I came across this entry on autobloggreen.com about the Chevy Volt, which is GM’s latest stab at convincing us that they really do put some effort behind getting an electric car out the door to us sometime in the next millenium. I have to admit that, while I’m wholly *unconvinced* that I’ll ever see this car on a showroom floor near me, this car is totally cool.
My disclaimer is that I have clearly not done the research to figure out if this car is as green as it could possibly be or whatever; I don’t know if it takes more energy than traditional means through the charging process, mainly because I’m not an engineer. But the concepts they’re working with and the problems they’re aiming to solve at least shows that they understand that simply putting out a car that runs on electricity and forgetting about every single other detail will not fly.
First of all, this car isn’t something you would shudder to be seen in. Sure, it’s no Ferarri, but neither is anything else (except… a Ferarri). This car looks worlds better than those cheeseball little fiberglass boxes they wrap around the hybrid vehicles.
Speaking of hybrid, I’ve always had a problem with hybrids, and the Chevy Volt improves upon one aspect of the hybrid that I dislike: I’ve always looked at the design of the hybrids as a sign that the technology is not done yet. If it were, you wouldn’t need it to be “hybrid”. Let’s not forget that “hybrid” in “hybrid vehicle” is referring to the fact that there are two technologies working to get the job done, because one of them is costly, wastes energy and gives off emissions (that’d be the gas) and the other one nobody has learned to implement in such a way that it can replace the first one.
Well, GM didn’t totally throw gasoline out the window, but they’re using it in a bit of a different way from traditional hybrids – here’s the deal: you plug the Volt in to charge, say, overnight. In the morning, it has a full charge, which is enough to get most people back and forth to work (they’re shooting for a 40-mile range). However, it also has an internal combustion engine capable of running on gasoline or any of a number of bio-fuels. This engine isn’t connected to the wheels in any way, but rather the engine is used to charge the batteries. In this configuration, a car with a full tank of gas (a 12-gallon tank) and a full charge will go 640 miles. For reference, this is a bit more than double the distance I could go in my old Chevy Celebrity, which I believe had a 16-gallon gas tank.
So now the issues. As usual, the battery technology isn’t done yet, and when they’re done with that, they need to figure out how to make the thing cheap enough that people will actually buy the thing. Both issues seem to be major unknowns right now. I wish them luck, because I’d like to have something like this sooner than later.