability and cost. Niedermeyer, if anything, was being generous.

The Volt is going to get hammered on price. It's likely Honda's going to hit the very low end of the market with a pretty good car, Toyota will continue in low-mid price with a very good car, offer a better one for somewhat more and the Volt is going to debut for the price of a nice Beemer. If you're comparing a vanilla Prius 3 to a Volt, the money saved, if invested, pays for the Prius' fuel forever and then some.
 

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It seems very odd that you would write such a biased article and ask for feedback here. I'm a bit skeptical of your motivation but since you've stepped up to the plate...

I have been unimpressed with the media for a long time now and the general disregard for reporting the truth only seems to wane as time goes by. I never studied journalism but I thought those that did have been tought this creed:

"I believe in the profession of journalism.

I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is betrayal of this trust.

I believe that clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.

I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.

I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.

I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one's own pocketbook is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another's instructions or another's dividends.

I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that the supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.

I believe that the journalism which succeeds best -- and best deserves success -- fears God and honors Man; is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance and, as far as law and honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity, of and for today's world. "

How much of this do you see in today's journalism and more specifically how much is in yours? Although it appears to be more of a systemic problem than any one individual's inadequacies, each individual journalist should be held and should hold themselves accountable for their own efforts.

Perhaps your intent was to convince GM that a $44,000 price was far too high for the market, prehaps TheTruthAboutCars does not consider itself a journalistic endeavor, or perhaps you intent was to generate controversy. Either way, the meduim in which your article is conveyed will cement or persuade uneducated and/or ill-informed to believe as you conclude. This wouldn't be a bad thing if your reporting was anywhere close to being balanced and accurate.

-The only time I have seen 32 miles reported was on Yahoo news and the article stated "Without any braking -- in perfectly traffic-free highway driving -- the range would be closer to 32 miles, GM engineers said". Let's assume this is accurate, although strange that nobody else has reported this and no named sources have stated it. Most commutes (most miles driven) will be in heavy traffic. Given the lower drag and lower speeds in heavy traffic, much of the highway commuting will result in better than 32 miles range. Many commuters don't have the A/C blasting all of the time. A lot of the miles driven will be city miles. Also, as I'm sure you are aware but negelcted to include 40 miles has been mentioned many times as the end of life range. Around 50 miles has been given as the beginning of life. So, average lifetime range would more likely be about 44 miles.
-$4.00 for gas in 2011? They are predicting gas will be $4.00 this summer. Taking the average price of gas for 2007 and projecting it out over the life of the scenarios presented using the average yearly increase over the last 10 years would be a much more realistic assumption.
-You pointed out that interest is not included in your calculations which obviously would be unfavorable to the higher initial cost, but fail to mention that your totals are based on your estimated first year cost only.
-The sticker price of a 2008 Prius 1226 is roughly $26,400. Commodity prices have been skyrocketing during the last 2 years and are expected to continue to be under pressure as China and India ramp up their industry. GM may very well be factoring this into their expected costs. If commodities continue to increase at anywhere close to the same rate and labor increases at historical rates, then Toyota will be hard pressed to keep the Prius under $29K for the 2011 model unless they want to "subsidize" it.
-In scenario number 2 you assume absolutely no contribution from the battery for trips greater than the electric range.
-Where did your final analysis "adjusted/equivalent 100mpg" come from? Even at your misguided 32 miles average range this does not mess with the average daily driving patterns. Since you are making broad conclusion across the entire market, you should use actual driving statistics. I believe even with your 32 miles range and 50 mpg, the average equivalent for the Volt will be much higher than 100mpg.

If fair, balanced reporting does not favor the Volt then so be it but this isn't even close and really can't be done with any merit until hard facts are known about both vehicles.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'll try to address some of your responses:

I was very excited about the Volt when announced. I am waiting for a personal EV, when one is available that is cost-effective.

The issue of the Volt's range is very important. Some of you seem to think that stopping and starting will increase range: you're absolutely wrong. Regenerative braking is far from 100% efficient; starting and stopping ALWAYS takes more energy than continous speed. It's the speed that is critical: drag increases disproportionately with speed.

EV's always have the best range in city driving, because drag is very low, and there are no losses in idling, etc. EV's make perfect city cars. But at higher speed, power is sapped quickly. I'm sure the Volt will do fine on the EPA City cycle, but you heard the quote from the man at GM about highway speed. It's the EV's bugaboo: the low energy density of batteries.

Plug in $5.00 gas for 2011; it won't make a material difference.

The Prius list price starts at $20,600, last time I checked the web. I've heard they're going for $19,900 on the street (dealer discounts). The long term trend of Prius pricing has been downwards, bothe in absolute dollars, and especially in inflation adjusted dollars. Toyota has said for some time that one of their specific goals for gen3 Prius was to reduce the Hybrid related costs by 50%. They've had five years to do that, through increased scale of production and other efficiencies. I firmly believe Prius prices will not increase materially, especially with their planned increase in production of 60% next year. They will have to keep prices low to move that many cars.

The debate of efficiency of the serial vs. parallel systems is impossible to prove definitively at this time. I have followed a number of detailed engineering threads at Green Car Congress, and I think it's safe to say that it is probably a wash, give or take a little. The losses of generation, storage to battery, conversion to AC for the drive motor, and motor losses certainly way exeed the minimal mechanical losses of the HSD at speed. The only way to recoup those higher losses will be for the Volt's gen-set to be materially more efficient than the quite efficient Prius Atkinson-cycle engine. I've seen various sets of numbers, and they convince me that if Toyota can find any improvement in efficiency in the gen3 Prius gas engine, it will be somewhat ahead.

No one brought it up here today, but often the argument is used that diesel-electric locomotives (serial hybrids without the batteries) must be built that way because thet's the most efficient way. NOT SO. All German diesel locomotives used a mechanical/hydraulic system that was more efficient, but more maintenance intensive than the American approach. American diesel locomotives' priority was low maintenance, and simplicity. When they were developed first, in the 1930's, diesel was cheap, and they were so vastly more maintenace cost-effective than steam engines, that maximum efficiency was not the primary critera.

Mechanical drive to the wheels is intrinsically more efficient than going through a generator/electric motor conversion.

To attack my article because all the hard facts aren't available has nothing to do with journalism. That sounds like the equivalent of attacking Iraq because we don't know whether they do or don't have WMDs. I make it very clear what I based my information and calculations on; I certainly willing to look at alternative methods, if they're objective.

I didn't anticipate how this article would come out; I approached it objectively, and frankly, I was shocked and surprised; as I said, I was an early Volt enthusiast. But I don't see a lot of objectivity here at this site. Many here seem to think that the Volt will be the Messiah, coming no less from the man (Lutz) who says that Global Warming "is a crock of ****". And who also says that "hybrids make no economic sense".

But yes, GM will birth the Messiah, and the planet will be saved. Happy waiting!
 

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And you were doing so well...

until the finale where you showed your obvious bias:
"I didn't anticipate how this article would come out; I approached it objectively, and frankly, I was shocked and surprised; as I said, I was an early Volt enthusiast. But I don't see a lot of objectivity here at this site. Many here seem to think that the Volt will be the Messiah, coming no less from the man (Lutz) who says that Global Warming "is a crock of ****". And who also says that "hybrids make no economic sense".
 

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Discussion Starter #11

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The last time he sucked my in (partially) was when he announced the Volt. As the facts (and Lutz's BS) have unfolded, I ran out of patience.
That's about as clear an admission of guilt as I've ever heard.
Thanks.
 

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pnieder

You seem to be chasing ghosts with your article and the rebuttal hear. Most of your last post was spent pointing out some common misperceptions regarding electic only or seriel hybrid transportation, but none of those were mentioned on this thread.

I, too, have been very disappointed with GM's choices for product development. This disappointment is not because I think they should have forsaken profitable business decisions for questionable ones that benefit humanity or country, but rather because they missed a business opportunity that also carried those benefits. I have been convinced for a long time that electrical propulsion is the drivetrain of the future, and it also should be much more the drivetrain of the present than it is. There are many benefits to the EV drivetrain as I imagine you already know, and the biggest benefit is the ability to efficiently use stored electric energy. This does not mean it needs to be a BEV only as many others believe, although they may end up being the best long term solution. Plug-in hybrids with an electric drivetrain and fully capable stored electric range sure seem logical to me and put passenger much farther along the path of development than even Toyota's HSG. Toyota and you appear to recognize this with the announced path to a plug-in vehicle. The only problem is that they will have to increase the battery significantly, add charging capability, increase the power electronics, increase the motor, etc. This is not really a continuation down one path as it is a jump to another. Guess which other path that is? In my mind, as well as yours and Toyotas apparently, it is the path the Volt will be on if it does get produced.

I am neither a GM enthusiast nor Bob Lutz proponent, although he did see a good thing when it hit him in the face. The good thing being the Volt and I don't believe it hit him in the face until after the Jan '07 unveiling. I believed then it was a last minute, makeshift prototype that adapted from the E-flex platform they were devolping for hydrogen fuel cells. They saw Tesla, rising gas prices, and public sentinent and dipped their toe in the E-Rev waters. If they had put much thought and effort at that point, I don't think it would have been announced as a Chevy nor as comfortably under $30K. I said then and still believe that had they really intended to produce the vehicle, it would have been branded as a Cadillac. Since the response was so significant, they have pushed forward. They are still struggling with the tight wiggle rooom that a Chevy branded vehicle affords them. Changing the outlook to $35K seemed resonable given the technology and I think they may be able to sell it for up to a few thousand more, depending on market conditions in 2010. They know $48,000 is out of the question, regardless of what their costs are. They have been building cars long enough and have done enough work with batteries and the E-flex platform to have known within 20% of what the costs would be. The price bantering seems more like strategy than honesty and the price will end up being what they feel the market will bear. If that means it is sold for no profit or at a loss, how would it be different from the early years of the Prius?

It wasn't so much the figures that you used to base your analysis on as much as the missuse of them and the ones you had to have walked over to get to them. What about using a more realistic average range. Did you here 32 at normal highway speed with no AC from a GM engineer or did that come from the Yahoo article that said only 32 miles free highway driving? If from Yahoo, then lets assume it is true but drop your assumptions about other conditions. GM has also mentioned 40 miles end of life for all normal driving conditions, as well as around 50 beginning of life. You must have seen this. So pick a reasonable number for average range. Even $5 average gas cost from 2011-2021 seems a little low to me, don't you think? Wouldn't it be more relevent to use the average inflation rate for gas during a the past 10 or 20 years and take the arbitrariness out of the equation? Go to Toyota's website and look for pricing on the 2008 Prius 1226 model. This is how I found 5 versions of it for $26,400 and more. This model is more comparable to what GM has announced for the Volt. What happened to the battery range on your longer trips calculations? Also, do you think that absolutely nobody will have access to daytime charging, because you account for no effect from this on electric miles?

You wrote, "I was very excited about the Volt when announced. I am waiting for a personal EV, when one is available that is cost-effective."

If you truely believe this, then you should be cheering on the Volt, Tesla, Fisker, MiEV, et al in spite of your dislike for Mr. Lutz. These vehicles will push advances in battery technology and the electric drivetrain with far more force than the Prius. The natural evolution for technology is to start towards the higher end and work it's way down. Toyota's HSG was a bit of an exception because it didn't really offer much advantage for the high end.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Tagamet: If I'm guilty of anything, it's of managing to keep (or find) objectivity. That's a quality that I find generally in limited amounts in this and other EV circles. Would you like to read my test of a ZAP vehicle? It's at TTAC.

Why are you trying to make me feel guilty of something? Have I sinned in the Church of Volt? Blasphamy of the High Priest Lutz?

You've got it all wrong; I'm not a troll, I'm not anti-Volt. I'm thrilled that GM is developing it. It will be a step in the eventual development of practical cost-effective cars. I want one (an EV), but one that's cost effective. My problem is with GM's overall strategy and decline, and how the Volt isn't going to solve that. My guess is that GM's ADD will kick in eventually, when they lose enough money on it, and other competitiors (Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan, etc.) come out with more cost-effective EV's. At that point, GM will do what it has always done - find some excuse to move on to the next "exciting" thing to distract its stockholders and gullible public. Do you remember the Vega? The X-cars (Citation?) The GM Wankel engine? The EV-1?

My problem is not with the Volt per se, but with the way GM and Lutz are managing/hyping it. And how people are falling for an idealized image of the Volt. It's going to dissapoint, like every EV always has, because the great majority of folks don't fully appreciate how vulnerable range projections for an EV are. How EV's do great in city driving, and get clobbered at higher speeds. The truth can be hard to accept. Someday...

How about if I rerun the cost numbers with electricity rates as in some cities/states that have demand charges, where you would pay 20cents or more to charge your Volt. That will make it even less economic.
 

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You write about wanting to be objective yet talk about GM and EVs as though they left you standing at the alter. You do realize that CEOs, employees and conditions change don't you (Vega? Are you serious)? If your intent was to sound objective you failed. Miserably.

Anyway, everyone has their opinions and the assumptions they use to support them. If some of us don't agree with your assumptions, opinions and yes, your subjectivity, that doesn't make you a bad person. ;) I guess we will have to wait a few more years to find out who was using better assumptions.
 

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Volt Versus Prius

Paul-
I appreciate your effort to compare the Volt and Prius, I made a similar effort too:

http://gm-volt.com/2008/03/28/is-there-a-financial-benefit-of-a-volt-over-a-prius/

Some issues in your analysis are:
1. Bob Lutz personally told me he never said 48K for the Volt, that was a misquote. Closer to 40K than 30K is all he will say.
2. The Volt will have a near 50 mile AER when new

Also, saving money isn't necessarily what its all about - driving without any gas is priceless!

Welcome to the forum.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Lyle:

I would like GM to issue two clear range projections: one on the EPA City cycle; and one on the EPA highway cycle. As I assume you know, all EV's are profoundly more efficient in city driving than highway driving. A 50 mile range on the city cycle may be materially less on the highway. I suspect that's where the quote from the GM Volt engineer comes in about "closer to 32 miles" in regard to steady highway speed driving.

Your statement about a 50 mile range is irrelevant without a context: is it at 20mph? 30? 50? 65?

Driving without gasoline is "priceless". Now there's objectivity!

Paul
 

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Paul, you are just going to have to wait until the design has been locked down and they get the next generation mules on the road (not the Malibu body but the actual locked down design). Then and only then will they be able to give you the accurate numbers you so pessimistically seek. I'm guessing next year you will get much more accurate specifications. At this point in the design the stated specs. can and will change. Don't believe me? Let's come back to this thread next year and see what specs. they quote.
 

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I'd like to know what rate you put in for electrcity for coming up with these numbers... I will only pay 5 cents per kWh in North Carolina.

Other comments:

1) You are not taking into account tax credits for the volt in the final price
2) You are not mentioning the intangibles: ie 'people just want to stop buying gas.' Many people will pay more to have less variable costs (in this case, gas). Compare this to a fixed rate loan or a variable. The variable is going to be a lot cheaper, so why doesnt everyone get variable? Because of the unknown. Personally, I want to know I can get around without gas if we have an energy crisis.

There have been a studies that show the standard hybrids are a waste. If you took the batteries out, the MPG is almost the same without all the added weight. The volt is actually displacing petrol in a very real way. its an interesting article, but I dont think people like you 'get it' There is more to a volt than strict finance.

IF we were basing all of our decisions based on strict finance, then no one would be buying a lot of cars out there that sell like hotcakes.

Let me say one more thing... I attended an energy conference in D.C. this past week put on by the Energy Information Administration (under the DoE). There is considerable risk that we are going to really hit an energy crisis in a few years, and unless you are driving electric, your Prius will be sitting in the garage going no where. I personally dont believe in peak oil, but I am willing to hedge my bet with something that could be sustained, had we a catastophic loss of oil production.
 
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