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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

General Motors Unplugs The Chevy Volt

A 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Battery powered for the first 25 to 50 miles after charging up, the electric-powered Chevy Volt's on-board generator automatically provides additional electricity to continue on for another 300 miles. (AP Photo/General Motors)

General Motors has decided to temporarily halt production of its premier electric plug-in car in an effort to deal with lagging sales.

The Volt, ironically named the “best European car of the year,” fell nearly 2,500 cars below its projected sale of 10,000 last year, and 2012 sales have been slow.

The car has been plagued by bad publicity following a highly publicized fire last November that resulted in a federal investigation. Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined the car was not at any increased risk of fire, that stigma seems to live on.

The Volt has also found itself embroiled in politics, as President Obama recently said he’d buy one when he gets out of office, and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich poked fun at the “green car” saying you can’t fit it with a gun rack. Republican candidates also point out that the Volt’s very existence is still a product of an auto industry bailout with which they disagreed.

Guest:

  • Tim Higgins, automotive correspondent for Bloomberg News.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Heath

    Listening to your interview with a knowledgeable individual it would have been nice to know the cost advantages/disadvantages vs. gasoline vehicles.   While gas seems expensive, electricity isn’t free and most electricity comes from coal. 

    Thanks,
    Just Curious

  • David LaPorte

    The way I look at it, electricity Vs. gasoline isn’t supposed to cover the cost of the car.  It’s new technology and isn’t cheap to manufacture.  Early adopters are always willing to pay a little extra.  The price will come down in time.  It always does.  The first cell phones weren’t cheap either.  So, really, the relative cost of electricity just helps curb the cost of a very nice vehicle.  Just for an example, if you pay 10 cents per kWh and $3.70 per gallon of gas (my situation), you save a little over $100 a month over a 25mpg vehicle if you drive 1,000 miles per month.

    As a nation, we get an average of about 45% of our electricity from coal.  More in the midwest.  Less on the coasts.  That being said, even if we got 100% of our electricity from coal, it would be cleaner than gasoline.  It’s always more efficient to centralize your energy production.  You don’t have to worry about cold starts which is when a gasoline engine runs at it’s least efficient while it warms up.  A coal fire plant is always running.  Plus, a lot of the energy potential in gasoline is lost in heat.  You know when your engine gets warm?  That’s energy being lost.  Electricity is much more efficient in that regard.

    Coal is by no means ideal.  And it’s something we should try to reduce our reliance on as well.  But, depending on where you are, you might not be getting that much of your energy from coal as it is.  And, even if you do, it’s a more efficient means of producing electricity than gasoline.

  • elitry

    I saw one at Chicago O’hare this past week and it turned my head before I realized it was a Volt.  Good looking car, and a step in the right direction.   We won’t be making energy from coal forever, so consider this a great transition technology that may help bring our cars in line with future smart grids.   

  • Mrblandin

    I love my Chevy Volt, which I purchased last November.  I think it is a great car, and a great transition from fossil fuels.  I regret that it has become a political issue.  It is very progressive American technology, that we should be proud of.  GM did not do justice to the “range” issue.  This car has totally unlimited range.  You can drive across the country without plugging in if you want to.  My 32 mile round trip to work costs me about $0.80 per day.  This factors into the long term cost equation.  I think this technology will eventually become mainstream and costs will come down.

  • Amadeus_06457

    It is so typical for an American car company to not get it right.   This is one of the reasons why the Japanese make lots of money selling their cars. We the taxpayers, bailed out GM’s **s  an few years back and they continue to do what they always have, by putting our CRAP.  Gee thanks,  General Motors.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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