The 2012 Chevrolet Volt (Autoblog).
In order for the Chevy Volt to really be a success, the car needs to be affordable for the masses.

But for now, the car is mostly the province of the wealthy. General Motors, which makes the Volt, said Monday that the average income of Volt buyers is a whopping $175,000 a year. That rarefied space is usually reserved for buyers of German luxury cars.

"The Volt appeals to an affluent, progressive demographic," says Bill Visnic, senior editor for Edmunds.com "It's rare. It's hard to get one. ... It's the same reason that people buy the really rare exotic cars: Because other people can't have one."

GM hopes that the battery technology offered in the Chevy Volt catches on with the public so much that it can scale up production, making hundreds of thousands and driving down the cost of the expensive lithium-ion batteries. The batteries drive the Volt to be a $39,145 to $42,085 car before a $7,500 tax credit, so lower battery costs would make the car a bit more affordable.

That the Volt is attracting the fat-wallet brigade is not all together surprising. A lot of wealthy car owners have opted to buy the Toyota Prius because of its high fuel economy -- 50 mpg in combined highway and city driving. The Prius has become a badge of environmental honor for suburban families, singles and celebrities such as Larry David, Jodi Foster and Brad Pitt.

Rob Peterson, spokesman for GM, says about 20% of people who buy a Volt trade in a luxury car, and another 20% trade in a Prius. The people purchasing Volts now are early adopters, he says, who are comfortable taking risks.

"They tend to have a higher income level as well," he says. "It's more of a lifestyle of taking risks and trying to be first that got them into that upper echelon in the first place."

What makes the Volt special?

It is an extended range electric vehicle. The four seat hatchback can travel up to about 37 miles on an electric charge. At that point, a gas powered motor kicks in and powers the battery to keep the car moving. In theory, if one drives less than 40 miles per day, the car would consume almost no gas on a daily basis, while instead drawing power from the electric grid. If owners are smart, they charge up overnight when electric rates are cheapest.

When running on gas, the car gets about 37 mpg combined.

The idea of an "extended range electric vehicle" is brand new to the consumer as the Volt went on sale less than a year ago. Toyota is in process of launching an plug-in extended range Prius that will go up to about five or six miles on pure electric. Nissan has an electric vehicle, the Leaf, out now for less than a year.

The Volt is surrounded by much controversy. GM has sold 4,495 Volts to retail customers this year, selling a few hundred per month in just 6 markets. It will build 10,000 by the end of 2011, with thousands of those earmarked to act as dealer demonstration vehicles as the distribution rolls out. GM says it has gradually increased production of the car, while planning a more robust production plan of 60,000 a year in 2012. It has also said a Cadillac Extended-Range EV is in the works.

Why is it controversial?

Many pundits object to the $7,500 tax credit needed to make the car somewhat affordable and competitively priced. Typical is Mark Modica, an associate fellow of the National Legal and Policy Center who wrote a screed against the Volt last month calling the car a "fiasco."

Critics like Modica, shock-jock Rush Limbaugh and conservative writer George Will, for example, have complained about the Volt, calling for the government to stop subsidizing development of such vehicles and allowing them to sink or swim with the public without tax-payer subsidy.

Engineering change

But that position belies the idea that the government has a role in trying to engineer changes in citizen behavior. Conservatives, of course, don't believe that is the province of government.

Through laws and taxation, though, the government has made it clear that it is trying to deter smoking in the workplace and public places such as bars and restaurants. By the same token, the government is vested in trying to establish a marketplace for electric and extended range vehicles by pushing up Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, making low-interest loans to automakers to develop electric vehicles and tax incentives to consumers to buy them since the batteries drive the cost up. The end game is to decrease reliance on fossil fuels to power cars and trucks, and create cleaner burning vehicles.

Some of the opposition to electric vehicles stems from an analysis of the cleanliness of our electric power, which is generated mostly from coal in the U.S. But critics who charge we are all wasting time and money forget that if a society opts for perfect conditions across all energy sectors and costs, nothing will get done. Related industries must move in parallel, if at different speeds, courses of progress. As more electric vehicles circulate, more charging stations will proliferate. As the number of EV proliferates, there should be even more pressure on utilities to adopt cleaner technologies to create power.

There is a cottage industry dedicated to opposing, and even ridiculing, electric vehicles, hybrids and natural gas vehicles. In a politically charged environment where "green" vehicles are often identified with liberal "tree-huggers" and conservatives are attacking government spending of all kinds, the Volt and other EVs are easy targets.

View Photo Gallery: Chevrolet Volt


How does the Volt drive?

The driving experience of the Volt has been lauded by numerous media outlets, including AOL Autos and Translogic. The car also won 2011 North American Car of the Year, an award voted on by fifty U.S., Canadian and Mexican journalists.

The Volt has the highest customer satisfaction of any GM vehicle in the last year. Buyers are early adopters of new technology who are enthusiastic about being part of a movement of change.

AOL Auto Editor-in-Chief David Kiley recently commented on the website's Facebook page that he was able to do a 90 mile commute to his office in a Volt while traveling on gas for only 20 miles of the journey, recharging during the day. Some are buying a Volt as a second car for their families so that multiple drivers can choose the Volt on a given day to optimize the electric range of the car. The gas motor in the car eliminates so-called range anxiety that comes with driving pure electric cars (What if I run out of juice and can't recharge?).

Compare Volt to ???

According to GM, 20% of Volt buyers are owners of luxury cars, with another 20% coming out of Toyota Prius.

"The Volt has comparative drive train dynamic to some luxury vehicles," says Volt communications director Rob Peterson.

Some reviewers compare the car, after tax credits, to a loaded Chevy Cruze, which costs about $10,000 less than the Volt after tax credits.

But that may be a false comparison. The technology and driving experience could well be compared with a Volvo C30, the loaded version of which is about $32,000 or very close to the Volt after rebate. The same goes for the Audi A3.

Compare a Chevy to a German lux brand? BMW of North America President Jim O'Donnell last August told AOL Autos, "We are very impressed with the Volt ... it's surprising that they didn't make it a Cadillac instead of a Chevy."

No wonder the wealthy are buying them.

Contributing: Ross Kenneth Urken, AOL Autos associated editor



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 453 Comments
      ltgravitt
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hello everyone, I posted a comment about the volt yesterday and got a pretty good little rise out of tina. I work for one of those evil oil companies and worked heavy oilfield when I was younger. Here are some facts for volt owners. You will still have to do oil changes, filter included, replace fuel filters, replace air filters, change transmission fluid no matter what GM says ( they have in print that they consider 150,000 miles a vehicles life ) and the older the vehicle gets the less driving time you will have in the electric mode, and the cost of a new battery pack will probably be half of the depreciated value of the car. No one knows how this car will hold up over a period of years and after the warrenty is gone I would think that the volt might be a little hard to sell on the used car market. Let us all keep in touch with Tina and if she can see through the forest to see the trees on the other side then she will tell us how much money she is saving driving her Chevrolet Volt. Hang in there tina and keep us posted. Thanks LT Gravitt.
        Tina
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ltgravitt
        Unlike many Volt-bashers, those who buy and own a Volt have done the research and understand it has a gasoline powered electric generator that will need servicing at some point. But given a duty cycle that sees it used 90% LESS than a non-electric car engine, those maintenance items will be spread out further and be required less frequently. In other words, in the 14,400 miles I drive in one year, the gas-powered generator will have been used for 1,440 miles. In 10 years. the engine will have 14,400 miles on it. That's not much wear and tear on a 1.4L gas engine. Your understanding of how the battery is designed to degrade gracefully over the course of a decade or two is equally flawed. The Volt has a 16 kWh battery but only uses 10 kWh of that capacity. The extra capacity means the battery is never being fully discharged (that means it will have a longer life). When the battery does degrade, those extra 6 kWh will be used to make up for the degradation (that means you wont know the difference). In addition, the Volt's battery pack is surrounded by a sophisticated thermal management system that keeps the battery within an ideal temperature range at all times, even when parked. GM put the battery packs through the equivalent of 150,000 real-world miles and ten years of use. The durability of the battery pack was tested for a broad range of extreme ambient conditions including a shaker table to simulate potholes and a thermal chamber, to simulate temperatures varying from 116 °F (47 °C), typical of the Southwest deserts, to −40 °F (−40 °C) typical of the Alaska tundra. The battery is a lot tougher than most understand. The rest of your post in pure conjecture, they are your guess.
      alfredschrader
      • 3 Years Ago
      They have to buy that because they can't get the Thunderdrive. Why ? The T-Drive is still on the shelf in my workshop. Bill Gates can't buy a Thunderdrive car. Why ? I aint sellin it....Al-
      Kent
      • 3 Years Ago
      As someone whose family has been driving GM since before WWII, I say bravo to GM. As a car guy, I'm keeping my Malibu LTZ with the 3.6L DOHC V-6. I like my 0-60 time (6.6) and the throaty exhaust.
      whelaniii
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hey I bought 2011 VW TDI Jetta sportwagon for half the cost of a volt and I have been getting 40 plus MPG around town and high fortys on HWY driving and it keeps improving as I but more miles on it,I only have 7000 Miles on it now,So far I love it. Diesel cars are the way to go
        cjohns58
        • 3 Years Ago
        @whelaniii
        According to a post by TDI Club, Volkswagen has issued a stop-sale on all 2009-2012 Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen and Golf TDI vehicles equipped with the company's 2.0-liter TDI turbo-diesel engine pending a voluntary safety recall. Stay safe.
      LL
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am new to the internet and a friend of mine told me about this car insurance website: ( http://tinyurl.com/InsuranceTip ) It was so easy to find everything I was looking for, when getting free quotes and comparing prices. I saved over 380.00 dollars on my families car insurance costs. My neighbor is an insurance agent and he was amazed at the deal I found.
      Robert Brooks
      • 3 Years Ago
      Will be another GM bust. By the time technology brings the cost of batteries down, the car will be irrelevant.
        Tina
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Robert Brooks
        Selling all they can make, waiting lists of buyers = bust. Uh, huh. Sales for September increased over 100% (on a small number, granted). More awards than any car in the last 10 years, Highest customer satisfaction of any new car in JD Powers survey. Highest crash safety test results. Even Consumer Reports has done an about face and given the Volt a Recommended rating.
          Robert Brooks
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Tina
          And the reason there is a waiting list at all is dealers only get 2-3 at a time. Bfd
          Robert Brooks
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Tina
          A waiting list of 175K + people. Will be a bust for the masses.
      ladyredskins
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sorry two reasons I would never own one, it's made by GM and it's a Chevy. Had my fill of GM cars and not happy with performance or the constant oil leaks that happen on all the models I owned which included Chevy, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile.
        Tina
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ladyredskins
        Good thinking. Ignore "what is" in favor of "what was". Careful you don't do a face plant in a light pole with all that backward looking.
      cjf7758
      • 3 Years Ago
      If you think 37 miles on a charge is good check out www.teslamotors.com, they make all other electric cars look like toys... Tesla has style, performance and O yea 300 mile to a charge in 7 passenger sedan.. and then a 0-60 in 3.7 sec Roadster that does 245 miles per charge.. Can't afford it but the technology is out there to get this done, and GM is happy with 37 mile and a Gas engine..
        Tina
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cjf7758
        I get 50 miles on my Volt's battery before the electric generator takes over. 80% of US drivers commute 40 miles or less per day. With a Volt, they can drive on cheap electricity and never need gas. If a longer trip is needed, the gas-powered electric generator kicks in. $31,500 for a Volt. $101,500 (after tax credit) for a Tesla roadster. The Volt can be charged from a standard household outlet. The Tesla? Not so much. So GM is providing a car that fits the daily needs of 80% of daily commuters. My commute is longer and I still get 256 MPG.
      • 3 Years Ago
      it is marketing now , how about if they make you own one??
      Tina
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Volt was being produced in very low numbers from Nov 2010 through July 2011 when the production plant was shut down to ramp up Volt production capacity. US-based delivery numbers are now trending up 140% each month: September 723 August 302 July 125 The Volt will be available in all 50 states by the end of 2011.
        Luna
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Tina
        You would be better off to buy 2 Hyundai Elantra’s. What will a new battery cost for the Volt? $7,500. Plus Hyundai did not force profitable dealers out of business and replace them with a dealer down the street.
      jself511
      • 3 Years Ago
      Who is the idiot that wrote this article? Chevy is selling what ... 30 of these duds per month? In the entire USA. You call that "Flocking to it"? JEEEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
      mark
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks just like the Pontiac Azteck, or a spin off of the Citation, both awful I guess if they say its a great car over and over again more people will believe, kinda like the emporers new clothes. Ill go with the VW TDI and the 50 mpg
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