by Michael dEstries
Categories: Home.

After years of concepts, development, research, and testing, General Motors is finally ready to unveil their sequel to the ill-fated EV-1. Within weeks, full production of the electric-powered Chevy Volt will be underway at General Motors Corp.’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. Initial customers can expect to drive away sometime in December.

The first reviews of the Volt are now coming online as General Motors allows press to drive the final production models — and overall impressions are very good.

“While it’s easy to get lost in the hows and whys of the Volt’s technology, what’s truly impressive is that the car performs flawlessly,” says Jeff Sabatini on AutoBlog. “GM has gone to great – even excessive – lengths to make the Volt as mainstream as it can. There’s a shallow learning curve to operation, which mostly surrounds finding the green-glowing start button on the center stack near the shifter and dropping the bulky, console-mounted unit into drive. After that, the experience has a lot in common with piloting a four-cylinder Chevy Malibu. In our test drive, we couldn’t turn up anything that made us feel the Volt’s development was incomplete.”

“Considering all the hype and waiting, I thought the Volt was destined to disappoint,” writes Joe Wiesenfelde for the Mercury News. “So far, it hasn’t. With time it could prove to be the model that makes drivers comfortable enough with the experience of plug-in motoring that they’ll consider a battery-electric without the safety net of an onboard generator as their next car.”

Granted, these are only two reviews, but it appears right now that GM has a winner. An expensive $33,000 winner (after a $7K federal tax credit) but should sales take off, it’s not hard to imagine that coming down to more affordable levels in the not-too-distant future.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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  • Kevin

    Don’t buy these cars – zero emissions vehicles still rely heavily on traditional electrical generation. That means COAL. Coal use generates way more carbon than gasoline (largely due to 33% end use efficiency), and releases toxic mercury (~40% of environmental mercury is from coal).

    Until we switch to renewable sources for a much greater share of our electrical energy, hybrids are a much better way to go.

    • From MN, with hope…

      I did the math using an EV-1 as a model, and the Prius is actually barely better than the EV-1 if the owner of the EV-1 were to fully discharge the batteries everyday 365 days of the year. Renewable forms of energy are gaining momentum, but I don’t think hybrids are good for long-term because they still use gasoline. Then again, this Volt isn’t a perfect ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle, for those new to the game). It discharges the batteries to an extent, and then it uses a gas engine to charge them again. What I see this car is, as an opportunity to get the range-anxious into an electric car, and move into a fully-electric car, and further into the eventual future of hydrogen powered cars.

      Coal or petroleum, choose your poison! Or so it may seem. I choose renewable resources, such as hydrogen, solar, wind, and so on, and I don’t care if that wasn’t a provided option.

      • Kevin

        Coal is infinitely worse than gasoline, it’s not a pick-your-poison
        1. 40-50% of the mercury in the ocean and fish that we eat comes from coal
        2. All problems with NOx, SOx, acid rain are from coal
        3. Much more damage to the earth from coal mining than oil wells (with spills causing occasional major damage of course but much less per total units consumed)

      • David

        And don’t forget the problems with the disposal of the coal ash.

    • Eco Chef Bryan Au

      My friends tell me even if you calculate the coal EV cars are cleaner than gasoline. But even if you don’t believe this, you can plug your car into your Solar Powered Cells on your roof that is off the grid or if you have wind powered turbine for the home there are always solutions!

      Eco Chef Bryan Au

  • Michael Raymer

    Electricity doesn’t always mean coal. My grid runs off of hydroelectric. I agree that coal sourced electricity needs to die the death it needs, but for as long as the plants do exist, might as well get some constructive use out of them. If I could afford an electric car, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    • Kevin

      Michael, glad we agree on part of this! I think we just need to push for electric to be more renewable first – and I agree if you’ve got a good grid that you should go for it.

      US-wide it’s 60% coal and even California is 35% (despite newer provisions for no new contracts with coal plants). Cali has another 30% natural gas which is cleaner but still a bigger carbon footprint than distributed energy sources. So for the general population the tipping point to make electric cars worthwhile is a ways off. Bloom energy has a great model – they burn energy locally with new cleaner generators (for buildings) since it is lower carbon emission (and cheaper) to distribute energy in a liquid form and burn it locally than to burn something at a plant and use the electric grid.

  • Jon

    The Volt is an expensive car to purchase, but, because of its lower operating costs, it may make financial sense if kept long enough.

    Compare costs versus a Gas or Hybrid car

    • Kevin

      Based on that calculator the 12 year cost of a Honda Civic Hybrid (my preference) is much lower, so if you’re frugal go for that. I drove my first Honda for 12 years but would not be likely to drive the Volt 24 years to get to the break even point.

      Plus per my points above this calculator fails to account for all the losses in electricity on the way to the car charging station. If you account for the efficiency on that the numbers for the Volt (I did a 12,000 miles per year analysis, and both I and this calculator assume an average fossil fuel percent in the electrical generation) would be around 6 tons of CO2 per year, and the hybrid would be around 3 tons.

      I say go hybrid.

      • herwin

        50 % reduction, eh, thats a very good number. :-) another fuel saver for the e-car is that green electricty is produced (more or less) locally, while dirty fuels are imported from far away with oil tankers who themselves consume massive amounts of fuel.

      • Kevin

        You realize the 50% reduction is for the hybrid, which is better than the e-car by this measure, right?

  • Julie K.

    The current situation with traditional fuel pushes us forward to look for alternative energy sources. I wonder what else can human to think of just to drive a car with low (or none) pollution and even for less cost…

  • Southern Fried Scientist

    Or you could drive an old car until it dies while reducing your own driving by 50%. While we need technological changes to push us into a sustainable future, real, immediate solutions depend on changing our behavior, not buying new toys.

    • Kevin

      You’re right! And even after a car “dies”, that usually means that the cost of repair becomes as high as the cost of a new car. But even then, the carbon cost of the repair option would be much lower. My 12 year old Honda would have kept going if I’d simply paid someone to replace all the seals that were failing.

      At least I gave it away and took a 5 year old hand me down car, avoiding a new build.