Welcome to the future: Chevy Volt
Electric-Drive Vehicle Demand Recharged by Gas Prices - By Keith Naughton and Alan Ohnsman - Apr 4, 2012 11:19 PM ET
Just when it looked like electric cars were running out of juice, the return of $4 a gallon gasoline is generating new life for battery-powered vehicles.
Electric-drive vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in models and pure battery-powered cars, were the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. auto market in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales of those models rose 49 percent to 117,182 vehicles in the first quarter, from 78,527 a year earlier before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami pinched output.
Electric cars and hybrids are surging in tandem with gasoline prices, which averaged $3.93 a gallon on April 3, approaching the July 2008 peak of $4.11, according to AAA. Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Prius hybrid and General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric car each had record sales in March. Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn repeated he’s “bullish” that pure electric cars will capture 10 percent of the market by 2020.
“There are a lot of concerns today that the electric car is going to solve,” Ghosn said yesterday in an interview at the New York auto show. “People don’t want to have to go to the gasoline station. They just want to fill their tank at home. They want to make sure they’re not paying too much money for their gasoline bill every month.”
Sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car will take off in August when Nissan begins producing it in the U.S., boosting output and possibly lowering prices, Ghosn said.
Ghosn’s view of one in 10 cars being electric by 2020 isn’t widely shared. LMC Automotive predicts 2 percent of cars in the U.S. will be electric by 2020. Add in gasoline-electric hybrids and plug-ins and the Troy, Michigan-based researcher’s forecast rises to 9.2 percent.
Ghosn’s forecast is “is way too optimistic,” said Mike Omotoso, LMC’s senior manager for powertrain forecasting. “Ten percent share for hybrids is achievable, but not for EVs. They will still be too expensive to become a mass-market product within the next 10 years.”
GM had halted Volt production for five weeks because of sluggish sales following a federal investigation into fires in the car’s battery, which resulted in the vehicle getting a clean bill of health. At a congressional hearing about the probe, Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson said the car was being used as a “political punching bag.”
Rising sales last month spurred GM to restart Volt production one week earlier than planned. GM sold 2,289 Volts in March, a record monthly total for the car. The previous high was 1,529 deliveries in December.
New Volt Target
“We’re adding a week back and that’s all you need to know,” Mark Reuss, GM’s North American chief, said yesterday in New York, showing a flash of anger over a car that has become a lightning rod for critics of government bailouts, including GM’s, in 2009. “We’re doing it because we sold a lot.”
Production will resume April 16, Chris Lee, a GM spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Separately, Akerson said in a Bloomberg Radio interview to be broadcast in May that he wants to raise monthly Volt sales to 3,000 or more in the coming months.
Electric cars and battery makers have suffered high-profile power failures. Fisker Automotive Inc.’s $103,000 Karma sports sedan shut down in a test by Consumer Reports magazine. A123 Systems Inc. (AONE) is recalling the electric car batteries it made for Fisker and other automakers.
Mitt Romney, leading in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, calls the Obama administration’s loans to startups such as Fisker, “crony capitalism.”
Last year, consumers turned away from battery-powered cars as automakers improved the efficiency of gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines and supplies of electrified vehicles were limited by natural disasters in Asia.
Hybrids fell to 2.2 percent of the U.S. market last year, down from 2.4 percent in 2010, after peaking at 2.8 percent in 2009, LMC says. Electrified vehicles secured 3.4 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market in this year’s first quarter, up from 2.6 percent a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
With rising prices at the pump, consumers are beginning to see value in paying as much as $5,000 extra for a hybrid, automakers say.
“Hybrid interest is peaking and it correlates very well to gas prices,” John Krafcik, chief executive officer of the North American unit of Hyundai Motor Co. (005380), said in an interview yesterday. “Our Sonata hybrid sales are fantastic.”
As much as 30 percent of Sonata sedans Hyundai is building are equipped with gasoline-electric hybrid systems, Krafcik said.
The market for all-electric vehicles such as the $35,200 Leaf and plug-in hybrids like the $39,145 Volt will remain “tough,” Krafcik said. Such vehicles also are a less- attractive option for people who live in urban areas, with limited access to garages where they can recharge their cars at night, he said.
Higher gasoline prices have provided a lift to Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s Civic hybrid sales, which more than doubled last month and are up 29 percent for the year, said Tetsuo Iwamura, head of the automaker’s North American operations.
Consumers are not ready to embrace all-electric vehicles because of concerns about how long the battery will last and how far the car can go before recharging for hours, Iwamura said.
“Electric vehicles, do we really have a market for that?” Iwamura said yesterday in an interview. “I’m not quite sure the future of battery vehicle. I’m not so clear as Mr. Ghosn.”
Nissan’s Ghosn says his company’s tests show the batteries will outlast the electric cars they’re in and he contends concerns about recharging and plug-in infrastructure are being resolved.
“This is the car of the future,” Ghosn said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Keith Naughton in Detroit at firstname.lastname@example.org; Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chevrolet Volt Math Everybody Can Understand
Thursday, 23 February 2012 15:31 Rob Peterson, Chevrolet Volt Communications
The man ignorant of mathematics will be increasingly limited in his grasp of the main forces of civilization- John Kemeny
Math was never one of my favorite subjects in school, but one I thing I knew was you needed to have the right numbers to have any chance of getting the correct answer.
One favorite activity of Volt owners and critics alike is to break down the cost of driving the Volt by taking into account the cost to charge, the EV range of the car, the length of a round-trip daily commute and other factors. Recently, there have been some number circulating online about the cost to drive the Volt that are flat wrong – either the person doesn’t understand how the Volt works or they are paying roughly ten times the national average for electricity (in which case, they have other issues). But don’t worry – we're here to help set the record straight.
We’ll get into the math in a second, but first know that our owners have driven more than 25 million miles, with nearly 2/3 of those miles using no gas at all, and most customers traveling over 900 miles between fillups. We’ve seen stories from owners who, one year after taking delivery, are still using the same tank of gas that came with the car and others who have driven the Volt across the country. But the question remains – how much does it cost to drive the Volt? Get your calculators ready and I’ll share with you some numbers.
First, the Volt gets an EPA-estimated 35 miles of EV range, and we estimate you can get between 25 – 50 miles of range depending on the three T’s: the outside Temperature, the road Terrain (flat vs. hilly) and your driving Technique. If, on a cold day, you blast the heater and slam on the gas pedal (like some are known to do), your range will be a little less. This video gives you some tips to maximize your range.
Next, you need to charge that battery. Yes, the Volt has a 16 kWh battery, but what you might not know is only 12.9 kWh is used for charging and driving – this is done to extend battery life. 9.6 kWh is used to propel the car and accessories and 3.3kWh is used in the charging process The average cost of electricity in the U.S. is $.12/kWh, so, take $.12 x 12.9 to get a cost to charge of $1.55, a far cry from the $18.56 to charge that I’ve seen some say online. Think about it – if it cost that much to charge, I really doubt we would have 93% of our owners say they are very satisfied with the car.
When that charge is depleted, whether you’re in the Lincoln Tunnel or on a highway, the vehicle switches over to extended-range mode, using a gas-powered motor/generator to keep you going another 344 miles by EPA estimates. When you are in extended-range mode, the EPA estimates you will get 35 city/ 40 highway mpg or 37 combined mpg. With a full tank and full charge, your total driving range is 379 miles.
Some might say “But Rob! You didn’t mention that you have to wait around for it to finish charging before you can take a trip!” Well, no, actually you don’t. If you forget to plug it in, you can still drive the car in extended-range mode until you either refuel (like people have been doing for years and years when they take road trips) or find a spot where you can recharge. You can drive across the country in the Volt in no more time than it takes to use a conventional car.
The other point to factor in is how far your commute will be and that will be different for everybody. What we know is that after 25 million customer miles, their average EV range is slightly more than the EPA estimate of 35 and this computes to an average cost per mile of $.03 - $.06. By comparison, a gas-powered vehicle that achieves a combined 30 mpg costs about $.13 per mile (based on gas prices averaging $3.90 per gallon).
Here’s one example. Let’s say your round-trip commute is 50 miles. In the Volt, you would spend $1.50 for 35 miles of EV range and then $.11143 per mile for the other 15 miles (assuming city driving and the $3.90 gas price mentioned above). $.11143 x 15 is $1.67. Add that to the $1.50 to charge and the cost for that 50-mile trip is $3.17.
Now, if you have a conventional car that gets 30 mpg, the cost for each mile is $.13. The cost for this 50-mile trip would be $6.50 ($.13 x 50). If your car gets 35 mpg, the cost per mile would be $.11143 and the cost for the trip would be $5.57.
So to summarize:
-Average cost to charge the Volt for 35 miles of EV driving: $1.50
-MPG of the Volt in extended-range mode: 35 city / 40 highway or 37 combined
-Average cost per mile so far from Volt drivers: $.03 - .06
-Cost per mile of a conventional vehicle that gets 30 mpg with gas at $3.90 per gallon: $.13
Math is hard, but when used for good, it can also be electrifying.
Note: This blog has been updated with information about the cost of charging the Volt.