• Mar 9, 2011
2011 Chevy Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

If the 16 kWh battery is the most expensive part of the $41,000 Chevy Volt, couldn't you seriously reduce the cost of the car by shaving some power from the pack? That's completely possible, say unnamed "insiders" at General Motors, according to Fav Stocks. One source said "we're there" when talking about reducing the MSRP by $10,000 through either re-engineering the Volt, ramping up production or putting in a different battery – or a combination of all three options.

We've asked GM for comment on this possibility but haven't heard anything yet. We can certainly see the appeal of a 20-mile Volt that costs just $31,000 before the federal tax credit (which would be less than $7,500 because the pack would be smaller), but we're unaware of anyone seriously pushing for this kind of vehicle. What about you, though, would you be interested in a chance to buy a baby Volt?

[Source: Fav Stocks]


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  • 66 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      The whole idea is the 80% engineering rule. Serve 80% of the people 80% of the time, while eliminating the need for imported Oil. In the USA that "sweet spot" is just over 40 miles AEV, as 40 miles AEV is really serving only 78% of the typical driver's daily use. Anything smaller, and the whole purpose of the EREV evaporates. I could see the Volt being offered in a 40-45 and 50 mile AEV, but nothing smaller.

      If you did offer a smaller battery, the mpge would shrink from triple digits, and the user reported averages of 180 mpge or better, and a great substitute for liquid hydrocarbons, to not much more than an HEV, but at twice the expense.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The fundamentally flawed assumption under your claim is that all charging is at-home.

        What if EV chargers become commonplace at work, school, and shopping malls?

        What if EV chargers become ubiquitous like WiFi?

        In such a scenario, a reduced cost for a 20-mile AER becomes very attractive, especially if you can remove cost and weight from the vehicle in the process.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hear Hear

        What GM shouldn't want is to do is to try to compete directly with the Prius Plugin (Which will cost acc to C&D $33 for perhaps 14 AEV in 2012) with a MPG disadvantage. That is exactly what we would get if GM tries to tweak the Volt in a less AEV direction merely to reduce the cost. There has to be a GM advantage.

        If they want to compete with the Prius plugin EV then they might be advised to compete with a Prius first, which apparently is not a easy feat of engineering to duplicate in a manner that yields market share (particularly as the Prius is a moving target of optimizations).

        Better to come to compete from a position of EV performance superiority and educate the consumer that the gas performance does not matter at all if you don't need to turn on the IC engine (much).
      • 3 Years Ago
      I say no, a 20 mile volt would not be useful. IMHO.

      40 should be the lowest, there should be future options of GREATER range than 40. The only thing they should focus on with the 40 range should be getting the cost down.

      The people who keep their volts for the long haul have options of putting greater ranged batteries in to replace the original. Wouldn't it be cool if you could pay dirt cheap for another 40 battery, but also have an 80 or 100 mile option.

      It's 8-14 years away
        • 3 Years Ago
        IMO, it's a little hard to say, and all highly speculative.

        The savings for a 20-mile AER Volt might be $3k less if it's just a battery pack reduction. This presumes that GM is selling the Volt slightly above production cost and only recouping development costs, without deriving any direct profit on the gen 1 vehicles. That is, gen 1 is basically to recover technology development costs, with the profits to be generated by gen 2+ vehicles. In that case, the MSRP reduces directly with the parts cost savings.

        OTOH, if it leverages economy of scale from increased overall volume (due to a lower average price point), and/or has decontenting by making some current features options, then the savings might be $4k or $5k.

        Regardless, a Volt product line with more configurable powertrain options would be a strong sign of product maturity.
        • 3 Years Ago
        They wouldn't.

        We can only speculate the cost of a 20 mile volt, wouldn't it only be about $5000 less?
        • 3 Years Ago
        If someone has a 10 to 15-mile round trip commute, why do they need 40 miles AER?
      Level4
      • 3 Years Ago
      reducing the battery size would mean going in reverse from the actual advancements ...Honestly why stop there cut the battery in 1/4 size to make the car cheaper or better yet dump the battery all together and make the Volt even cheaper ::sarcasm::... Cutting measures in order to make the Volt cheaper is not the solution.. For that you buy a Chevy Cruze...people just have to live with the fact that this technology is not cheap...

      If the car was cheaper people would buy it more are assumptions, "If" gets you no where..It's time for the "green tree huggers" to talk with their wallets and buy all the Volts Chevy can build...stop with excuses of why not to buy the Volt already...starting to sound like bunch of brats that are never satisfied and if thats the case prob never will be...
        Level4
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Level4
        thats like saying why should cars come with 15 gallon tank if you are only going to use 1 gallon for short trips...

        I understand what you are saying but the purpose of a EV is to eliminate using gas altogether..the intent was never about making a ICE more efficient with a 10 mile range battery pack..

        the goal is to get the same range you would normally get from a 15 gallon gas tank in an ICE car on battery power a lone...thats the direction EV suppose to be moving...for everything else there's hybrids..
        Level4
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Level4
        just saying if you offer and 10/20/30/40 range Volt with different price ranges then the Volt will be at war with itself, when the soul purpose of the Volt for being in existence was to alleviate from using as less gas as you can...by going in reverse with less range then you moving in the direction where we first started...
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Level4
        As I continue to ask, why buy considerably more AER than what you expect to need?

        If the AER is sufficient to reliably get to work / mall / movie / meal, and you can charge there, why do you need more AER?

        Especially if you have gas backup for onboard charging?
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Level4
        Yeah, because we're never going to have at-work charging to cut the required AER in half...
      • 3 Years Ago
      It wouldn't fit my driving habits. I need 30 miles a day, and the 40 mile limit gives me a good buffer. 60 would actually be more ideal.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Which is why, just as OEMs make different gas engines available for a range of performance and economy for particular cars, OEMs should make different battery sizes available for different EV workloads.

        The notion that "one size fits all" is completely false, or we'd all be driving the same identical car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A 20 mile range and 40 mpg in CS mode would be a good option.

      The 2 litre DI Turbo engine could be made to run atkinson cycle without the turbo, and have it drive the eCVT at highway speeds.
        • 3 Years Ago
        John,
        You seem to be adopting an unnecessarily adversarial tone, the reason for which I do not understand.
        My saying that there would seem to be significant issues in putting in a variety of different size and weight battery packs is hardly the same as saying that it is impossible to do.
        With present technology the weight of a 16kwh battery pack is around 160kg, whereas an 8kwh pack might weigh around 80kwh.
        This would seem to me to be a significant difference, and since in many cars such as the Fords the battery pack is basically added as an afterthought to a conventional car then you would seem perhaps to enter into some problems.

        I am not and do not pretend to be an engineer. I don't know and do not pretend to know how that compares with the extra weight and size of different engines.
        Perhaps you would enlighten us instead of getting iffy, as the question seems to me reasonable.
        • 3 Years Ago
        You're actually claiming that it's materially harder to repackage batteries of different sizes and weights than to repackage engines of different sizes and weights?

        You're aware that the Ford Mustang is OK with various V-8s and V-6 all of different weights and BMW manages to fit a NA I6, turbo I-6, TT I-6, and V-10 in the 5-series, right? Are BMW & Ford frickin' geniuses, or do they simply design the car to fit a particular mix of engines, up to a certain size?

        Once designed for a certain size, a battery pack can easily have cells removed to retain a desired weight distribution for a given chassis. This really isn't that complicated, but if you believe it is, please enlighten us.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @David: You're correct that my tone isn't the most positive - I'm reading things which make little sense to how I understand automotive and electrical engineering work in the real world. My post above to you is filled with incredulity, because you're basically saying change in static weight is some kind of huge engineering challenge.

        The Volt pack weighs roughly 400 lbs. I propose to cut it in half, removing 200 lbs of weight. That 200 lbs is the same difference as adding or subtracting one large adult male passenger in the rear seat. The engineering impact of removing 200 lbs of non-structural weight is small, and will only be a plus for the car's overall driving dynamics (assuming proper suspension recalibration).

        I use the Mustang as an example, because it's a common car using engines with varying weights, to say nothing of the big blocks that used to be available as upgrade options in years past. I tend to forget you're unAmerican, so suggest you compare the weight of a base Mercedes C-klass and an AMG C63, or even the original 190E / AMG Hammer. Big difference in engines there, but the car is OK with the change.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I see variable battery sizes this kinda like engines for the Ford Mustang. Ford currently starts with a V-6, and offers a wide variety of V-8s for performance reasons, and could easily add an EcoBoost I-4 for fuel economy.

        Saying the Volt must only have 40 mile AER battery is like saying the Mustang should only be sold with a 5.0 V-8. It's a good option, but shouldn't be the only one.
        • 3 Years Ago
        John, I can see pretty big problems in packaging and weight distribution in putting in batteries of different capacities in the same vehicle.
        It works in vans and Smith Electric offer it in theirs, but cars are a different ball-game.
        The easy way is to provide a fairly limited battery pack, and then when and if better batteries become available swap it, with a charge of course, for the similar weight and size but greater range new battery.
        Nissan/Renault design with this in mind for their BEVs, and Toyota may be following this strategy with the comparatively limited 13 miles or so for their plug-in Prius.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think David Martin (and Marco Polo) have hit the nail on the head here. Forget a 20 mile AER Volt that competes w/ the Prius. Seems like, if you are going to just have 20 mile AER (10 in the worst winter weather), you should just go with an "all parallel" drivetrain. Not the pseudo parallel trans in the Volt. Is it a "EV" or a "Hybrid"??? As far as I'm concerned, it is an EV--- 40 miles minimum AER.
      • 3 Years Ago
      That would not be a good value.
      The reason is that you still have to pay for the electric drive system and gas engine.
      You get far less electric functionality per dollar, which is already bad on the Volt in my opinion

      I don't think 8kWh really costs $7,500.

      My *retail* cost on 8.2kWh of lithium polymer batteries is $3360.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Keeping battery price in mind is a good point. The amount of money they can save cutting battery capacity is going to get (dramatically) less as time goes on, since automotive battery prices are only going to go down and not up.
        • 3 Years Ago
        That's funny because my retail price on lithium polymer is about $425 per kilowatt hour.

        Surely they are paying less, and some of that extra cost per kWh goes into wiring, BMS, thermal management etc.. but i bet their cost is similar to mine. Then god only knows what the markup to the end consumer + warranty price buffer is.

        I think Nissan is using more like 90% of their pack, where Chevy is using more like 50% - 60% to stretch out the lithium polymer's lifecycle out into the 8-10 year zone, as lipo typically has half or 1/3rd the cycle life as lifepo4/other lithium ion chemistries.
        • 3 Years Ago
        A year and a half ago Patil said that the Volt's battery pack was 'hundreds of dollars less' than a reporters claim that it would cost $625 per kWh. I doubt that the pack price has gone up from $425 per kWh in the past year and a half, but it is interesting that your price now comes in so close to what Patil was talking about in late 2009. I imagine that the difference between your price and what GM pays is 10-15%. I have no idea what Nissan is paying per kWh for their slightly less thermally controlled pack. Heck, I don't think I have even seen anyone say with any authority how much of the total pack capacity Nissan is using. 95%? 90%?
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's pretty certain that GM will adjust the AER for the next generation of the Volt based on driver feedback as well as improvement in battery tech and range extender ICE.

      However I don't think that such a severe cut makes economic sense for the Volt because most prospective buyers don't care about the minor discount (or they wouldn't buy a Volt).

      Where it would make sense to offer smaller AER at a cheaper price is in a small car like the Spark.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Das Boese

        Yes, that makes a lot of sense, after all the image of the Volt is a 'range extended' EV. Not a hybrid.

        If GM produced a smaller, cheaper model hybrid, in a different shell, it would find a market. But the Volt should remain what it is and strive to extend its EV capacity, not limit it.

        @John H, of course you are quite correct, GM will be hard pushed to recover costs on the Volt. At $41,000 the Volt is priced very competitively for such complex technology.

        There will aways be a conspiracy theory ignoramus like Grampus 1(Dan) who love to seem important by claiming 'inside knowledge'. This is why the National Enquirer has a readership!
      • 3 Years Ago
      As long as they don't name it Baby Volt, yes.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Whatever the Volt weighs, it weighs too much. The most effective way to cut cost and improve range ist to reduce weight.
        • 3 Years Ago
        In real life, the 20 miles could mean between 8 miles and 30 miles. And the 8 miles are just not enough.

        So my answer is no.
      • 3 Years Ago
      smaller pack will mean it will strain twice as much (or reduced acceleration) and it will be cycled more such that life expectancy will be reduced, perhaps significantly. if the cycle life of that particular chemistry is short already it could be too much for GM to dare. you might have to replace the pack every 5 years and have only 60% capacity after 3.
      if based on a more robust chemistry like lifepo it might last longer but that will also be more expensive such that the overall drop in cost is not great if any.

      far more importantly, the 41k$ price has very little to do with the battery cost. at 400$/kWh (pack level), the pack is only 6400$. as I have said several times, the 41k is a what they can get away with price. it has nothing to do with the actual cost of the vehicle.

      what I have also said is that reducing the cost of batteries in an EV is best achieved by making it light weight and aerodynamic so it will drive a lot further on the same pack size and the cycles are much shallower giving it long life.
      the Volt is far from optimized. just halving the battery pack wont make it right.

      changing the price to a more reasonable 25k$ would help though and they can indeed sell it for that without losing money.

      and people, ffs try reason this time instead of mindlessly assuming batteries are mythically expensive and GM would never set the price high. THINK!

      If anyone from GM with the relevant knowledge think that I am wrong let them come forward here and defend the price..
        • 3 Years Ago
        bvz, the Volt doesn't have gears. so while it has some added complexity in some places it's simpler in others. think of the volt as a prius with a bigger battery pack. which is what it is. except less efficient engine. and some clutch plates.
        they are counting on the mystique of the Volt to justify the price and people are buying the lie. but it is a lie.
        recovering investment is also easier if the car is cheap enough to be a smashing success. imagine the sales at 25k.
        • 3 Years Ago
        How will GM afford overpriced technologically illiterate CEOs if they sell the volt for only 25k?
        ss1591
        • 3 Years Ago
        Can you prove a single word of what you are saying? Every car company is quoting the same pricing for batteries but you know something that we all don't! Anyone can say anything and you just did.
        • 3 Years Ago
        John, he doesn't even work for GM and even GM would gladly lie. and I believe if you 'fact check' I think you might find that Bob Lutz said they will make money on the Volt.

        and I said 25. not 27. I wont answer you again
        • 3 Years Ago
        As with the $25k Volt, you claim insight, but can't back it up when challenged.

        How about you simply focus on how you concluded that a (40-mile AER) Volt could be sold for $25k (and still drive adequate profit for GM). That was my initial challenge to you, based on your initial unsubstantiated claim.

        Put up or shut up.
        • 3 Years Ago
        When I fact check, according to Steve Rattner:

        “At least in the early years, each Volt would cost around $40,000 to manufacture (development costs not included),”.

        http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/steven-rattner-dishes-on-the-chevrolet-volt/


        And as reported on ABG, the Volt had a $750M development cost.
        http://green.autoblog.com/2008/12/09/chevy-volt-will-cost-gm-750-milllion/

        Your $27k number doesn't square with known information.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Steve, every car company is quoting the same? where?
        they aren't. they are trying to avoid saying how much it costs because they want to be able to overcharge for the cars. nissan has actually stated their 24kWh pack costs 9000$. they later changed the story iirc.
        the reason I can know is that people are actually buying batteries. and they range from about 250-400$/kWh. Martin Eberhard who founded Tesla motors with Marc Tarpenning stated not long ago that the batteries he's looking at costs 255$/kWh.
        people who build their own EVs buy lifepo thundersky cells at around 350$/kWh.

        it is quite simply certainty..
        • 3 Years Ago
        More nonsense as usual.

        GM can recalibrate the usage for 20 mile AER limiting discharge depth similar to the 40-mile AER pack. That means the 20-mile pack lasts just as long as the 40-mile pack. It just means that the car switches to CS mode after fewer miles are traveled.

        $6.4k is a significant fraction of $41k. Cutting the pack in half cuts over $3k from the price, so that smaller pack would start the MSRP below $40k - a useful psychological point.

        Finally, the idea that GM can sell the Volt for $25k would be something you'd need to demonstrate. The way it works in the real world is, if you want to make a claim, the onus is on you defend it, not challenge others to disprove it like some Flat Earther. Throwing out the work on someone else is not reasonable. GM has previously stated that the Volt price was set so as recover cost without requiring subsidy. GM has the complete actual internal data behind their statement, so I think we can take that at face value barring some evidence to the contrary. I'm assuming that you have a rational basis for making this statement, supported by defensible investment costs, marketing data, and amortization information, as opposed to mere wishful thinking. So please share your basis for this claim.
        • 3 Years Ago
        John, so to criticize a president like say nixon for using CIA to break into democrat election HQ I would have to become rpesident elect first?
        and to criticize GM I would have to create one of the largest automakers in the world first?
        obviously wrong.

        and recalibrate? with what? a sonic spanner?
        you can limit depth of discharge but the shorter range will more quickly be exhausted thus more cycling on average. thus shorter life
        John, I have technical insight. you have none.
        • 3 Years Ago
        John, the reasoning is fairly simple. 6400$ battery pack. 17k$ Cruze, couple of grand power electronics.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Dan,

        You aren't considering engineering and development costs. Neither of which are free. And what about the extra transmissions? (three clutches!) You (correctly) observe in other posts that the Volt is a very complex machine. I suspect that this complexity along with the huge amount of development resources plus the low production volume all add up to a higher cost.

        This autoblog post suggests that GM spent about $750 million developing the Volt.

        http://www.autoblog.com/2008/12/10/gm-has-spent-750-million-developing-the-volt/

        Assuming for the moment that the car costs them nothing to build (an obviously false assumption) that means each car sold this year should be selling for $75K if they were to break even on just the development costs. Naturally they are not trying to break even immediately, but they are trying to recoup the costs as fast as they can.

        So, assuming your math is correct and the volt *should* retail at $25K ($17K Decontented Cruze + $6500 battery + $1500 electronics), GM will not break even on these until they have sold about 45 thousand cars. And *that* doesn't take into account extra marketing, extra drivetrain complexity, more involved assembly costs, or any extra content levels (the Volt is reported to be built with more expensive materials)
        • 3 Years Ago
        Run and hide, because you can't answer? Nice.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The answer is: Possibly.

      The big question is how big will the battery pack actually need to be to be able to provide 120 kW of power and very frequent full charge cycles.

      The smaller they make the pack - the harder the pack will be pushed.

      For example, they are currently using appx 12 kWh out of 16 kWh or 75% total capacity to ensure durability. You can't simply cut the existing pack in half to 8 kWh and still use the same 75% and expect the pack to last as long. You'd have to either use different cells which are designed to handle higher power - or cut the peak power draw from the pack - or decreased the usable capacity of the battery - or some combination of the above.

      Already with a 120 kW motor they are pulling 7.5C discharge rates from the pack. Shrink that pack in half and now you're pulling 15C - that's a big difference in load.

      In comparison - the Leaf with a 27 kWh pack (24 kWh usable or ~89%) with a 90 kW motor is only seeing 3.3C discharge rates. Much easier on each cell so they are able to use more of the total pack capacity and forgo active cooling with the same warranty.

      So let's say you only want 20 mile EV range instead of 40 mile EV range - if you can get higher power cells for the same cost / kWh - then yes - you might be able to cut the price of the pack significantly. If you can't - well you might only cut the price by 30-40% but you've cut the EV range in half. Without actually knowing the details - it's impossible to say.
        • 3 Years Ago
        One of the problems with the Volt battery which makes it bigger than it would otherwise be is that they have been pushed by the Government to make it last longer than might be dictated by the current state of engineering and have done that by putting in more kwh when it might have been arguably better to have a smaller, cheaper, not so long lasting battery.

        Here is the spec for a 20-mile battery that some such as Hyundai are looking at:
        'SK has assembled three sample PHEV packs and is currently designing a compact 360V, 7.9 kWh pack, targeted at a 20-mile all-electric range PHEV. The PHEV20 pack uses 96 cells and is 65 liters (0.065 cubic meters or 2.3 cubic feet) in volume.'

        http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/06/sk-20090612.html

        What we don't know from that is how much it will cost - extra durability and higher energy densities can be offset by their being more expensive.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A smaller battery may allow to have a five seat car?
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