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GM Working on Feasible Electric Car

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the general-motors-not-game-master dept.

Businesses 673

WindBourne writes "While Ford wants to simply offer cosmetic changes to automobiles interiors and exteriors, General Motors has finally gotten the message about electric autos. They are about to introduce the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid which gets 40 Miles on a charge, but has a generator that can keep the auto going up to 640 miles range. From a styling POV, it is not a tesla, but it is also not a focus or a pinto. From the Rocky article: 'GM did not release cost estimates but said they recognize the Volt's price will have to be competitive. Company Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said in a statement that more than half of Americans live less than 20 miles from their workplace and could go to work and back on a single charge.'"

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673 comments

The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platform (5, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500092)

Also coming from GM in model year 2008 is the full hybrid GMT900 [wikipedia.org] truck platform [1 [auto123.com] , 2 [automobilemag.com] , . This encompasses the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV, among others. The hybrid uses the GM/DaimlerChrysler Advanced Hybrid System 2 [wikipedia.org] .

The hybrids will feature:

- 5.3L FlexFuel Vortec V8 (able to run using E85 [wikipedia.org] , a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline)
- Active Fuel Management (AFM)/Displacement on Demand (DOD), disabling cylinders as needed for cruising
- Two 30kW electric motors inside of the same physical space as the normal automatic transmission
- A continuously variable automatic transmission
- Conventional 110VAC power outlets on board
- Hybrid system derived from the advanced system on already in use on GM's Allison transit buses

This advanced hybrid system, while not plug-in, will be offered on all model year 2008 GM full size SUVs, as well as pickups and fleet vehicles. The expected fuel economy gain is 30% over today's figures on the gasoline/FlexFuel-only AFM variant, approaching 30mpg for city driving. That's a damned good improvement. And when used with FlexFuel, they're using less fossil fuels - even including the fully burdened fossil fuel costs of ethanol - than Prius and Civic hybrid drivers, in addition to contributing to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions. As the process efficiency increases over the next few years, these numbers will improve.

Whether or not one likes or dislikes SUVs, or thinks people should be able to be told what types of vehicles they should or shouldn't be driving, or think subjective judgments can be simplistically made about what other people "need" or don't need, it's still an excellent step forward. While the Volt is very interesting (conspiracy theorists: think of some way the Volt is really still a GM plot to "keep electric vehicles down" or to assist big oil) and using centralized power generation and leveraging the existing electric grid and production capacity is a necessary step to the future, the full hybrid SUVs will be one of the big things that people buy in the short term, not to mention being one of the major things - if not the thing - that may make or break GM in the next decade.

Re:The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platf (2, Interesting)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500174)

Yah, that's great and all, but after reading the specs on a Prius, or even a generic Honda, it is clear that automakers are only interested in their own profits.

Where are the turbine/electric hybrids? Why are we still dealing with pistons?

Re:The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500448)

Turbines don't exactly produce much power at low RPMs...

Re:The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platf (4, Informative)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500594)

They don't have to. The idea is you have a turbine that can be switched on or off to charge the batteries. This turbine is in no way hooked to the drive train. The car then runs purly in electrical mode all the time. The turbine can be run at peak efficiency.

And yes running all electric this way is actually very efficient, several modders have disconnected the drive train on their prius and showed gas miliage improvements.

Re:The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500634)

Where are the turbine/electric hybrids?

The best thing about such a vehicle is that you could pretend that you're Batman every time you start your car: "Batteries to Power! Turbines to Speed!"

Re:The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500294)

The expected fuel economy gain is 30%

How much is the expected price increase?

Re:The thing to watch:hybrid full size truck platf (2, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500384)

Don't know yet, but given that the 2007 North American International Auto Show [naias.com] is this week, we might be hearing more. And given that these will all be available for model year 2008, which will occur mid to late calendar year 2007, we'll have to hear something about price pretty soon. GM knows it has to be cost-competitive. And, frankly, buyers need to know that spending a little more up front will be better for everything from the environment, to fossil fuel foreign policy, to their pocketbooks. But even though compact fluorescents are provably less expensive over their lifetime than incandescents, it's still tough to convince people to change [nytimes.com] .

Don't be silly (2, Insightful)

Tim (686) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500506)

"The expected fuel economy gain is 30% over today's figures on the gasoline/FlexFuel-only AFM variant, approaching 30mpg for city driving. That's a damned good improvement. And when used with FlexFuel, they're using less fossil fuels - even including the fully burdened fossil fuel costs of ethanol - than Prius and Civic hybrid drivers, in addition to contributing to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions."

Uh, yeah....until Honda introduces an E85-capable hybrid. Then, SUVs will continue be the least fuel-efficient vehicles on the market.

No matter how you look at this, GM is shining a turd.

"Whether or not one likes or dislikes SUVs, or thinks people should be able to be told what types of vehicles they should or shouldn't be driving, or think subjective judgments can be simplistically made about what other people "need" or don't need, it's still an excellent step forward."

I'll grant that this is an important technological step forward, but I don't grant the greater implication: most people don't need to drive trucks. And no matter how many technoogical improvements are made to make light trucks more fuel-efficent, they'll still be less efficient than a smaller, lighter automobile with the same technology. It isn't a matter of "subjective judgment" -- it's a matter of physics.

(And not incidentally: we don't need to "tell" people what they "need" to drive. We can tax them based on the size and/or fuel-efficiency of their vehicle, and, like true conservatives, we'll "let the market work.")

Re:Don't be silly (2, Informative)

Eivind (15695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500622)

Sure you could, in principle. In practice the personal car is close enough to a holy cow in American politics that any suggestions of in any way limiting the God-Given-Rigth to drive 3MPG super-SUVs alone to work is akin to political suicide.

In much of Europe we've got this kind of thing for a long while already. For example, in Norway you pay taxes on a new vehicle according to weigth, engine-volume and horsepower (though it's recently been suggested to replace this with CO2-emmision/km). In Germany you pay a yearly "road-tax" that is scaled by the volume of your engine and the emission-class of the vehicle. (i.e. a car that pollutes less will pay a lower tax)

Re:Don't be silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500792)

Europe has also had a long tradition of screwing the individual for what the ruling elite consider best for society, aka the elite.

Re:Don't be silly (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500632)

Actually there is long term gain from this though. The people willing to spend extra money on these SUVs (and people are willing to spend a lot on SUVs). Will help support the development on these technologies. Realistically you simply are going to have to wait for the technology to mature before you see them in smaller cars more often. There are many rumors that the Prius actually cost more to produce than it sells for. You won't find many manufactures willing to do this atleast not in the more popular models. More and more SUVs are starting to have features like Hybrid drives and cylindar management simply because people will pay for them.

Re:Don't be silly (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500654)

"And not incidentally: we don't need to "tell" people what they "need" to drive. We can tax them based on the size and/or fuel-efficiency of their vehicle, and, like true conservatives, we'll "let the market work.""

Isn't governmental taxation and regulation interference in "the market"?

jesus (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500102)

JESUS WAS BLACK!!

Re:jesus (0, Offtopic)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500726)

Well, duh. Everybody who's seen Dogma knows that.

What is GM doing? (1, Interesting)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500114)

So how can Tesla, a startup company with little manufacturing and car experience relative to GM, build an electric car that can make it 200 miles on a charge, while GM can only build one that makes it 40? Come on GM, put a bigger Li-Ion battery in the thing and create a car that works for commuters.

Sure, the Volt is moving in the right direction, but it looks wacky and won't meet many people's expectations. Still, if it was under $25K, I'd consider one.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

ctid (449118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500228)

I think the tesla was built on a Lotus Esprit (or was it Elise?) chassis. Those are very small and light cars, at least in petrol form. There is a CNN article about this car [cnn.com] (which incidentally calls it a "concept") and the pictures suggest something rather large and heavy. I don't know if this apparent difference in size accounts for the difference in range.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500236)

So how can Tesla, a startup company with little manufacturing and car experience relative to GM, build an electric car that can make it 200 miles on a charge, while GM can only build one that makes it 40? Come on GM, put a bigger Li-Ion battery in the thing and create a car that works for commuters.

Keep in mind that the Tesla does not have to worry about lugging a heavy internal combustion engine around either. If you want to drive more than 200 miles in a Tesla, you have to carry around the portable charge and recharge it for three hours, assuming you can find a place that will let you plug in. The gasoline powered internal combustion engine may reduce the efficiency of the car, but it allows for the car to drive cross country, only stopping to refill (and pee), which takes about 15 minutes ever 400 miles or so.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

jadavis (473492) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500394)

If you want to drive more than 200 miles in a Tesla, you have to carry around the portable charge and recharge it for three hours

A small percentage of the miles I drive take place during a day in which I travel more than 200 miles. If the tesla were cheaper, I could have two cars: a cheap internal combustion car to make long trips, and a tesla to do most of my driving. We don't need one car to serve all purposes for all people.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500566)

Keep in mind that the Tesla does not have to worry about lugging a heavy internal combustion engine around either.

An I.C.E. is not heavy... I have a 2KW generator that probably weighs 20 pounds. It's a large engine, plus alternator, radiator, transmission, axle, fan, etc., which causes so much weight.

Throw a single-piston electric generator in the trunk of your Tesla motors vehicle, and it will, at the very least, extend the range significantly. With a more expensive, higher power generator, you could drive indefinitely, without all the significant added weight of current-style (parallel) hybrids.

Re:What is GM doing? (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500274)

So how can Tesla, a startup company with little manufacturing and car experience relative to GM, build an electric car that can make it 200 miles on a charge

The Tesla's sticker price of $92,500 makes it possible.

We're making progress, though. The only real remaining problem with high performance electric cars is battery cost. The necessary energy density is available if you pay enough.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500330)

The battery alone in the Tesla is going to cost something like $25000. GM is just as constrained as the rest of us, they don't have a secret supply of magic. And it is only suitable as a daily driver anyway, 250 miles, wait 3.5 hours isn't my idea of a fun trip.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500378)

Because Tesla is building a car that only the superwealthy can afford.

GM is building a car for regular people so compromises must be made. It's basic economic opportunity cost stuff, really, which you should have learned in college.

Re:What is GM doing? (3, Informative)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500412)

Actually the range for the Volt is 600 miles, not 40 due to the generator. The build cost for that is more reasonable than 5x the batteries, and allows for longer trips. It looks like a smart idea. The electric portion of the car can be generic, while the generator could be gas, diesel, biodiesel, hydrogen or fuel cell. I doubt GM's plan is to sell the car for $100K

Going longer on batteries is nice, but not everyone would agree that going a big further per charge is worth it if it reduces the ability for actual long distance driving. Some people have resorted to pulling trailers with generators for "pure" electric cars for long trips, so this is a much tidier solution. A car only useful for short trips would work for some people, but one that can directly replace an existing car where you don't have to worry about where the next charging location is will have much greater appeal.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500492)

Still, if it was under $25K, I'd consider one.

My first thought was, "I want one!" Then I saw the pictures...

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500508)

So how can Tesla, a startup company with little manufacturing and car experience relative to GM, build an electric car that can make it 200 miles on a charge, while GM can only build one that makes it 40?

By not putting in a gasoline powered generator; freeing up that space and weight for more batteries.

The article says that GM will not call this car a hybrid, but anyone who has ever read any of my previous posts on this issue will know that this car is nearly exactly what I've been harping about in my criticisms of cars like the Prius. This car is what a hybrid really is; before the marketing people started playing around with the term. Not a multi-drive car, but an electric drive car powered from a gasoline/deisel generator.

Thus the difference between this car and the Tesla is that the Tesla is an electric car and the Chevy is a hybrid.

Don't look at it as a car that will only go 40 miles before you have to plug it in again or add gasoline. That's really the wrong end of the telescope. Look at it as a car that will still go 40 miles after the gasoline is gone. The battery pack is cache, not main memory.

KFG

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500794)

"This car is what a hybrid really is; ... Not a multi-drive car, but an electric drive car powered from a gasoline/deisel generator."

I think you're picking nits and besides, from my perspective those other cars ARE hybrids. The Volt is an electric car... that just happens to carry around it's own backup generator.

Re:What is GM doing? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500822)

Tesla is a pure electric in a lightweight 2 seater with a range of 200 Miles at around 100K.

GM's is a sedan with 40 mile range electric/~600 Miles electric/gas. For the vast majority of Americans (and probably the world), 40 miles is a great radius with more than 500 being used rarely.

The only thing that GM appears to have wrong, is that they need to be using a lightweight engine like the radmax [regtech.com] . That engine would allow them to have even better mileage.

A little question (1)

CapitalT (987101) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500116)

Will it be killed?.... Again?

A little answer (4, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500140)

Re:A little answer (2, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500516)

Who Ignored the Facts About the Electric Car?

Everything he has to say was fully debunked by the movie. He has nothing more than the tired old "waiting list" spin to offer.

GM's EV1 -- Who Killed Common Sense?

He is a complete and total idiot, spouting lots of completely factually incorrect assumptions. He doesn't xplain his methodology for the cost of ownership numbers he makes up on the spot, yet he accuses the documentary of playing fast and loose with the facts?

Plenty of straw men, and more trolling in general.

20 miles from work? (1)

sczimme (603413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500134)


Company Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said in a statement that more than half of Americans live less than 20 miles from their workplace.

Is this actually true? I would like to ask Mr. Lutz for a cite or three to back this assertion.

Re:20 miles from work? (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500332)

Company Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said in a statement that more than half of Americans live less than 20 miles from their workplace.

Is this actually true? I would like to ask Mr. Lutz for a cite or three to back this assertion.

Is this really that hard to believe? It seems reasonable that more than "half" of Americans live less than 20 miles from work.

The US Census Journey to Work: 2000 [census.gov] notes that "average travel time to work was about 26 minutes in 2000." This means that unless people are driving faster than an average of 46 miles an hour for their entire work commutes, which I find unlikely, Americans are, on average not going farther than 20 miles. Granted, this still would be an average, but other data in this publication, while all focused on times and not distances, would appear to support the claim that a good chunk of Americans are fairly close to work. Also, given the average radii of suburban areas around city centers, and the massive growth of office parks around the outside of cities, it's not at all surprising to me that "over half" of Americans live within 20 miles of work. Out of curiosity, why did this strike you as so surprising or unbelievable?

Re:20 miles from work? (4, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500372)

Is this actually true? I would like to ask Mr. Lutz for a cite or three to back this assertion.

It seems reasonable at first blush, after all, unless you just LOVE sitting in your car idling down the freeway for hours a day, you probably want to live somewhere close to work. The average distance from home to work in Los Angeles is 8.2 miles [ucla.edu] (pdf), which includes claims that this is "consistent" with census data (except that it looks like the Census doesn't report distance, they report travel time [census.gov] ) and compares with other metropolitan areas. This [cwru.edu] (another pdf) says that the average first job for people going off welfare is 6.5 miles away. This PDF [trb.org] claims that work causes people to drive an average of 12 miles per day. This site [transact.org] says that over 1/3 of workers in the 100 largest cities drive more than 10 miles to work.

Re:20 miles from work? (1)

JAFSlashdotter (791771) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500784)

Company Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said in a statement that more than half of Americans live less than 20 miles from their workplace. Is this actually true? I would like to ask Mr. Lutz for a cite or three to back this assertion.
The US DOT seems to say the average commute in the US is about 12 miles [dot.gov] . Of course, since this is statistics, even if I understood correctly what they said the average is (i.e. the mean), that isn't really an answer to the question. Sorry, best I got. :)

battery cost (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500138)

The reported cost of the batteries is $10,000 for a car slightly smaller than a Prius. I wonder what they will have to sacrifice to make a car that is price competitive with Toyota's and Honda's offerings. Regardless, I am rooting for them. It would be nice to see an American car company innovating in such a dramatic manner.

Re:battery cost (1)

Sureshot324 (936142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500268)

The majority of power generated in the US comes from fossil fuels. So to power an electric car, you will convert the chemical energy in fossil fuel into electric energy in a power plant, send it over thousands of miles of power lines, doing several voltage conversions along the way, convert it back into chemical energy in your cars battery, back into electric energy as it goes to the engine, and then finally into mechanical energy moving the car. This is MUCH less efficient than just converting the chemical energy directly of fossil fuel into mechanical energy in your car's internal combustion engine. In every conversion to different type of energy you lose something. Until we can eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel to generate power, electric cars are actually worse for the environment than gasoline cars.

Re:battery cost (2, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500550)

It may not be the best solution for the USA, but still, you do have to admit it should be easier to filter all the pollution at power plants than in millions of cars.

Here in Quebec and Ontario, with all our hydro-electricity, electric cars really would be "clean cars" (or at least incredibly more clean than fossil fuel cars).

Re:battery cost (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500772)

. . .you do have to admit it should be easier to filter all the pollution at power plants than in millions of cars.

"Should," perhaps. Will, no. The handful of power plants have millions of lawyers; politicians; economic interests protecting them from regulatory intrusion.

The millions of cars have squat all.

Don't believe me? The last time your car failed an inspection point, did you spend your money to bring the car into compliance, or did you hire a lawyer to fight it?

KFG

Re:battery cost (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500806)

. . .to power an electric car, you will convert the chemical energy in fossil fuel into electric energy in a power plant, send it over thousands of miles of power lines, doing several voltage conversions along the way, convert it back into chemical energy in your cars battery, back into electric energy as it goes to the engine, and then finally into mechanical energy moving the car.

This car does something interesting. It converts chemical energy in fossil fuel and sends it a few feet to the electric motor.

KFG

Dammit (0, Offtopic)

KrunZ (247479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500188)

I read the headline as "GM Working on Feasible Eclectic Car"

WTF is the point, though? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500196)

A car that can only go 40 miles on a charge is nearly useless. Oh, you can run the generator - great, but it pisses through fuel. A whole whopping 71bhp from its one litre engine at *fifty miles per gallon* - wow! Do you have really tiny gallons there, or really long miles, or both? Most European cars have electric window motors more powerful than that.

Buy a diesel. Save yourself a lot of pain and expense.

Re:WTF is the point, though? (1)

ctid (449118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500264)


Do you have really tiny gallons there, or really long miles, or both?


They have tiny gallons! One US gallon = 0.833 Imperial gallons [tfcbooks.com] .

Re:WTF is the point, though? (4, Insightful)

tfiedler (732589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500410)

RTFA. Gasoline motor drives electric generator which is what moves the car. This is NO different than how locomotives work today. All trains are moved with electric motors, each engine being essentially a large power generation station on wheels. It's actually rather efficient.

Re:WTF is the point, though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500684)

As was said before, many people live very close to their workplace and won't go more than 40 miles in a day. For instance, I live in a New York City suburb (along with millions of other people) and only have to drive ~11 miles to work (both ways = ~22 miles) each day... in this case I could drive as much as I would need to without burning any gasoline and, if the electricity comes from a nuclear power plant like Indian Point, I would not contribute at all to foreign oil addiction/greenhouse emissions... so I don't think it's quite as useless as you say...

Re:WTF is the point, though? (1)

kramer (19951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500740)

How is a completely electric ride to and from work that half of all Americans can take advantage of useless?

I know about 90% of my driving would be completely electric with a plug-in hybrid like this.

Re:WTF is the point, though? (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500790)

I drive ten miles each way to work. Sometimes I drive a mile or two out of the way in one direction or the other to stop by a store or pick up my step-son, but if it's a firm 40 miles per charge, including sitting outdoors in Chicago winter weather for 8 hours in the middle, it'd suit me fine.

Re:WTF is the point, though? (1)

bogidu (300637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500826)

What does it matter how small the engine is if it's only being used as a generator and the electric system is pushing power to the wheels? It could be a 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton for keeping the batteries charged as long as we still get the REAL motor doing the work.

fwiw - I own a 2000 TDI. All-time high 810 miles on 15.5 Gallons of diesel. As much as I love my Jetta, I would gladly trade if for something that is a bit cleaner not only to the environment but to the mechanic to work on as well. soot sucks. (provided I didn't lose any of that nice torquey feel)

In the showroom in 5 years... maybe. (4, Informative)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500214)

General Motors has finally gotten the message about electric autos. They are about to introduce the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid
From the article:

GM officials stressed that development of the battery pack is critical to the concept vehicle reaching showrooms, and the technology likely won't be available until 2010 or 2012.

So it's due in 3 to 5 years - assuming GM doesn't change its commitment to the project, and that the battery pack development goes as well as it's hoped to.

Re:In the showroom in 5 years... maybe. (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500238)

So it's due in 3 to 5 years

And GM will be bankrupt in 10-15 years. You can't last long when you have a huge, non-productive expense (defined benefit pension and health care) that your competitors don't.

Re:In the showroom in 5 years... maybe. (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500572)

You can't last long when you have a huge, non-productive expense (defined benefit pension and health care) that your competitors don't.

Hooray for capitalism.

Re:In the showroom in 5 years... maybe. (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500606)

You mean like Xbox, Xbox 360 and everything else that has Microsoft written on it that's not Windows and Office?

Making money by selling gas-hungry cars and trucks is over. Vehicule manufacturers can only sell low-cost, efficient, clean cars and trucks from now on. GM is willing to change, but Ford isn't. I'm betting GM has better chances of still being here in 10-15 years than Ford or Dodge.

Yes you can... (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500690)

...as long as your leasing department is large enough. But then again, GM is having the idiotic idea of selling off their only profitable, and quite profitable as it is, department for the sake of "jump-starting" the company again. Unfortunately, all I see is a horde of H4's on the horizon....

It actually makes sense (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500216)

Use the battery (charged off the grid) for "around town" and gas up to go over the river and through the woods to Granny's house.

Is electric really better? (0, Flamebait)

rbf2000 (862211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500242)

These car companies seem to think that electric cars are the way to go. A lot of people like them because they are cleaner and cause less pollution. However, a lot of electricity is made by burning coal, which is not exactly a clean process. Also, transporting electricity is extremely inefficient. Depending on the length of the cable run, up to 50% of the electricity is lost, which means that even more coal has to be burned to compensate for that. Also, electricity is not stored very efficiently, either.

I don't know which is actually more efficient, burning fuel at the point of use, or creating electricity, transporting it over power lines, and then storing it on a battery, but I know that the actual benefit is not nearly as much as the perceived benefit.

Hybrid cars are a better idea, IMO, but I think I'll stick with regular gas until they come up with something like a hydrogen powered car.

It will be (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500344)

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/06/18/ap/busin ess/mainD8IASIGO1.shtml [cbsnews.com]

The above link is an example of the serious work being done to make coal power environmentally friendly. The plant in the article won't even emit CO2. Modern coal plants (which are already very efficient), nuclear, hydro and wind power make an electric car much friendlier to the environment than gas. Of course the batteries are a bit ugly but , if such cars become common, they will be efficiently recycled.

Re:Is electric really better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500420)

It isn't about less pollution but about less reliance on oil companies and not having to pay 4$ per gallon of gasoline. If electricity from the outlet is cheaper than gas from the gas station I know which one I want to use.

Re:Is electric really better? (5, Insightful)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500426)

Larger, centralized electricity production is more efficient than having tons of little internal combustion engines running around. On top of that, it's much easier to control pollution at a power plant than it is on all those cars on the road. As I understand it electric cars themselves should be more efficient (fewer moving parts and such, in some designs they can do away with a transmission altogether). Also, we can burn less coal and gasoline, and process less uranium, if more of the power production systems move to renewable sources (solar, wind, hydro-electric).

On top of that, hydrogen is not an energy source. Hydrogen is an energy storage/transmission medium. You have to get hydrogen from something first, and at the moment, I think many producers of hydrogen get it from fossil fuels. So you'd end up with similar problems unless the grid switched to mostly renewable sources. However, I still think it's better than having all those individual little gasoline engines.

Re:Is electric really better? (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500452)

> However, a lot of electricity is made by burning
> coal, which is not exactly a clean process.

Currently true. Although burning coal can be made relatively clean, it is extremely difficult to stop the CO2 emissions which are now thought to be the worst "pollutant".

However, keep in mind that as various fossil fuels disappear or grow exceedingly expensive, we will be forced to turn more and more to electricity. And there are many ways besides fossil fuels to generate electricity. Solar, wind, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion(?), tidal, etc.

Cars being charged up at night by otherwise-idle wind turbines would not be a bad thing.

Now, if energy for mobility grows so scarce and expensive that it is impossible to continue using personal vehicles the entire economy of the United States will collapse, so there won't be much for us to discuss here[1]. But if we can carry off a transition to vehicles fueled with renewables this is one step in that process.

I understand the problems with the batteries, but one additional problem that GM has is that they create too damn many concept cars and never get them on the road. They have been working on fuel cells since about 1970 for Gaia's sake. They should get a few thousand of these on the road in 2008 regardless of the weight and profitability so they can get some darned _experience_ with building and operating them. Not wait for the mythical super-battery.

sPh

[1] Yes, I am aware that through the 1940s we had a much less car-dependent US. With what we have done to the housing stock and job locations in the last 30 years however it _will not_ be possible to go back to anything like that way of life in less than 50 more years. Sorry.

Re:Is electric really better? (4, Insightful)

B1 (86803) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500454)

Electricity generation via fossil fuels may generate pollution, but consider:
  • The centralized power plant can be specially tuned to run at a constant speed with optimum efficiency, since the workload is very different from that faced by an automotive engine (e.g. stop/go traffic).
  • By running constantly, the centralized powerplant is able to avoid the emissions generated at engine startup, when the catalytic converter hasn't heated up yet
  • A central power plant is likely to be much better maintained than most car engines. That also goes for the emissions control equipment. Fluid leaks are more likely to be properly contained and addressed promptly.
  • The centralized power plant does not *have* to be driven by fossil fuels. Nuclear power is very viable. Localized solar panels may become an option too, as price / performance improves
  • Don't forget to consider the fuel used to truck gasoline to your local gas station, as well as the resulting emissions from that truck.

Re:Is electric really better? (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500586)

I think I'll stick with regular gas until they come up with something like a hydrogen powered car.
And just where do you think the hydrogen is going to come from? Steam reforming from methane (a fossile fuel) or electrolysis which uses electricity.

Re:Is electric really better? (3, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500626)

However, in the USA, a lot of electricity is made by burning coal, which is not exactly a clean process.


There, fixed that for you.

Re:Is electric really better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500774)

How many variables do you want to take into consideration?

Electric cars do have far fewer moving parts and fewer subsystems to worry about; not even the most staunch opponent of EVs will argue that. So how much do you save (from an environmental standpoint) if there are no oil changes? Or no liquid cooling system? Or the cost of manufacturing a multi-speed transmission (as most EVs don't need one)? Can the batteries be recycled at the end of their life? What's the environmental cost of their manufacture and life cycle? This is actually one of the many arguments against hybrids, as they incorporate all the complexities of two rather different technologies, totally negating Occam's Razor.

My point is simply that this has never been a simple discussion and that either "side" can simply increase the resolution of detail of what goes into an electric or gasoline car to refine [sic] their arguments, ad nauseum.

I'm still fond of the debate, of course. I hail from the pro-EV camp.

The myth of the electric car (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500280)

For the longest time I have been told that the myth of the electric car was that it was a more environmentaly sound automobile than a gasoline powered automobile; that with the comination of how much energy was wasted in charging the battery and with how most energy comes from coal, natural gas or oil power plants the electric car produced far more polution than a gasoline car. I don't know if this is true anymore ( there have been massive improvements in battery technology over the past couple of decades ) but it is worth investigating to see whether it is still true. Personally, I suspect that less polution would be produced if everyone "down-sized" their car to better suit their needs ( SUV -> Minivan -> Wagon -> Full Sized -> Mid Size -> Compact -> Sub-Compact -> Smart Car -> Scooter -> Bicycle ) and used public transit where possible rather than if everyone switched to electric cars.

I admit I could be wrong though.

Re:The myth of the electric car (1)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500404)

Yeah but just think how much CO2 would be produced with all those people huffing and puffing on those bicycles.

Re:The myth of the electric car (1)

Incadenza (560402) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500512)

Personally, I suspect that less polution would be produced if everyone "down-sized" their car to better suit their needs ( SUV -> Minivan -> Wagon -> Full Sized -> Mid Size -> Compact -> Sub-Compact -> Smart Car -> Scooter -> Bicycle )
If that is sorted on pollution, then the scooter should be at the point where 'Mid Size' is. Scooters and mopeds do not use a lot of fuel, but they do not combust very well as well, and have no filtering whatsoever. They emit a lot of NOx and fine dust.

Re:The myth of the electric car (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500854)

Minivan -> Wagon -> Full Sized -> Mid Size -> Compact -> Sub-Compact -> Smart Car -> Scooter -> Bicycle ) and used public transit where possible rather than if everyone switched to electric cars.

The bike and scooter aren't for winter commutes in Minneapolis or Buffalo.

Public transit can be successful when population densities and usage approach those of a major city.

But the inadequate and awkwardly routed suburban services we see are used (and subsidized for use) almost exclusively by the poor, the elderly, the sick and disabled.

The twenty minute commute becomes a two hour marathon run because of the need to service isolated nursing homes, group homes, outpatient clinics, hospitals, senior centers and the like.

Batteries? What? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500306)

How about using those new "supercapacitors" we've heard about a few months ago? They should lower the cost and recharge time quite a bit.

Styling (1)

hey (83763) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500390)

I hate the styling. It looks very paranoid and macho -- which might be the point?
Hey, GM, why not make all your vehicles cars plugin-hybrids?!

Scott Adams wins (0, Redundant)

jcarkeys (925469) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500396)

He beat Slashdot to this one with The Dilbert Blog [typepad.com]

Hydrogen is the way to go (0)

forgotmynameagain (1046572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500400)

They should go with the hydrogen cars, we'll have a few Pintos at first but after that it will be fine. It's possible to make hydrogen(H) with water(H2O).

Re:Hydrogen is the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500734)

It's possible to make hydrogen(H) with water(H2O).

Well don't keep us all in suspense - what's the other thing? It's possible to 'make' hydrogen with water and ...?

I can't wait to find out. I bet this solves all our energy needs.

Re:Hydrogen is the way to go (1)

forgotmynameagain (1046572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500776)

Right now, the water need to be electrolysed to make hydrogen but I'm sure there are another ways to make hydrogen from water. Electrolysis is okay thought.

Re:Hydrogen is the way to go (1)

slashjunkie (800216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500814)

H20 is already the result of combusting hydrogen and oxygen. Energy is given off during the combustion, and the new molecule forms at a more stable state. If you liken it to burning wood, water is essentially the "ash" left after the fire has gone out. Do you think ash has a lot of energy in it?

To extract H2 from H20 (using electrolysis) takes energy - more energy than you'll reap when you burn the H2 again (unless you're using "free" energy like solar power to do the cracking).

One of the major hurdles of hydrogen fuel is that there is no cost-effective way of producing it yet, which is no surprise, since it is very rare to find it on Earth in elemental form. Sure, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but Earth's atmosphere is only about 1ppm hydrogen.

Gee, Think Zonk hates Fords? (1)

ColdCoffee (664886) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500422)

You couldn't tell, could you? For Christ's sake Zonk, TRY to be SOMEWHAT objective! I'm no Ford fanboy, but I've found them to be a bit more reliable than Chevrolet, and every bit as innovative as any other car company.

Just start building EV-1's again. (4, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500438)

GM, just start building EV-1's again. Stop with this "always four years away" nonsense. Just get started. You already have a feasible, marketable car. Just start building it and marketing it.

The EV-1's were by all accounts practical, peppy, fun to drive, reliable, the lease terms were affordable, and when the leases expired the lessees wanted to buy them, and they had a waiting list a mile long of people who wanted them.

The R&D has already been amortized. What's this fixation with needing a 400-mile range? Sure, plenty of people do. Don't try to sell them an electric car. Sell electric cars to the people who don't. Duh. Sell convertibles to the people who want convertibles, sell trucks to the people who want trucks, and sell EV-1's to the people who want EV-1's.

Just get started. Get the things on the market. Get the charging stations in place. Sell cars with an 80-mile range this year, then two years from now bring out models with improved batteries and a 120-mile range, or whatever.

ford? (4, Informative)

csimicah (592121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500450)

While Ford wants to simply offer cosmetic changes to automobiles interiors and exteriors

Ford is showing a 65mpg diesel hybrid - with supplemental solar power, no less. I'm not sure why 50mpg hybrids from GM are a revelation but a 65mpg diesel hybrid from Ford is "cosmetic", but there you go.
http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID= /20060104/FREE/60103014/1115 [autonews.com]

Re:ford? Solar Power... (1)

duh_lime (583156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500510)

... for nothing more than the headlights and taillights. Be still my heart. I think they've solved the gas crisis.

Re:ford? (1)

nonsequitor (893813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500878)

That car looks awesome. I wonder how it handles or if it will ever hit a showroom floor. Also doesn't this allow Ford to make SUV's which guzzle more gas even if it never makes it to mass production? Since this will raise the average mpg of their entire fleet.

The new green pintos... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500462)

...will still occcasionally burn the occupants alive, but a sophisticated emmissions system will only release water vapor with a hint of pork.

Nothing quite like a million cars recharging.... (5, Insightful)

duh_lime (583156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500480)

... to push the California power grid six feet under during the summer. This will guarantee year-round brownouts, blackouts, and other power problems. Of course, that means plenty of "repair work" for IT staff.

When they talk about electric/hybrid cars with more nuclear power plants nationwide, *then* we'll have a plan. Otherwise, it's trading one problem for another.

Rest assured, California is not the only state with barely enough power-generation capacity. This could be "just the ticket" to justify hugely higher electric rates nationwide. Has anyone quantified the "recharging load" on the grid? Many people would have to recharge at work during the day to make it back home in the evening. Not all recharging could occur at night. Don't get me wrong. I think it's the right direction. But, the whole system needs to be planned and made to happen. Not just the cars.

Read the fine print - it's about CAFE standards (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500498)

GM says in no uncertain terms that the batteries to make the Volt a viable car, do not in fact exist.

No, you should disabuse yourselves of the fiction that Detroit has any interest in electric cars. They do it at all because of a wrinkle in the Federal CAFE law which allows them to factor in these experimental cars into their CAFE standards. This way they can continue to build more 11mpg land arks. In fact that's what Detroit is doing - they're building evermore large trucks and SUVs. Some, like Ford are leaving the minivan market altogether and are scaling back car production in favor of trucks and SUV's. Why? Because the margin on them is too fat to ignore.

EV1 (1)

JBERLIN (1048164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500504)

I agree with dpbsmith. The ev1s were so much cheaper to run and didnt require nearly as many replacement parts as most gas cars do. And all this stuff about hydrogen cars is garbage because if you have done research you know that hydrogen is no better than gas because of the amount of energy needed to produce it and the small mpg achievable with it.

Re:EV1 (1)

forgotmynameagain (1046572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500744)

What is needed is hydrogen stations around the country that produce their own hydrogen. Electrolyse water with electricity or wind or solar energy. GE said they invented something called Noryl to lower the cost of hydrogen production to hundreds of dollars per kilowatt. I don't see where the problem is other than the big Oiled ppl don't want us to talk about it.

Needs Batteries (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500518)

Concept car this, concept car that, get back to us when it's about to roll off the production floor in maybe 2010 or 2012. The article also has this to say:

But the Volt is limited by battery technology and GM has no date for it to be available to the public.
...
GM officials stressed that development of the battery pack is critical to the concept vehicle reaching showrooms, and the technology likely won't be available until 2010 or 2012.

Guys, I hear Sony make hi-tech batteries. Smokin!

Coal powered cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500580)

0-60 in 8.5s, reasonable range, doesn't look like a Pacer. Cool car. I want one, if it doesn't cost $90K.

Now, just to be sure, you greenys aren't going to flip out when we have to build the power plants necessary to make this work for more than 0.002% of the driving public that aren't Hollywood bigshots, right?

Didn't think so.

Apparently a German company are also doing this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500600)

...and the car will be called a Voltswagen ! Likewise it won't be an American built Telsa [tiscali.co.uk] either !

What a joke. (1)

pkulak (815640) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500674)

"GM officials stressed that development of the battery pack is critical to the concept vehicle reaching showrooms, and the technology likely won't be available until 2010 or 2012."

Call me when I can BUY one. Saying something will be ready in half a decade is just a slap in the face.

They must be buying Hot Wheels! (1)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500676)

Gotta be the case, because I know of no other feasible electric cars. Can someone fix the title?

20 miles! (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500724)

I reckon it's amazing that 50% of Americans live more than 20 miles from work. That's a damn long way, and means they must spend a lot of time commuting.

My ideal distance would be about 7 - 10 miles - makes for a nice bike ride here in Australia ;-) ...whatever does it for you, I guess...

Sorry, but... (2, Funny)

Crash McBang (551190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500730)

... I'm not buying one of these until they've killed it at least three more times.

Then I'll know they're serious!

to the critics of this GM-Volt (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500746)

hey, it is not perfect. but it is a good start and the sooner we cut our dependence on fossil fuels the better, if not completely weened of fossil fuels then hopefully greatly lower our dependence...

maybe even give the US consumer the power to tell oil imports "no thanks" we have enough domestic oil, and make giant corps like Exxon sweat...

Not yet, folks. (1)

FunkeyMonk (1034108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500754)

From TFA
GM officials stressed that development of the battery pack is critical to the concept vehicle reaching showrooms, and the technology likely won't be available until 2010 or 2012.

Call me in 3 to 5 years.

Offset to the generators (1)

Twillerror (536681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500766)

As has been stated many times over a plug-in car just offset the polution to our power generators...which are already overloaded.

I think what we really need to ask ourselves is if we need a 300 hp beast when we go to the grocery store. Pistons that automatically shut down when not need. A solar panel that might get you a few miles on the way home by charging a battery during the day.

I was down in Dallas for work back in the summer. Everyone drove, but everyone also parked outdoors. The sun light was intense and it was hot as heck. All the grass was burnt. Solar panels on the top of the cars and on the burnt lawns ( dust circles ) would have been enough to save quite a bit of gas over the weekend.

If you live in a windy area could we not have little mini generators on your car when it is parked? Even if a full day of wind only provided 2 minutes of driving electricty is it not worth it?

If we are going electric until we can figure out the hydrogen thing ( if ever ) we need to be more creative on how we charge them. Just plugging in the car won't solve the problem.

Re:Offset to the generators (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500832)

Large, centralized power generation is usually more efficient than "mini generators".

Secondly, the main advantage of petroleum is energy density, while it is terrible when it comes to sustainability and environmental concerns. With centralized power generation you can make choices on other bases besides energy density, and focus more on the other factors.

Where are the all-electrics? (1)

sfontain (842406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500780)

I love that we're finally getting to true electrics rather than hybrids. I still don't like that every car anyone plans on making still has something that burns fuel, though, be it an engine in the drivetrain or only a charging generator.

What I would be quite interested in, though, is be an small, comfortable, ultra-lightweight rolling chassis with a battery but without a generator that could go 40 miles on a charge. If it had moderate heat and air conditioning, along with a radio, and it wasn't so obscenely overpriced just because it's electric, I would be utterly thrilled. To me, this seems entirely commercially viable for $5,000-$10,000, and it could reduce emissions immensely for those of us with very short commutes. Way fewer parts, far less mass to move, easier to maneuver. Aside from the obvious safety concerns (I wouldn't want to get rammed by an Escalade in one of these), this sort of commuter car would be heaven.

I know these exist, but I wish they were as available as, say, Ford Escape hybrids.

Not this again... (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17500838)

If the automakers (American and foreign) really wanted to produce electricity powered vehicles, they can. GM proved his with the EV1. See wikipedia article on the documentary. [wikipedia.org] . The fact is that the oil companies lobby both the auto companies and government to kill anything that might reduce their profits. We won't seriously be getting into electric cars until the oil derricks start making gurgling sounds and oil prices really skyrocket.

But (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17500882)

If people see you driving one, they'll think you're gay!
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