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Transportation Earth Power The Almighty Buck

GM Cornered Into Defending the Volt 769

Al notes a story in Technology Review reporting on a CMU study (now over a month old) claiming that the Volt doesn't make economic sense, and GM's response. The study suggests that hybrids with large batteries offering up to 40 miles of range before an on-board generator kicks in simply cost too much for the gas savings to work out (PDF). Al writes: "Unsurprisingly, GM disputes the claims, saying 'Our battery team is already starting work on new concepts that will further decrease the cost of the Volt battery pack quite substantially in a second-generation Volt pack.' Interestingly, however, GM admits that the tax credits for plug-in hybrids will be crucial to making the volt successful. Without those credits, would an electric vehicle like the Volt be viable?"
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GM Cornered Into Defending the Volt

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  • by digitalgiblet ( 530309 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:25PM (#27093239) Homepage Journal

    "...claiming that the Volt doesn't make economic sense, and GM's response."

    The GM response is that they understand that whole "make economic sense" statement. Like some foreign gibbersh to them.

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:29PM (#27093295) Journal

      I'm sure the companies that ultimately buys GM's R&D department from the liquidators will be interested in this.

    • How can it make economic sense? I'd much rather have a VW Sharan that gets 7 and still gets 40+ to the gallon. Why on earth are we trying to build electric cars that make no sense instead of using cheap, proven turbo-diesel technologies? Why can't I buy a car that will ride 7 and get 40+ to the gallon in the US? I'm baffled...

      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:52PM (#27093603)

        I'd much rather have a VW Sharan that gets 7 and still gets 40+ to the gallon

        I honestly can't figure out what 'gets 7' or 'will ride 7' is in reference too...
        After googling the Sharan the only thing that makes sense is that you mean 7 passengers?

        • A Sharan I know could ride 7...

      • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:56PM (#27093667) Homepage

        Before you get all proud about the 40MPG rating, please note that a US Gallon differs from an Imperial Gallon.

        A US Gallon is smaller, which makes British mileage ratings appear inflated compared to US ratings.

        Also, US residents can buy a Diesel VW Jetta, which seats 5 comfortably, and (legitimately) gets 40+MPG. They sell like hotcakes, although the total number imported is still somewhat small. I've driven one -- it's quite nice. Almost impossible to distinguish from its petrol-powered cousin.

        Of course, your main point still applies: By global standards, cars sold in the US are hideously inefficient, and we have an inherent fear of diesel, thanks to the loud, smoky GM diesels of the 1980s.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CompMD ( 522020 )

        What's most offending is that GM *knows* how to make good turbodiesel cars, we Americans have just been brainwashed into thinking that diesel==bad. When I lived in the UK I had a Vauxhall Zafira 1.9CDTi. I loved that silly box, and it got the same mileage as the VW Sharan.

        More interestingly, GM has brought the Astra over from Opel/Vauxhall and called it the Saturn Astra. Even doing the US/Imperial mileage conversions, the most efficient Astra sold in the US gets worse mileage than the least efficient die

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by russotto ( 537200 )

          we Americans have just been brainwashed into thinking that diesel==bad.

          Comes mainly from getting stuck behind diesel cars in traffic. Not just GM or trucks; the Mercedes 300D was just as offensive, as are the few US diesel Volkswagens.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by afidel ( 530433 )
            as are the few US diesel Volkswagens.

            Uh, no. Other than possibly a badge you would never know you are behind a modern VW diesel. Since the US switched to ultra low sulphur diesel in the fall of 2006 you have been able to get the modern diesels that actually have LESS tailpipe emissions then the typical gasoline car. Personally I like the idea of turbodiesels but what I'm personally waiting for is the Ford Eccoboost 2L I4, produces 250HP and 275lb/ft of torque on 87 octane and it should get phenomenal fuel
        • by stuntpope ( 19736 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:28PM (#27094221)

          we Americans have just been brainwashed into thinking that diesel==bad

          The interesting thing is that America's dislike of diesel passenger cars is in some part due to none other than GM, due to GM's horrible Oldsmobile diesels of the 1980s. Instead of just giving GM cars a bad reputation, it gave diesel engines a bad reputation in the mind of American buyers, and American manufacturers didn't offer another diesel car after that.

        • by DuckDodgers ( 541817 ) <keeper_of_the_wolf&yahoo,com> on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:41PM (#27094453)
          1. US gasoline is lower octane than European gasoline. The Astra engine was detuned from its European spec to use the cheapest fuel here, because almost all Americans buying economy cars expect to use the default low octane fuel.

          2. GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai ALL sell diesel cars outside the US. Right now only Volkswagen and Mercedes offer diesel engine cars in the US because our diesel emission standards for non-commercial vehicles are very difficult to satisfy. If you're going to find the situation "offending", be offended by the automakers like Honda and Toyota who had plenty of resources to offer diesels in the US (unlike the domestic automakers) and still failed to do it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stewbacca ( 1033764 )

          What's most offending is that GM *knows* how to make good turbodiesel cars

          Just because GM bought Vauxhall/Opel et. al. doesn't mean that GM has the slightest clue on how to make a "good turbo-diesel car".

        • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:25PM (#27095293)

          we Americans have just been brainwashed into thinking that diesel==bad.

          Almost all of the refineries in the US produce a fixed ratio of gasoline:diesel. If consumption doesn't match that ratio, the price of one will skyrocket compared to the other.

          It's not a matter of one being "bad", and the other "good".

      • by cabjf ( 710106 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:15PM (#27093991)
        Because diesel in the US is taxed higher than regular gasoline. Therefore, it won't make economic sense for someone to purchase a diesel engine vehicle in the US. Until the government changes that situation, diesel will remain a small niche in the consumer market.
        • by jshark ( 623406 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:55PM (#27094749)

          Currently, in the US state in which I reside, diesel is $2.089/US gallon, gas (petrol for all you people who spell it "colour") is roughly $1.889/US gallon. Both prices include all applicable local, state, and federal taxes.

          My 2002 VW Beetle TDI w/ 150,000 miles on it gets an average of 45 miles on a US gallon of diesel. My wife's 2006 Beetle uses petrol and gets roughly 26 MPG.

          Doin' the math that's more than 70% better mileage for only 10% more money, or, to put it in a different light, I get around 630 miles per tank while she gets about 360, or, to put it another another way, diesel would have to cost almost twice as much as petrol before I started to lose money on the proposition.

          Oh, and since I run diesel my car is exempt from state emissions inspections where I live, thus saving another $30-40/year.

          So, how exactly does this *not* make economic sense?

      • by netruner ( 588721 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:56PM (#27094751)
        I'll try to explain my viewpoint:

        Cheap, proven technologies are still steps down a dead end road. We need to take a step back in order to start moving forward again. Electric vehicles are that path forward. An economically viable method for providing electric vehicles has not revealed itself yet, however the potential has been seen. The problem is that there is no reason to produce the new technology to make them viable unless electric cars are present to create the demand, and electric cars won't be viable until the new technology is present. So, what we have is a deadlock.

        The question becomes "How do we break the deadlock?". This is a situation where the market as it exists today will not provide a solution in an acceptable timeframe, so we must consider external forces. Providing incentives to "early adopters" will be necessary to pull enough electric vehicles into the public to create a demand for the infrastructure. The problem of imperfect power storage is being mitigated by allowing for flexible power sources (i.e. onboard generators).

        The Volt is a transitional technology, not the end result. GM can't say that though - after all, who wants to be the guinea pig with something as expensive and important as a car?
      • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:46PM (#27098049)

        I'm not sure if you are trolling, daft, or just asking a legitimate serious question...

        > How can it make economic sense?
        You mean like how can the government afford to "bail out" a failing business model of the very same businesses that were against electric vehicles??

        >Why on earth are we trying to build electric cars that make no sense
        Right, we don't need sense like far less pollution, safer, stilumate R&D, etc.

        > I'm baffled...
        Here's a clue. Short-term last-millennium greed and thinking needs to be replaced with long term sustainability.
        Who Killed The Electric Car []


        "...During the Cold War era of the 1950s and early 1960s, General Motors (GM) urged patriotic U.S. citizens to "see the USA in your Chevrolet."
        Such advertisements on the part of the automobile industry served to seduce North Americans, as well as Australians, away from what was once a relatively well-developed mass transportation system that included passenger trains, numerous intercity bus lines, and extensive urban and interurban trolley or tram lines. Indeed, a consortium, called National City Lines, consisting of General Motors, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company had spent $9 million by 1950 to obtain control of street railway companies in sixteen states and converted them to less efficient GM buses. The companies were sold to operators who signed contracts specifying that they would buy GM equipment. National City Lines in the 1940s began buying up and scrapping parts of Pacific Electric, the world's largest interurban electric rail system, which by 1945 served 110 million passengers in 56 smog-free Southern California cities. Eleven hundred miles of Pacific Electric's track were torn up, and the system went out of service in 1961, as Southern California commuters came to rely primarily on freeways (Flink 1973:220).
        Unfortunately, Henry Huntington, the owner of Pacific Electric, used his interurban trolley company more as a scheme for promoting his real estate endeavors than providing a public service and often alienated citizens in various ways, including in his failure to provide lines that connected suburbs to each other as opposed to strictly city centers (Bottles 1992). A similar process in which a consortium of road interests colluded to destroy efficient trolley or trams systems occurred in numerous cities throughout the United States and Australia (Goddard 1994; Davison 2004).

        In the 1950s, with the assistance of the Eisenhower administration, the development of an interstate highway system resulted in enormous profits for corporate interests and benefits to supportive politicians, while hindering the development of efficient public transportation, and thereby forcing the general public to purchase and use cars for transportation (Leavitt 1970). Indeed, Lewis Mumford (1963) argued that the federally funded highway programs of the 1950s contributed to the creation of a "one-dimensional transportation system." According to Crawford,

        The Interstates gave truckers a subsidized route network that allowed them to compete successfully with railroads despite the labor and energy inefficiency of trucking. It also gave real estate developers the high-speed arteries leading to downtown that made large-scale suburban sprawl possible (Crawford 2000:88).

        A powerful lobby consisting of the automobile industry, the American Automobile Association, petroleum companies, and trucking companies, continues to pose a barrier to the development of an effective public transportation system in the United States. Whereas heavy trucks contribute more than 95 percent of the highway deterioration in this country, trucking companies pay only 29 percent of the highway bill (Freund and Marti

    • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:30PM (#27094263)

      The GM response is that they understand that whole "make economic sense" statement. Like some foreign gibbersh to them.

      Ladies and gentlemen of Slashdot, GM would certainly want you to believe that the Volt makes sense. And they make a good case. But I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca drives a Toyota Prius. Now think about it; that does not make sense!

      Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to drive a hybrid, carpooling with a bunch of environmentalists? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this post? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this post! It does not make sense! If the battery pack does not fit, you must acquit!

      The defense rests.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:25PM (#27093241)

    Apparently there are quite a few of GM's product lines that don't make any sense.

    • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:39PM (#27093427)

      Apparently there are quite a few of GM's product lines that don't make any sense.

      That's because you aren't 70 years old with blue hair, a hip-hop artist, a professional athlete, or a trophy wife. Otherwise their products make perfect sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      As in NOT releasing a diesel engine here. They're ALL over Europe. Every company that sells vehicles in Europe sells a Manual Transmission Diesel vehicle.

      VW has a Polo that puts the the "economy" vehicles they advertise in the US to shame. I get a chuckle when ever they come on the TV with "Up to an awesome 35 MPG". I can't get less than 40MPG unless I'm towing a trailer. And I've done 60 MPG when trying.

      Gen II BioDiesel is GTL []. Meaning you can make it from ANYTHING. It's what Germans used to survive WW II.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tawnos ( 1030370 )

        As someone else mentioned, an imperial gallon is greater than a US gallon.

        40MP(imperial)G * .8327(US)G/(imperial)G = ~33.3 MP(US)G.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I live in the USA. I'm fairly certain all the stations in Illinois use Imperial Gallons.

          That's in a car that was built in '98. My '86 (which was quite a bit lighter) could easily get 48-50 much more easily.

          The VW Polo I mentioned gets:
          73.94 MP USG Highway
          47.96 MP USG City
          61.87 MP USG Combined.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stewbacca ( 1033764 )

        And I've done 60 MPG when trying.

        So did I back in 1992 with my gas-powered Honda Civic VX. Sure it was a tin-can, but if fuel efficiency were in higher demand, the auto makers would make more fuel efficient cars. However, most drivers would rather get 20-30mpg and have in excess of 150hp as opposed to the 60mpg and 90hp of my Honda Civic. People seem to neglect the fact that horsepower and mpg are generally inversely related.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

        Every company that sells vehicles in Europe sells a Manual Transmission Diesel vehicle.

        Never heard of a Bentley or Ferrari diesel.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DuckDodgers ( 541817 )
      The following GM products have won comparison tests and awards, including some 'car of the year' awards:

      2007 Saturn Aura midsize sedan. 2008 Chevy Malibu sedan. 2008 Cadillac CTS luxury sport sedan. 2007 Saturn Outlook 8 passenger crossover SUV and its corporate cousins the 2007 GMC Acadia, 2008 Buick Enclave, and 2009 Chevy Traverse. 2008 Saturn Vue small SUV. 2007 Chevy Avalanche pickup. 2007 Chevy Silverado pickup (and GMC Sierra). 2007 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban fullsize SUV (and GMC Yukon and Ca
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

        Do they all cost too damned much and break down constantly like every other American vehicle I've ever owned? If so,no thanks. Most of my buds from school have been getting Kia cars, and after riding in one I understood why. Rode REAL nice and was very comfy. Got a fully loaded one for $16,500 and when one had a transmission trouble before work they APOLOGIZED to him, brought him out a brand new one to use as a loaner to his house, and brought his car TO HIM at work the next day on his lunch break and picke

  • rich buyers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OlRickDawson ( 648236 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:26PM (#27093243)
    Sure, it might cost too much, but hopefully enough rich, environmentalists will buy it, that the price will come down so that it will be economically feasible, and affordable for the rest of us. They can use the same selling model as the Tesla Roadster.
    • Re:rich buyers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ACMENEWSLLC ( 940904 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:45PM (#27093501) Homepage

      CD players were $1000 when they first came out. Only the rich had them. The price went down and down until today you can pick one up for $5.

      DVD players -- exact same deal. Blue rays were $1200, now you can get one for $180. As more people buy them, they will eventually come down to the ~$50 price point a decent DVD player is at now.

      Electric cars have been lingering at the high point because no significant car has been rough to market. The Tesla and the Volt appear to be the firsts going there. We need to take the first steps if we are ever to migrate from oil to electric.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If CD Players and DVD players are your guide, the price of electric cars will come down when they're mass produced in China and sold in Wal*Mart.
    • Re:rich buyers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lupine ( 100665 ) * on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:52PM (#27093605) Journal

      And I bet the study was don't by a bunch of economists that place zero value on having clean air to breath and clean water to drink.

      Sending transportation dollars to wind farms in Iowa instead of the Middle East, South America and Canadian tar sands also has no economic value.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tripdizzle ( 1386273 )
        Well, you cant really sell clean air. Water on the other hand, some are paying more per gallon of water than per gallon of gas. As far as wind farms go, almost everyone wants them, but no one wants to be near them or have to see them.
  • by Anonymusing ( 1450747 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:26PM (#27093249)

    They forgot the actual link [].

  • by adisakp ( 705706 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:26PM (#27093263) Journal
    It might not make the most economic sense *TODAY* without tax credits but putting the money into the technology being developed for battery and hybrids will make cheaper more efficient cars available in the future. The main cost right now is the battery pack but with more mainstream production as well as further research, this should come down in cost (higher capacity / cheaper batteries in future cars).
  • by dreadlord76 ( 562584 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:29PM (#27093297)
    Considering that GM is surviving on taxpayer money right now, and is begging for more, I don't see how GM has any credibility on determining if anything makes Economic Sense. Maybe the Green Movement can buy the technology off GM, and produce the car themselves. Let's see if that is successful.
  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:30PM (#27093301)

    "...cost(s) too much for the gas savings"

    Depends on the price of gas? Here in the UK we pay approx 0.90 GBP for a litre, = 0.90 x 1.42 (Pounds to Dollars) x 3.785 (Litres to US gallons) = 4.84 US dollars a gallon.

    This is much less than a few months ago when gas here reached close to 1.20 GBP a litre and with the pound being stronger at that time it was over 8 dollars a US gallon.

    Would you consider a gas/electric hybrid if gas was 8 dollars a gallon in the USA?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dare nMc ( 468959 )

      that also depends on why gas is $4.84 a gallon. If it is taxed to that amount, then that tax will need replaced, assuming the battery car is just as damaging to infrastructure funded by those taxes (possibly more, if they are heavier, require bigger electric grid, and more power generation.)
      If it is price gouging, and you can keep that gouging out of electric, then sure.

    • by Orne ( 144925 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:07PM (#27093835) Homepage

      Yes, and I bought one (a Toyota Prius). Of course I did that in Fall 2007 before the summer spike, because I value efficiency over origin.

      The problem is that today in PA, the price of gas (this afternoon) is $1.83/gal x (1.4086 pound / $) x (gal / 3.7854 L) = 0.68 GPB / L (you have a 33% markup in taxes over our taxes!) Dealers today have more Priuses on the lots than they know what to do with, because people won't pay the $28,000 price tag for a 40% increase in mpg. At current prices, it's cheaper to pay $12-15,000 for a compact car at 30 mpg and eat the difference in fuel.

      And that's what I see GM is up against. They are going to pop out a car that I'm sure will start at $30,000 for a compact car and go up to $40,000 with options (the gas/hybrid Prius MSRP is about $25,000 base). You won't have liquid fuel costs, since the fuel shows up on your electric bill, but it's still $0.0729/kW (that's from Exelon/PECO's web site for Residential rates). Wikipedia says [] that the Volt's battery capacity is 16 kWh, (wow, Wiki's cost estimates go from $35-40,000, only 30 with tax subsidies), with an effective use of 8.8 kWh. So, assuming you drive a full battery 6 days a week, 4 weeks a month, that's 6 x 4 x 8.8 x 0.0729 = $15.39/month to fuel a car, not bad! But what's harder to estimate is that your monthly loan payments are probably $300 higher... so that's where your gas savings go.

  • It does matter.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:32PM (#27093329)

    The Union is *currently* unwilling to cut back wages or benefits which is a requirement for GM to even get access to ANY of the "stimulus" money.

    Only when GM goes into bankruptcy protection (chapter 11) will GM have more of a free hand to cut what needs to be cut.

    Until one of the 2 happen, the Volt won't see light of day at a dealership.

  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:33PM (#27093335) Homepage that 10 years ago GM was telling us exactly that about the EV1, and we (the people who wanted one) were saying "but it's awesome, why are you telling us we don't want one?" and they were saying "there's no demand, it's not cost effective, it's terrible anyway".

    Damn CARB for crumbling and allowing any car with a slightly larger battery that can crank itself along with its starter motor to count as a "low emissions vehicle".
  • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:34PM (#27093347) Homepage Journal
    Yea, it doesn't make economic sense. GM knows they are going to lose money on every Volt that rolls off the assembly line. Thats not the whole story though. They need a new image for the brand, and they have pinned that image to the Volt. Forward thinking, efficient, and revolutionary in the auto industry is the idea right now for the Volt. Them going out of business might hinder their cause. But, then again, its their own damn fault for behaving like asses for 30+ years. Seriously, they may have made money of trucks and Hummers, but they were certainly not innovative or groundbreaking in their designs. Their overall structure was hosed for so long, its hard to see what restructuring they are gonna do to recover.
  • GM is working on it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:36PM (#27093375) Journal

    There are tons of people working on better electric storage system technology. This makes it sound like they are doing the engineering on their own.

    Look here [] and this one [] is really interesting IMO.

    When they get a breakthrough on high capacity systems it will make a lot of things possible that currently are not, not just cars. It is the battery technology that really puts the hobbles on generating your own electricity at home. Well, that and solar collector technology as well as HOA restrictions etc.

    If I could get tax breaks to install a 95%+ self sufficiency system I'd do it in the blink of an eye. Having an electric car on top of that would be even better. I would like a nice little commuter car or two; 40 mile range is great if it will also support solar trickle charging while parked etc.

    With an initial investment, I could become 95% free of the grid ... well, if I could do that, I'm all in... big time.

  • I disagree... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:36PM (#27093377)

    I bet the same thing could have been said about the Prius during it's development phase. GM could always offer the Volt for lease like the Honda FCX, another car probably even more expensive to be economically feasible at this time, not to mention that hydrogen stations are few and far between.

    GM has made tons of stupid mistakes, and frankly they deserve to be in the situation their in for it. On the other hand, the Volt is actually ingenious and I believe a more logical application of a hybrid powertrain than anything else currently on the road. I think it's cool that, like in diesel trains, the gasoline engine generates the electricity which powers the electric motor which in turn motivates the vehicle.

    And for a change, I think it looks nicer than either the Prius or the new Insight. Hopefully, GM will be in business long enough for the Volt to see production. I do acknowledge that the risk in this car being too expensive is that enough people won't be able to buy for it to help GM in any meaningful way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )

      The coolest part about the engine design is that if your really just running an engine as a generator, you can do some very, very neat things. Like put in whatever you want as a generator, like Diesel, or Hydrogen, or even a Mr. Fusion. And in the case of traditional engines, you can be just like a train, and optimize the crap out of an engine to be as efficient as possible in a given, limited RPM range.

  • Rhetoric. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:37PM (#27093387)

    I'm not a huge fan of this technology replacing the existing infraustructure (gas powered vehicles) yet. But only because of energy density in the fuel, not what fuel it is. And these vehicles do have a niche market -- must be about as frightening as Apple is to Microsoft (oh, wait... that's not a fair comparison. Apple might actually be double-digits now). But as the technology develops, and the energy density problem is solved, gas-powered vehicles will go the way of the dinosaur. /tongue in cheek

  • by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:38PM (#27093403)

    Recently my car got crushed by stuff falling off the roof of a business. So I've been the market for a new car. I looked at toyota between the Corola and the Prius. Both are similar size, but the Prius gets about 10 miles more to the gallon...for $6000 more.

    I did the back of the envelope calculations and there was no way that I'd make up the $6000 price difference in the time that I am likely to own the vehicle. Even if gas goes back to USD 4.00 a gallon.

    • by bgarland ( 10594 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:01PM (#27093737) Homepage

      You obviously don't value that the Prius is larger than a Corolla, more comfortable to ride in, and will probably last longer (based on the historical evidence of Prius so far).

      By the time a new 2009 Prius kicks the bucket (15 years at least), we'll see where gas prices are. I'm betting we'll be above $5/gallon before the end of 2010.

  • Yes. That's true. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 ( 180798 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:44PM (#27093495) Homepage

    It doesn't make sense, right now. Right this second. But last time I checked they didn't have it in any showrooms yet, so that point is moot. Just because a global economic meltdown happened that made driving a gas-guzzling GM make sense for approx 6-12 more months, doesn't mean GM should bet the future of its company on gas prices staying low. That's basically what they've been doing. If gas prices stay low it will be because the economy is horrible, and GM will go out of business because no one buys their trucks. If gas prices rise GM will go out of business because they still don't build vehicles that anyone will want to buy at $6/gallon of gas.

    The Volt is the ONLY thing GM is doing that makes the tiniest bit of sense. For goodness sakes, they released a passenger car hybrid that costs about the same as a prius, but gets about the same gas mileage as a minivan.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:32PM (#27094287) Homepage Journal

    GM sells the Malibu in a 'hybrid' version. A 'mild hybrid'.

    The engine has an oversized starter motor and a 36V battery pack in the spare wheel well. At a stop, the motor shuts down and is restarted in 500ms when the driver presses the acclerator pedal. Apparently, the Belt-Alternator-Starter [] system also can kick in and add a power boost to help with accleration, and in the city can improve MPG by 10-20% Interesting concept, and saves gas, but hybrid? Not by a mile. At least not IMHO.

    But GM will claim it, and plenty of people will buy it. It does save gas, this is good. But it is an example of the slow, painful, scratching-and-clawing approach Detroit is taking towards hybrids.

    I'm not very hopeful for an alternative fuel either. My personal choice is some form of ultracapacitor []. A capacitor makes a lot more sense than a battery; quick recharge, fewer chemicals hopefully, lots of available current hopefully. Still got the issue of the catastrophic release of energy if the capacitor got damaged, but batteries blow up too.

    I'n not hopeful we are gong to see ultracapacitors within 10 years. A long time to wait.

  • Also left out... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @02:36PM (#27094359) Homepage

    GM stated the following criticism of the study:

    1) The cost/benefit ratio was based on a battery price several hundred dollars more than they're currently paying. And GM claims they are making advancements that will lower the cost in the future.

    2) The study compared the 7 mile electric only mode of some proposed plug-in hybrids. However, GM criticized the study for not taking into account the need to recharge every 7 miles.

    I know for myself, that 7 miles doesn't do me much good. Even going to the grocery store doesn't would eat up a lot of that range.

    More thoughts with better quotes here... []

  • Silly really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:01PM (#27094863)

    I liken many of these new technologies to those ripoff infomercials about losing weight.

    "If you take this Pill, you will lose all the weight you want!"

    Its the same as industry saying, buy this new technology car and be as wasteful as before!

    As anybody that has half a brain will tell you the secret to losing weight is simple, it is a lifestyle change. Eat less food, eat better food when you do, and be more active.

    Same can be said about our current dilemma. You want to have cleaner air, and help the environment, etc... Well here is how you do it: Its called walking. Alternative crazy machines like "Bikes". Also the concept of "Mass Transportation", etc... This isn't new technology, its called being responsible. Sure new technologies help, and sure they can do great good, but don't believe the BS that the auto companies are trying to "sell" for one second. Because that is exactly right, they all they are interesting is in selling and the status quo. They want eveyone to buy one of their products, or two even. If it wears out, but two more. The fact that the total cost of ownership in terms of pollution etc, is actually higher then proven efficient old technologies doesn't matter. Its about PR, hype, and selling product.

    If you are really interested in the environment, clean air, etc... try walking to work, or biking, or taking a bus, or train, etc... Buy a house or rent close to where you work. Try not to be wasteful in anything you do. The simple basic things you do are likely way more effective than anything else.

  • by chipace ( 671930 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:05PM (#27094911)

    I'm opting to buy a plug-in prius next year. It will be cheaper than the Volt, and most likely higher in reliability.

    At least I am seeing some return on my tax dollars, as the Volt has stimulated Toyota to keep their Lithium-ion plug-in on schedule.

  • by katorga ( 623930 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:16PM (#27095105)

    GM has no choice at this point. They have taken so much government cheese that they will build whatever they are told to, no matter the cost.

    That said, as much as I liked and wanted a Prius, the numbers did not add up. I could get a Fit that averages 38/41 on my commute for $10,000 less than a Prius that averages 45/47mpg on my commute. The Prius no longer has a tax subsidy and 10 grand is a huge nut. I went for the cash in hand.

    My VW Rabbit in high school got 60mpg, and my friends' Civics and CRX's got 40+ in the 1980's....why do even small 4cyl cars get such bad mileage today? Is it just the weight of added safety features?

  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:33PM (#27095449) Homepage

    At the current gas price at about $2.25 here in the L.A. area, the choice currently is OPEC, not the Energizer. But at the price of fuel going over $5.00 a gallon, those cars with Battery Power will very tempting. Solar is starting to look good also, as Edison says it needs a 100 Million Dollars to give to it higher level staff as bonuses for doing such a wonderful job. Let's see, energy from the Sun and the Wind, that I can plug into at home. It's starting to look like a very straightforward solution.

  • by hwyhobo ( 1420503 ) on Friday March 06, 2009 @03:34PM (#27095469)

    There appear to be a few common myths being repeated here.

    US gasoline is lower octane than European gasoline

    No, it isn't. Octane rating methodology is different. Read Octane Rating []

    I would much rather have (some diesel vehicle) that gets this (some incredible number)

    1. Please make sure your are not quoting UK gallons - they are bigger than US gallons, and therefore get more miles.
    2. Please understand that fuel efficiency measurements in Europe are quite different than in the US. The 2008 US EPA measurement methodology is much more conservative [].

    cheap (diesel)

    Diesel in Europe is cheaper than gasoline only because it gets vastly preferential tax treatment.

    We have some bizarre unxplained fear and loathing for diesel in the US

    It may have something to do with poor diesel history in the US, but also with health side effects. Even with ULSD, the nanoparticles are suspected contributors to pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.

    BTW, I love diesels. I love driving them, I love the torque, I love increased fuel efficiency. However, it is important to know the whole story because the other side has very good points as well.

    As for hybrids and plug-in hybrids, yes, I will likely buy the new Honda Insight when it becomes available even if it costs more than a regular vehicle of the same kind, and even if I cannot recoup the extra price. I would rather pay more money for R&D into technology than drop coins into Al Qaida's collection box.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI