Back around 1997, General Motors introduced the EV1. The EV1 was a marvel of engineering, absolutely the best electric vehicle anyone had ever seen. It held out the promise that soon electric cars, charged from the grid with wind and solar energy could replace the traditional internal-combustion vehicle. Battery technology at the time was nowhere near ready to replace the piston-powered engine. The early car’s lead-acid batteries couldn’t supply the range or durability required by the mass market. The car itself was a tiny, super-light two-seater, not exactly what American consumers were looking for. And the EV1 was hugely expensive to build, which was why GM’s execs terminated the program. This is how they became known as the company that “killed the electric car.”
Fast-forward to summer of 2008. GM has unveiled the very real Chevy Volt, a Lithium Ion powered car. Mike Davidson of Newsvine asked Bob Lutz if GM is looking at various ways to recharge the new Volt batteries. With ever-increasing electricity costs, even homes are being built with more solar-powered capabilities to save people money. How then, will the Volt be able to save money and power?
Bob was quick to assuage fears in this capacity. The Volt may be programmed with a local schedule of when power is cheapest. The car’s computer would know that, thereby only charging the car during off-peak times and costs. It wouldn’t matter if you leave your car plugged in all day long. The car would only charge itself during those cheaper times.
Lutz also stated that during the first full year of production in 2011, they are realistically planning to manufacture about 10,000 Volts. In the next year, they’ll be up to 60,000. Demand will obviously drive how much manufacturing is done. Of course, you always have to worry about any production problems. You could have supply problems.
Bob has also stated that the pricing for the Volt is going to be around $40,000.00. Even with such a high price tag, the demand is extremely high. People are chomping at the bit wanting this car.
Another question raised dealt with service for the Volts at local dealerships once they hit the market. Will staff be trained properly to work on these completely different cars? Will the quality of the Volt’s be maintained in a way that leads to a happy customer experience? Unfortunately, GM only has a modest amount of control at the retail level. They cannot force a dealership to train their employees for anything specific. They have tried, and failed, in the past to create a standardized method of training and customer service. The dealers have ultimate control over what goes on in their company. Bob pointed out that this is an industry-wide problem, though, not specific to GM.
GM didn’t kill the future of the electric car. They just put it off a little bit.
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