Would You Buy A Chevy Volt?


The Chevy Volt seems to be the most ballyhooed electric vehicle not yet available for sale. The vehicle is scheduled to be in the showrooms November 2010 with a price tag of about $40,000 before a government subsidy of $7, 200.

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Chevy Volt

Courtesy of Popular Mechanics Magazine

It’s wheels are driven by an electric motor.  The power for the electric motor is a lithium-ion battery pack.  The pack can be charged either by plugging it into an electrical outlet or by the on-board 71hp Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) which can keep the battery pack charged. The range of the battery pack is about 40 miles before requiring recharging.   The range using the on-board ICE charger is essentially unlimited.  When operating on the  ICE charger, the MPG is said to be about 50.

Depending on the type of driving you do, you might like this car.  If you seldom drive more than 40 miles a day, you have a garage where you can recharge the battery pack and  you don’t expect high performance, then this may be the vehicle for you. Because you are happy getting 50 MPG,  you don’t mind the under performance you get from a battery pack charged by a  71 hp engine,  it could work for you.  For those of you that like to be seen as “early adopters” or like to let people know of your environmental credentials,   this could be the car for you.

Before you buy—–

If you find that the above noted specs fit you, there are a couple of things more that you should consider.   First consideration is the price of the Volt.   An Edmund’s study compares the Volt’s high purchase price versus other lower priced hybrids with nearly as good mileage. That study says, despite the estimated 230 miles per gallon for the Volt, the $11+thousand higher purchase price would not the Volt owner to  break even with the Prius for 17.4 years.  See that study here.

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The mileage of these all-electric vehicles will use the expression “miles per gallon equivalent” (MPGe).  This term is based upon the electrical energy consumed expressed as the equivalent energy in a gallon of gasoline.   A gallon of gasoline is pegged at 115,000 btu per gallon.  The electrical equivalent is 33.7KWh.  For example if your electric vehicle uses 150 W-h per mile,  it’s MPGe = (1/150  W-h/mile)(33,700W-h/gal)= 225 MPGe

The big issue

The battery pack is probably the most problematic issue with respect to the Volt and for that matter for every all-electric vehicle.   In my next posting, I will discuss some of the potential pot holes in the road that the battery pack may represent.

Cbdakota


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