Replace the family car? Are you kidding? The world family implies children, let’s say two, which will fit in a Volt, presuming the parents of those children can afford a $40,000 car, or $32,000 if they have the tax bracket to take advantage of the government tax write-off. In six years of average driving, 15,000mi/yr, they will need to replace the vehicle’s batteries, probably a bit sooner than that, at a cost of $10-12,000. So, just to get to the current average age usage of a car today, which is around ten years, our parents are looking at buying a $50,000 car, all other things being equal.
For that, they get a car with limited mileage, very limited mileage, on battery operation alone. If they live somewhere hot, or somewhere cold, it’ll perform even worse. Which is where its 9 gallon gas tank comes into play. You’ll have noticed, in the conveniently provided short-term test perspective, that in 27,000 miles the driver filled that tank 66 times, or approximately once every 400 miles, and plugged it in four times that amount, which does take rather longer than a fill-up. I’m just struck by the fact that the average family sedan needs filling up about…every 400 miles. That the test was done primarily in moderate climate California, doesn’t portend well for the Volt doing nearly that well in, say, Detroit.
So our family buys a car that cannot even compete with the Chevy Cruise Eco, sister to the Volt, which gets 42 mpg average, 50 mpg highway, and costs on average $18,000? It’s a better buy for our family, even a $5-6 per gallon gasoline. Just how many stupid families do you expect to find out there? Let me rephrase that. Just how many stupid families with $42,000 to spend on a car do you expect to find out there? Not many? Well, GM and the American taxpayer have now spent about $25 billion to find out exactly the same thing. Let’s remember, there’s a reason these guys went bankrupt in the first place, and it had nothing to do with the Volt but, I’ll bet if you looked at it, you’d find a lot of Volt-like decisions within their corporate past that might lead you to think bankruptcy had to come some day.
The short version of this whole technological inanity is that the battery technology is still five years away; right where it’s been for the last two decades, always five years away. What it is is, it ain’t here today, and five years from now ain’t lookin’ good neither. (Or did the battery maker’s troubles escape you? Electric car battery makers hit the skids — Cleantech News and Analysis Yeah, that’s another $1 billion of taxpayer dollars to battery companies that make batteries that either don’t work, or are still better suited to cordless drills.)
GM, meanwhile, has no competitive true family car, to carry that formulation a bit further forward. Its current family four-door, the Malibu, is widely panned as not being nearly as good as the Malibu it replaced. You can’t tolerate too many model changes like that and survive. Why the importance of the family four-door, which hasn’t been much heard from over the past decade? Because SUVs are going away. CAFE standards now apply to trucks and require them to get 28.5 mpg by 2016. By the time that day arrives, all that will likely be left in the GM stable that resembles an SUV will be the venerable Suburban, though its continuance is hardly guaranteed as GM will have to offer vehicles to offset it, which brings us to minivans and the four-door family sedan. GM doesn’t make a minivan and it family four-door, well, it could have used some of that Volt development money it appears. GM will be appearing in a bankruptcy court again.