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Transportation Power

GM Criticized Over Chevy Volt's Hybrid Similarities 657

Posted by Soulskill
from the playing-with-words dept.
Attila Dimedici writes "This article says the Chevy Volt is not what GM claimed it was: an Extended Range Electric Vehicle. The Volt is simply a plug-in hybrid. Instead of a vehicle that is only driven with the electric drive train that uses a gasoline engine to charge the batteries, the Volt actually uses the gasoline engine to drive the front wheels at speeds above 70 miles per hour or when the batteries run down. Additionally, the Volt gets nowhere near the 230 mpg that GM was claiming for it. If this is all true, why did GM misrepresent the car? The facts as stated in the article make the Volt a pretty decent competitor to the Prius and other hybrids already on the market." A post at the Car Connection blog takes the opposing view, saying that accusations of GM "lying" are overhyped, since the capability to power the wheels with gasoline is reserved for situations where electricity isn't a viable option. The author says GM didn't mention this ability before now due to concerns over patents and competition from other companies.
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GM Criticized Over Chevy Volt's Hybrid Similarities

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  • by DaHat (247651) on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:23PM (#33863786) Homepage

    Uhhh...what? I think you mean General Motors. And no, they are not owned by the US government

    Um... did you miss the side bar?

    Owner(s):
    -United States Department of the Treasury (61%)
    -United Auto Workers Union Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (17.5%)
    -Canada Development Investment Corporation (7.9%)
    -Government of Ontario (3.8%)
    -Bond holders of Motors Liquidation Company (9.8%)

    If a 61% stake isn't ownership... I don't know what is!

  • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:30PM (#33863840)

    Look, the government actually owns GM - Government Motors. .

    Uhhh...what? I think you mean General Motors. And no, they are not owned by the US government.

    As of Aug 18, 2010, the U.S. Treasury held 61% of GM's stock. So saying it's "owned by the US government" is not entirely incorrect. Though I would *hope* that the term "Government Motors" was sarcasm...

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:46PM (#33863952)
    For a small commute it makes a whole lot more sense to buy a simi-reliable cheap, used car. You can find decent ones for $1,000-$3,000 if you know what you are looking for. Lets assume that an all-electric Volt would cost $25,000 new. Now, you wouldn't have to pay for fuel with a Volt and lets say you won't have maintenance for 3 years. And lets say you find a 1988 Ford Taurus for $2,000. Now, lets say you've got a 9 mile commute, thats 18 miles round trip, at the car's 18 MPG city you are looking at, say $2.50 per day, that is $2737.50 in fuel costs for 3 years. Now, even assuming that you've got to pay $1,000 in maintenance costs, that is still a total cost of ownership of only $5737.50 for 3 years. Plus, assuming that it isn't in too bad of shape you can recoup about $1,000 or more of the costs if you sell the car after 3 years. If you'd do that with the Volt you'd end up losing far more than $5,737.
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:50PM (#33864004)

    GM had this car in development well before the government bailed them out. And no, it's not an economy car just like the Prius isn't an economy car. An economy car is something like an Aveo or a Yaris. Yes, a Prius starts out at a relatively cheap range, about $23k, but add some options and you're easily pushing $30k, way outside what anyone would consider economy.

    If anyone were serious about economy they'd be buying cars with small displacements and ideally running on diesel. The catch is that such small engines don't even exist in the US. 1-liter to 1.4 liter engines are common in Europe and virtually non-existent in the US.

    It's disappointing to learn that the car isn't what it was initially billed to be, but after the initial uproar in the media it seems that the car does do what was promised but the gasoline engine can also motivate the car when necessary. That's still neat and is a decent leap in technology over the Prius. Of course, it also sounds quite complex and it does raise concerns about reliability. One of the big reasons why Japanese can make such reliable cars, well Honda and Toyota specifically, is because they tend to keep things simple.

    In light of the technology the price isn't unreasonable. Even after tax rebates the Nissan Leaf will probably still be less expensive, but you're also compromising. Range is significantly limited over a regular car and it's still 8 hours to recharge the batteries on 220v. You can install a rapid recharge unit, which reduces that time down to 30 minutes, but then you're looking at $15k or so for the unit and who knows what installation will cost.

    We'll see how this car turns out. But unfortunately it looks like the media might end up killing this car with all the negative press. If nothing else, GM had better hope the car is reliable because if it's not there's no way in hell they'll be able to recover from the mess.

  • by MadShark (50912) on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:52PM (#33864030)

    Not necessarily. You can run the ICE->Generator at the most efficient point of the power band constantly. Depending on the efficiencies of the generator and electric motors, you may come out more efficient.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Monday October 11, 2010 @05:58PM (#33864068) Homepage

    If a 61% stake isn't ownership... I don't know what is!

    That depends on the class of stock being traded. For example, you could own 100% of GOOG - but you still won't own Google, because ownership rights are vested in a class of stock that is closely held and isn't publicly traded.

  • by pavera (320634) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:01PM (#33864094) Homepage Journal

    well, the 30MPG vs 230 is just poor reporting. The articles clearly state that is IF YOU DON'T CHARGE THE CAR AT ALL. IE, if you drive it off the lot, and you never plug it in again, you will get 25-40MPG depending on driving circumstances. the 230 that GM claims is one of those crazy "pollution" conversion things, where if you drive it 40 miles each day, and charge it each day, so you are always using just electricity, then the pollution created generating the electricity to power the car is somehow equivalent to getting 230MPG burning gasoline.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:04PM (#33864136)

    You clearly don't live in Texas, where it is completely legal to drive at 80 mph where marked.

  • by publiclurker (952615) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:08PM (#33864162)
    Actually, the NASA toilet seats are legit. You don't actually think an off the shelf seat from home depot would work in zero-G do you. The NRE costs of things with small production runs make the unit costs very high.
  • by afidel (530433) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:10PM (#33864190)
    No, the $400 hammer was part of a special silent repair kit made for operating outside of the sonically shielded portion of a $Billions submarine. The kit was put together to a very exacting spec and then only a handful were ordered to go on the small fleet of American submarines. The rather high development cost was spread over a small number of kits. The $600 toilet seat was similar, a long out of production aircraft, the P3-C Orion subhunter (still used by NOAA for hurricane insertions) needed to have the existing toilet seats replaced due to age (25 years old at the start of production) and so a new mold needed to be made to fit the particular size and physical requirements for the aircraft. Anyone who works with plastics or fiberglass knows that the majority of the cost is in setting up the mold, so when you order 63 parts your per-part cost is going to be crazy high. Btw, this happens in industry all the time. When I worked at Cisco we spent several million on the tapeout for a new chip that ended up having a critical flaw that required a design spin and hence new tapeout. The handful of chips that were made with the flawed mask could have been said to be x hundred thousand dollar chips, but it would be just as inaccurate as the people yelling about the hammers and toilets. There's plenty of waste in the US government, finding stupid examples like those just makes you look like a fool.
  • by bored_engineer (951004) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:17PM (#33864254)

    The planet and ring gears can also optionally by driven by the engine and a second assist electric motor when needed. . . . not previously known was that the engine can directly give torque to the wheels under certain circumstances (without going through a generator).

    I read a Bloomberg article [bloomberg.com] earlier today in which the notion that there is any mechanical linkage between the ICE and the wheels is denied by both a GM spokesman and somebody from 2953 Analytics.

    Nick Richards, a GM spokesman, said the Volt always runs on electricity and has no mechanical link from the gasoline engine to the wheels.

    The car’s four-cylinder gasoline engine powers a secondary electric motor, which turns the wheels, Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s vehicle line director, said in an interview. The car’s gas engine doesn’t directly power the wheels, he said. GM never disclosed that fact because the engineers saw it as a benefit that boosted the car’s fuel economy, he said.

    And later:

    “In a Prius, there is no mechanical linkage between the engine and the wheels -- it goes through a motor,” he said. “They use the engine to drive a direct-drive generator to drive the motor. The Volt does the same thing, it’s just that the Volt can run with electric power without an engine longer than pretty much any hybrid right now can.” [Attributed to Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics}

    I didn't know that about the Prius. I thought that there was a mechanical linkage between the wheels and the engine. Guess that I was wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:22PM (#33864314)
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:27PM (#33864364)

    If a 61% stake isn't ownership... I don't know what is!

    Clearly, you don't know what ownership is.

    A 61% stake makes you the "majority shareholder"

    Ownership is undivided control.

    The US government owns, e.g., the U.S. Navy.

    Its the majority shareholder in GM.

    The two situations are rather different.

  • by plopez (54068) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:54PM (#33864588) Journal

    Actual lease costs were 33k, in the range of a much larger clientel. A lot of rich and celebs were lined up for it. First adopters, and think of the publicity. Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks had one for example. The production costs were 80k for an 2 model run of only about 800 models. Given that there was pent up demand for it, each run would probably have been larger reducing per unit R&D and marketing costs.

    CA was also installing charging stations, which would have improved its popularity.

    They had improvements to cut costs and improve performance in the works. We can only imagine what it would be like after 10 years of those improvements and economy of scale.

  • It's not lying. (Score:1, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday October 11, 2010 @07:23PM (#33864804) Journal

    Nope, it is not. It is marketing.

  • by NuShrike (561140) on Monday October 11, 2010 @10:02PM (#33865752)

    Your citation also proves that moderate ridership is more efficient than cars. It also ignores that train systems run LESS train-cars and less trains during non-commuter hours to even out density per total number of train-cars.

    Factoring these in, plus lower maintenance costs of rail vs asphalt, mass-transit is still a win.

  • by orthancstone (665890) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:34AM (#33868100)

    80? really? Wow, that's fast.

    Nah, that's not fast. That's rush hour speed along some DFW highways.

  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:17AM (#33869334) Homepage Journal

    The Tesla "Model S" is going to be costing about $50k per vehicle, and if you add in maintenance costs for a convention internal combustion engine over the lifespan of about 150,000 miles driven in the vehicle, that model starts to get real attractive compared to new cars. It still doesn't compete on the really low end, but Tesla is trying to push after the "luxury" automobile market like BMW, Lexis, and Cadillac rather than the cheaper end vehicle. The Model S isn't going to be a high performance sports car, but it is going to be a full-sized family vehicle capable of holding 3-4 kids plus parents and some groceries. The Roadster has trunk space for a golf bag and that is about it. That size was by design on the Roadster too.

    There is a "Blue Star" vehicle that is supposedly going after the lower tiers of the auto industry, but I'm not holding my breathe for that to get built. The Model S, on the other hand, is already at the production prototyping stage with versions already on the highway so far as verifying performance and getting it ready for the battery of tests needed to get something into serial production.

  • by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:48AM (#33872062)

    33808 [wikipedia.org] road deaths last year sounds pretty inhumane to me.

    This country had 2222 road deaths and zero rail passenger deaths last year, and zero deaths (so far) this year. (Last year four people were killed on level crossings, and one maintenance worker by a passing train.)

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