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New article comparing Volt and 2010 prius

22924 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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"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).
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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My "bias" took forty years of hard evidence to develop. That's how long I've been following the industry and GM. I once held Lutz in fairly high esteem, but eventually his BS hit my limit:

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.
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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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!

I'll leave you with a few parting thoughts and comments:

It wouldn't take having final vehicles for GM to issue a range prediction for city and highway cycles. It's all in the computers. They've been playing with those numbers from the very beginning. But they've NEVER said what driving cycle their 40 (or 50) mile range is based on.

Regarding my predicitions of the future of the Volt:

Bob Lutz has historically (and repeatedly) championed "halo" cars,; showy, if impractical vehicles to generate press and enthusiasm. What have his pet projects been before? Dodge Viper, Plymouth Prowler, Chevy SSR. And just before the Volt, it was going to be the 1000hp Cadillac Sixteen V16 (cancelled due to rising gas prices). All of these vehicles have been impractical, and have not sold well.

Based on this and the history of GM, I think the Volt will become another "halo" car, so GM can trumpet its technical prowess. But like the SSR, which was also overpriced and sold dismally, the intrinsically expensive Volt will not sell well, and Lutz will go on to say: "See, I told you, hybrids are not an economic viable solution".

The problem is, the Volt is neither fish nor fowl (practical hybrid or EV). It's trying to do both, and will not do either well. My article shows that as a practical cost-effective mass personal transportation solution, it doesn't do well against cars like the Prius and upcoming Honda hybrid.

And as an EV (and I suspect many here really want an EV) it doesn't do well either. It's range will be too limited. And if you're going to drive it primarily on its EV range, you're paying for an expensive gen-set that adds weight, and will require maintenance. Yes, oil will have to be changed, and the gas eventually too. It's still an automotive engine being lugged around.

There will be practical (more) cost-effective EV's coming soon. Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru already have announced specific products. They're going to be much cheaper than the Volt.

When these competitive pure EV's come out, the Volt will be stuck in an unhappy place between the Prius (and Honda) on one side, and these EV's on the other. The Volt will bear the burden of trying to be both, and pay the price in extra expense, weight, and other limitations.

But GM and Lutz won't care: they'll be trumpeting their fuel-cell cars by then, having lost interest in the Volt, just like it lost interest in the SSR, EV-1, Wankel engine, Olds diesel, etc., etc.

My recommendadtion: hold on to your excitement (and money), and wait to see what the market will offer; by 2012 or so, there will be a raft of EV's coming on line. Otherwise, you might end up driving tomorrow's SSR, or Prowler, or whatever.
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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?
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