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New article comparing Volt and 2010 prius

22921 Views 48 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  nhrabill
I wrote this:

and welcome any feedback (as soon as I put on my fire-proof suit). Paul
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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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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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I was kinda hoping Paul would do this after several posts have pointed to the inadequacies of his analysis. Since that hasn't happened, I just couldn't let it go. I'm sure there are some booboos here, so please call 'em if you see 'em.

14.7%/year since 1990 $1.19 then $3.33 now, most of increase happened since 1999

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" Prius Touring price $23,370. To actually buy one, put in your zip and see what comes up, $26,400 is what the lower price one's cost in my area but we will use $23,370 since the Volt will likely have the same dealer pricing issues.

Electricity rates in the US have increased by 1.8%/year on average from 1985 to 2008. Today the average resi rate is $0.10 so projecting using past rate of increase gives $0.1055/KWh in 2011

Charging is 90% efficient so full recharge takes 8.8KWh

Most recent comments were that based on costs, the Volt is looking like it should cost $48 yhey will try to keep it around $40K. GM acknowledged that it is a Chevy and the price will stay within this brand's image. As long as it's a Chevy, won't go above $40K but I'll $44K to humor Paul

Scenario one: 35 miles/day
Volt: all electric commute using 35/42.8 and 7.2KWh recharge(assume 1/3 highway in traffic, 1/6 highway no traffic, 1/2 city for combined 42.8 mile range) , $0.756/charge and $236 total in 2011, $2560 over 10 years with 1.8% electricity rate increase
Prius (2010): 50mpg, $5.02/gallon gas in 2011 and using 14.7% annual rate of increase calculates to $1,097 in first year and $21,949 over 10 years
Analysis: Accounting for time value of money (5% annual compounded monthly) and the differences in risidual value (Volt's battery pack will be roughly 12KWh after 10 years) will yield a slight advantage to the volt after 10 years.

Any scenario in which more battery only miles are driven per week will only favor the Volt more. I could have picked the average annual increase in gas prices over the last 10 years if I wanted to skew the results even more for the Volt. Frankly, even if gas price increases slow down and the Volt ends up costing more than the Prius I would still be satisfied with my decision. The Prius doesn't interest me that much, and I would have bought an American car and not used 2200 gallons of mostly foreign, polluting fuel.
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my bad

Ooops, the numbers I used didn't seem right (too good to be true). Gas rose on average 5.85% annually since 1990 and 12.5% annually since 1998.

Gas will be $3.95/gal or $4.74/gal in 2011 and $11,373 or $18,748 total depending on which rate you choose. The Volt will cost significantly more or nearly the same. I also didn't previously question your use of 50mpg for the life of the Prius. That economy is dependant on the performance of the battery in city and busy highway driving. Personally, I will be much more comfortable betting that gas will rise at similar or higher rates in the next 12 years than they have in the last 10. Additionally, I will have the pleasure of driving the Volt vs the Prius.

"One thing is clear; there's no doubt the Volt won't come anywhere near its 40 mile range on the highway. On this site elsewhere there is a posting with info from GM about the energy requirements of the Volt: 8kwh in the city, 25kwh on the highway, and 30kwh @65mph with a slight degree of uphill. If the Volt's battery has an 8kwh usable capacity (between 80% and 30% SOC), then that information tells us clearly: in the city, that 8kwh gives about an hour range = 30-40 some miles. But that 25-30kwh requirement at highway speed = 16 miles!

Would anyone correct me if I'm wrong, please? "

Your wrong! I believe 22KWh was mentioned a long time ago as possible load at slight grade at high speeds. Just do a simple sniff test. It doesn't matter very much to the Volt' overall economy (and to a lesser extent the Prius) what the load is on an incline. What goes up must come down and unless the driver is careless most of the PE gained on ascent is recovered on descent. It is the load on level ground or over the course of an entire cycle that matters. Below is data from the EV1. Power requirements at highway don't vary that much other than drag. EV1's drag coefficient was much better than the Volt's will be so energy consumption for EV1 was less but it gives a feel for what the Volt will require.

Range: 89.1 miles
Energy Used: 14.58 kWh
Average Power: 9.79 kW
Efficiency: 164 Wh/mile
Specific Energy: 29.8 Wh/kg

Tesla's Roadster has a slightly higher Cd (.3) than what is claimed for the Volt and the Roadster is rated 4.66 mi/kW·h (or 37.28miles/8KWh) for 2008 EPA highway cycle. Thus with low power accessorries, slightly lower drag and low rolling resistance tires; the Volt should get about 40 miles range for 2008 EPA highway cycle per 8KWh from battery. Where do you propose the rest of the energy will be lost to reduce the range to 32 miles or less?
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Just read about the Dakota oil deposits a few days ago. It sounded too early to say what the recoverable deposits will be. Either way, they aren't easily accessed and it will be expensive oil. I am not convinced that peak oil is imminent, but it's hard to argue that it will not happen this century. Even with the Dakota deposits, it has certainly occurred with US domestic supply. It's also pretty clear that the majority of cheaply recoverable deposits have been found.

One way or other demand will be constrained by supply and price. This is what we have been seeing develop to a small degree over the last several years, more so in Europe and other areas with relatively expensive fuel compared to the US. We can continue to make small steps at improving efficiency of the ICE and the occasional medium step of today's hybrids, but it will be a long drawn out and, I believe, painful process with periods of hyper inflation like the last few months. All the while, we will be polluting and hemmoraging money to the oil rich countries of the world amongst other things in support of affordable and sufficient oil. OR we can rip off the bandaid and start weaning ourselves off of oil with endeavors like the Volt.

To me, the peak oil issue is very similar to the global warming issue. The are plenty of people on both sides of the debates but does anybody on either side really want to find out with reasonably certainty. I sure don't, because we will have to be on the wrong side of these issues looking backward. Vehicles with plug-in capabilty offer us the opportunity to ease the pain at the very least and perhaps taking major strides in making both issues irrelevent at best.

What is the downside? Gas supply/demand is not nearly the issue many percieve, so we spend a few thousand dollars extra per car and most likely only for the first generation or two of plug-ins. Say for the first 2 million vehicles (I think it would be less), the total cost of ownership price premium is $6,000. This is $12B. This is peanuts in terms of our economy and still would be even if it takes twice as many vehicles and twice much of a premium. Even in this peasimistic scenario we will still have drastically improved the quality of air in our cities, diversified our energy use, and reduced the annual outflow of many billions of dollars to oil rich countries. This is why I feel so strongly that plug-ins like the Volt should be embraced and that the government should offer incentives to help insure their success. The early adopters will be taking the risks that everyone will benefit from.

The Volt, as proposed, not only takes the huge leap onto the path towards oil independance but it does it with style and performance. For those that cannot see this nor value any of this, please go ahead and buy your Prii or other non plug-in and be done with it. You can thank the rest of us later, or not.
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Actually, as a fellow columnist, I thought the article was well-written. The numbers look ball-park right and Paul was pretty balanced on his impartial analysis.
I have read several of your comments and found them very thoughtful, but I strongly disagree with this assessment. Paul showed a strong bias towards the Prius with much of his analysis (32 AER for life of vehicle, $4/gallon gas for life of vehicle, lowest cost Prius available today, etc). I can't say the Volt looks like it will be a cost positive purchase versus the Prius for many if any early adopters, but it is really too early to draw any strong conclusions. Gripperdon's comments underscore why accuracy in reporting is so important.

As many people on this site realise and hopefully other non-enthusiasts will realize, it is not just about total cost. There are so many other factors why people may be interested in the Volt. Even so, I do know costs will play an important role and one that could prevent many customers from even seriously considering the Volt. Most of those people will get there impressions and understanding from the media. This is why I think it is so important that the media be accurate and unbiased in their reporting.
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