Despite his long history with traditional internal combustion engines and climate change skepticism, Bob Lutz remains a strong voice for the plug-in future of the automobile. If anything, his recent statement are getting stronger. To wit, in an recent interview with CNBC, the Chevy Volt's grandpappy (and the former vice chairman of General Motors) said that not only will the future be electric – "the electric car future is definitely coming" (in five to 10 years) – but he also said pointed out that EVs are at some point going to get so good that we'll all be ditching our gas-powered rides.

Lutz said that once an EV can go 400 miles between charges and recharge in 15-20 minutes, then, "at that point, who needs a gasoline engine?" A tall order, perhaps, until you look at the performance numbers for the Tesla Model S and you realize we're not all that far away. For $70,000+, of course.

Lutz also had some realistic criticisms of plug-in vehicles, calling the Fisker Karma "half-baked" and saying that even by 2025, he will be surprised if EVs make up 10 percent of the total auto market. Still, when Maximum Bob asks "who needs a gasoline engine?" it's worth trying to answer.

Watch the video below.


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  • 63 Comments
      DarylMc
      • 1 Year Ago
      Top speed 120km/h Battery 5kWh Range 275km @50km/h http://www.hochschule-bochum.de/fileadmin/media/solarcar/SW_GT/Technische_Daten/technical_datasheet1.pdf
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hey thanks Bob, for confirming that Tesla Motors business model was more forward thinking than yours. There have been advances in Li - sulfur, carbon nanotube and other electric tech recently, so there's that too. :)
      stumpy
      • 1 Year Ago
      true
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      I can't disagree with his assessment. He is still swayed by the notion that electric cars have to act exactly like a gas car. But the reality is that habits can change and people are flexible. If the car does what someone needs it to do then it should be considered as a choice. Sub 100 mile EV's do work for most people they just don't realize it - yet.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        A gas car has to perform like an EV car IMHO. No vibration, no oil to change, no >1000 moving parts, no intermittent power delivery due to the engine's power curve, low cost to operate, no endless war needed to keep it's fuel source coming... I won't buy a new gas car unless it can do what the EV does ;]
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        So you are disagreeing with his assessment.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          Not really. He is not incorrect in what he said but he doesn't see the larger picture. He is just stuck in his self imposed box.
        Ricardo Gozinya
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        Considering that most people don't have a garage or a parking spot where they can install a charger, no, EVs do not work for most people. Especially sub 100 mile EVs.
      DarylMc
      • 1 Year Ago
      Agree about the solar panels. Looks light and aero enough to run on minimal batteries. Styling looks good to me.
      SublimeKnight
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't think Lutz understands that battery tech hit a tipping point, making these cars possible. NiMh didn't have the energy density or longevity to make a practical EV. Sure the EV1 was made and it was a neat science experiment, but its cost, even mass produced would have been 6 figures and the batteries would be lucky to be useful after 60k miles. This generation of Li-ion makes cars like the Model S possible and the batteries are probably 50% of the material cost. What happens when batteries double in capacity? The model S gets 25% cheaper and has more range (because its lighter). It also makes a $30k 200 mile range car possible.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        I think you are over-optimistic about the progress of battery technology. I want to believe . . . . but . . .
          markrogo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          $150 kw/hour seems like a given without any breakthrough, based on Elon Musk's comments to Barron's before he hung up on them. We can debate whether that makes a $30K 200 mile car possible, but it certainly makes a 400-500 mile car possible and a much less expensive 200-mile car possible... So we are within 5 years of "everything we need" and within 1-2 breakthroughs of "everything we'd like," which is probably $50 kw/hour and 3-4x the energy density of current Tesla batteries. (That would make a 200 kw/hour battery weigh about 1000 lbs. or so.
          SublimeKnight
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          There have been gradual small improvements on fundamentally the same chemistry for a while now. Li-S will be a big jump in density (2x probably), then it will be gradual improvements again. Eventually something like Li-Air or Mg-Air pans out (10 or 15 years) and that will be a huge jump again.
      SublimeKnight
      • 1 Year Ago
      I found the comment about Tesla not being anything special kind of funny. He says they have no specialized IP and all they did was cram a bunch of batteries together. I have a similar experience when I watch professional tennis. Those guys aren't anything special. They just have better body fat % and more expensive equipment. The point is, just because someone makes something look easy, doesn't mean it actually is easy.
        Anderlan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        It's experience, too. You learn by executing. Look, can just anyone decide to make a 50mpg hybrid? Apparently not. Toyota took a while to get there. Any manufacturer can take a Prius apart and see the tradeoffs they made and duplicate it, right? Well, why is Ford having so much trouble? Why is there no other 50mpg hybrid? Maybe a lot of it is NotInventedHere attitude--Ford didn't just copy Toyota. The Ford's are Lithium, so you know they didn't just duplicate Toyota's systems. Maybe that's an advantage of the Chinese. They're willing to just throw originality out the window. Certainly helped the Taiwanese with computers. Bottom line, Tesla and Nissan are way ahead just be executing. I will be wishing beyond hope that other manufacturers besides Nissan and Tesla can make a decent EV in 10 years, just like I can only wish that other manufacturers than Toyota would make me a 50mpg hybrid right now.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        Really ignorant statement by Lutz. Tesla may not have a "Secret IP ingredient", but their secret is the "Recipe". Tesla's success is in their "Formulaic" approach to putting it all together. Acceleration, range, supercharging, high tech gadgetry, and Beauty. And if small format batteries "Crammed" in, is a way to get that formula... then it is a success. Bob's Via motors also doesn't have any special IP either.
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        And 10,000 hours of practice, just like TESLA.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        Yeah, the truth lies in the middle. Tesla certainly has developed a lot of IP and filed patents for it. But on the other hand, other people can just cram a lot of batteries into a car and achieve the same results. They just might not achieve exactly what Tesla has by doing things a little different.
      Jon
      • 1 Year Ago
      "I could easily see the price of gas dropping dramatically..." Not if OPEC has anything to say about it. When demand falls, simply constrict supply..
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yeah I think I've seen it before and it's pretty cool although for real world driving direct solar is too compromising a design. Simply makes more sense to have solar panels on house roof. Particularly night time driving is a significant weakness for it : ) But for camping in the wild it can be pretty cool to have a roll of solar film so the car is recharged while there. And can even function as electricity for camping gear :) Electric is good. Fuk ICE
      diffrunt
      • 1 Year Ago
      How soon for the grid to become overloaded?
        Ernie Dunbar
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=830 If you just charge at night, the power company will actually *thank* you for it.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        I wonder if people who started driving gasoline cars in the early 1900's though about that. "what happens when the drug store runs out of jugs of gasoline for me to buy?' i'm not so sure about this 'automobile' thing..."
        pmpjunkie01
        • 1 Year Ago
        @diffrunt
        97.48723654125 years precisely!
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nice to see him support EVs. But his wealth has him completely out of touch with the real-world. Yes, will can build 400 mile range EVs. And he could buy one. But the vast majority of people will never be able to afford such vehicles and they would be a silly waste of money anyway since 98% of the time you don't need more than a 100 miles a day. A 400 mile battery would mean paying thousands of extra dollars for something you only use 2% of the time. Wealthy people like him can waste such money but most people can't afford to be so wasteful.
        David Murray
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        There are other benefits to a 400 mile battery. For one thing, if you only cycle it 40 miles per day it takes 10 commutes to equal a full cycle. So the life-cycle of a 400 mile battery would be fantastic. Another benefit is you have more power available for extra torque. One problem with these little batteries they are putting in the Prius Plug-in and Energi products is they don't have enough raw power to give the kind of acceleration people want. Even Tesla can only offer the high end performance on their 85Kwh battery pack. The smaller pack has reduced acceleration.
        pmpjunkie01
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        Your actually using it 100% of the time since it allows you to keep your state of charge closer to the sweet spot of the battery. It also enables you to participate in the upcoming grid stabilization schemes to make some money back without having to worry about overall battery life. And 10-15 years from now you should be able to get this for the same price as you pay for a 100 mile pack today.
        jeff
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        The Li battery suitable for use in EV's started in 2008. Since then the average capacity has increased about 4% per year with no increase in the cell cost. The current EV's in the $30,000 range have about a 60-80 mile range. You can realistically calculate that out to 200 miles in about 10 years with no additional cost...
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jeff
          But Li-Ion batteries have been around for more than 20 years. And although there are some differences between most lap-top Li-Ions and automotive Li-Ions, they are largely similar. And with the Tesla roadster, they are identical.
        MTN RANGER
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        He did state this will take 10-15 years. During this time battery prices will drop to make it more affordable. You have to start somewhere.
          CoolWaters
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          Once tipping point is reached, it could take only 5 years.
      Dave D
      • 1 Year Ago
      "People are buying it because it's the cool thing to do...". Forget that people who buy them overwhelmingly love them.
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