Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Electric What?

Nate told me to write about the Chevy Volt. So I did.

Right off the bat, chevrolet.com/volt is very misleading, if not a flat out lie:

“The 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Powered by electricity without being tethered to electrical outlets. It drives gas- and emissions-free for most commutes(6). But if life takes you a little further, as it tends to do sometimes, the gas-powered onboard generator can take you wherever you need to go, giving you up to 375 miles(9) of total range.
So you can just sit back and drive. Isn't that what cars are for?

Sounds great right? Silent electric power with about the same range as a normal passenger car, and the occasional putter of a tiny gasoline generator. (Also in my opinion, a vehicle’s use as transportation and pleasure are equal. But I digress.)
There were many claims that were made about the Volt like: The gasoline engine is only used to charge the battery, and it gets a combined mpg of 230. http://green.autoblog.com/2009/08/11/chevy-volt-gets-230-mpg-but-how/
Those claims were quietly retracted by GM as they had to announce how the vehicle really works.

So, let’s tackle two of Government Motor’s marketing department’s biggest claims about the Chevrolet Volt one at a time…

1. “It drives gas and emissions-free for most commutes.”

This claim, although definitely misleading is not false - that is if your average commute consists of driving the length of your driveway, getting the mail, and driving back up to the garage. Okay, that is slight exaggeration. Under normal driving with the air conditioning, radio, lights, and other necessary accessories running, the Volt can travel 25 miles on batteries alone. If you’re ginger on the throttle.

2. “A small, quiet on-board gas generator creates electricity that powers your Volt as you drive for up to 375 miles on battery and gas power.”

The key to marketing this vehicle is ambiguity. It was announced officially that the vehicle uses it’s gasoline engine to power the wheels, however the way they have gone about it is indirect enough for them to use language that implies the opposite. Excerpt from GM press release:

“There is no direct mechanical connection (fixed gear ratio) between the Volt’s extended-range 1.4L engine and the drive wheels. In extended-range driving, the engine generates power that is fed through the drive unit and is balanced by the generator and traction motor.

So in all reality, the Volt’s powertrain is based on the same principles of other popular hybrids like the Toyota Prius and its counterpart, the Lexus HS. All of the vehicle’s hybrid systems employ a single planetary gear set, a gasoline powered internal combustion engine, and two electric motor/generators. In the Volt, the energy created from the gasoline engine is routed somewhat indirectly through the “Voltec” drive system, in a manner that is less efficient, however useful when it comes to marketing.

Ah, and another helpful note, when the battery does become depleted and the 1.4L combustion engine kicks in, the Volts gets you a whopping 36 miles per gallon. Ground breaking? Well, hardly.

Another thing I found interesting was the “Remote Start” feature included on your key. How this is useful in a seemingly “Electric Car” is somewhat beyond me…

The fact is, Government Motor’s Chevy Volt is nothing but a glorified plug-in Prius with all the cheap plastic parts GM has become so well loved for. My main gripe is not that the Volt is completely ridiculous, which it may be, it is that GM has and continues to make it appear as a fully electric vehicle in order to win green points. And interestingly enough, the Volt was funded completely by who? Oh yeah, you, the taxpayer. And for every Volt purchased we pay another $7,000 in Government Incentives.

I could go on about this but I’m tired and hungry, so...

Click here to watch President Barack Obama drive the Volt a whole 6 feet; it must be good.

//max jackson


  1. Not too mention that Electric cars are worse for the environment then regular ones! Just because some may not have a engine, it uses ELECTRICITY! and where does that electricity come from? Power Plants! and what are power plants run by? Mostly Coal!!!!! which coal is already worse than gas. So this would cause more burning of coal, which harms the environment more. Then to make it even worse electric cars only get a energy efficiency of 30% as compared to 35% in regular cars and 48% in diesel. So not only are you burning more coal but you are wasting more energy, which is in the end going to cause more coal to be burnt in the first place!
    Then as if the " deteriorating environment" wasnt already bad enough according to conservationist of the earth. They are basically contradicting themselves.
    And just what is the cherry on the cake. Well electric cars have to have batteries on them. And how are batteries made? Well first you have to find a huge piece of land. Then you have to dig up everything in search for the lithium metal. Then the metal is made toxic and such so that it can hold charge, and in the end you have a battery and really torn up land. And too make things even worse, too dig up the metal you have to use big work trucks that burn even more gas.
    Electric cars are ridiculous and just some new capitalist invention that companies are pursuing to make more money.

  2. America should really stop making automobiles.

    Also, "Government Motors" and the video were nice touches. Kudos.

  3. You’re right Alex. It’s kind of ridiculous.

    And thank you Taelor, I thought so also ;)