Anyone looking for a little extra reading this week could do worse than check out a 29-page history of the Chevrolet Volt. The story of the extended-range plug-in vehicle comes from a professor at San Francisco's Presidio Graduate School, Dariush Rafinejad. A disclaimer, however, is in order, as the study received "generous support" from Chevy parent General Motors.

The report recounts the Volt's development from GM's EV-1 electric vehicle program to the prototype concept (pictured) that was revealed to the world in early 2007. The study allows that GM's sheer size could have posed problems for those looking to develop the type of new powertrain technologies featured in the Volt. Then-GM CEO Rick Wagoner said in late 2006 that the auto industry would need to lessen its oil dependency, and that's just as then-GM executive Bob Lutz was going full speed ahead to develop a car that could go 40 miles on electricity alone. The Volt was meant to challenge both the Toyota and its Prius hybrid and to answer the new EV call from Tesla Motors. That 40-mile figure was key because three-quarters of American commuters drive less than that distance on a daily basis.

Whether the Volt's story up to today is a success depends on who's being asked. Proponents will point to the fact that sales are up. General Motors moved a monthly-record 3,351 Volts last month, an 18 percent jump from a year earlier. Others will note that GM has spent about $1 billion on the powertrain technology, and that Chevy takes a loss for every Volt sold. Both sides can find something to arm themselves with in the paper, so get it here.


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  • 21 Comments
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've read every word of the most interesting report. According to the inimitable Danny King: 'Others will note that GM has spent about $1 billion on the powertrain technology, and that Chevy takes a loss for every Volt sold.' The first part is true, in fact the total bill to develop the Volt is probably well in excess of $1 billion. Where is the reference in the report to Chevy taking a loss for every Volt sold? The nearest I got to this claim was in section 8: 'Even at $40K price tag, the executives believed GM was demonstrating willingness to commercialize Volt at an initial loss in order to establish technology leadership in the market.' So GM were losing money initially. Are they still doing so? I don't know, and there is, as nearly as I can make out, no information to that effect. Danny, journalism is not simply inventing 'facts' as you go along, and you would be more nearly professional if you would stop doing it. Of course, if there is any reference to ongoing losses on Volt production, rather than the development costs not being amortised on this model, which is a not uncommon practise and nothing to do with 'GM losing money on every Volt sold' then I will retract. Somehow I doubt that if there is no supporting reference and the loss per car is simply invention that a retraction from Danny and ABG will be forthcoming.
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      Opportunity cost of $1B vehicle development effort: They could have developed the Model S instead.
        no1bondfan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Except, let's be realistic, they could not. For $1b Tesla could design the Model S. GM couldn't do it - money is no substitute for creativity.
      theflew
      • 1 Year Ago
      GM could have easily designed the Model S. The Model S isn't really that special when you think about it. It's a large car with a lot of batteries. It's not revolution since it uses existing technology. If Tesla can come out with a EV that has Model S qualities in the next two years and cost under $35K then it will be revolutionary. It's not like GM doesn't know how to use aluminum, build cars or make electric motors. Tesla uses off the shelf batteries, so exactly what makes Tesla special, besides the entry price? Think about it. The reason why the Corvette is special is because of it's price. If it cost $125k it's just another exotic sports car, instead it's $55k.
      Aaron
      • 1 Year Ago
      They forgot to mention GM's flip-flop on the Volt initially being designed as an EREV, but finally being produced as a PHEV. I wish GM had the cajones to keep it an EREV.
        Jim Illo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Aaron
        I still can't figure out the criticism that "I wish GM had the cajones to keep it an EREV [instead of a PHEV]". Do you really want the Volt to have acheived only about 30 MPG when running on gasoline instead of 37 MPG? That's really the only impact that using a PHEV design would have had on the Volt. I find it odd that someone who reads autobloggreen would prefer that the Volt be less fuel efficient.
        VL00
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Aaron
        Aaron: EREV is a meaningless moniker, its something GM made up. PHEV means something to the SAE. Your statement is completely void of meaning, or intelligence.
        Joseph Wallace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Aaron
        Aaron, EREV stands for Extended Range Electric Vehicle. The Volt is an EREV.
        Naturenut99
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Aaron
        It is still an EREV. The engine doesn't have any physical connection until these two (2) conditions are met. 1. The entire charge as been used. 2. You are driving above 65 mph. Meaning even after charge, when engine running, it isn't a physical connection below 65 mph. Only after those conditions are met, does the clutch engage.
          MTN RANGER
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Naturenut99
          Yes. A good visualization of the transmission: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX5ZwzNwTc4
          Jim Illo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Naturenut99
          Actually, under heavy acceleration while in Charge Sustaining mode (engine running) the clutch also engages so that the engine has a physical connection to the wheels. That's why 0-60 times are faster in a Volt when the gas engine is running than when the engine is off.
      VL00
      • 1 Year Ago
      That can't possibly be right, I don't see Obama's name in there anywhere! /sarcasm
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @VL00
        The Obama administration car czar people pushed real hard to kill the Volt since the numbers didn't pencil out well. But the GM people were adamant about keeping it since it was needed for the long-term health of the company. I think both sides had good points and they came down on the right side of keeping it.
      Neil Blanchard
      • 1 Year Ago
      Gawd that concept Volt is fugly...
      no1bondfan
      • 1 Year Ago
      In before laser!
      eric.sales
      • 1 Year Ago
      Tesla showed the concept Mod S ... years later looks about 95% like the concept... GM good ol GM.
      Marco Polo
      • 1 Year Ago
      " GM has spent about $1 billion on the powertrain technology, and that Chevy takes a loss for every Volt sold " Not only incorrect but illogical ! The GM Volt is sold with a profit component, so every Vold sold reduces the loss for GM . The only time a model can be said to have made a loss against development costs, is either at the end of the product run, when the technology can no longer be used for other models, or if each units construction costs exceed the sales value. Since neither of those conditions exist, GM Volt/Ampera sales are still increasing and the Voltec drivetrain is being used as the basis for a whole family of models, it would appear that Danny King is just rekindling old hatreds.
      Levine Levine
      • 1 Year Ago
      The book is an info-commercial for the Volt. Why bother reading it when you know facts have been skewed in favor of GM. Like the Volt the book is a imitation of the real McCoy.
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