Friday, January 10, 2014

Volting Through The Snow, In A Really Limited-Range Car.....

Henry Payne in the Detroit News has an interesting comparison of the three different engine stylings of the same car sold as the Chevy Volt, Cruze or Cruze Diesel.

As most people know, cold kills batteries, and the Volt's winter performance is pretty darn underwhelming:

GM claims the Volt is good for 50 miles on a full charge, but range plummets to around 25 miles on a sub-freezing December day.

25 miles between plug-ins makes the car a no-go for most people who would use it to, you know, drive places, at which point it switches to gas and then the economics of it get even less desirable.

At current gas prices, recovery of the operating price of either the diesel model or the Volt over the standard gas Chevy Cruze is well in excess of the typical expected life of the car - around 13 years plus, depending on the numbers, and the purchase price of the Volt over the Cruze would take 5 years to recover (Yeah, the math in the article is weird and I wonder how they got to those numbers). Anyone want to pose a guess on how many volts will last 13 years without major overhauls?

Now,if you've got the means to throw away money, have an enviro-uber-alles sensibility, and don't have to go farther than 25 miles between plug-ins, then by all means buy the Volt.

For the Volt to be viable, you have to revolve your life around the limits of the vehicle, and most people rarely want to by a car to limit their options.

"For the Volt to work, your life has to be set up for it,” says Devin Scillian, WDIV-TV news anchor, best-selling author, and Chevy Volt evangelist. “And my life is set up for it.”

Most people's lives aren't, nor do I think most people want to switch their lives around just to have a Volt. Cars are supposed to be liberating and expanding your options, not confining and limiting them.

For now the Volt can't be considered a primary vehicle in Michigan unless you have a very limited range commute without much in the way of side trips and have charging stations everywhere you go, and that's not the case for most people.


Jay Ater said...

Yeah that 300 mile trip to Mom's house would be all kinds of fun in a volt.

No thanks.

Tam said...

As I've pointed out before, a little plug-in hybrid or electric runabout would make for one half of a two-car household here at Roseholme, as long as the other half was capable of driving to Knoxville and/or hauling stuff from Lowe's.

Every suburbanite who reads one of these pieces about electric cars and goes "Those are stupid! They'd never complete my commute!" is just the flip side of the Manhattanite who looks at an F-250 and says "Those are stupid! Where would I park it?" ;)

Aaron said...


It's quite true that the Volt and similar can work well in limited circumstances as you describe.

However looking at it economically, you can do exactly the same thing in the gas version of the Volt, the Chevy Cruze as you could do in a Volt. Buying the Cruze you'd save lots of money and have a car that is cheaper to operate with longer range and more flexibility to boot and have it paid off before its useful life ends, and it's still the same size.

I do like technological advances and as soon as the electrics offer similar performance to gas vehicles at a relatively similar price I'd be interested.