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New article comparing Volt and 2010 prius

22915 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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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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Yeah, Lose that excitement. Be a robot. Too much excitement is bad for the heart. Don't spend that money... Um, on those stickers or magnets or die-cast models. Yeah, that's a waste!

Why? Because I know. After all, it's all in the computers. I can predict the cost of something before everyone sets the final design. Before all the different departments from manufacturing to finance sign off I know the numbers. They just don't work out. The EV will win. Heck, Fusion is only a short time away so why even bother? Let's just light up some cigars (cancer will also be cured by the time you get it) and go to the races (let's enjoy it now before all the oil is gone.. Oh yeah that other poster said they didn't believe in peak oil so... let's just enjoy)! Oh and Bob, don't cut your hair so short. I hate you bob. I mean I love you... Noooooooooo!
Electrified cars ARE the way of the future. The only reason we havent converted yet was the low price of oil (and availability). You can shout all you want about the prius, but the sooner people jump on the band wagon that allow us to shut oil out completely from normal transportaton, the better.

For me, the Volt goes way beyond simple economics. It is giving everyone a chance to be the first to participate in the next generation of transportation without oil. For me, thats priceless. Its not going to be cheap initially, but it is also not out of the range of many buyers, considering 30k+ cars are the norm for a wide swath of the population.
I have come to the conclusion that this guy just likes to hear himself talk about how right he always is.

Here is how he comes across:

If a manufacturer from Japan makes something, it will always be better and cheaper and more reliable. GM is just blowing smoke and wasting money and time. They can't win, so why even bother???

The stereotypical "legend in his own mind"!

But he sure wants us to think he has written a completely objective comparison, doesn't he?????
I didn't think your article is as horrible as some think.

With respect to comparing the "cost effectiveness" of the Volt and the Prius, anyone who would consider buying a Volt as a tool for improving their personal financial situation needs to repeat grammar school.

Cost effectiveness is not the "great white hope" of the Volt.

The Prius, regardless of its current or future MPG, is primarily a gasoline burner while the Volt is not.

Imagine a day when you no longer ask the salesperson at your auto dealership what kind of MPG you can expect from your new car, but instead ask, "This thing doesn’t BURN gasoline/ethanol/soy beans/cow manure/..., does it?"

It is difficult to anticipate how long a vehicle like the Volt would remain useful. I hope there will eventually be an affordable EV with a range sufficient to replace it.

In the meantime, I think of the Volt as a transition vehicle - an electric commuter car with a comforting emergency back up system. Even if it never becomes available to John Doe, but results in him demanding a vehicle that doesn't oxidize itself all over the place, I’ll give GM kudos for their project.
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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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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?
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?
PAUL ! All we've done is correct you. All it brings is another feeble attempt on your part to change issues to find something, anything, that you wrote correctly.
On the last round you omitted any regenerative braking and the fact that the aerodynamic drag has been substantially reduced (which improves most of the figures). Add to that the END OF LIFE battery numbers you quote, and... Oh never mind. You win.
God Bless,
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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Ok, I'm the resident pessimist here!

Going to say this again, why the Prius vs Volt? Sigh.

I'm going to shock people here and say the article is badly flawed. This is about economic feasibilty right? We can agree the Volt and the Prius are totally not the same car in appearence or style? Ok.

Rewrite this and compare the Prius to the Hyundai I'll do it for you:

They both have almost identical footprints. They both have 110hp 4 banger engines.

Head room: Accent 39.6, Prius 39.1
Rear Head room: Accent 37.8 Prius 37.1
Total Passenger Volume: 92 Accent 96 Prius

So for argument sake, the Accent is the MOST SIMILAR to the Prius once you take off the 'hybrid bits'

MPG Accent 30- Prius 46

NO fancy MATH! I go to the gov't site on estimated fuel usage (

Annual cost $1687-Accent, $1061-Prius. = $626
Annual cost to insure a Accent over a Prius +345 (Geico)

Yearly advantage saving on a Prius $281. Cost difference between Prius and Accent? $11,000.


Quick everyone, drive a Accent!

/you lose
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OK, who are you and what have you done with the real Statik?
OK, who are you and what have you done with the real Statik?
Just send me a PM when you whenever you want me to 'poo-poo' something...

Using this author's criteria, you might as well buy a stripped down Honda Civic vs. the Prius, as it will take decades for the Prius to justify it's higher price.

The Volt will have conventional vehicle performance, whereas the Prius is a dog, and an ugly dog at that. Moreover, the Volt platform allows you to fuel up with E85.

If the Volt has good styling, the Prius will see it's sales nosedive.
What makes you think the Prius is a dog? Try a little perspective; the Prius is considerably quicker than my first-edition Cavalier was, which I happily drove for 10 years. Prius owners are generally happy with the performance. And there's no reason to believe people willing to spend extra $$ for a save-the-planetmobile would be bothered by mediocre performance; they're motivated by other things.

And a stripped-down Civic to Prius comparison doesn't make much sense, as the Prius is pretty nicely equipped and bigger. Compare a Prius to a mid-upper line Civic, maybe. Or a stripped Accord. Allowing for 12K miles/year, a base (not stripped) Prius wins back its cost over a base, stick Accord in about 5 years, based on gas at $3/gallon and making allowance for the time value of money.
Predicting the future... a difficult thing to do. Or is it?

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Sure, if you take only that portion of oil / gasoline prices over however many years you want that cover a linear segment, then it is predictable. I am surprised you didn't start in 2001, so that you could show a steeper and straighter trend.

If you look back over a longer period, you will see the last few years have been far more unpredictible, but India and China's growth are now factors that cannot be ignored. It will be interesting to see what impact plug-in hybrid vehicles have on prices in a few years (not to mention the oil now being extracted in the upper midwest).

The Prius will end up being a footnote, as it is a dead-end parallel hybrid configuration.
Linear v. Exponential

My choice of the lower x-axis limit is not as arbitrary as you might suggest. I am simply following Mr. Hubbert`s thesis of peak oil. I believe we are already on the dwindling supply side which peaked sometime between 1998 and 2002. Thus, we see an excellent fit to an exponentially increasing price (straight line on a log plot.)
Linear v. Exponential

I agree. An exponential plot is a better fit than a linear one. I think peak oil is later than 1998 - 2002 though. Therefore, the curve is to shallow. Without interference (rationing) I expect Gasoline to pass $8-10/gallon by 2010. I base this on peak being between 2008 - 2010, with a best guess of 2008. I state this really hoping I am wrong.

Mr. Hubbert`s thesis is excellent, but assumed BAU when he arrived at those dates for peaking. He did not know that in 1973 and 1979, OPEC, would kindly help us to be more efficient in our oil use. Note the 'old' C & C peak of May 2005 was pased in January 2008 at 74.47 million barrels /day.

PS: With rationing, the Volt just looks better and better. The car can only compete on whole of life costs.

Kind Regards
There's a HUGE oil deposit in the Dakotas (USA) that may have a genuine impact on the "peak oil" predictions.
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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