Motor Trend just published a 1-year review of the Chevrolet Volt. Given the Volt's importance to the economy as a whole (GM has sunk a ton of money and other resources into it), the Obama administration's image (yes, I know development was started long before he was elected, but the Volt has become inextricably connected with him in the public mind), energy policy and the environment in general, I thought it would be appropriate to post some excerpts from their findings.
2011 Chevrolet Volt VerdictI'd strongly advise reading the whole thing. This isn't from a lefty-political (or even political at all) source, nor is it from an environmental/ecological-based organization; this is friggin' Motor Trend. All they care about is the car itself, how it performs, how it holds up, how it looks and how it compares with the competition.
With a Year Gone By, Its Time for Some Answers
So there we are. A final curiosity from the car I drove from Detroit to L.A. with my daughter riding shotgun, filled 66 times with gas, charged 271 times, and a thousand times politely answered questions like "aren't you worried you'll run out of electricity and stop?" and "afraid of it catching fire?" and "how much?" Now that the Volt's year with us is up, it's time for some answers.
I'll start with those three questions I've heard so often. When the battery was depleted, the engine always started seamlessly. The Volt doesn't "die" at the end of its EV range, as pundits have claimed. Nor did it ever erupt into a lithium-ion inferno. However, it's quite evident from the car's sales that it simply costs too much for most folks (a $32,495 base price even after the federal tax credit).
Still, the real headline here is that nothing ever went wrong the car. Zip. Zero. It was breathtakingly reliable, given that the Volt is (and try arguing this with me) the biggest quantum jump in automotive technology in decades. Spooky-advanced-tech cars like this, I've noticed, are actually frequently more robust than conventional cars because their engineers are playing it very, very safe, knowing that everybody's watching with magnifying glasses.
I just checked Prius (family) sales for April 2012, and guess what? It's in third place among all cars, behind the Camry and the Accord. My point is, we need a much bigger perspective here. The Volt's costs will come down. Efficiencies will be incrementally learned. Let's meet up again in 11 years and see how the 2023 Chevrolet Volt is doing then.Sales-wise, they came up short of their goal last year, but have seen a substantial improvement so far this year. According to Wikipedia:
2010: 326 sold
2012: 7,057 (through 5/31 only; at that rate they should hit about 17,000 for the full year)
While these numbers would be barely rounding errors for any other traditional car, it's encouraging to see them ramping upwards.
Using the Toyota Prius for comparison (as suggested by the Motor Trend article; using U.S. sales only):
2012 59.1 (Through April 30)
While the Prius seems to have peaked in 2007 and has been dropping off since then, I suspect much of this is due to competing hybrid models upping their game. The point, of course, is that the tiny initial numbers don't mean anything; it's the trend that counts.
It should also be noted that these incremental improvements have already started. For instance:
--The Volt was released at $41,000; this has dropped to $40,000 (pre-credits, which bring the final price down to as low as $32,500, or $31,000 in California)
--The EPA-estimated EV range has increased by three miles, to 38 miles per charge
--They've added "hold drive" mode to improve battery efficiency
--The Volt is now eligible for single-occupancy HOV-lane access in California and New York
Also, one other tidbit I didn't know, which is welcome news to anyone who's concerned about the battery: The Volt battery is covered under warranty for 8 years or 100k miles, with no more than 30% reduction in capacity.
Plus, according to the 3-4 people I've spoken with who've actually been in one, it's a dream to drive, handles beautifully, and has the most precise construction of any car they've driven.
For my part, I'm hoping that my current car (a 2005 Hyundai) holds out long enough for me to be able to make my next one an EV...whether the Volt or a similar US-made model. If they can get the price down another $5,000 or so, I think they'll have a mainstream hit.
In the meantime, I went from seeing 1 Volt around here all last year to seeing 7 of them so far this year...including 2 of them right next to each other just the other day.