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Transportation Power

GM Criticized Over Chevy Volt's Hybrid Similarities 657

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 DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:11PM (#33863672)

    If this is all true, why did GM misrepresent the car?

    Because hybrids like the Prius were already on the market, and "eventually, we'll get around to releasing a slightly-better hybrid on much the same model" isn't the kind of sales pitch that gets people to buy a conventional GM car now while deferring purchasing a hybrid for later.

    Sending the message "we are going to real soon now come out with an electric car that will make hybrids obsolete" is somewhat better as an effort to slow the success of the existing, already-on-the-market hybrids.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      If anyone was at all surprised by any of this, I have a bridge to sell them.

  • Decent competitor? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:12PM (#33863676)

    Not on price. It's fucking forty thousand dollars! It's an ECONOMY car!


    People are pissed because they still owe us (US taxpayers) nearly 50 billion dollars. This was the big 'ace in the hole' the used in part to sell the bailout to us.

    This piece of shit is not going to put GM on the road to recovery, and the US taxpayer on the road to becoming whole again.

    • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:14PM (#33863690) Journal

      Look, the government actually owns GM - Government Motors. The same guys that buy $400 hammers. The fact that the government can produce ANY motor vehicle for under $100,000 is a fucking miracle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Revotron ( 1115029 )

        You actually believe that $400 hammer bullshit?

        Hint: When you see a $400 hammer in a government catalog, it's not a hammer. It's a classified device, but they are still required to put it in the catalog. Therefore, they list it as something ridiculous like the infamous NASA "toilet seat".

        The $400 hammer joke died 10 years ago.

        • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:39PM (#33863896)
          My understanding was that the wasteful $400 hammers/toilet seats, were actually funding for the 'undisclosed' portions of the budget. But the 'wasteful' tag nicely got people in an uproar over something completely unrelated, thus clouding the issue beyond any rational discussion.
          • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @07:10PM (#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.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              Likewise, when I worked for a Navy contractor about 20 years ago, they were tasked to provide custom anti-static cases for some boards that were part of an on-board repair kit. Our guys gave them some proposed specs, including what kind of plastic to make everything out of. The Navy engineers thought they knew better, and decided on a different plastic that we knew wasn't going to work in the molds. They molded a set of three cases, and all three failed in the molds exactly as our guys said they would.
            • by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <bekhteul>> on Monday October 11, 2010 @09:30PM (#33865240)

              Further there is a LOT of testing goes into those things. Yea we tend to take a toilet seat for granted but one many of those airplanes and especially things like submarines *every* part is critical. Some engineer has to plan out pretty much everything that can occur to it and make sure that it either doesn't fail or fails in such a way that it doesn't become mission critical - that is expensive and, as you say, when they are only buying 50 of them it really drives the per unit costs up.

              I do work in mission critical computing and it is shocking how many SCSI terminators, USB cables, SATA cables, heck even raid controllers have an "acceptable" failure rate (uncaught) that is totally unacceptable when it is either millions of dollars per minute or often peoples lives on the line running through your equipment. Yea, we used to sell SCSI terminators at 1500 dollars piece, but when the countries stock exchange, New York cities 9-11 servers, or citi-banks central credit card processing servers count on it *working* it isn't that expensive. That's why EMC can charge the outrageous prices they do and why those data farms cost so much, it isn't the hardware that is the primary cost.

              A toilet seat having a .1% chance of falling off your seat at home is just fine, a .001% chance of one falling off and becoming debris in an aircraft that will probably need to make high-g maneuvers is not. They are paying to make sure that it doesn't become a fairly heavy flying object. So even after tooling up per specifications I bet there was en extensive testing phase that went along with it too.

              Similar thing is true for many of the "wasted" science - the part that made it not a waste was never reported. When I was at Oak Ridge National Labs we made the news for figuring out why a shower curtain pulls in when you take a shower instead of puffing out. I do not recall the exact amount spent but it was in the millions. Lots of carping about a waste of time - it was "obvious" (and the "obvious" answer was right too - moving air lowers pressure on the inside). However what the real science was about is that real life didn't follow the model with its margin of error - indeed it was well outside of it. The study modeled down to a molecular level, they eventually found some link with heat and water vapor (I don't recall exactly - I'm a computer scientist so outside of the opening paragraphs, closing paragraphs, and critiquing the methodology I can't do much). The big news about it around the lab was that the discovery was estimated to save several billion in fuel costs in the Aviation industry over the next 10 years. That little tidbit of information was never talked about, just the colossal "waste", the fact was it was an unknown effect and the easiest/cheapest to measure model was a shower. They could have tripled the budget and built a special made lab for it and sounded more "science like" (and is, later on, what they started to do to avoid bad press - yep, good thing people caught that govt waste).

              • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:31AM (#33868714)
                I work for NASA and sometimes I am responsible for those types of products. We get very special requests for equipment to work on the Space Shuttle. The first thing we do is try to find off the shelf solutions. If nothing suitable can be found we look for something close that can be modified. Only as a last resort do we actually design a tool from scratch. We have designed an built what was a $50,000 pair of vice grips. It had to produce a specific gripping force, be made of non sparking and non marring materials, be Liquid Oxygen compatible, and reach in at a certain angle. We looked all over for something that would work but we ended up having to make it ourselves. The alternative was to completely disassemble the Main Propulsion Line of an Orbiter which would have taken a year and cost tens of millions of dollars. So if someone wanted to make a big deal of it you could say we wasted $50,000 on a pair of pliers. In reality we saved tens of millions of dollars.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by T.E.D. ( 34228 )
              My personal favorite is Senator Coburn, who pays a staffer to ferret out "waste" in the millions of dollar range and blather about it on the internet, while Coburn himself is in the Senate working tirelessly to extend the trillions of dollars of tax cuts for billionaires, which is responsible for about a third of our deficit.
          • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @07:22PM (#33864316) Homepage

            My understanding was that the wasteful $400 hammers/toilet seats, were actually funding for the 'undisclosed' portions of the budget.

            That's what Seinfeld's Dad said in Independence Day, but I doubt it is true. All they have to do to fund the undisclosed portions of the budget is to move money from the disclosed portions to the undisclosed while telling everyone they spent it on the disclosed; I mean that's basically what's happening in the ID conspiracy theory, is it not?

            The super-expensive items the government buys fall into two categories. First is truly special-purpose limited-run items which as always cost much more than general purpose mass-produced items. Second is misguided attempts at cost savings by specifying government purchasing requirements so precisely that only a single product matches, but then the makers of that product change the formula so it no longer matches and to satisfy the requirement it basically becomes a special-purpose item. On example I saw in an expose on the subject was a simple detergent that at the time of the requirement's creation was both adequate and the cheapest solution. But since the industry moved faster than the speed of government bureaucracy, this basically meant the government was paying to keep the old equipment running to produce the old detergent. Poof, suddenly instead of being the cheapest option it's 10x more expensive than anything else.

            Truth is stupider than fiction. :)

            • But since the industry moved faster than the speed of government bureaucracy, this basically meant the government was paying to keep the old equipment running to produce the old detergent.

              It's worth noting that government bureaucracies move no slower (and often faster) than private industry bureaucracies.

              This is adequately demonstrated by GM's glacial pace of operations; the most significant innovations at GM in the last 80 years were driven by government mandates (seatbelts, fuel efficiency, pollution cont

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          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.
    • Don't worry, the executives will pad their bank accounts with what is left of the company coffers before finally driving it into the ground. Happy ending!

    • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:50PM (#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 cynyr ( 703126 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @07:20PM (#33864282)

        The Prius is a parallel hybrid as well, the gas engine can charge the battery and move the car or simply charge the batteries.

        The reason i'm upset(i use that lightly) is that 1) They have been billing and advertising the car as a serial hybrid, 2) The inclusion of all the extra drive train components is a big pile of more stuff that I'll need to maintain. I was looking forward to a car without a transmission, but this one has an extra complicated one.

  • Seriously, A TRUE serial hybrid using multiple engine/generators DOES make sense for something like the hummer or even a semi. BUT, for small cars? Nope. Far better that these are pure electrics, and if you need a 'range extended', then simply buy a gas car. Here in the states, most families own 2 cars. It makes sense for most homes to buy an electric. But the idea of a car carrying both gas/electric makes zero sense. BTW, for those that think that trucks/hummer/semis do not make sense, well, let me point o
    • They have bad ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:31PM (#33863844)

      I want an electric car with a small generator that runs off gas or diesel. Just a normal electrical car with a small generator and a fuel-tank. It will increase somewhat in size, but there is no reason to make anything complicated out of it.

      • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:40PM (#33863902) Journal
        First, you missed the batteries. Those add weight, and complexity. Now, you say that you want to add a small motor/generator. Well, as I pointed out, the RIGHT place for such an arrangement is larger trucks. The fact is, that if you need a range extension, then do one of serveral things:
        1. Buy a gas/diesel car. If you are going on long trips regularly, then you are better off doing this.
        2. Buy/rent a trailer with the generator. Seriously, if you need a range extender say once a year, then simply rent a trailer that has the ability to provide the electricity. Of course, the car has to be rigged for that.
        3. Buy a car that has fast charge.

        But it makes ZERO sense to have a 'range extended' car esp. in what is now a parallel system. Basically, GM is shipping a car based on profits to themselves, not based on what is good for customers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by skids ( 119237 )

      Well, one that had interchangeable power plant modules would make sense... going on a road trip? Take out the extended battery module, put in the ICE engine module.

      I'm still hoping they'll see the light on in-wheel motors so I'm not holding my breath for that.

      • Well, one that had interchangeable power plant modules would make sense... going on a road trip? Take out the extended battery module, put in the ICE engine module.

        I think you need to do the numbers on that one. ICE -> wheels is more efficient than ICE -> generator -> electric motor -> wheels, so you would need a bigger generator than the original ICE engine.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MadShark ( 50912 )

          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.

        • i think you left out a few of the inefficiencies, you don't hook up ICE -> wheels, there's transmissions, torque converters and drive trains in there as well. While still probably not better, going from ICE -> Generator -> Motor -> hub -> wheels may be close to as good as ICE -> Torque converter -> transmission -> drive line -> Diff -> more drive line -> hub -> wheel

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:52PM (#33864028)

      "Seriously, A TRUE serial hybrid using multiple engine/generators DOES make sense for something like the hummer or even a semi. BUT, for small cars? Nope. Far better that these are pure electrics, and if you need a 'range extended', then simply buy a gas car."

      Wrong. Volt-like cars are much better because you'll need much larger battery for pure electric cars. 40 miles is OK for Volt because it can fall back to gasoline at any time. Pure EV should have about 150-200 miles of range to be acceptable. Nissan Leaf with its 100 miles of range is barely acceptable for a fairly small niche.

      Also, your SECOND car will run on gasoline ALL the time, while with 2 GM Volts you can ride almost all the time without using any gasoline at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moridineas ( 213502 )

      It makes sense for most homes to buy an electric

      Hmm.. I would think that statement needs some serious backing up?

      How many millions of people live in cities where they don't have driveways/houses? In other words, how many millions of people park on the street or some parking structure that is not remotely set up for plug-in cars? Currently i would think that an awful lot of city-dwellers, people who live in apartments, people who live in condos or even townhouses, are excluded. Heck, a lot of SFH-owners are probably excluded too!

      (I'm assuming that a plugi

  • by fructose ( 948996 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:15PM (#33863710) Homepage

    Its a car that primarily electric driven and uses the gas engine when the batteries/motor can't cut it. Is it really that important what it's called? It's a car designed to be 'green' and that's what it's being sold as. The only thing that GM should be criticized for is the over estimation of the range you can expect. What we call is it pretty moot.

    • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:31PM (#33863850)

      Is it really that important what it's called?

      It is important. If it is simply a version of the existing hybrid cars, with both gas and electric propulsion systems, then it needs the maintenance that gas and hybrid cars need; oil changes, traditional transmission, etc.

      By being a fully electric vehicle it no longer needs those parts since there is only electric propulsion. Where that electricity comes from is where GM said the Volt differed. By adding a gas generator (range extender) module you lessen the chance of being stranded with a dead battery. It gives it a 'usable' range for family trips and such. More importantly, the range module can be swapped out for something else, an extra battery, a fuel cell..anything that produces electricity.

      If it turns out that the gas generator is actually driving the wheels, it can no longer be swapped out...

      The price is marginally (very marginally) acceptable given the new technology and abilities and projected savings that have been touted by GM. But if it's 'just' a hybrid with slightly better numbers, then the $40K price tag is simply ridiculous...

  • This is the direct result of wishful thinking (and huge government bailouts) meeting headlong with technology that isn't up to the task, and political considerations taking precedence. From the Nelson Ireson piece:

    For a person that likes cars, appreciates efficiency, and couldn't care less about the definitional semantics the rest of the press is engaged in, that's fantastic.

    "Definitional semantics" = "using words everyone else in the industry understands". Maybe in unicorn-land where he lives, the Volt i

  • don't see an issue. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pbjones ( 315127 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:20PM (#33863766)

    for most daya to day urban running it'll be electric. For long trips it'll be hybrid, so watt is all of the fuss about? The USA has such low oil prices it's lucky to see hybrids at all. I have an old Prius for gadget value, using EV mode to stealth around car parks etc. Still get worried when the motor stops at traffic lights etc. I would like to add the engine stop feature to my 'normal' car.

    • I DO (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 )
      That transmission is expensive to have in there, and expensive to run. The more layers that you have, the worse your performance. In addition, the higher your maintenance costs are.

      My guess is that they did not add this for the end consumer. I am guessing that they added this to increase their bottom line.

      As I have said all along, you would have to be a fool to buy a volt.
  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:22PM (#33863780) Journal
    So, if the batteries are dead, the car runs like a regular gasoline-powered vehicle. And people are upset by this? Isn't that a great feature? I'd be kind of pissed if I drove a Volt, were stranded in the desert because the batteries died, and when I complained, "jeez, why can't you just make it so if the batteries are dead, the gas engine runs the car?" "Naw, then it wouldn't be an 'electric vehicle!'"
    • by GPLDAN ( 732269 )
      That's exactly how a Tesla works.
      • Imagine how bad the Tesla would be if it had to lug around a petrol engine for situations where the batteries were empty. I am sure that would cut the electric range in half, at best.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Personally, I would take the simple maintenance on an electric car over a hybrid, at least for the sort of commute I have (which I can just do on my bicycle, so maybe add a few extra miles). Electric vehicles are meant for local commuting, with distances that resemble an urban or surburban commute to work, not an extended trip through a remote region. Electric vehicles win for local commutes, especially in major urban areas where traffic jams are common and gas powered cars waste a lot of energy idling th
      • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:46PM (#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 PRMan ( 959735 )
          But you look like a dork showing up to work (or anywhere else) in a 1988 Ford Taurus.
          • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @09:26PM (#33865220) Journal
            Actually, there are those of us out there who actually go for that look.

            I drive a 2006 Hyundai Sonata, bought used. I doubt there is a bigger "family-of-four-bland-box" car out there. You might as well paint it white and put a big black label on it reading "CAR". It replaced a 14-year-old Accord that I would have happily kept for another 14 years if I hadn't been a dumbass and rear-ended a guy hard enough to set off the air bags. ($4k to fix a car worth $1k?) I'll drive the Sonata into the ground as well.

            Why? Call it "cheapass chic". It's bland, it's boring, but it gets me from A to B, it fits 4 (and cargo), it starts every morning and it's farking paid for. I don't need anything else- I bought a guitar for *my* midlife crisis.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by codepunk ( 167897 )

          I agree 100% with you, I think you will find however that Hybrid and EV owners not real good at math. I also think the volt price tag is closer to 40,000 which really pushes it into the stupidity category.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

      If they made it so that the gas engine could completely run the car, rather than simply maintaining highway speeds when the battery is empty as TFAs state, then that's a further reduction in the Volt's advantages. It means the Volt would require a full-blown ICE drive train and transmission and the ICE would be required to run across a wide range of sub-optimal RPMs. At that point, I'd rather have a vehicle that just optimally shares power at all times between the electric and gas engines, like traditiona

    • by JesseMcDonald ( 536341 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:47PM (#33863966) Homepage

      The problem is powering the wheels directly from the engine significantly complicates the drivetrain. Before, you just had an electric motor driving the wheels, which means there was no need for a mechanical transmission. Moreover, the ICE was able to run at optimal RPMs because it only needs to power a generator, not supply power to the wheels at a wide range of speeds. This change mandates an automatic transmission (electric mode & multiple gears for ICE) plus variable-RPM support in the ICE.

      In short, they just removed the one feature which IMHO was actually interesting about the Volt, which was the modularity and simplicity of the drivetrain. I was interested before, but now that it's going to be at least as complex (read: failure-prone, high-maintenance) as every other parallel-hybrid on the market I don't see any reason to bother with it.

    • by kindbud ( 90044 )

      You commute to the desert? Wouldn't a Jeep make more sense?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by adolf ( 21054 )


      It's simpler than that.

      First, let's start at the beginning. The Volt was promised to be a series hybrid. That is: a gasoline-fired generator, which in turn would power an electric motor and/or charge the batteries. There was to be no mechanical connection between the gasoline engine and the driven wheels.

      There is nothing wrong with the original concept which would have prevented the car from moving in the event of having completely dead-flat batteries in the middle of the desert. Systems just like

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:27PM (#33863810) Homepage

    From the car connection blog:

    The problem the buff books (and a few online outlets parroting their stance) have with the newly-announced ability of the Volt to supplement power with mechanical energy directly from the on-board 1.4-liter four-cylinder, is that it's no longer purely electric power driving the wheels.

    This is a distinction without a difference. You can burn gasoline to spin a generator to charge the batteries to power the electric motors, or you can partially skip the middle man and send some of that gas-generated power straight to the wheels. Either way, gas is burned to turn the wheels.

    Okay, I think that's a fair point, but in my view it does make a difference. It means the Volt has to have a transmission, which means extra weight and maintenance issues, and all the complexity of an ICE-based drivetrain. It means the Volt's ICE may have to run over a range of RPMs rather than solely running at an optimal RPM.

    So while I'm in tentative agreement that this isn't necessarily a lie, and that the Volt can still look appealing versus other hybrid options, it still makes a difference and reduces some of the advantages the Volt had.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:43PM (#33863930)

      It's a one-gear "transmission", where the engine can provide extra power to the wheels. GM actually should be praised for having a simpler, more efficient system than Toyota, but all people can do is scream "You Lie!" and "Government Motors!", because they think they're being clever.

      Other than being "pure EV", there is NO ADVANTAGE-- The loss of 10-15% energy converting from mechanical to electric to mechanical is significantly mitigated, the car is more efficient, performance doesn't suffer under the "highway speeds in charge sustaining mode", and it's a pretty simple modification to the gearset for the primary motor. It also finally answers the question of why they weren't using in-wheel motors. For the first 35-40 miles? All EV. Charge sustaining mode around town? EV with juice being supplied by gasoline engine. Over 70 mph with battery mostly depleted? Now the engine is engaged in the drive-train and you're getting extra oomph from the engine.

      Now, the people who are actually *driving the Volt seem to think it has better acceleration, braking and handling than a Prius, with all of the benefits, and none of the drawbacks... But by all means, let's continue to rant against GM for a difference that 90% of the American car buying public wouldn't even understand, or care about.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

        but all people can do is scream "You Lie!" and "Government Motors!", because they think they're being clever.

        If that's all you see, when replying to a post that is doing neither, then you have issues.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pavera ( 320634 )

      If you're driving along at freeway speeds and the batteries deplete, maybe the generator can only supply enough electricity to run at 55mph, I don't know, but I'm sure the generator supplies power in watts, its rated for x number of watts, and to maintain speeds above 55 maybe you need more watts than that, maybe the generator would cost twice as much, or be 20% heavier it were rated to supply the extra wattage necessary to maintain 75mph... but for arguments sake, we'll say the generator can only maintain

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

        Don't forget traffic. One drunk driver ramming a semi off the road can cause a 2-4 hour delay, perhaps more if the semi is carrying toxic materials. Not factoring some time for cases like this may cause having to be towed off the highway (and some cities like Austin charge a hefty fine for stalled vehicles on freeways regardless of cause.) Germany is even worse. Run out of gas for any reason, and it is a fine.

  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:37PM (#33863876) Homepage

    The Volt uses a planetary gearset where the main gear is driven by the primary electric motor. The planet and ring gears can also optionally by driven by the engine and a second assist electric motor when needed. This allows the computer to continuously vary the power source that is driving the wheels. The only part of this equation that was not previously known was that the engine can directly give torque to the wheels under certain circumstances (without going through a generator).

    Typical operation for a daily commuter is stop and go traffic of 20 miles or less each way, which means the typical commuter in a Volt will use only the electric motor. The gasoline engine will never even start up. The Volt also comes with plug-in support from the factory. These two things are what make it different than existing hybrid cars. If you can sell these cars and start moving them in large numbers then you can start moving the battery prices down and scaling the electric-only range up. You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good otherwise you'll never ship anything. We know that in software, in hardware (think 1st gen iPod), and it is just as true in cars. The Volt is a necessary evolutionary step and I hope it sells really well because battery prices will drop and we can take the next step even sooner.

    I also find it disingenuous to run the Volt around with drained batteries so you can see its "true" MPG (whatever your definition of "true" is with this sort of test). That's like saying a hard-top convertible sucks because I wanted to see how it performed in the rain but purposely left the hard top in the garage. The whole point of the Volt is using 100% electric power for most people's daily commutes. If my commute is 37 miles round-trip, then the Volt gives me infinite MPG, which makes no sense because the electricity does have a cost to it. This just highlights how inadequate MPG is as an efficiency measurement.

    • Yeah that is the problem. The rating is miles per gallon of gasoline, not miles per unit joule of energy. That's why the MPG estimates are a lie *without* draining the batteries.

      I agree completely that we need new eff ratings however that can incorporate the charge discharge cycles of non originated electricity (efficiency of storage from the grid, efficiency of motivation from discharge of the battery, efficiency of storage of charge from gasoline, etc.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The Volt uses a planetary gearset where the main gear is driven by the primary electric motor. The planet and ring gears can also optionally by driven by the engine and a second assist electric motor when needed. This allows the computer to continuously vary the power source that is driving the wheels. The only part of this equation that was not previously known was that the engine can directly give torque to the wheels under certain circumstances (without going through a generator).

      This is exactly how the

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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 [] 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NuShrike ( 561140 )

        Wtf, the planetary gearset IS the mechanical linkage between the wheels and the engine. On the Prius, the center gear is driven by the ICE, and the outer ring is driven by the electric motor. Together, they drive the axles of the wheels.

        If the Volt is using the same system, it's violating Toyota-patents on this.

        Since this planetary gearset is what Ford originally patented on the Model-T, and not much different from a differential, then might as well claim there's no mechanical linkage between the engine a

  • by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <> on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:40PM (#33863904) Homepage Journal
    A poorly run company made a poor decision? Who could've seen that coming?

    Not that I'm bitter about what they did to Saturn...
  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:41PM (#33863910) Journal

    ...did they benefit from because of this misrepresentation.

    There can be absolutely zero doubt that they knew they were being deceitful, although the purpose may have been relatively innocuous; however, when you add this to the other deceitful tactics they've already employed and have been debunked (230mpg anyone?) a pattern of behavior seems to emerge that would require seriously mitigating circumstances which aren't readily apparent.

    • Whatever program they benefited from, it's probably small potatoes compared to the nearly $50billion they got from US taxpayers, for doing nothing other than asking. If I remember, politicians were bending over backwards to finance the volt, for no other reason than it's an American car.
    • by pavera ( 320634 )

      You people need to read the articles and use your brains.

      The articles clearly state that the "new" mpg stats are if you never plug the thing in. If it runs 100% on its gasoline engine to charge batteries in real time, then it gets 25-40mpg depending on circumstances.

      The 230MPG is some kind of "pollution" conversion that they do, the EPA hasn't established a standard for this, but basically it is "If you drive the car 40 miles each day, and charge it every night, so you never burn a drop of gas, then the po

  • For all the press and attention that the Volt is getting (and one can't forget to mention the capital cost, R&D, and engineering that went into it), the Electric Focus is actually a better example of electric car technology. It's _not_ a hybrid, but a pure electric vehicle with a 100/160 mile/km range. I suppose you could tow a generator behind it if you don't have a second car for a road trip.

  • by guidryp ( 702488 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:45PM (#33863940)

    There still must be some detail missing from this picture.

    They added the extra complexity of a power combining mechanism for extra efficiency and then only use at 70MPH and beyond.

    That is outside EPA testing parameters, which means this extra complexity won't add anything to the all important for marketing EPA numbers.

    So just how bad would the efficiency have to be through the ICE/Generator/Motor to add extra complexity to be used over 70MPH.

    Something really doesn't add up.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:45PM (#33863942)

    I have a 15 mile commute (each way), and rarely am able to reach speeds of 70mph on my way to work -- 35 - 45 is more typical.

    The Volt would give me an all-electric commute, yet I can still drive it 200 miles to Tahoe on the weekends.

    The all-electric Leaf will give me around 70 miles of range, so no long weekend trips.

    The plug-in Prius (official version, not aftermarket conversions) would give me around 15 miles of all electric range.

    I fail to see the controversy - most people can have an all-electric commute with the Volt. It was already known that the ICE engine would kick in to supplement the battery, the fact that it supplements via mechanical connection in addition to charging seems immaterial.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @06:45PM (#33863950)

    Why dont they have the ICE drive the generator which then drives the electric motor which drives the wheels? And do that at all speeds in all cases where the battery is out of juice?
    If the electric motor can handle highway speeds when the battery is full, there is no reason it cant handle highway speeds being driven by the generator set.

    If there are no mechanical linkages between the ICE and wheels, it becomes possible to swap the ICE (or ICE and generator) for something different. Such as a fuel cell. Or a different and better ICE.

    Also, the ICE would be able to be run without a transmission and be tuned to always run (when its running) at exactly the right speed to most efficiently run the generator.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pavera ( 320634 )

      My guess would be charge times. If you are driving on the freeway at 70mph, and the battery becomes depleted, you'd need to supply some number of watts, through the generator, to the batteries to maintain speed... if the generator can only realtime charge and provide enough power to travel at 50mph, then, your car is going to slow to 50mph. However, if the motor has extra power, but the generator is not large enough to use that extra power, it makes sense to rev up the engine a bit more, send that power t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cynyr ( 703126 )

        Or simply skip charging the batteries in the 70MPH situation and have a light come on that would mean "not enough spare power to charge the batteries currently"

    • Why dont they have the ICE drive the generator which then drives the electric motor which drives the wheels?

      Its okay for trains which don't have to overtake on the highway. I suspect that design would be too inefficient to deliver the necessary bursts of power.

  • 40,000 price tag plus interest, fuel, electricity, tires etc? The govt better help out GM by adding a 6 dollar a gallon federal gas tax to make it at least a break even proposition buying one.

  • ...but, having read TFA, the main issue seems to be that the gas engine will keep the car moving when the batteries go flat, as opposed (I guess...) to waiting on the side of the road until the engine charges the batteries back up.

    In any sane world, this would be considered a FEATURE.

    The issue seems to be a matter of terminology -- people expect an "electric vehicle" to only be powered by electricity, dammit, and if I'm out of volts my Volt should be out of miles, period. Personally, I don't think I'd

    • by pavera ( 320634 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @07:01PM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        I can see their problem from an engineer's perspective. Management and sales are demanding an MPG number on a car that can run all electric, all gasoline, or any combination of the two depending on owner's choice and circumstances. What can you do? Give 'em an honest worst case and best case, and tell 'em neither will likely happen in the real world. I wonder which number marketing will jump on....

  • To anyone who truely believed that the Volt would extend range to 230MPG: I have a bridge I want to sell you that is only slightly used. The entire purpose for Electric Vehicle research and exploration is to be carbon-free. Basically, the Volt is a hybrid and hybrids are largely the half-assed attempt towards being carbon-free. Really we should go all the way or not do it at all. It would seem to me that instead of hybridization, we should be promoting hydrogen fueling station and converting out interna
  • the summary is wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @09:41PM (#33865286)

    The ICE only drives the wheels when going over 70mph AND the batteries are run down. The summary says OR, this is incorrect.

    If you charge up, you do still have 25-50 miles of all-electric range, even at over 70mph.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.