July 27, 2009

More Volt Questions...

Are we sure consumers want this?

I don't think there's much uncertainty about consumer response. GM only decided to make the Volt because there was enormous response to the concept vehicle. EVs have been around for 100 years, and its been very clear that battery problems (cost, life, charging time, range limits, etc) have been their primary problems. They have great performance, low maintenance, low "fuel" costs, are quiet, etc, etc. Now that those problems are adequately solved with the PHEV design, new-gen li-ion, and higher gas prices, the market is wide open for PHEVs.

In an age of Peak Oil-related high fuel prices, ruinous oil-related trade deficits, oil wars, and potentially disastrous climate change (which is pretty likely to start to be priced in to market prices), isn't it nice to know that there's a cost-effective alternative, with no performance compromises, that uses only 10% as much fuel as the average US car?

Wouldn't charging at work be expensive for employer?

less than 10% of Volt owners are likely to want at-work charging (only 22% of all commuters are going to need it at all, and many of those are only going to need it for 5 or 10 miles on the way home). That's not going a large-volume problem for a little while.

As I noted before, it's likely that PHEV/EV charging will get a discount at whatever time it happens, as it's enormously useful for load following and frequency regulation (if the utility sees a spike in demand, or loses a generator, it can cut off the PHEV/EV charging in milliseconds).

If employers provided free charging, wouldn't that delay the rollout of public charging by companies like Better Place?

I think it's pretty clear that in the US the primary market niche will be for PHEVs, not EVs. Unlike gasoline, 90% of drivers have an outlet available at home, so public charging is much less important; and distances are much greater in the US. I wish Tesla, Nissan and Better Place very good luck (they'll have their market niche), but PHEVs will dominate for quite a while. And...that's just fine.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Why do you talk about these cars as though they were already in mass production, when they remain essentially prototypes today?

Are you concerned that the Volt might go the way of the EV-1? I think you're worrying too much. The Volt has none of the performance problems of the EV-1; PHEV/EVs are strongly supported by public policy, as shown by what the current administration says and by the planned CAFE regs; and, GM has made it pretty clear that the Volt is absolutely central to it's corporate strategy.

Electricity isn't free in either an economic or energy sense.

We don't have any real possibility of a shortage of electricity in this country; all of our electricity is domestically produced, so there's no trade deficit or security of supply problems; and PHEV/EVs supports the expansion of wind power by providing night time demand and mitigating intermittency.

Won't expensive, fossil fuel powered natural gas turbines be the primary power source for PHEVs/EVs?

No, when PHEV/EVs start to scale up, wind power is the natural source. Charging will be at night, when there's excess wind power, and charging can be dynamically matched to wind output. Smart meters will move charging to the points in time with the lowest marginal rates, which means wind and nuclear.

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