Bob Lutz knows a thing or two about the Chevy Volt. He was, after all, GM's vice chairman in charge of product development during the Volt's gestation process, widely credited with ushering it into production. But now he says it should have been a truck, not a sedan.

Speaking with The Seattle Times, Lutz said General Motors was playing catch-up with the Toyota Prius, suggesting that it may have followed the formula too closely with the Volt. Since small sedans already get some of the best fuel economy in the business, the benefits of developing one as a hybrid – even as a PHEV – were minimal. Trucks, on the other hand, get dismal fuel economy and have a comparatively large carbon footprint. So developing a truck with electric propulsion would have made a greater difference.

Lutz may have a point, but take a look at what he's been up to since leaving GM and you'll likely ask yourself if his opinions follow his activity (read: employment) or vice versa. These days Lutz sits on the board of VIA Motors, which makes – you guessed it – hybrid electric trucks. The rest of his time he spends converting Fisker Karma hybrid sedans to V8-powered sports cars, go figure.


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  • 114 Comments
      TopGun
      • 11 Months Ago
      As an Escape Hybrid driver, I'd love a cuv with a Voltec drivetrain. The current Volt is too small for a family and activities. With a Voltec drivetrain, we'd need only the one car. A cuv would provide more space for additional batteries too. The Volt drives so much better than the Prius, and has a MUCH nicer interior, it's worth the price premium (with the incentive). Lutz...crazy like a fox.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 11 Months Ago
        @TopGun
        You can get a RAV4 EV if you really want such a thing!
        jonwil2002
        • 11 Months Ago
        @TopGun
        Put the Voltec drivetrain in a Traverse.
        axiomatik
        • 11 Months Ago
        @TopGun
        I've been saying this for a long time. The size of the Volt (and the fact that it only has 4 seats) excludes it from many people who are looking for a "family" car. The heart of the family car market in the US is the CUV segment. GM would do very well if they dropped this drivetrain into a Traverse-like vehicle (I think it needs unique styling from the standard Traverse).
        TopGun
        • 11 Months Ago
        @TopGun
        @2WheeledMeanace - Looks like the RAV4 EV is California only…AND…it doesn't have a Range Extender.
      Christos K. Dimou
      • 11 Months Ago
      Truth is that changing a 40 mpg vehicle, doing 15,000 miles per year, with a 120mpg vehicle will result in 375-125=250 gallons of saved fuel. On the other hand an improvement from 18 mpg to 30 mpg for a truck doing the same distance will result in 833.33-500=333.33 gallons of saved fuel. So it is clear that introducing hybrid technology to larger vehicles has a greater impact on CO2 emmisions and fuel needed. Although, we have to admit that simply shifting from vehicles like to F-150 or the MDX or (feel free to add) to its equally spaceous sedan/wagon could result in improvements of more than 8~10 mpg (from 18 to 26~28 mpg) that produce an equal amount of CO2 reductions even without hybrid technology. But this is a completely different story.
        axiomatik
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Christos K. Dimou
        The problem with Lutz's theory is that to have an impact, people have to actually buy the product instead of the standard options. The size and packaging of the Volt makes it palatable and desirable to "greenies" and some other early-adopter types. Building it as a truck wold have abandoned the "green" market, and left it merely to the early-adopter market which is much more capricious. GM's two-mode hybrid trucks and SUVs would have saved tons of gas if people bought them (50% improvement in mpg), but no one bought them, so they had very little impact. Now, down the road, once the Voltec technology has proven its value and durability to the mass market, then it will make sense to introduce full-size trucks and SUVs with Voltec. But right now, when only early adopters are buying, you have to appeal to the right early adopters to get them off the lots.
      StaceyS
      • 11 Months Ago
      I think it could have worked as a truck successfully in the market under the following conditions: - The hybrid drive train is marketed for its power and utility ENHANCEMENTS (instant torque, portable power source, etc). The fuel economy boost would be a secondary benefit. There's no reason a series hybrid like the Volt's powertrain would not work in a truck in a work setting. After all, nearly every long-distance rail locomotive is a series hybrid, utilizing massive diesel generators to run electric traction motors. Traction motors at front and rear axles in a truck would give awesome torque and towing ability, as well as an off-road dexterity improvement over automatic slush-box transmissions and the uneven torque curves of gas or diesel engines.
      no1bondfan
      • 11 Months Ago
      The small CUV segment is growing like crazy now, and would be a good place to use the Volt drivetrain. Most of the CUVs are basically the same on paper, so this would be a good way to differentiate. Something around CR-V size would sell very well.
        axiomatik
        • 11 Months Ago
        @no1bondfan
        Indeed. The CUV market is the heart of the "family car" market. The Volt is too small for consideration by most families. having a Voltec CUV would greatly increase their pool of potential customers.
      Marcopolo
      • 11 Months Ago
      Bob Lutz is not alone in his opinion that EV technology can benefit heavier vehicles. Over the years, I've converted 7 smallish pick ups, and one medium size, tray truck to electric propulsion for use as speciality vehicles. Within the limits of their use, (and the limits of my meagre technical resources), these vehicles proved successful. I've also bought, and employed, a number of hybrid trucks ranging from the worlds first hybrid truck, the Australian-built Hino ( a sort of giant Prius with a 150 hp diesel engine plus 31 hp electric), to the massive Liebherr T 282B mining vehicle. From NASA's Crawler-Transporters, to Coca-Cola's fleet of Hybrid trucks, EV -hybrid technology has become quite common in heavy vehicles. So what's so strange about the concept of a Voltec powered light truck ? The EREV format is very applicable for commercial vehicles, since 3 phase charging is more accessible at commercial premises. In addition the higher cost of batteries, is more easily absorbed in by the fuel savings. The only area where negatives seem to arise, is the market where some light trucks are driven in preference to cars, or small pick-ups. These objections seem to be based more on fashion, or image, than practicality, Ford, Dodge, GM, Nissan and Toyota, are all focused on winning this market by advertising the EV technology as "power boosters" , with suitably macho imagery. IMO, Ol' Bob may be 81, but he's not out of step with the rest of the industry, just slightly in front !
        Electron
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Marcopolo
        We're all heroes in the anonimity of cyberspace...
      Narom
      • 11 Months Ago
      Well no. With the Chevy Volt they built a car that after a few regional changes has much more appeal to the wider world. I doubt the Opel Ampera would sell if it was a truck in Europe. However trucks would work in america, a whole flatbed full of batteries would be one hell of a range. I said something similar when Royal Mail in the UK decide to switch to two to a van instead of everyone on bikes. They would be doing 100miles a day tops, would have been perfect for someone to come in and say have electric vans. The Renault Kangoo would be perfect since all they use is Vauxhall Combo's.
        gary
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Narom
        "a whole flatbed full of batteries would be one hell of a range." And hella-expensive.
      Jesse Gurr
      • 11 Months Ago
      Oh, for a second I thought that was Leslie Nielsen in that picture.
      Technoir
      • 11 Months Ago
      Speak loudly with a lot of confidence and you get promoted.
      JakeY
      • 11 Months Ago
      I think GM wasn't really open to that idea given the dismal sales of their 2-mode hybrids. People in that market unfortunately don't really care about fuel efficiency enough to pay a big premium. Perhaps something in the CUV market would have made sense though (the Outlander PHEV is selling like hotcakes overseas, and when it launches here it'll likely sell quite well too).
      Avinash Machado
      • 11 Months Ago
      What about a Tahoe or Suburban with a Voltec?
        06FJR
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        What about Tahoe/Suburban Diesel ? Look at the new Grand Cherokee. 28mpg for the 4WD and 30mpg for the 2WD. Diesel is they way we should be going . We have huge amounts of oil here in the US and we should be using it till technology really catches up and provides something everyone will want to drive
          Tweaker
          • 11 Months Ago
          @06FJR
          Even IF we could produce all our own oil, we are still beholden to world market prices and our support of those prices enriches the pockets of people who hate us. They need to starve - Go Electric!
          VL00
          • 11 Months Ago
          @06FJR
          "We have huge amounts of oil" - not really, we're still not anywhere near the peak of production in the 70's
      JB
      • 11 Months Ago
      I would not have any regrets about the Got. Its a awesome car. I think a lot of tuck drivers care more about the 'manly' image of a truck than fuel economy. Some truck drives by diesels so they can floor it, blow black smoke and be even more obnoxious.
      cpweinberg
      • 11 Months Ago
      I thought the entire basis of the Volt platform was to be able to put various models on it.
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