It’s been called the vehicle that will “save” General Motors, the car of the future, and the electric car that will bring GM into the 21st century…
But contrary to what others may opine, the Chevy Volt is not a product that will make or break The General. The Volt does, however, carry enough non-financial cachet that is sure to have a lasting effect on GM. More than anything, the Volt holds the promise of transforming GM’s image of a staid, old-school automaker with little imagination into one of an iconic and forward-thinking company — akin to what the Prius has done to give Toyota an eco-friendly perception in the minds of consumers (as contradictory to reality as that may be — Tundra V8, Lexus LF-A and IS-F, I’m looking at you).
Since the Volt’s launch at the end of 2010, many consumers continue to be misinformed and blatantly misunderstand what the Volt is, what it does, and why it may be of value to them. If you don’t believe me, attend the public days of an auto show, and listen to how many people worry about the Volt running out of its electric charge in the middle of traffic. This lack of understanding equips the Volt skeptics with a stronger (if not louder) voice that will undoubtedly bestow false information upon the mis-informed public.
If this continues, the end result could be disastrous, as GM could remain — in the eyes of the average consumer — an unenterprising, lazy, and non-innovative car maker that simply doesn’t get it. Add to that the political mess that came in the form of the government bailout in 2009, and the picture can instantly procure very dusky undertones… at least for General Motors.
Insofar as to convey the truth about the Volt to the public at large, we’ve compiled the ten most popular myths — and their corresponding facts — about this vehicle. Here they are:
Myth: it can only drive for a total of 40 miles
Fact: the Volt can travel between 25 and 50 miles on pure electric charge, but that’s not as far as it can go. After the battery’s charge has been depleted for driving purposes, the Volt seamlessly switches to an on-board gasoline engine-generator, which is capable of powering the car for a range of approximately 300 miles with a full tank of (required) premium fuel. This means that the Volt is the only electric vehicle capable of traveling as far as a regular gasoline-powered car: about 340 miles in total, 40 miles on pure electricity and 300 on pure gasoline.
Myth: it won’t work in hot or cold weather
Fact: extreme temperatures will unquestionably affect overall battery performance. But when the battery is depleted and the Volt switches to the engine-generator for power, outdoor conditions cease to be a factor. As such, severe outside temperatures won’t stop the Volt dead in its tracks.
Myth: it’s just another hybrid… who cares?
Fact: most advanced hybrids can drive very short distances (usually less than a mile) at very low speeds (20-40 mph) on electric power alone. The Volt, however, can drive a total of 25-50 miles on electricity. This is the major difference between today’s advanced hybrid systems (found in such cars as the Toyota Prius) and the Volt. For those wanting to get more technical, the Volt actually has five distinct operating modes:
- Battery discharging, acceleration or low-speed cruising
- Battery discharging, high-speed cruising
- Battery depleted, acceleration or low-speed cruising
- Battery depleted, high-speed cruising
By comparison, the most popular hybrids only have two modes.
Myth: it must constantly be plugged in
Fact: the gasoline engine-generator powers the Volt after the first 25-50 miles of pure electric driving. When the battery runs out or charge for pure electric driving, the Volt will continue on its way by using the engine generator.
Myth: it’s too expensive
Fact: compared to what? Being in a segment all by itself, the Volt has no equal. It may have plenty of “comparable” vehicles, but no direct competitors. That said, the Volt’s $41,000 price tag is definitely not cheap; a federal tax credit cuts $7,500 off that 41k, while individual States may offer incentives of their own to lower the price even further. And when it comes to leases, the Volt’s set lease price of $350 a month is one dollar more than what Nissan is asking for the Leaf — an electric vehicle without an engine-generator. As such, the Leaf is dead when the batteries are empty (after about 100 miles), contributing to range anxiety and resulting in inferior levels of convenience.
Myth: the government forced GM to built it
Fact: this one can’t be further from reality. GM embarked on the Volt project in 2006 – long before its widespread financial problems and the 2010 government intervention. Ironically, the presidential automotive task force (that researched GM’s position during the now-infamous chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings) supported the move to scrap the Volt project due to the program’s inability to make money for at least the first few years. GM convinced the government that the technology was too important and that the Volt had to carry on. And it did.
Myth: it has a better bumper-to-bumper warranty than any other Chevy
Fact: the Volt carries the same three-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty as any other Chevrolet. However, the important components (the ones that are most unfamiliar to consumers today) are covered for way longer…
In fact, the Volt’s warranty covers the battery and Voltec drive unit for eight years or 100,000 miles while the powertrain warranty covers the powertrain/drivetrain (read: engine) for five year or 100,000 miles. The batteries should, however, last much longer. Today’s competitive marketplace compels automakers to make sure parts — especially expensive ones such as the lithium-ion batteries in the Volt — last well beyond the warranty period simply because it’s prohibitively expensive to foot the bill for a repair or a replacement for the automaker itself.
For instance, many owners of the original Honda Insight Hybrid (which began production in 1999) report that the original batteries in their cars still work today — after more than 10 years of driving! Given the fact that the Volt has a more modern battery system, its batteries should still have plenty of power after the warranty expires. And the myth of intentional failure is just that — a myth: companies have much more important things to worry about (such as competitors and long-term vehicle testing) than to set their products to break after a calculated period of time.
That, however, is not to say that the Volt will last forever. But chances are, it won’t keel over and die when the powertrain warranty runs out.
Myth: the batteries are produced in Korea
Fact: they are assembled at GM’s Brownstown Township plant, between Telegraph Road and I-75 in suburban Detroit. However, the individual pieces of the batteries are currently manufactured in Korea. GM plans to move production to a new factory in western Michigan in 2013.
Myth: it’s not available in Europe
Fact: the Volt will be sold in Europe for €41,000. It will be sold alongside its brother — the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera.
Myth: the only innovation is in the powertrain
Fact: this is a matter of perspective, but we’d be more than happy to provide the facts.
GM applied for more than 200 patents during the Volt’s development. And the vehicle’s ability to serve as an everyday driver while providing the ownership experience that doesn’t carry the baggage that is range anxiety is innovation in and of itself. However, the integration of modern aerodynamics technologies, the world’s lightest and most low-rolling resistance tires in a mainstream vehicle, and an all-digital driver’s information console is more than impressive. Couple that with the Volt’s high-tech smartphone app that provides the ability to turn wall charging on and off, start the car, and even locate the Volt on a map — and it’s easy to see why the powertrain is not the only innovation in the Volt.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to take a trip outside and enjoy the Volt’s instant torque while making Prius owners jealous…