I like the idea of electric cars, but the new Chevrolet Volt is so expensive. What's your opinion -- are electric cars ready for prime time, and are they really cost efficient when compared to gas-powered alternatives?
Is The Chevy Volt Really a Green Machine?
General Motors, struggling back from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has announced plans to launch an electro-hybrid car in 2011. Dubbed the Chevrolet Volt, this car will feature lithium-ion batteries – the same kind found in laptops, cell phones, and other portable devices. The 16kWh batteries can be recharged from standard 120/240v household current, or from the internal combustion engine that does not power the car but only recharges the batteries of the electric motor. GM makes several claims for the Volt.
With fully charged batteries, the Volt will go up to 40 miles on battery power alone, which could satisfy the commuting needs of 75% of Americans. When the batteries run down, the gas engine kicks in to drive an electrical generator and extend the Volt’s range up to 640 miles on a tank of gasoline.
The Volt will cost about $40,000 when it debuts, a great deal more than the average American car. And according to what I've read, the features and amenties are comparable to cars that cost about half as much. Even so, GM does not expect the Volt to be profitable, even unto its second generation. (Ouch... isn't that the kind of thinking that got the car companies into the mess we have now?)
GM estimates that the Volt will save about 4.4 metric tons in CO2 emissions annually compared to a typical American car. If you are really into saving CO2 emissions, the Volt’s price and cost of ownership may not be an insurmountable obstacle. You may be the type of person who shops at Whole Foods and pays more for distilled water than for gasoline. It all depends on which you value more.
One cost analysis suggests that one would have to drive a Volt over 200,000 miles to break even on its price tag versus a typical gasoline-powered car. Furthermore, that analysis did not count the cost of electricity to recharge the Volt!
However, a government rebate of $7,500 is expected to shorten the Volt’s payback mileage to about 158,000 miles. Whew! But you know where that money comes from, right? So whether you want a Volt, or buy a Volt, you are going to help pay for Volts. Might as well get one.
Generating electricity at power plants creates pollution too, of course. But power plants are much less polluting per unit of work their power output does than are automobile engines. Even "dirty coal" burning plants emit a fraction of the air pollution per unit of power generated that a car does, and more modern power plants do even better.
The Volt seems to be a great concept for people who insist on eco-friendly products, and have the cash to back it up. Perhaps in a few years, the technology and manufacturing costs will come down. But for most of us now, the Chevy Volt is not even going to be in the running.
I'm sure you have your own opinions about the Chevy Volt, green cars, and related issues. Post your comments and questions below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 20 Aug 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Chevy Volt (Posted: 20 Aug 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved