Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You'll get a charge out of this.

DETROIT – General Motors Co. is guaranteeing the battery in its Chevrolet Volt electric car for eight years or 100,000 miles in an effort to inspire confidence in the new technology.
The guarantee is better than warranties on GM's conventional car engines and transmissions, which are five years or 100,000 miles.
The rechargeable Volt is due in showrooms this November. The vehicle can travel 40 miles on
battery power before a small gasoline engine takes over to generate power so the car can go longer distances. The Volt is expected to be priced around $35,000 but will probably cost less after federal tax credits.
Other automakers are rolling out electric cars. Shortly after the Volt goes on sale, Nissan Motor Co. will begin selling the Leaf, which the company said will get up to 100 miles on a single charge.
By the way, notice how the GM designers put a grill on the car, even though it probably doesn't need one.
OK, so that's nice. GM is selling battery technology for $35,000 and the car will be a novelty around the Yacht club gala or picking up your spoiled little brats from pre-school, but I wonder about the other end.
If you own a home and have available outdoor outlets, you plug the car to the charger. What happens if you're out somewhere and need a charge? Not all of these electric cars are going to have gasoline engines. The battery runs low and you're at Wal-Mart or a friend's house. Do you carry an extension cord around so you can plug in? And who pays for the electricity? I'm sure the gang at McDonald's or your local convenience store won't be too happy about picking up the tab to get you home.
Can you drive back and forth to work on a 40-mile battery charge? I can't. How is your employer going to feel about recharging every employee's electric-powered vehicles? And where would you plug it in if you could? There's another payroll deduction for you!
If the Volt only goes 40 miles on a charge, where is the cost savings over running a gasoline-powered car? When you factor in the 20-miles out and 20-miles back feature, stopping to recharge will eat into a substantial amount of your on-the-road time. You're better off buying a Prius or some other hybrid. They cost less, to start with, and avoid power outlets like the Devil.
And how much does it cost to charge the battery? My cell phone battery probably doesn't register a blip on the meter, but I can't start my car with it either. I foresee a new revenue source for every commercial establishment with electric power outlets. Run a meter and charge us for a charge.
While I realize that getting off the oil standard is a primary goal of mine, I'm not convinced that these electric cars are the ultimate answer. It's nice to see, although I would assume that there is some financial (tax) incentive for the auto makers to build these things. That's why they're $35,000 (translated: Unaffordable for Most People). With that kind of outlay, you're probably better off spending $17,000 for a gasoline vehicle and paying for your own gas, at least until the battery range improves.
As it is with so many things in life, when one door opens, another door closes. Maybe we should keep opening doors until we find something better?


Cliff Yankovich said...

I respectfully disagree. While 40 miles isn't far - it is a starting point. Go to a museum and look at the old vehicles - yikes! But they were a launching pad for what we have now and since technology moves at a blistering pace, the Volt will improve in leaps and bounds IMHO.

Anthony said...

Sure it will, but asking us to pay $35,000 for imperfect technology isn't right either.
And what about the recharging issue?