- Future Cars
General Motors Volt electric car by 2010
GM says it can deliver with the Volt
The subject on Charlie Rose Tuesday night was the Volt electric, an answer to Toyota's highly successful hybrid the Prius. The Prius is powered with gasoline and an electric battery that operate as a synergist to maximize power to the front wheels. The object is to reduce carbon emissions from the tailpipe while maximizing fuel economy, thus reducing more emissions and of course, the cost to fill a tank of gasoline. At $4.00 a gallon the savings may be considerable. The prius comes with a reasonable price tag and makes no claims to sportiness or hidden psychological factors that drive buyers to buy this or that particular car. It is what it is.
GM, whose successful Hummer has lately been hammered, along with its line of huge SUV's, as well as low mileage ratings, has been taking a real beating, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Chrysler bail out(you remember the "k" cars, right)?
There seems to have been a major shake out at GM. The stock is a mere shadow of once loftiness. There must have been a battle between those who still believe that psychology drives most buyers in their choice of wheels, and those looking into the future where carbon plays an increasing diminishing role as a fuel choice. A compromise was reached. The result is the Volt.
Not much of the Volt is displayed on our tour of the GM laboratory, though the executive that accompanied Rose did allow a small skirt lifting to display enough to indicate the GM trademark design. Much attention has been placed on aerodynamics and the heart of its propulsion system, the battery. Well, almost all of the system, except the motor. Even electrics require a motor, along with the small gasoline engine to supplant the battery should you run out of juice on your 40 mile commute to work.
The battery weighs in at 500 pounds, down from the original which weighed several thousand. The battery will take the car the average commute of 40 miles then switch to the small engine to keep the battery charged in case your commute is 100 miles. GM is also banking on revolutionary developments in battery power in the next few years that may see batteries that never need charging.
The Volt then, is GM's key to the future. They have gambled that they may build a car that is near full size, that is good looking, and may be built at a reasonable cost (the present cost is $105,000).
With less than two years to come up with their "dream" car, GM has some major catching up to do. Its once successful business plan and bureaucratic design are still held sacred by many hardliners who may make or break the program.
Whatever the internal conflict, it would be a mighty thing for Gm to pull off in these hardening and cynical times. We certainly don't need another manufacturer closing on top of the already huge loss of jobs a closing causes.
Just one thing more: Don't reduce pay of the workers while enjoying a major pay and benefit package for the executive. Especially when performance is poor and the company is barely surviving due to poor judgment on management's part.
If GM pulls it off, they may be a catalyst that propels the country away from unworkable defense policies and denial about the extent of global warming. Even if offshore drilling helped the developing world oil crisis, how much longer will the planet hold up to the daily assault of thousands of tons of dirt and cancer causing agents poured directly into the atmosphere?