Another Volt… Called The Bolt

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Why does GM continue to throw money at electric cars?bolt lead

Perhaps because it’s not their money.

It’s yours. And mine.

In the form of apparently endless taxpayer-extorted “help” (via federal taxation) to spur the design and manufacture of vehicles that have to be given away at a loss because – channeling Donald Trump – they are losers.

First the Volt – so few of which were offloaded (“sold” would be an affront to honest English) GM had to idle the plant devoted to their assembly. Then GM doubled-down and ginned up the ELR – a Volt dressed in Cadillac duds that was the ultimate dud. So few of them were offloaded (no surprise, given each one cost twice what a Volt listed for) it made the Volt seem like a bases-loaded homer.

Now comes the Bolt.

Another $30,000 (that’s after the $7,500 federal direct-to-the”buyer” bribe) automotive Turducken that’s inferior in every way function can be measured to a 1984 Yugo.turducken

The Yugo had an eight gallon fuel tank and averaged 38 MPG – giving it a range of about 304 miles.  Its cost when new was about $3,600 in 1984 dollars – the equivalent of about $8,200 today.

The government didn’t have to bribe anyone to buy a Yugo. Punchlines aside, people freely exchanged their money (not other people’s money) for them.

It could be refueled in less than five minutes. Using the heater or the headlights did not gimp the range.

It weighed 1,543 pounds.

Now (30 years later) behold the Bolt.

Its battery pack weighs 960 pounds – more than half what the entire Yugo weighed (with a full tank of gas). GM spokesmen beam that you can put 50 miles of range into those batteries after only 30 minutes of waiting.

A full charge is possible after a mere nine hours.Bolt battery pack

The car itself, a subcompact, weighs 3,580 pounds – twice (and then some) what a Yugo weighed and about as much as a current mid-sized IC car such as a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry weighs.

It probably goes faster than a Yugo – which had a top speed of about 84 MPH. But – like all electric cars – not for very long.

The faster you go in an electric car, the less far you’ll go. Range declines as velocity increases. Few car journalists – whether out of ignorance, laziness or fear – ever disclose this inconvenient truth.

The Tesla, for instance, is cheered by Fanboys for its supercar acceleration. Which it has. For a moment. The Tesla is like a Corvette with a half-gallon of gas in the tank… which you have to refill using an eye dropper. Use its performance and it will not perform very long.

So, basically, you either drive it like a Yugo… or you don’t drive it very far.

Electric batteries deplete rapidly when load is applied. This includes more than just the load applied by your right foot, incidentally. In an electric car, everything that’s powered is powered by the battery pack. This means headlights, the heater and the AC; every accessory. And like the accelerator pedal, the more you use these accessories, the faster the battery depletes.electric cars suk

There is no energy input since you can’t keep the thing plugged in, so it only goes so far before the battery wilts – and then you’re out of luck until you find a place to plug in.

Which then takes a minimum of  30-60 minutes before you can get moving again – because of the nature of batteries, which can only accept so much charge in a given amount of time. Another inconvenient truth rarely mentioned by EV fanboys and the journalists “covering” EVs.

It’s idiocy that makes Forrest Gump look like a prodigy.

Which is why it requires government involvement.

And payola. Extorted from you and me and then handed over to car companies so they can make these electrified atrocities and give them away.

There is no way (cue Jackie Gleason voice) it would fly otherwise. Thirty grand for an ugsome little shitbox that doesn’t perform as well as a $15,000 Corolla and which (arguably) is inferior as a basic conveyance to a $3,600 Yugo? A few flippantly rich Hollywood celebrity types might buy one. Real people not so much. crushed EV1s

Keep in mind the advertised best-case range – 200 miles on a full charge – assumes a delicate combination of ideal circumstances. It must not be too warm (else you’d probably want to use the air conditioner, which will deplete the batteries and reduce the range) or too cold (else you might want to use the heat, which will deplete the batteries and reduce the range) or too dark (else you might need to use the headlights, which use electricity, which depletes the batteries and reduces the range) or driven too fast (over 70 and the range plummets like Bill Cosby’s favorable ratings)… you get the idea.

The Volt, at least, carried around a gas engine to recharge the battery pack while the car was moving (as opposed to stationary and tied via a power cord to an electrical outlet). That gave it real-car range, but its efficiency sucked. Once the battery was depleted and the thing had to rely on evil IC (internal combustion) for power, the mileage it delivered was about what you got with an ’84 Yugo. Except the Yugo didn’t cost $34,000 (the Volt’s base price).

Holy mackerel.

Dan Nicholson, GM’s powertrain chief, worries about “customer willingness to pay for fuel-saving technologies.”

Yeah. When those technologies cost vastly more than any putative fuel savings. It’s what they call a no-brainer.

Except when government is involved.

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68 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not just because of CAFE regulations.

    Emissions standards get tighter every year – soon crowded, congested cities will be banning any ICE-powered vehicles from urban centers.

    Even delivery vehicles will be required to be battery or fuel-cell powered.

    The Bolt is GM’s ride-sharing, urban/suburban commuter vehicle for the near future where people no longer buy a vehicle for every licensed driver in a household.

    • “It’s not just because of CAFE regulations.”
      No, but the emissions standards have long since passed the point of diminishing returns, and now CAFE is getting there too, if they weren’t already. Combined with the ‘saaaaaaafety’ standards, these 3 are at war w/each other and we are all the losers. The PTB (no relation, I assure you) will be the winners by turning us mundanes into immobile slaves.

  2. Hi Eric,

    I’ve written comments about this before, and I wish you would address them.

    It is time for a new model in the automotive industry, and it would take people with knowledge I don’t have to make it possible. We need the “Ikea Car”. An unassembled yet easy to put together car that the buyer can assemble to their own specifications. Since it isn’t manufactured but is home made, you no longer need to follow the many and massive government mandates.

    This can be further assisted by the rapid improvements made in the 3-D printing industry, meaning you don’t even need to ship all the components and can therefore get around the first layer of attempted regulation by claiming that a complete model is not being shipped. As 3-D printing improves you can even get to the point where fewer and fewer parts are included in the “car in a box” and more and more is just an electronic data file. 3-D printing now includes metals and not just plastics.

    This combination – unassembled cars and 3-D printing – may just set back the whole regulatory regime several decades as they wonder what to do about people who make their own cars without 15 airbags and with 60 mpg.

  3. I usually don’t comment on this stuff, but this one hit a nerve. And, yes, I work for GM. And, no, I don’t believe the Government should be involved or subsidizing losing projects.

    Obviously, Eric has an agenda, and not a lot of knowledge about this topic (a Yugo? really? His idea of a good comparison is a Yugo? If they were that great, wouldn’t they still be making them today?). There is a lot of stuff in this article that is misleading, or flat out wrong. I realize, Eric, you have already made up your mind about GM and electric cars (after all, you wrote this very uninformed opinion piece). That is fine. But please do realize that you are missing a lot of the issues that led GM to put these cars out there.

    Government mandates have EVERYTHING to do with these electric cars.

    None of the car companies would be making these cars if it wasn’t for the CAFE standards. By 2025, the CAFE is set to be 49 mpg. We are working on 2020 vehicles right now. That only gives us 5 years to come up with a way to get to that number. And that is going to include the cars and trucks we are making right now that will be still be being made at that time.

    And the government realized that NONE of the low-emission/ high-mileage cars could be sold at the high prices it costs to manufacture them without taxpayer funded incentives. They want it, you and I pay for it even if we don’t want it. Gotta love government logic.

    If GM can sell even a few thousand of the Volt, and the Bolt, (the credit for an electric vehicle is HUGE) the offset to our CAFE numbers will allow us to sell vehicles like full size trucks and SUV’s that people actually want to buy, and are profitable, but aren’t very fuel efficient. A stupid solution to stupid rules the government has forced on all of us.

    On top of the CAFE standards, there are 10 States that have laws right now that will take effect in the next few years that will not allow ANY sales in their State unless at least a (State by State mandated) percentage of the vehicles sold are 0% emission vehicles. You will either produce and sell a number of no emission cars, or you will close off entire States to sales of any of your vehicles. That means closing dealer networks in those States, which means a lot of lawsuits on top of no sales. Kind of a no brainer on this one. Every company will have to field a no emissions vehicle… assured to be at a loss of profit, so that profitable cars can be sold.

    Fiat Chrysler’s Chairman has asked people to NOT buy their all-electric Fiat, because they lose $14,000 everytime they sell one. All because of government mandates.

    There is also another reason for alternate fueled cars. Image. GM had an all-electric car in the 1990’s, the EV1. It was made only to placate California and a law they passed that you had to sell so many 0% emission cars, or you could sell NO cars in the entire State. GM jumped on it as fast as they could because California is a huge car market.

    Every one of the EV1’s lost money. California had a redo on the law, because it was unrealistic in the extreme. Finally GM pulled the plug and would not renew any of the leases for the 1100 EV1’s they had sold. The result? A total smear documentary (not unlike this opinion piece) called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” (apparently, with electric cars, it is damned if you do, and damned if you don’t… can’t make everyone happy)

    Bob Lutz, rightly, said that hybrids were a losing deal. The extra cost of the hybrid technology would take decades to pay for in gas savings for the buyer. What he didn’t see was that people who were environmentalists didn’t care. They were willing to spend that money to “look like they cared” driving their hybrid cars.

    The idea that GM would “Kill the electric car” was abhorant to these people (even though they had never purchased one). The fallout in the press from this was bad. Lutz decided we needed to have an “Image” car, that would, at the same time increase our knowledge on how to build more fuel efficient cars. The result was the Volt. It was being worked on a long time before the bankruptcy. It was not meant to be a big money maker, or a high volume car. It was meant to be an “Image” car and a testbed for new technology. The kind of technology we would need for the future.

    To be able to run air conditioning, or heat, or even headlights on battery power does affect the mileage you get. But what Eric fails to mention is that the learning from the Volt has led to low-energy air conditioning technology that is now being used in all our cars (better mileage). Same with heating, and the LED headlights you are seeing on all kinds of vehicles. (and these examples are just the tip of the iceberg on what we have learned by creating the Volt and are now using on all our new cars to increase MPG for the CAFE standards)

    Electric car technology is incredibly expensive and batteries are heavy at this time. It will become cheaper and more efficient as time goes on, but we don’t have that time because of the CAFE standards implementation dates. Toyota is putting a lot of effort into Fuel Cells. This is an interesting technology, but is insanely expensive. Also, Fuel Cells run on hydrogen, and other than a few tax-payer funded stations in California, there is NO infrastructure available to fuel with hydrogen. With electric, at least you can plug it into today’s infrastructure.

    Eric should take the chip off his shoulder, and have taken a little time and looked at what is really behind the reason GM is putting money into electric vehicles. But his core audience has probably already made up their mind, regardless of any annoying facts.

    • Hi MB,

      I wrote about the functional and economic problems with the car – points you haven’t disputed. What I’d like to see you guys – the automakers – do is fight these stupid mandates. Or at least, quit cheerleading for things like EVs and so on that you know as well as I do can’t stand on the merits and for which there is little, if any, market demand.

      • HERE, HERE, Eric. I have been screaming this from the mountaintops and in conference rooms for years. In 2000-01, I worked for Thomas Built Buses. My group was in a meeting with Caterpillar discussing the upcoming 2004 and 2007 Tiered emissions requirements for trucks. Although the effects on my job were minimal, I stared the Caterpillar representatives in the eye and said if your company doesn’t spend money on lobbying, your engines are going to be less efficient, cost will spike and sales will drop. Of course, my predictions were entirely correct. An Electronic Engine Controlled Diesel for a school bus cost about 10-11,000 in 1998-2001. In 2002, they went to $14k and now they are roughly $25k. This is symptomatic of the fact that the auto companies would rather swap saliva with Uncle Shithead while giving the middle finger to its customers than give the customer reasonable cost transportation. Why is my rhetoric so harsh? WE HAVE BEEN TREATED LIKE CRAP FOR ABOUT 40 YEARS. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    • Ultimately however electrics and hybrids and other displaced emissions vehicles are being forced by government through multiple channels. This is GM’s response to that. But it’s not the only response possible as other automakers show. A ford fusion hybrid is one of those on the market that costs far less and unlike GM’s offering here doesn’t scream out what it is. There are others. GM’s chosen way is what Eric is commenting on. They didn’t have to make a $35K economy car to deal with the problem, they chose to deal with the problem of government regulation that way. Ford offers a regular sedan only cosmetically set apart by wheels and badging starting at 25K or so. Why buy this thing from GM when the Ford Dealer across the street or the Honda dealer down the block will sell you something for less money without the compromises?

      • Maybe GM is making a point their own way. Put a high price on it and nobody buys it. Some govt. entity has to at least consider that. I don’t want a Camry, Volt Fusion or any other type of hybrid.

        I have friends who bought a 2012 Camry hybrid. They love the fuel mileage. They don’t put many miles on a car either. It will probably have virtually no drivetrain wear, brake wear or any other sort of wear when the battery packs go away. They won’t like it so much then. At least they live where it doesn’t get really cold.

      • Brent P,

        It is GM’s response to the odious Government mandates, both federal, and state. I tried to explain the ‘why’ behind what GM is doing. Instead of just saying “isn’t GM stupid?” for going with electric vehicles, look at the underlying reasons.

        You used Ford as an example. The Fusion hybrid is one of their answers to the same issue. They also make the C-Max, both pure hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. Both the Fusion, and the C-Max get around 42 mpg according to the Ford website. Neither of these vehicles will meet the CAFE standard for 2025. That means Ford is going to have to come up with something else that will.

        GM tried the hybrid vehicle that looks just like the regular vehicle route. As an example the Chevy Malibu hybrid. We dropped it because it cost extra, for a limited benefit in mileage, and people didn’t buy it.

        One of the lessons we learned was that the people who actually buy Hybrids want them to stand out, so that everyone else can see how environmentally conscious they are. They are willing to pay the extra money for a car that is economically not as smart as a lower priced IC that also gets decent mileage.

        I am not arguing for people to buy electric cars. They are NOT as efficient, or as economical as Internal Combustion vehicles… today. But, neither were the Internal Combustion engines of yesteryear as efficient as the current engines. It took new technology, and years of engineering to get to where we are today. (Think about when emission standards first were inforced. These regulations created a giant shift in the automobile industry in terms of lowering horsepower to meet these new standards. Example, the base V8 350 used in the 1975 Corvette was rated at a lowly 165 horsepower because of new emissions requirements).

        Eric, do you really think the auto industry is not fighting against these regulations? We have lobbyists, and PACs and all that political nonsense that is needed to survive in any industry today. We have been fighting it for years. Guess what? We got raked over the coals in congressional hearings and by the executive branch for fighting these onerous regulations. Here is a report about how the Auto Industry was rail-roaded into the new CAFE standards by the Obama Administration. http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/CAFE-Report-8-10-12-FINAL.pdf

        We (the auto industry) are being forced by Government agencies to increase fuel efficiency to levels that are impossible to reach using only Gas engines, or hybrids. You will see everyone in the industry scrambling with new technology to meet these standards. They are not stupid for doing so, they being are forced with threats from the government to make cars that people don’t want to buy.

        • “Neither of these vehicles will meet the CAFE standard for 2025”
          Simple (but non-PC) solution to that is to abolish the CAFE standard. And the rest of the EPA while you’re at it. What the hey, let’s go whole hog and abolish the entire FedGov. CA can have it’s CARB and see how long they remain the most populous state when other states are freer.

        • Hi Mbizibane,

          With respect, you have misunderstood the point of Eric’s article. As I said before, Eric and his core audience are well aware of “the reason GM is putting money into electric vehicles”. We know it is because of “odious mandates”, and that the auto industry is ‘being forced with threats from the government to make cars that people don’t want to buy”. Eric has been saying this for years and has never argued that GM is “stupid for doing so”. Eric also often writes about the role that tax incentives and subsidies (that you claim to oppose) play.

          Please, try to get over your hurt feelings (this one hit a nerve) and you might see that your stated opinions are actually concordant with those of “Eric and his core audience”.

          As for “fighting against these regulations”, you list lobbying and “all that political nonsense that is needed to survive”. Fine, we understand that. What I don’t see, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is industry spokesmen trying to persuade the public. As you concede, these mandates are essentially at war with reality. Are any industry people writing editorials pointing out that EV’s and hybrids (to some extent) are not economically viable unless subsidized. Any articles about the obscene fact that average taxpayers are forced to subsidize the buying choices of relatively rich people “so that everyone else can see how environmentally conscious they are”? Any articles lamenting the diminishing returns, and increasing cost, of adhering to ever more draconian emissions standards?

          I understand that this may be suicidal and dangerous to the industry. However, at the very least, don’t criticize people who do say these things because of your misunderstanding of what they say.

          Jeremy

          • I may have misunderstood Eric’s point, I will freely admit it. This is the first article of Eric’s that I have read. A friend sent me this article. He knows I work at GM and thought it was funny that Eric was comparing the Bolt to a Yugo. It seemed like just another media person taking a swipe at GM (and how I make a living).

            • Hi Mbizibane,

              While I would be surprised if you were nearly as radical as many posters here, your stated opinions on mandates, subsidies and government force show that you share at least some of our concerns.

              Jeremy

            • Hi MB,

              For all its faults – and it had many – the Yugo was a serviceable little shitbox. Inexpensive, got good gas mileage. But let’s fast forward 30 years and consider a modern analog such as a new Nissan Versa sedan or equivalent (Chevy Aveo, etc.) These cost about $13k-ish brand new and without any need to bribe people with massive subsidies.

              They are able to travel 300-plus on a full tank and refuel in minutes. One can therefore drive say 400 miles in one day without any particular hassle.

              Can you do that in the Bolt or any other EV?

              Even a 100 mile trip is risky business, unless you know you have a place to plug in and the time to spend waiting.

              And, remember, the Bolt costs more than twice what a car like the Versa or the Aveo cost.

              It’s absurd.

              PS: I’m not picking on GM. The Nissan leaf is as ridiculous. So is the Tesla. All of them.

        • Hi MB,

          In re: “Eric, do you really think the auto industry is not fighting against these regulations? ”

          I’ve been a working auto journalist for 25-plus years; I’ve attended untold ride and drives, press events, auto shows… and at every one, you guys tout the wonders of whatever it is the government just forced you to build or install. From air bags to urea injection to EVs to the bloated, fat-assed/visibility compromised (but crash test-passing) look-alikes being stamped out in their millions.

          Off the record, engineers, executives and product planners will agree with me. True Story: Last year, Ford flew me out to AZ to test drive the then-new Edge. The engineers had a big show lined up to laud the auto self-parking feature. I told them it made my teeth hurt; that if people can’t park a car they have no business driving one. They agreed with me.

          But in front of an audience at the Detroit Auto Show? At a media ride and drive with mikes on and cameras rolling? Forget it!

          You know how it works as well as I do.

          And it’s suicidal.

          The CAFE standards you mention? They are going to kill your business – our business – because you guys have abandoned the field and let the politicians and agitators dominate and direct the debate.

          Why, look! We need 50 MPG cars… all the government has to do is wave its wand and the industry will deliver them… shazam!

          • Eric,

            I wish I could argue with you on this topic. In public, you are correct, we do seem to have abandoned the field. During the bankruptcy, we were even forced to drop all lawsuits against further government regulations. I wish I had an answer to fix this, but I do not, and I am not in a position to do a single thing about it.

            I am not a marketing guy, but even I know it would be suicidal to do anything but put a positive spin on all the government mandated safety stuff. (Wait until you see the Pedestrian Protection regulations. Maybe our new ads will use the tagline “Making it safer to be hit by one of our cars!”… probably why I am not in marketing)

            It has been pointed out to me, in a very friendly way, by Jeremy, that I may have missed the point of your article. I have never read your stuff before, and it seemed to me that you were being extremely anti-GM. There is so much negative stuff in the media about GM, that I took offense to the tone of your article. I will read more of your writings before I jump to judgement in the future.

            • Hi MB,

              I am one of those now-rare journalists who actually likes cars. Not because they’re “safe” but because they are (were) exciting, interesting, fun…

              I despise the idiot-proofing now ascendant, which only assures more idiocy.

              I am on your side… when you guys side with the people who buy your cars, not the government drones who, whether knowingly or not, are systematically destroying the the things that made cars (and driving) desirable. Who are turning them into over-priced, passionless albatrosses of debt and other such unwanted things. There’s a reason millennials are abandoning cars.

              I understand that you have to pick your battles. But cheerleading for automotive atrocities like the Bolt is not in your best interests.

            • Hi MB,

              I agree with Swamp’s post. Imagine if, rather than touting the merits of overpriced, poorly performing EVs per the government line, you guys spent some marketing and PR dollars letting the people know you have the ability – right now – to build and sell them a 70 MPG, $8,000 (brand-new) IC economy car… if the government would let you?

              Such cars are plentiful in export markets. But we can’t have them here. Because Uncle. But probably not one in 10,000 Americans has any idea.

              Spread the word. Seriously. I will help.

              • I likewise agree with Swamp and Eric. Corporations have been placing their trust into clover ‘yessa massa’ Guardians (see Myers-Briggs personalities) with political connections for decades. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results.
                The press people in the automotive industries need to finally grow a pair of something; either breasts or testicles! They need to tell their California customers that GM has been forced to stop selling cars there due to irrational demands by moronic government officials and departments. Many, many millions of Californians would then raise hell to their state government officials. The press people should raise awareness hell just like we do! Sure there aren’t 10s of millions of people here in this group like GM has as customers; but they have vastly more resources to defend themselves than we do! I would be SOL if I were targeted by the government thugs because I could not afford a lawyer and this group wouldn’t even hear that I had been arrested; yet I am quite vocal about abolishing tax slavery and coercive government rule as are other people here in this group.

            • Hi Mbizibane,

              Perhaps it was serendipitous that your friend sent you the article. I’m glad that you took my comments in the spirit in which they were intended. If you had been an apologist for subsidies, I would have dismissed you as a self-serving hypocrite. Instead, you wrote:

              “I don’t believe the Government should be involved (in) or subsidizing losing projects.”

              “Government mandates have EVERYTHING to do with these electric cars.”

              “None of the car companies would be making these cars if it wasn’t for the CAFE standards.”

              “It is GM’s response to the odious Government mandates, both federal, and state.”

              It was funny, here you were, pissed off at Eric and writing things that have been common knowledge, and much discussed, on this site for years. That was why I took the time to respond to you. Anyway, maybe you will like it here, it’s a wonderful place. We have long, passionate discussions about philosophy, the nature of “political authority”, the superiority of voluntary cooperation, etc… Oh, and cars too.

              Jeremy

        • IMO the coming CAFE standard is so us ordinary people cannot drive. If the automakers achieve it they’ll just raise it. If I am wrong or things change the calculation will become BS like the calculation for compliance with the 55mph NMSL. As of last report the later seemed more likely.

          What I find odd is that after decades of making life difficult for small manufacturers the fedgov has now made a replica exemption to the crash testing and most everything but emissions. So if you can afford a six figure car you’ll still be able to drive new.

          As for building a dork mobile that stands out, see the South Park episode “Smug Alert”. There aren’t enough people to support GM’s decision in that market. I’ve seen maybe two Volts on the road. Two. I’ve seen more Fiskers. Marketing wise they have failed. Coworkers have the honda and ford options. GM’s marketing scheme if deliberate or not is still a failure.

          • Love that South Park episode.

            I live near the GM headquarters, and I see Volts and ELR’s all the time. I don’t know how many are privately purchased, and how many are company cars for GM executives, but my guess is more of the latter.

            GM used to have a program called the Ambassador program. They would give you a car to drive for a week, and you were supposed to write about it on social media. I got a Volt. I decided to drive the family down to Washington DC for a vacation in the Volt.

            Honestly, it was a really nice car. Drove great, got 35 or so miles on the first charge, then the rest of the trip was powered by the gas engine. I averaged over 45 MPG on the gas engine. Not bad.

            I did the math on ownership of a Volt, versus a Chevy Cruze (I am an engineer, I like doing the math). With my current commute, it would have taken nearly 15 years for the Volt to break even just for gas (didn’t add in the cost of a new battery for the Volt). Obviously not a good car for me.

            A co-worker leased a Volt. He lived about 30 miles from work, and we have re-charge stations he could plug into in our parking lot. He didn’t fill up his gas tank for almost 9 months. For him, with a lease, it was a great car.

            But he was really Smug about it. South Park got it right.

    • Mbizibane, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. My opinion is most everyone knows why hybrids exist and they are money losers and their numbers will be as low as the manufacturer can possibly get away with via govt. intrusion and mandates.

      I recall GM giving everyone a look at the new “office” pickup a decade ago, one of those cut off at a stop and restart with electric everything and probably a plethora of lead/acid rv type batteries hidden somewhere. I’d imagine they showed it to prospective customers who nixed it. I can just see sitting in one on Ranch Road 33 with a 30 minute wait in 110 degree heat on a road that’s being baked to the point of becoming liquid and sending 150 degree heat waves back at you(some even pulled off into the barditch to get away from the heat, giving up their spot in line). You’d be literally roasting and it didn’t take a genius to figure that out. I’m assuming battery drain would be reached to the point nothing worked unless you could take your foot off the brake and get the engine to run with the parking brake on…..in gear.

      I think everyone here would agree car makers are up against what will be an insurmountable wall since the Big 3 are the ones who take the brunt of CAFE regs because they MUST make light trucks and lots of them.

      Since mostly Japanese cars can sell the most of very small cars and their pickups are not much more than look-alikes compared to the Big 3(small frames, lighter weight and obviously fudging the EPA mileage cycles plus no diesels or one tons).

      Some will take me to task for dissing the Japanese fuel mileage but there is this; I spoke recently to friends and the wife had a new crewcab Toyota SS pickup, 4WD and maybe 3/4T. She had this little trailer you’d pull with a car hooked up to it, brand new too. WTF she had in mind to do with it is anybody’s guess. Of course the husband is doing what needs to be done to make it work.

      After my asking if it was theirs(husband grins and points to his wife)I commented it was a nice looking pickup and it was/is, a killer metallic paint job, shiny wheels and bumpers. So I asked him about fuel mileage. He told me their hand had wrecked his pickup and had to have one so they’d gone to Ritchie Bros. auction and found him a cheap Ford ext. cab 3/4T 4WD gas engine pickup. Then the husband grinned real big and Yes, it’s a pretty good pickup, gets better mileage than the Toyota which the wife frowned and confirmed. Now I drove on ’04 Ford just like it briefly, a company pickup with the nickname “Slurp” due to its excessive fuel useage. This other pickup must obviously be easier on gas but 11 years older and getting better gas mileage with almost 200K on the clock and the Toyota is worse?

      That tells me the big 3 have to sell a shitload of thrifty at the pump vehicles of some sort. Of course the Toy will never see anything in the work dept. compared to the Ford and his GMC Duramax crewcab dually that does the heavy lifting.

      Why our govt. has continued to hurt domestic car makers so badly and virtually left imports alone has always been a mystery to me. A great many somebody’s evidently have a great big hard-on for GM, Ford and Chrysler. It would seem to nicely fit in with NAFTA, GATT and the rest of that type legislation. Starve the indigenous population out one group at a time.

    • HI Mbizibane,

      After declaring that Eric’s article is uninformed, misleading and dishonest you go on to write a comment that supports everything he said. Eric and his core audience are well aware of “the reason GM is putting money into electric vehicles”. Most of us here find those reasons, that you described so well, to be morally repellant. Even you claim to disagree with them.

      You also tacitly concede that EV’s are little more than expensive toys that appeal to the “image” that enviro types wish to present to the world. As for the Yugo comparison it is entirely appropriate. His point is that even a cheap Yugo, a car nearly universally considered to be a POS, is still better at providing the basic function of a car than an expensive EV. Also, your rhetorical question, “if they were that great, wouldn’t they still be making them today” is a little disingenuous. A light, inexpensive, high mileage econo-box would probably be popular enough in the US to warrant production if it were not for the increasingly draconian safety mandates.

      Finally, as you seem to admit, CAFE standards and safety mandates are literally at war with reality. Eric, and his core audience, would love it if spokesmen for the car industry would at least try to point this out. Instead, you capitulate to the irrational whims of unelected, ignorant bureaucrats.

      Jeremy

      • Jeremy,

        Eric’s first line is “Why does GM continue to throw money at electric cars?” The rest of the article (at least how I read it) is about how dumb we are for doing it. I will admit that I may be too sensitive to (what I believe to be) negative media/opinion pieces, but I felt this opinion piece was laying the blame squarely at GM. I still do.

        I want the record straight that we are NOT dumb for doing it. We are forced into doing it, both by the Government, and the “Image” part of doing business in the world today.

        http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/CAFE-Report-8-10-12-FINAL.pdf

        Read some of this house oversight report. Lots of spokesmen for the auto industry have tried to point this out. We (the auto industry) tried to fight these regulations for years. Still are trying.

        What we need is for people like Eric and his audience to call or write their representatives and voice their opinion about CAFE standards and government involvement, but after reading the above oversight report link, I am afraid it is too late.

        • “We (the auto industry) tried to fight these regulations for years. Still are trying.”
          Sorry, but we’ve seen no evidence of that. Instead you have submitted to being raped by Uncle.

        • Hi Mbizibane,

          Some context is required, as you are new here. Eric has been writing
          about the perverse distortions of business (not just the auto industry) due to mandates and subsidies for years. This article is part of that larger narrative. The first question, “Why does GM continue to throw money at electric cars?”, is rhetorical. It is because we know that GM is “not stupid” that the question is effective. I don’t know of anyone here who believes that GM spends lots of money on an, inefficient, impractical and expensive car (opinions you share), that very few people want to buy, because they’re stupid, ideologically committed to extreme environmentalism or any other such nonsense.

          So, if not for these reasons, there must be others. Cue mandates,
          subsidies and government force. This article is intended to illustrate how corrupting the regulations are.

          As for, “laying the blame squarely at GM” for wasting resources on these boondoggles, I’m sorry, you’re just wrong. I and many others here, certainly do not hold the auto industry as blameless as you would like. Because, despite behind closed door lobbying efforts, the public face of the industry cheerleads, and thus supports, this nonsense. But, trust me here, the main focus of our ire and apportionment of blame is directed at the government that mandates this crap.

          Jeremy

        • Hi Mbizibane,

          “The rest of the article (at least how I read it) is about how dumb we are for doing it”.

          The rest of the article, as I read it, is about how impractical, unviable and expensive (dumb, if you will) the car is.

          As to why GM would make such a “dumb” car, re-read the last section.

          “Dan Nicholson, GM’s powertrain chief, worries about “customer willingness to pay for fuel-saving technologies.”

          Yeah. When those technologies cost vastly more than any putative fuel savings. It’s what they call a no-brainer.

          Except when government is involved.”

          Jeremy

        • You people (not you, personally) in the auto industry haven’t done a damned thing to fight the regulations. I have been watching this for 40 years since I sat and read Unsafe at Any Speed when I was 12 in the middle 1970’s.

          During the entire decade, America went through an energy crisis. Oil companies were perhaps the most unpopular group out there. The majority of the public, fairly Great Society/New Deal in orientation was not really about to give them a break of any kind. Gas was short, prices were relatively high compared to what people were paying. Public anxiety was pretty high.

          The oil companies have a great lobby. Perhaps it is having an inside track to government or perhaps it is wise marshaling of their resources or both. Or maybe not. The Democrat congress was unlikely to approve decontrolling oil prices in that environment. That didn’t stop Mobil from doing real advertising. They wrote 1/4-1 page ads in newspapers explaining their position against price controls. They kept on throughout the late 1970s to early 1980s. It started to work and it softened public opposition. As a result, oil prices were immediately decontrolled when Reagan took office. The result was that we have never suffered an energy shortage again. When the gas has become short, the price shoots up and falls again as it did in 2008.

          They have been able to fight all but the most lenient regulations on fracking and offshore drilling. Most of the time it works. For the millions of barrels a day produced, they have been able to avoid a major catastrophe. The benefits of a free market and some common sense self regualtions could have been responsible for this.

          I have never seen the auto industry even come close to doing this except maybe in the early 1970s when Henry Ford II stood up to airbags.

          AS a result, I have ZERO respect for carmakers. ZERO. Sure, they have been able to meet mandates and put out some decent product at times, but they are not standing up for their industry and their customers. It is too difficult for them.

          Perhaps they should use the ad makers that the oil companies had 40 years ago. Perhaps instead of tracking ralph nader, they could have taken ads out and ridiculed a guy that doesn’t own a car.

          None of these guys have a good strategy, a good fight. Perhaps none of them care to. The auto industry is a joke.

          I can’t stand the new cars out these days and refuse to buy anything. They are overweight, ugly and beginning to be underpowered.

        • I wrote the so-called representatives for years. Pointless exercise. Not read 99 times out of a 100. Doesn’t matter until millions, because of the cap at 435, of people write. How many people who don’t have an auto industry career to risk know what’s going on well enough to write intelligently about it? We’d all probably fit in a single 747 and that may be too generous.

          • That’s because you are a lone voice. So are we all. The auto industry represents the choices of millions. These so-called representatives would have been happy to take some cash from the car industry in exchange for legislative assistance. They were able to stave off tightening CAFE regualtions until the mid-2000’s when it became popular to “conserve” energy again ostensibly because of rising oil prices.

        • MB this is off the subject of electric cars. A friend is a “pumper”, a guy who takes care of producing oil fields, the equipment therein. He uses a 2013-14 Chevy 2500 HD 4X4 and he says it’s a good reliable pickup for the most part…..but, he has to often check an area that’s bad with mud and do it every day for a week every time. He says the rear pads on the brakes are destroyed every time he does this due to the design of the basic steel wheel that is on the truck. I looked at them and yes, they do sling all the mud into the rotor ruining it in short order. In contrast my pickup has some aftermarket aluminum wheels that are much stronger and rated for rock climbing but cost $80/each when they were bought. They are made to slide mud off outside the brakes and don’t “mud up” getting out of balance like some wheels. You’d think GM would have run a truck with those standard steel wheels through mud day after day in testing. I guess not. The truck is fairly bulletproof in all other ways so why have a weak link? Esp. for something as simple as a wheel.

          If this were a private truck somebody would trade it or install new wheels but meantime, GM is getting a bad name in this company that buys GM trucks without the personnel to simply buy some other wheels or take the problem to task with GM.

          It’s these sort of things that will have a company change brands. I know some older Ford pickups have a rear brake problem too. It may be the wheels also but the owners are going to look harder at other brands next time.

          And as Swamprat said, addressing crap like the escalating costs of engines is killing good companies. Just look at Cat’s declining sales and stock market value in the past two years. I don’t blame this specifically on Cat but they could fight back harder. Cat has always sold their product on longevity and less maintenance. Govt. is destroying the very thing they rely on for profit. Everybody in this country is all too ready to simply lay down and take govt. bullying.

          • Although I find that pharmaceutical CEO completely and utterly repulsive as a person, he seems to have a pair when it comes to addressing congressional committees. He looked at them and smirked, and then followed by calling them imbeciles. Great stuff if they guy didn’t have such a callous disregard for people. Or maybe he’s unwittingly exposing big Pharma. I don’t know.

            I think that automakers could take a lesson from this. Grow a pair.

  4. Baker Motor Company used to be the world’s largest auto manufacturer. They built electric cars while Ford Motor Company developed assembly methodology and engineering breakthroughs. The Baker was the first automobile that Thomas Edison purchased, even though Henry Ford and Edison were best friends and business associates. If the propaganda surrounding today’s electric vehicles were true, Baker would still be in business and Ford would be the historical has-been.

  5. Firewall a Hellcat (much better performance and that lovely godawful racket and the lovely stench of particulate matter issuing from the exhaust conduits ) Hint your range will go down .Of course premium is almost free and the car doesnt cost much ,oil changes dont cost much either ,of course driven sensibly the range goes way up, premium at a local station here is almost a dollar a gallon highe (I believe I would have a hard time driving a Hellcat sensibly ,probably couldnt afford to keep rear tires on the beast
    Not dissing you Eric ,but electrics could have their place in the auto world ,I have to fully agree on one of your points ,any market should stand on its own without govt subsidies ,the worst part of the govt subsidies ,is that they only favor a few .
    Kinda like the ethanol debacle (but people throw off on the auto poison Ethanol for mostly the wrong reasons { no using corn for alcohol doesnt decrease animal food supplies -Henry Ford would have loved homegrown fuels in vehicles ,even though like most agriculture its a stack of cards fueled by cheap petro }.
    You dont honestly believe that gas will stay under $2.00 a gal forever .do you ?
    One thing on the electrics ,it would be expensive ,but you could charge your car with sunshine .
    Not for everyone ,they do have their place (I wanted a Versa ,till I started seeing all the negative comments about them )

    • Hi Kevin,

      Sure, range goes down in a Hellcat when you floor it. But – key thing – the Hellcat’s source of energy can be replenished in mere minutes vs. hours.

      And – even if you drive the Hellcat like a Nextel car – with the AC on, the headlights burning and the stereo blasting – it’ll still go about 200 miles on a full tank. Drive an EV hard and using accessories and its advertised best-case range (which is marginal to begin with) will be reduced by about half… and then you’re stuck for at least 30-45 minutes waiting to recharge. If you have access to a “fast” charger.

      And, mind: You’re spending an amount that would buy a nicely loaded performance car or a luxury car for an “economy” car!

      $30,000 …to drive around in a car that – other than its EV drivetrain – is basically a subcompact shitbox. But one that can only travel maybe 75-100 miles if used on the highway or driven at reasonable speeds or used in winter or summer with the AC or heat on.

      You’ve gotta be on da pipe to buy in!

      • And to repeat what Eric has said often, anyone who wants an EV should have the right to buy one – at full price. But not have the right to pay for part of the purchase with MY money.

      • eric, I worked for a farmer who grew a thousand acres of corn long before anyone thought of the scam of ethanol. He, and everyone else who grew it, couldn’t have grown it without a serious amount of irrigation. There are few places that can grow corn sans irrigation. And the cost of electricity or nat gas engines to pump that water out of the non-renewable aquifer(half a million years for the water to build up to make that aquifer and 60 years to get it to the point where it’s barely reachable and very expensive to bring to the surface)is quite high. And now sub-irrigation is/has fairly much taken over since you can’t stack enough wells to run something like a pivot system.

      • “You’ve gotta be on da pipe to buy in!”
        Did you realize that the NFL teams from the 2 states to legalize MJ will be getting together for a ‘Super Bowl’?

  6. The other great thing about the Yugo is that it didn’t spy on you and tell tales to the police in the event that you got into an accident.

    A superior product in every way!

  7. At $30,000 it sounds like a better deal then the German best estimate 81 miles to dead battery status version.

    Satrting at $43,395 or $47,245 – With its stubby styling and revolutionary carbon-fiber/aluminum structure, the i3 takes BMW’s driving principles to a new realm. For example: In our testing, it went from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Driving dynamics are on hand, too, thanks to the car’s low center of gravity. The EPA estimates the range at 81 miles per charge; it can charge in three hours from a 220-volt outlet. An optional range-extending gas engine provides a total range of 150 miles and helps quell dead-battery anxiety.

    • Hi Fred,

      The problem – well, one of them – is trying to have your cake and eat it, too. Re-read the part about the Bolt’s weight. It’s absurd – and much of it is the result of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety. Getting the car to meet crash-impact standards, etc. Now add AC, power options, lots of insulation.

      If they stripped the thing down so that it weight around 2,000 pounds, it might just work.

      But then, it would be a bare-bones car, and not “safe” according to government standards.

  8. The vehicle has a very specific use case.

    The car that is used to get from home to the office and back again, or to go around town within a short range footprint. One would plug in at home like one plugs in a cell phone, and the car would be ready to do it all over again the next day for a much lower per-day cost than a gasoline/diesel car.

    The problem is that, in a purely pragmatic sense, that use case is harder and harder to justify as gasoline/diesel prices go down.

    Also, there exists technology that allows feeding power back from the car into the house, providing something of a UPS of sorts, which could be a good short-term alternative to operating a separate generator for the house.

    Electric cars, by their nature, provide the ability to operate using many different types of fuel: coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric. While the drawbacks that exist right now are undeniable, having an alternative to any monoculture provides an assurance of stability going forward. Electric car users can weather supply and price shocks for any one or two types of fuel, which might leave gasoline engine users in a lurch for a while, butanol notwithstanding. That is very likely the straw that any remaining pragmatic EV user is clutching to. Any of the others that are in the church of AGW are likely beyond help.

    • Hi Warp,

      I dunno. Even as a “city car,” it’s hard to make an economic argument for this car. You can buy a new IC econobox like the Nissan Versa sedan for about $12k. So you just saved $18k up front. You’d have to spend more on gas than you spent on the Versa itself (and then some) to make a case for the Bolt.

      These cars are hopeless until their unsubsidized price comes to within the ballpark of what it currently costs to buy a hybrid version or diesel powered version of a given car.

      • The sad part of all of that is that BEVs are AWFUL as urban vehicles, as there’s nowhere easy to plug them in for an apartment dweller that has no parking lot with outlets/charge cords supplied, and “urban planners” seem woefully ignorant of how to design around their use. At best, BEVs work when they can be plugged in at home while destinations are within a reasonably short drive away, which plants them squarely in suburbia. Only very wealthy EV owners that garage their vehicles anyway in an urban area or reverse commuters can conveniently own and operate a BEV.

  9. I guest on a podcast I listen to talked about his “free” cross-country trip in a Tesla. He enthusiastically spoke of how he drove for 2 hours, then stopped for 20 minutes to use the Tesla-provided “supercharging” stations, then went on another 2 hours and so on. The only reason he could accomplish this was because of the careful placement of the recharging stations.

    https://www.teslamotors.com/findus#/bounds/49.38,-66.94,25.82,-124.39?search=supercharger

    Looks like you’re OK on I-70, but not on I-80. I guess no Tesla owner wants to go to Nebraska or Penn State.

    2 hour range will get you from Denver to Vail. Great if you’re skiing, but not so much if you want to head to Las Vegas. My TDI makes it from Grand Junction to LV on one tank, non-stop, at 85 MPH (where legal of course) in about 7 hours if I stop once or twice to stretch my legs, at a cost of about $22 in fuel. Adding a fuel stop every 2 hours would put me in Vegas after nearly 10 hours. That means I either have to leave earlier or get in later.

    I really don’t think sitting around a charging station while on vacation. My time off is too valuable to me to waste it sitting in a parking lot. Some of the superchargers are at gas stations, some are in hotel parking lots, and some are next to restaurants… meaning sitting around for 20 minutes at a time is going to lead to boredom and spending money at the stops along the way, which is why these businesses installed them in the first place. Reminds me of the ghost town exits you see once in a while on highways. After the speed limits went back up from 55 MPH and fuel economy improved, there just wasn’t any reason to stop as often, so we didn’t. Now Uncle and Mr Musk want us to go back to the long, slow slog vacation trip. Might as well tear out the Interstates and go back to 2 lane roads too.

    Anyone want to stop and check out the world’s largest ball of string?

    • Ha! No mention (even on their website) of who the %$#@ is paying for the electricity to charge these things. I suppose that would lead to some (very few) of the sheep realizing that electricity isnt exactly free…

      • The price if electricity for the Tesla Supercharger station is all up front either rolled into the price of the car or as a seperate item when one is bought used. There apparantly is no charge at time of plugging in.

    • It was my understanding that all of these Tesla superchargers that exist to provide that long distance experience on the Model S are solar.

      Be aware, solar power is NOT AT ALL free.

      Components of the PV solar panels require materials that must be mined and processed, incurring significant expense and causing pollution. Just because the work is front-loaded doesn’t mean it never needed to be done.

      Additionally, things that I see CARB doing seem to be about making the pollution happen in some other place rather than ending the pollution. And I reckon they’re creating greater net global pollution with their policy than what they’re selfishly reducing locally.

      • They’re not solar, they use local power. Each supercharger pulls a max of 250A at 400V, that’s 100kW. The best solar panels right now are made by Sunpower, which do about 320W nominal. Assuming you can get 100% of the power out, and you can’t, you’d need 313 of them of to charge one car. Each panel is about 2600 square inches, so to charge one car, you need about 1/7th of a football field of panels. Each supercharger can charge several cars at once and they work at night, so the panels are a no-go, unless they use off-site solar, which is entirely possible in some tree-hippie states.

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