Monday, December 13, 2010

What about the Chevy Volt?

I recently received the following question on Twitter from a Mr. David Thompson that I think is worth responding to:

@TimeHorse diverting this to other markets makes a great deal of sense. Not that I like that answer. We need chevy volt now. Right?

I assume David is referring to the diversion and delay of the Nissan LEAF on the Southern Atlantic coast as I reported on earlier.  To be honest, I've not been paying much attention to the Volt, though, not because I don't think it a great car, but because it doesn't fulfill my needs.  In fact, I think you could honestly say I've not always been fair to the Volt, but part of that was just sticking up for the underdog.  Indeed, it's my hope that my heartfelt love and desire for success of the Volt shines through even when I'm not the kindest advocate.  The Volt may not be right for me, but it is most assuredly the perfect Electric Vehicle choice for some people.

But there are problems with declaring the Volt the solution to the Affordable Electric Car NOW problem.  For one thing, it doesn't even satisfy the original goals set out by this site, among them:

  • 80 mi (129 km) range at 80% charge.
  • Not much more than $33,000 MSRP.

Now clearly the Volt as built is closer to a 40 mile Electric range, not even the 60 miles quoted back in 2009.  And although the Volt is only $33,500 after the $7,500 EV Federal Tax Credit, not everyone will qualify for the full rebate and $41,000 is a pretty steep curve to overcome, especially given that the credit can't be claimed until ones taxes are filed, which could be up to a year after purchase — though that can be ameliorated through some skillful W-4 manipulation.  Of course this ignores the horror stories I've been hearing about excessive price gauging of the Volt.  I do not approve of such practices and am willing to judge the car based solely upon its MSRP.

As for the Nissan LEAF, I have to say it comes close to satisfying the criteria, though it doesn't quite hit it out of the park.  It really only squeaks through on technicalities.  Officially it has a 100 mi range with 80 mi at 80%, but that's under semi-ideal conditions; the EPA pegs it as closer to 73 mi at full capacity.  The MSRP for the SV trim is a shade under $33,000 with no options, to be sure, but I personally would be keen to have the SL trim with the CHAdeMO port (assuming the CHAdeMO connection becomes the official Level III Direct Current / Quick Charge standard receptacle), and that does put us above the $33,000 point.

Given all these issues, I'm willing to cut both cars some slack.  I'd be willing to say the Volt hits the price point as long as the EV Tax Credit remains in effect (though don't expect the lower-middle class to have access to this car if they're not even paying $7,500 in taxes at the moment).  Likewise, I'll cut the LEAF some slack, despite its imperfect EPA numbers and the bane of all EVs, the issue of battery capacity loss over time.  Where I won't budge is on the 40 mi expected range of the Volt.  That is simply not enough to make it affordable.  If a 40 mi round-trip range works for you, then by all means, please buy a Volt!  Chevy needs your business!  GM needs your business!  America needs your business!  But if you need more range than that, I'll still be fighting for you.  I won't rest until everyone in the United States and Canada has access to an Affordable Electric Car NOW!