• Dec 17, 2010
2011 Chevrolet Volt power button
But what all the debates leave out is the discussion about GM's right to take a leadership position on a new way to drive, and the unknown number of consumers who may also want to take a leadership position in their neighborhoods and workplaces.

I know it sounds corny, but Volt buyers are going to push the envelope to prove to themselves and their friends that electric driving is feasible. They will charge up overnight when electricity is cheapest. They will seek out places to recharge at work, the mall, parking lots. They will likely show loyalty to retailers that offer, for public relations benefits, a place to plug a car in while customers shop.

I feel sorry for Volt buyers who will be full-time explainers for the foreseeable future. But that's what they signed up for.
Early adopters of the Chevy Volt will undoubtedly try to maximize their electric driving, though they will do so without range anxiety (the fear of running out of juice). They will post to their Facebook pages, talk about it at neighborhood parties and backyard barbecues the way people have talked about their all-wheel-drive experiences plowing through snowstorms in their Subaru.

As the owner of a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, I can attest that I can find myself being a walking explainer and ambassador for clean diesel. "But you can't find it everywhere, right?" Argh. Of course, you can, I say. I have never run out of fuel, and I never will. I feel sorry for Volt buyers who will be full-time explainers for the foreseeable future. But that's what they signed up for.

2011 Chevrolet Volt engine

Now, the discussion is about extended-range electrics. Soon, discussion about the feasibility of natural gas vehicles will heat up, I predict. Replacing 3.5 million medium and heavy vehicles with natural gas vehicles by 2035 would keep the U.S. from importing about 1.2 million barrels of day, or more than is currently being imported from Saudi Arabia daily, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.

Payback on investments toward increasing electric and natural gas driving may be hard to justify at the moment. And they may not excite the boosters of horsepower. But there is a vocal minority in the country that would like the opportunity to make the case in the next decade that getting off foreign oil is a good thing for our country.

Tax credits and other incentives to bring start-up costs down make sense because the government is an interested party. After all, if the U.S. didn't need Middle East oil, far fewer combat service members would be needed.



Photos copyright ©2010 Chris Paukert / AOL

David Kiley, an award winning journalist, covers the auto industry from Ann Arbor, MI. He has followed the industry for 25 years, and held posts including Detroit Bureau Chief for USA Today and senior correspondent for BusinessWeek. He is also the author of two books on the industry: Getting The Bugs Out: The Rise, Fall and Comeback of Volkswagen in America [John Wiley and Sons 2001], and Driven: Inside BMW, The Most Admired Car Company in the World [Wiley, 2004].


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  • 74 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's good for GM to get some experience making electric cars.

      Now that there's so much money going into battery design it's inevitable that in some capacity electric cars are parts of the future transportation system.

      As far as artificially increasing oil prices to "get us off" oil, I think that' dumb.

      I say let's use up every ounce of the middle east's oil so they have no economic power over us that much sooner.
        • 4 Years Ago
        They are already being held artificially low. The goby barely charges a tax on it. If they were not subsidizing it, prices would be quite a bit higher. And this would bring some needed money to our gov't. If gas is $6 in 3rd world countries how do u think we r maintaining $3 per gal price?
        • 4 Years Ago
        but they will be even richer and influential, our planet worse off from their elaborate building spree's and our consumption of it, and our grandchildren will pay the heaviest price of all: putting up with all the consequences that come with it
      • 4 Years Ago
      Like always, when GM comes out with something good, in time a force will try to discredit it. That time has come for the Volt! I've always wondered who's behind that force. The competitors, those who got burnt, or just malicious people who feel they have to contribute? If Americans are doing it, it is very stupid. They are just cutting their own throats.

      Now that the American car companies (GM and Ford) are making world class cars, I think we should try to buy more of them to help our economy get back where it belongs!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't know what's all the fuss about this car, it's overpriced and overrated; it also looks very outdated, early 90's futuristic movie type of thing, I wouldn't ever drive a car I don't like. There are many electric, hybrid and clean diesel vehicles out there or will be soon which will be good competitors. The future is not in electric vehicles, electricity in the end comes from gas or doesn't it?

      The real future is in Hydrogen.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "I don't know what's all the fuss about this car, it's overpriced and overrated"

        I agree. I've seen many on here argue that we need this (The Volt) as a starting point.

        I disagree. We need to start, sure, but we need to do it right. The Volt would not have been here had it not been for the bailout, so they should waited a year and get it right, for the public sake! Just like they timed their IPO poorly, so was the release of this car...

        Nissan got it right with an all-electric that gets great mpg and 0 emissions, and even without federal subsidies, comes in at 32k. That is reasonable. The Volt is an overpriced hybrid... a not so great medium between the Leaf and Prius.
        • 4 Years Ago
        hydrogen is a non-starter at its current trajectory. It is not going to be sourced by clean energy, and it costs more energy than it produces (sounds like grain-based ethanol).
        • 4 Years Ago
        umm, where do you think they get the hydrogen?
      • 4 Years Ago
      If anybody doubts the "vision" thing, vision this.

      America is bent over a barrel taking it in the *$$ from every two-bit despot using oil for blackmail. Every time we say "uncle", they smile and pull the rod out a little bit, knowing they are in the meantime getting wealthier and wealthier even as we suffer here with recession and stagnation.

      To all you Americans who think you are patriots but criticize ANYTHING that saves us from that "vision" above, why do you hate America? Why do you love Hugo, Mahmoud, the House of Saud or Vladamir. Every time you whine and cry about about electric cars and hybrids, you put a smile on their face...and another fine young American soldier is killed protecting our oil interests with the same money you pour into that gas pump. (and no, buying oil from Canada does not exempt you from the guilt you deserve, it is a world marketplace)

      If you loved your country, your way of life, you would embrace and welcome this technology with all your heart. To do otherwise is unpatriotic.

        • 4 Years Ago
        I like muscle cars. Does that make me "unpatriotic"?

        I have nothing against the Volt, but it is not something I would want to own. Should I hang my head in shame?
        • 4 Years Ago
        As someone working in the US offshore oil industry, I find your rant misguided but amusing
        • 4 Years Ago
        Rob,

        Misguided? 60+% of our oil is imported. ~50% of all our oil use goes to transportation. What exactly is misguided about starving our enemies?

        For a little bit of irony in the morning....
        GM Recycles Gulf Oil Booms Into Chevy Volt Parts
        http://jalopnik.com/5715254/gm-recycles-gulf-oil-booms-into-chevy-volt-parts
      • 4 Years Ago
      The problem is that this car lags in that aspect as well. It came out 13 years after the Prius and it's inferior to it at 2X the cost.

      A local dealer just delivered their first Volt and it already came back dead on a flat bed and the owner is requesting they take the car back.
        • 4 Years Ago
        2 cars out of 350 delivered this week supposedly towed in. Thats quite the rumor you have going there. Towed in for what? Flat tire, couldn't find the tire iron?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Right I'm going to risk my 6 figure job by telling information that could be damaging to my customers (the dealers that have to sell these cars), LMAO!:)

        tweaker (and you must be based on your posts) both cars were dead (as in they wouldn't run).
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sure it did :) ... and I'm pretty certain you just happened to be sitting outside and saw the whole thing first hand :) !
        • 4 Years Ago
        Meanwhile, while someone on the internet attempts to spread rumors of people demanding their money back, others are selling their spots for big money...http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220709942802&viewitem=
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nice try, that same old attempt to discredit companies someone hated was used at least two dozen times here on AB. Here's a new one for you. Disguise your voice and call your boss claiming to be customer that had contact with you and tell him how kind, courteous, helpful, friendly, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent you were and recomend a raise.
        But then, what would anyone expect from such a dedicated Toy fanboi.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No need to do that, I know the service manager at the dealer.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sure you did FT. With you being one of the most notorious Toyota defenders on AB an attempt to discredit GM or to take some of the negative attention off your beloved Toyota is seen by most as nothing more than a childish stretch of the imagination.
        Provide us with the dates and dealers name and I'm certain AB or some other source can be your lie detector.
        Until then, get back under the hood of your Toyota and finish those repairs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Unfortunately for both of you my line of work puts me in contact with over 130 service managers at dealers in 5 states.

        I just learned of a second Volt being towed back to a Chevrolet dealer. Much like the first one the owner of this 2nd Volt is demanding the dealer buy the car back.

        This is quite a disaster GM has on their hands.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Toyota was much in the same position with the original Prius as GM is with the Volt, taking a risk with significant new technology. The difference is that Toyota knew selling $40k hybrids 11 years ago was going to be damn near impossible, so they sold them for $20k, when they cost twice that to make. Typical short term US business thinking would say they were selling them at a loss, whereas Japanese long term thinking saw it as an investment in conquering new customers and cornering the hybrid market, which Toyota did effectively until the last few years.

      They managed to sell enough that they ended up breaking even and eventually making a profit, without relying on the government credits to gain a foothold in sales, and are now still, arguably ahead on tech.

      Don't get me wrong, I think the Volt is an amazing piece of tech and much more viable as a real car than any pure electric on the market today, but the marketing and business plan is all wrong.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Such are the consequences when people believe the government should subsidize everything. If it isn't "worth" the price they're asking for it, then it'll come down, or people won't buy it - simple.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The United States lead the space race, why can they not lead this race? This may not have the grandeur, but it has a much larger effect on our day to day lives.

      I would rather buy a more efficient ICE myself, but someone has to lead the charge.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually the Russians beat the Americans at everything Space related except landing on the Moon. But in the end America came out on top right? Right?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Elmo: Flashpoint is right, 90% of the entire electronics industry based off american inventions, yet NONE of it is made here.

        Here are some of the more significant inventions that "OUR" corporations at the behest of Wall St. gave away in exchange for a higher dividend.

        Microwave Oven
        GPS systems
        the simple computer mouse
        The Personal Computer
        The entire IT industry: Dell, HP, IBM Apple, Microsoft moved all of their manufacturing plants out of the US, costing us 8,000,000+ jobs. They did this in the midst of the federal government giving them enormous tax breaks. So, the myth that tax cuts creates jobs has been debunked.

        Everything Apple, or Microsoft makes is made in another country. Could they make the items here and still be profitable? YES, but they are slaves to Wall Street. It's stupid and short sighted, but who cares, as long as you get a bigger dividend.

        Yep, corporate america, gave traded away our industrial wealth / superiority for bigger bonus & dividend checks.

        • 4 Years Ago
        America can't ever lead again. Asia and traitors in our government have transfered all of our wealth to their countries and now they are on the cutting edge of technology - even in dubai - while we can't do ANYTHING.

        I hope Americans wake up one day and get these traitors out of office.

        V
        • 4 Years Ago
        DB, you are right on the Buran. I saw a program on tv once that showed a video of it launching. It started a bit crooked but the computer system auto-corrected the pitch and got it back straight. It was supposed to be able to launch a nuke from space. The video they showed was badass.
        • 4 Years Ago
        DB's history is correct. I don't know if I agree that the shuttle is a waste of money (frankly, I think Russia at the time just couldn't pull it off with the state of things as they were), but they did achieve most of the firsts. We simply beat them across the perceived finish line.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Tom

        I like how you contradicted yourself. Us landing on the moon put us in the lead in the race. We also are the first to orbit the Earth. Oh and where's Russia's space shuttles? They have to use our's to get a ride to the ISS.

        @flashpoint

        What in the hell are you going on about? If you're talking about giving government loans to Toyota and Honda, then you're wrong. The government loans were given to the US departments of each manufacturer that received those loans. Every manufacturer that received those loans have manufacturing plants in the US.

        Oh and if you're talking about Dubai as in oil...we get the majority of our oil from Canada.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is also private enterprise (automakers) versus governments in this example (awaits slew of 'Government Motors' babble).

        I agree it's more important, but like most things we choose to wage wars and blow money on crap instead of smart domestic moves. Not a surprise, sadly.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Elmo:
        You might want to check your history. The first man to Orbit the Earth was Yuri Gagarin, a Russian.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Gagarin

        The Russians also did have a Shuttle, called the Buran, but it had only performed an unmanned mission before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The new Russian government realized that a Shuttle was a total waste of money, and focused on the much, much cheaper Soyuz. A Soyuz launch is 1/10 the cost of a Shuttle launch.

        http://www.russianspaceweb.com/buran.html

        You've also got the whole ride thing backwards. US Astronauts take the Soyuz to the ISS, not the other way around. With the cancelation of the Shuttle and its replacement, the US will be dependent on Russian to get to the ISS.

        http://www.newser.com/article/d9k30q682/russias-soyuz-spacecraft-to-become-worlds-only-lifeline-to-space-as-shuttle-nears-retirement.html
      • 4 Years Ago
      Most arguments leave out common sense and focus on inaccurate comparisons due to lack of knowledge on the subject.

      But whatever. I know two people now who received their Volts and they're thrilled. I wish the same to the rest of early adopters.

      It's a car, not a lifestyle. People need to get that.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'd be thrilled if my neighbors paid $7500 for my car, too.

        I'm a big advocate for green & efficient innovations. I think the danger is trying to force products like the Volt in the marketplace and crowding out potentially better innovations. Listen to the Wall St. guy in the article - he wants GM to "lead" and to push with "120,000" Volts. This is dangerous thinking and all we have to do is look at Ethanol. Ethanol was handled the exact same way and look at where it's gotten us. We're worse off, the ethanol lobby is unstoppable, and we're being forced to subsidize an industry that is ultimately destructive.

        The problem is the unseen consequences. Innovation is great, but the green lobby/DC is taking away the potential for resources to be used in other ways that may be more efficient. People get real excited when money is thrown around for this and that, but it means that there are less resources for non-politically-motivated innovations that may be better.

        I'm not saying the Volt is destructive - it may or may not prove to be successful in different ways. What I'm saying is there is always the potential for unintended consequences even with the best of motives. If we really care about the long-term environment, we really have to consider this and not jump into this green hubris that uses emotions & politics instead of logic and reason.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The only real problem I have behind this car, besides the price, is the politics behind it!! And I am not just talking about the Federal Government, I am talking about the people who make this car about politics instead of thinking for themselves.

        • 4 Years Ago
        @Flashpoint

        You make a really good point. My thinking was that the car more readily integrates with your pre-existing lifestyle, instead of forcing a new one on you (since it doesn't require any change in how you drive).

        As you said, it removes the uncertainty. I'm just annoyed with the rabid fanboyish attitudes accompanying the hatred presented by CERTAIN Autoblog members.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ Elmo.

        Man you need to read real history not the American history. DB's right, you're not.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The big thing no one is talking about is "What are we going to do with all these batteries when they're depleted?" i guess the Big Auto and the politicians will deal with it like they do everything else: leave it for the next generation to fix it.

      When you look at not only the extremely "un-green" mining thats required to get the raw materials to make these batteries, but the political unrest it causes in the countries where the mining's carried, I think most people would see that a Prius is no better for the planet than a Ford F-150
        • 4 Years Ago
        You realize that your current car already has a battery in it, only smaller one, right? All batteries are recycled.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Did Limbaugh give you this "info"?

        The batteries are recyclable.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good point.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Volt is an amazing engineering achievement, which alone justifies its existence. I do not see is a money maker as much as a technology testbed. The lessons learned and technological improvements made by making the Volt are the basis for future (profitable and market leading) vehicles.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Let me just post this again in more detail.
      This may be a good reason your great-grandfather can't believe in Global Warming.
      When your great-grandfather was a child, there were only 2 Billion people on the planet. We are experiencing Peak Oil today, and we've got 2 Billion more people coming!


      The Economist

      1800: 1 Billion
      1925: 2 Billion
      1960: 3 Billion
      1975: 4 Billion
      1989: 5 Billion
      1998: 6 Billion
      2011: 7 Billion
      2024: 8 Billion Predicted
      2050: 9 Billion Predicted


      Birth rate is dropping.
      2.1 is the current replacement rate.


      http://www.economist.com/blogs/multimedia/2010/11/world_population
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