At this stage in the development of the Chevrolet Volt, the two biggest unanswered questions for potential buyers are: What kind of mileage will it get while in charge-sustaining mode (when the range extender is running)? And how much will it cost?
Chevrolet doesn't intend to provide definitive answers to either of those questions until much closer to the Volt's November launch, and the mileage question can't be answered until the calibration and certification process is completed sometime this summer. But General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre may have just provided a big hint on the pricing.
The Volt's MSRP will be tricky as it needs to take into account marketing, production cost and – in this case – a lot of politics. Given the nature of the Volt's plug-in technology, it will obviously be much more expensive than a comparably-equipped Cruze. However, some GM executives have been hinting there could be a surprise when the Volt price is announced. For the past two years we've been hearing about a sticker price of around $40,000. But when General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre spoke to Lyle Dennis at GM-Volt.com, Whitacre said that the Volt would be priced "in the low 30s" and be profitable.
The big unknown from that statement is whether that means before or after the $7,500 federal tax credit. We're still awaiting a clarification from General Motors on that point, but in all likelihood, that low $30,000ish price would be after factoring in tax incentives. Our recent discussions with GM's Jon Laukner and Denise Grey have hinted at a price for the Volt's 16 kilowatt-hour pack of about $600 per kWh. That would put the cost for just the full pack at almost $10,000. Factor in all the other technology in the Volt – including the electric drive and power electronics in addition to the engine – and hitting Whitacre's price point before incentives would be extremely difficult, especially with the low initial production volumes for the Volt.
*UPDATE: It's after taxes.