GM's Volt to deliver 100 mpg – but not a profit

1 Comment » August 11th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Science & Technology





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GM’s Volt to deliver 100 mpg – but not a profit


Wed, Aug 12, 2009

WHILE GENERAL Motors (GM) yesterday announced new fuel-economy data of up to 230mpg for its electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, the car is unlikely to make any money for the financially troubled firm.

Fritz Henderson, GM’s chief executive, said in a press conference in Detroit yesterday that the Volt had recorded 230mpg (1.02l/100km) in city usage during the latest official tests.

This figure is based on a draft fuel-economy cycle under development in US, designed to give customers an easy way to compare alternatively fuelled vehicles to conventional models. It means the car is likely to achieve a benchmark 100mpg (2.82l/100km) on the European combined cycle when it goes on sale here under the Opel brand, called the Ampera.

However, Henderson said the technology underpinning the Volt is expensive and will affect the price of the car. Earlier this week, GM filed a report with the US Treasury revealing its doubts about the profitability of the first generation Volt. The new car, hailed as the firm’s saviour, “has not yet proven to be commercially viable” according to the report.

Additionally, GM is worried that competitor companies will quickly catch up with the Volt’s technology. “Our competitors and others are pursuing similar technologies and other competing technologies, in some cases with more money available. There can be no assurance that they will not acquire similar or superior technologies sooner than we do.”

The need to get the Volt to market soon is clear but the November 2010 launch is now in doubt, despite pre-production and testing currently underway.

Regardless of doubts about the economic viability of the Volt, Henderson confirmed he expects “new GM” to break even in 2010 and become profitable again in 2011. A new product onslaught will form the basis for this – featuring 25 new models for the US market, including a Cadillac targeted at BMW 3-Series buyers.

While it is hoped sales of conventional cars will underpin the company’s immediate technology development plans, Henderson is confident the second- and third-generation Volt models will be more affordable and therefore profitable.



San Francisco Chronicle 

Will the Chevy Volt really get 230 mpg?

Consumers should take General Motors’ claim that the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid will get 230 miles per gallon in city driving with a grain of salt or — in this case — a drop of gas.

“Your mileage may vary means more to the owner of a plug-in than any other car on the market,” says David Friedman, research director of the vehicles program with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Volt, expected to hit showrooms late next year, can be plugged into a normal household outlet and travel exclusively on electricity for about 40 miles. After that, a small gasoline motor kicks in. On a full charge and a full tank of gas, the vehicle can travel about 300 miles, GM says.

The 230 mpg estimate grabbing the headlines is for city driving only and assumes the driver is operating mainly on electricity. GM has not released a freeway number for the Volt, but when it does, “it will be fairly significantly lower” than 230 mpg, says GM spokesman Rob Peterson. “By comparison to the rest of the industry, it will still be extremely high and noticeable. And when you combine it with the city number, it will be greater than 100 mile per gallon.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not verified GM’s 230 mpg claim, which was devised using the draft of a new methodology specifically for plug-in electric vehicles.

In real life, the cost of driving a plug-in hybrid like the Volt would depend entirely on how far you drive it between charges and how much you pay for gasoline and electricity.

If you drive 20 miles on electricity alone, technically your mpg is infinite. If you drive 20 miles on gasoline alone, you might get 50 miles per gallon.

You also have to factor in the cost of electricity. GM says, “The EPA methodology uses kilowatt hours per 100 miles traveled to define the electrical efficiency of plug-ins. Applying EPA’s methodology, GM expects the Volt to consume as little as 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in city driving. At the U.S. average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile.”

In some areas like California, the cost of electricity is considerably higher. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average residential price of electricity in April 2009 was 14.2 cents per kilowatt hour in California compared to 11.6 cents nationally.

PG&E says its residential rate is 16 cents per kilowatt hour, but it has a special electric vehicle charging rate of 5.7 cents during off-peak hours.

If you commute 40 miles or less per day, a Volt might save you money over the life of the car. But if you “commute from San Francisco to Sacramento, you are probably going to better off economically with a Prius. It will cost at least $15,000 less,” Friedman says.

The Volt is initially expected to cost something like $40,000 minus a $7,500 tax break, but the price will come down if the Volt enters mass production.

When the Volt hits the market, consumers should be able to see how much it would theoretically cost to drive it 25 miles and compare that to other vehicles at, an EPA Web site. Today, this site lets you personalize the official EPA fuel economy ratings based on your annual miles driven, percent of highway versus city miles and your cost of gasoline, electricity and other fuels. For plug-in cars, the EPA could add a line for miles driven between charges. (To use this tool, click on Find a Car and when you get to the desired model, click on Use Your Gas Prices and Annual Miles.)

Friedman says that when plug-in electrics become a reality, consumers “will have to think more about how they use their car before buying.”

From an environmental standpoint, “I’m excited about these (mileage) numbers. I just want to make sure we don’t over-hype the technology. GM is only talking about making thousands or tens of thousands in the early years. Plug-ins won’t have a big impact until there are tens of millions of them on the road and that could take decades. In the meantime, the biggest carbon and oil savings benefit we are going to see will come from the boring stuff: more efficient engines, better transmissions and conventional hybrids.”

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One Response to “GM's Volt to deliver 100 mpg – but not a profit”

  1. MoAl says:

    Wow, I could make good use of 100 mpg

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