Sep 30

New PHEV Consortium Bashes the Chevy Volt

 

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The Rocky Mountain Institute has formed a plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) consortium who will work with a group of companies, Google among them, to design what is in their opinion an ideal PHEV for the U.S.

This team is actually headed by John Waters who had once helped to design the EV-1 battery pack and has once worked with lithium-ion battery company EnerDel.

Mr. Waters has publicly declared that the Volts’ design and engineering are flawed and doomed to failure:

“[The Volt] is a 4,000-pound vehicle. The drag coefficient is around .30. They [GM] forgot everything they learned on the EV1 so for me, it is a very discouraging concept, the fact that it is inefficient.

Therefore if it is inefficient, it takes more batteries on board…and batteries cost money, and you’re not going to pay for them. So this is a concept that is not going to work.

So until they start hearing the RMI message, really, of lighten your vehicle, make it more efficient, and that the energy you put on board is a minimum…then you can afford it. The cost equation does work.”

It is a great thing that there are so many opinions out there, we must be on the verge of a revolution.

In terms of the curb weight for the prototype:

EV-1: 3084 lbs   Chevy Volt: 3140 lbs

Sour grapes Mr. Waters?

Thanks to Alex for the tip.

Source (Green Car Congress)

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 30th, 2007 at 12:00 am and is filed under Competitors, Engineering. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 57


  1. 1
    Dave G

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (8:12 am)

    I’ve seen this a lot. Engineers are supposed to be logical. They should evaluate designs strictly on the merit of the design itself.

    But it seems that many engineers evaluate designs based on whether they thought of it first, or who is proposing it, and then find facts to support their position.

    What if all the engineers in the world let go of their emotional bias? Who cars who thought of it first? A good idea is a good idea. There are plenty of other things to be emotional about in this life.


  2. 2
    Tim

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (8:26 am)

    I think Mr. Waters needs a little fresh air & sunshine. That may clear his head.

    The Volt is only 56-lbs heavier than the EV-1, but it carries twice as many passengers, has a 540 mile greater range and it’s all electric range will cover 82% of all commutes. Yea, the aero can be improved and Mr. Lutz said that is what they intent to do on the production car, so what’s Mr. Water’s point?

    Exactly how was the EV- Better? Oh, I know… he helped design it.

    The EnerDel connection is interesting, though.


  3. 3
    Dave B

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (9:41 am)

    I think Waters was dead wrong about the Volt’s weight, by about 25%, which means he was talking without much factual standing.

    Still, the guy knows cars, so we mise well listen and scientifically dismiss his claims to be safe.


  4. 4
    Matt986

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (10:05 am)

    I don’t think we know exactly how much the Volt weighs yet. GM may have a target, but they simply haven’t BUILT a real one yet.


  5. 5
    Steven B

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (11:06 am)

    I think that it may be in issue of comparing apples to pears with this one. The EV-1 being described was actually on the market, and the Volt concept is a concept car. Concept cars may look like production vehicles, only better and often without a proper powertrain, but they are only for showcasing new ideas, not sale. The EV-1 was not mass-marketed, by the way, and it’s technical superiority was not transalted to market sucess. I’m expecting the production Volt to have the common shortcomings of all production cars: a certain level of inefficiency, weight encumbered due to cost effectiveness, and shortcomings in aerodynamics due to aesthetic choices. But I’m also expected E=flex to be as revolutionary as it’s being trumpeted, and that it will enable us to evolve our vehicle fleet towards electricity and biofuels, and it will in time also us to hook up with our utilities to provide V2G services and develop a cleaner, more efficient electrical grid.


  6. 6
    Brian

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (11:42 am)

    If the Volt looked like the EV1, how many do you think they would sell? (See: Honda Insight)


  7. 7
    kent beuchert

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (2:30 pm)

    Apparently GM has learned from the failure of the EV-1 but this Waters guy hasn’t.
    Personally I think he’s justifying his job by bashing his former company, mostly by telling outright lies.
    Waters only objection to the VOLT is that it requires “too many” batteries because it’s too heavy and therefore too expensive and therefore won’t sell. At less than $30K , I don’t understand Water’s logic at all. He must REALLY have some harsh words for the Volvo design, which will be way more expensive than the VOLT. Far from selling too few, my biggest fear is that GM is underestimating just how much demand there will be. At 5 miles per kilowatt hour, the VOLT stands up very well with all the rest in terms of efficiency. Only the lightweight Tesla, which has no extended range capability at all, and uses the ultimate expensive lightweight components, gets the same mileage. Sounds like this guy sold those boobs over at Google a bill of goods and is bashing the VOLT as part of his con job. Even if Waters can build a car 500 pounds lighter than
    the VOLT (small chance), the cost reduction by fewer batteries will be slight. The cost of batteries will be coming down because of mass manufacturing, not because some yoyo cuts a few hundred pounds off a car design. That won’t accomplish squat.


  8. 8
    AES

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (4:46 pm)

    Despite Waters’ being fundamentally incorrect about the material composition and stats of the Volt prototype, he has some valid points about lightweighting – although not necessarily realistic ones.

    The EV1 was made of aluminum, magnesium and fiberglass, and sacrificed a lot of practicality and aesthetics to get the lightest weight possible. Even though it was about the same weight as the Volt prototype, the difference is that the batteries were much heavier, and the chassis was much lighter. One COULD use an aluminum-based chassis in the Volt as he appears to be suggesting – but that introduces a big slew of manufacturing and repair complications.

    A BIG grain of salt to take with Mr.Waters’ comments is that the RMI is a company that specializes in carbon fiber. Carbon fiber could definitely bring the Volt’s weight down a LOT, but in their 10+ years in existance, RMI have failed to get any significant market penetration with their unique carbon fiber manufacturing processes -which they claim dramatically reduce cost and time. Look up FiberForge.com for more info. So they have a significant battle of their own they are fighting.

    The bottom line is that GM is doing the best thing it can with the most practical lightweighting technology available NOW (batteries included), and any future improvements in chassis and body lightweighting could be easily included later on.


  9. 9
    SteveF

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (8:39 pm)

    I do not agree with Waters statement about the Volt. I agree with other statements that there are other priorities in first production of Volt and later GM can focus of addition weight reduction. Only I do agree that all the cars today and near future are much to heavy. I understand that lightweight material today are expensive, but if the auto companies did more R&D on the materials and maybe as much effort they are putting into Fuel Cells, the could create today a much lighter weight vehicle and result in much better MPG. The big problem with all these gas consuming SUV is that they are very heavy. As E-Flex grows and GM and other companies expand to provide larger plug-in EVs the weight will have to be reduced or they will need huge amount of batteries. As least this is my opinion and others may know more about the new lightweight materials.


  10. 10
    AES

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (9:03 pm)

    Ballpark estimate for how much carbon fiber could theoretically reduce the Volt’s weight (or that of any car):

    The Volt’s powertrain – engine (182lbs), motor (~100 pounds), generator (?), batteries(320 pounds), full fuel tanks (78 pounds), are all probably about 700-800 pounds total, give or take a bit. Assume 800 pounds to be very conservative.

    3140-800=2340 pounds of actual chassis weight.

    If most of that is steel, and CF is about 60% lighter than steel, (0.4)(2440)=976 pounds of carbon fiber chassis. Total gross weight of 1776 pounds – less than a ton.

    At the rough 2006 market price of $8-$10 per pound of carbon fiber (according to: http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/get_press_release.cfm?ReleaseNumber=mr20060306-00):

    10*976=$9760 to build a Volt out of CF. Now that’s for an OEM, and it doesn’t include the labor and processing costs of forming it into the proper shape.

    If that sounds cheap next to a target price of 30,000 dollars, also consider the fact that steel is sold for several hundred dollars per TON:

    http://www.steelonthenet.com/prices.html.

    Even at $800 per ton, that’s 40 cents per pound.

    If anyone from RMI is reading – play hardball with the facts next time. Prove that you can sell carbon fiber at a practical price.


  11. 11
    Jack the R

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (9:05 pm)

    Methinks the Volt prototype would be lighter than the EV-1 if it were riding on the EV-1′s puny rims instead of massive show car rims.


  12. 12
    OhmExcited

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (10:09 pm)

    The EV-1 was a 2 seater. The Volt has 4 doors. The Volt has a much longer range than the EV-1. The EV-1 was much more expensive than the proposed price of the Volt. It does sound like sour grapes. Having said that, GM did deserve the movie that villanized them.


  13. 13
    Mark Bartosik

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (10:27 pm)

    Maybe Rocky Mountain Institute will be able to contribute worth while engineering research and ideas to the industry. For example, help set vehicle to grid standards, maybe research use of a turbine for the range extender (turbines being simple, often lighter, and often fairly flexible on fuel). GM can only do so much with the Volt since they have a deadline and risk to manage.

    However, to go around bashing someone else’s design just seems sad and counter productive. The quote didn’t sound much like constructive criticism to me.

    Give me a choice of EV1 or Volt, and it is a no brainer!


  14. 14
    GXT

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (10:37 pm)

    Based on the A123 Hymotion pack used in the Prius a 16KWH battery pack would weigh over 400 pounds.

    Does anyone have a source on the weight og the Volt?


  15. 15
    GXT

     

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    Sep 30th, 2007 (10:44 pm)

    AES,

    Those are good points, but it is GM promising the lowball price, the battery revolution, and the need not to be use light-weight materials and a low drag shape. It is no suprise that an engineer would question if it is possible.


  16. 16
    AES

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (2:26 am)

    GXT-

    The rear-mounted Hymotion pack in the Prius contains considerable padding to protect it in the event of a collision. Putting a pack along the centerline (a la the Volt) automatically reduces the need for such drastic padding, since it’s in a much safer place. This has been the positioning of GM battery packs dating all the way back to the GM Impact.

    Additionally, if they use the 32-series A123 cells, which have a higher energy density, that will help bring the weight down. Given that the cells will also be bigger (32mm diameter vs. 26mm), that also reduces the total number of cells, and hence the amount of control circuitry that controls the individual voltage of every cell. If you look at the Killacycle pack, it’s just an aluminum box, and every electric drill cell has a small electronics module attached to it.

    Based on the theoretical limit of LiFePO4 chemistry, the cells themselves could weigh as little as 251 pounds.


  17. 17
    AES

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (2:43 am)

    re: GXT’s second post-

    “GM promising the lowball price, the battery revolution, and the need not to be use light-weight materials and a low drag shape”

    Battery revolution – we’ve been over this point before twice already. No need to rehash it.

    Low drag shape – can’t really be debated until the production incarnation gets revealed. Aerodynamic refinements shouldn’t be too hard to implement over the flashy show car.

    Lowball price- also remains to be seen. Biggest obstacle is economies of scale for the batteries, not the technology itself.

    need not to be use light-weight materials – To the contrary, the concept actually used lexan plastic for a lot of body parts. Lexan is pretty affordable, as opposed to carbon fiber, which at present is NOT.

    You really have to read between the lines here, and realize that Mr.Waters is basically just tooting his own company’s horn, and that RMI needs to put up or shut up.


  18. 18
    omegaman66

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (4:40 am)

    Good gracious!!! This bozo is complaining about the weight of the vehicle because it will make the car inefficient. Um… the car gets 50mpg on ICE and 40 miles on batteries. That is the bottom line.

    According to his flawed logic if they could make the volt at 6000 pounds and have it get 100mpg on ICE and 100 miles on battery then that would be even worse simply because of the weight???

    People don’t give a rats ass what the effeciency rateing is as long as the gas milage is better! The Volt was dreamed up so that we could drive vehicles that weigh less!!!


  19. 19
    Dave

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (8:26 am)

    Good point, omegaman66.

    I have a question. Why worry so much about weight in the first place? I understand in a conventional car, extra weight costs a lot of energy to get up to speed, completely wasted as you brake. But won’t the Volt have regenerative brakes? Don’t you get the energy back (less some inefficiencies)? What does the cost/benefit look like for weight reduction with regenerative brakes?


  20. 20
    Mike756

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (8:55 am)

    Dave

    Great question. I’m surprised we got 19 posts before it got asked. I’d like to see the numbers on this as well.


  21. 21
    Steven B

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (11:15 am)

    As I understand the situation, GM has consistently been pursuing weight-reduction in their vehicles for years. Only economics ahs been slowing the process. They’ve been adding more and more aluminum over time, and are interested in carbon fiber and other composites. Admittedly, this information from me is third-hand, but that is what I’ve heard of GM engineering saying. Does anybody have any second or first hand information on it?


  22. 22
    Jeff M

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (12:56 pm)

    Kent [comment#7], the EV-1 was not a failure… demand exceeded supply, amazing considering the complete lack of marketing, lease only and not a cheap one at that, and that you had to jump through high hoops to even be considered a lease candidate.

    What killed the EV-1 and the other EV’s at the time was not that they were failures, but that the auto companies, big oil, and the Bush admin were able to essentially kill California’s ZEV mandate (by creating a loop hole big enough to drive a Hummer through).

    Drag of the Volt is something they could definitely improve… that will make a big difference at highway speeds on the battery only range.

    BREAKING NEWS… CNN Headline News just gave news (that us here already know) that the Volt will be produced in 2010 and in the USA, they even correctly called it an EV and quoted it’s 40 mile battery range. This is the 1st time I’ve seen CNN, MSNBC or FoxNews talk about a PHEV!!!


  23. 23
    Mark Bartosik

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (1:00 pm)

    Capturing energy with regenerative brakes:
    (Anyone more expert in this area please correct)

    To slow the vehicle down there are the following forces:
    1) Wind resistance
    2) Rolling resistance (friction in drive train and deformation of tires).
    3) Regenerative braking
    4) Friction breaking.

    As energy is dissapated to slow the vehicle down (negative acceleration), all of these will have some effect. For very gradual slow down (coasting) 1 & 2 will be dominant, for emergency stop 4 will be dominant.

    Some percentage of energy will be available for recapture by 3, but not 100%, and the recapture will not be 100% efficient.

    Using guessed figures, if on average 50% of the energy was available for recapture and the efficiency of recapture was 90%, then 45% of energy “wasted” in acceleration could be reclaimed.

    So the benefit of reduced weight is lessened by regenerative breaking, but certainly not eliminated. Thus how much money one might be prepared to spend to reduce the weight might be less.

    On the flip side, discharge rates for the batteries and battery size will be impacted by weight (although less than without regenerative breaking). Since batteries are expensive it may still be more effective to reduce weight than increase battery size.

    Basically there is a sweat spot where weight, battery size, complexity of regenerative breaking, aerodynamics, and cost all come together to make a design.

    “Better” to Mr. Waters may mean lighter, but that may also ultimately kill the car with cost. “Better” to Mr. Waters may also mean designed by him.

    “Better” to marketing may mean cheaper, or better acceleration.

    In the end this is all an engineering trade off, something that I am sure GM is very expert in, and I have faith that GM will deliver something that is based on sound engineering, and that many will buy.


  24. 24
    Neutron Flux

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (1:35 pm)

    Good Thread thanks to all for input


  25. 25
    Brian

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (3:05 pm)

    Mark:

    I’m no expert but I don’t think that 90% is a good estimation of regen efficiency. I think I have heard numbers much lower, like 20-30%.

    I tried finding a reference, but the term “efficiency” gets washed out in the search because every article refers to “fuel efficiency” and I can’t find one that refers to the efficiency of the regenerative breaking.

    I think the limiting factor is that the batteries cannot accept a large amount of energy in a small amount of time without heating to dangerous temperatures. A lot of the energy has to be dissipated in the friction brakes.


  26. 26
    Matt986

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (3:07 pm)

    Weight IS an issue in a vehicle like the Volt. The heavier a vehicle is, the more energy it takes to make it move, and keep it moving.

    Sure, you’d get more energy return when braking, but it will NEVER break even with how much energy it spent to get to speed. Never. (also, you can’t factor in the energy used when cruising along for X number of miles, only the inertia of the vehicle which is entirely dependent on it’s weight and velocity)

    A lighter vehicle gets better range on the same amount of power storage. Given the same battery pack, you’d get better range with a lighter vehicle.

    And Jeff, I seriously doubt that the Bush admin had ANYTHING to do with California’s ZEV mandate, and it’s subsequent repeal. That was a STATE level debacle, not a Federal government level issue.


  27. 27
    Mike G.

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (3:26 pm)

    Regenerative breaking will recapture some energy. Heavier is not better but the reason is that it affects the bottom line… mpg and miles per kilowatt. But it is pointless to talk about weight when you already know the bottom line.

    Who cares what revenue is (1 million vs 2 million for example) when what you are really interested in is profit (mpg)!

    Actually the more the Volt weighs when it can still get 50mpg and 40 miles on batteries the better. That just means there is more room for improvement. Lower the weight in the future and the mpg will increase.


  28. 28
    GripperDon

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (3:55 pm)

    I only have a couple of question but first let me say I love the general idea. And i will be very happy if GM pulls it off.
    the questions , Comments, etc.:
    1. Regerative braking Watts from the wheels to the battery and back to move the car is about , are you ready, is close to 28% max.
    2. Lighter weigh is always better PERIOD.
    3. Lower air drag is always better period. There are electric car concepts around that are showing air drag coefficient of 0.11 lots better than 0.30 and wil reall help the 70 mph milage.
    4. The overall efficiency of putting energy into the battery from the ICE is very clost to 17%, yep 17%
    5. So you can see regerative braking is very important.
    6. The AC system needs to be greatly improved in efficieny. On the Hybrid i drive noe the use of the electrically driven AC cuts the MPG by 27%
    7. I know everything gets improved so GM needs to do everything it can to assure the initia buyers of a trouble fre efficient car, this means a GREAAT warranty and outstanding service. Sell it at someplave than a chey dealer, I have a hard time tinking of taking it in for service at my Chevy dealer.


  29. 29
    AES

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (4:24 pm)

    A couple quick points:

    Regen braking efficiency is a function of how big the regen brakes are, and how much power the battery can absorb in a very short period of time. If the Volt is using its big drive motor as a regen brake (a generator, essentially), that motor is larger and will be able to capture more regen energy than the smaller motors on a traditional hybrid. Also, lithium ion chemistry is a lot more efficient than older NiMH chemistry. The A123 cells should be especially good at rapidly recharging from regen.

    re:GripperDon, about the 17% efficiency of charging the battery from the ICE:

    If the ICE is run at optimum speed and load, thermal efficiency can approach 37%, like with the Prius. If the generator is ~90% efficient, and charge/discharging the battery is 95% efficient, then (0.37)(0.90)(0.95)(0.95)=0.30, or 30% efficiency. I don’t know where you get that 17% number of yours, but it’s pretty off-target. Even if you take into account the worst possible drive motor efficiency and gearbox losses, (0.30)(0.86)(0.95)=~25% efficiency. The motor by itself, driving the wheels through a traditional drive train, would be no more than 15-20% efficient at best.


  30. 30
    Jeff M

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (4:42 pm)

    Matt986, you are lucky you didn’t bet money… the Bush admin definitely had a role in killing CA’s ZEV mandate, and it wasn’t a secret either. The Bush admin supported the suit (to overturne ZEV mandate) in a legal filing called “Friends of the Court Brief”. See http://tinyurl.com/2mduux among others.

    Keep in mind that the President’s then Chief of staff, Andrew Card, had previously been Chief Lobbyist for General Motors.

    And I’m glad you agree it SHOULD be a State issue… too bad the Bush admin is currently also blocking California’s right to regulate CO2 emissions.

    None of this should be a surprise… the current admin in the Whitehouse is all about big oil (President an oil man, Cheney an oil man, Condy Rice an oil woman (after whom Chevron had named an oil tanker after [since renamed]), even the guy who was outed for editing (to soften the language) the government’s scientific reports on global warming had no scientific background but was a lawyer for the oil companies.

    So it makes it even more impressive to have an American big auto company be the 1st to announce and hopefully be the 1st to mass produce a plug-in EV (with a range extender), and at an affordable price.


  31. 31
    Dave G

     

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    Oct 1st, 2007 (6:28 pm)

    GripperDon Says:
    “4. The overall efficiency of putting energy into the battery from the ICE is very clost to 17%, yep 17%”

    The ICE doesn’t really charge the battery. The Volt is designed so that the ICE just powers the average needs of the electric motor, so any incidental charging of the battery from the ICE would be insignificant.

    GripperDon Says:
    “6. The AC system needs to be greatly improved in efficieny. On the Hybrid i drive noe the use of the electrically driven AC cuts the MPG by 27%”

    First, the Volt is mostly about using electricity instead of gas, so MPG is somewhat irrelevant. As for the air conditioner, a 1000 watt AC unit would decrease the all-electric range from 40 down to 35 miles. Since I can’t imagine the Volt needing an AC unit that large, the actual range with the AC on will probably be closer to 38 miles. Not a big deal.

    GripperDon Says:
    “7. I know everything gets improved so GM needs to do everything it can to assure the initia buyers of a trouble fre efficient car, this means a GREAAT warranty and outstanding service. Sell it at someplave than a chey dealer, I have a hard time tinking of taking it in for service at my Chevy dealer.”

    Well, like it or not, it’s a Chevy.


  32. 32
    Rouser

     

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    Oct 2nd, 2007 (6:39 pm)

    I liked John Waters better when he’s directing movies like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray!


  33. 33
    Bill

     

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    Oct 2nd, 2007 (7:52 pm)

    RMI is simply beating a dead horse.

    They want to license their carbon fiber process, but it’s clear no one’s interested.

    Carbon fiber is simply too expensive at this time.

    The “Hypercar” is dead, dead, dead.

    RMI needs to wake up before they become any more marginalized than they already are wrt EVs.


  34. 34
    Michael Brylawski

     

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    Oct 16th, 2007 (7:03 pm)

    For the record, I’m Michael Brylawski and head RMI’s Transportation Practice (called MOVE).

    Someone just alerted me to this posting, and I wanted to respond to a few comments. John W. has read it to and I believe will also respond. Part of what I love about the web is this real-time dialogue!

    First, RMI as an efficiency-focused non-profit is INCREDIBLY supportive of GM’s and other automakers’ efforts to commercialize PHEVs. We are passionate about PHEVs like everyone in this community. We see their great potential, and want them, as do all users of this site, on the road ASAP, in mass quantities.

    We hope GM lives up to the promise of getting the Volt on the road in 2010 at under $30k–it would do wonders in catalyzing the industry and getting us on a pathway to radically reduce our oil consumption.

    RMI’s analysis, stemming from 1991, is that lightweighting and platform efficiency is a smart and profitable way to get hybrids (including PHEVs) on the road at the lowest cost. Simply, an efficient platform requires a smaller–and for hybrids, more affordable–powertrain and can enable the commercial adoption of advanced drivesystems at higher per-kW or -kWh costs.

    What I don’t want to see-and I think everyone on this board would agree–if for the Volt to come to production with the claim that it is highly unprofitable, limiting its market volume, with the only way to lower its cost is by getting battery pack costs to go down to potentially unrealistic numbers.

    RMI’s extensive analysis, including the work done in this consortium, indicates that lightweighting and platform efficiency is a pathway to PHEV affordability at realistic battery pack costs.

    Simply, the extra cost of a lightweight structure (aluminum, see below) is offset by a greater degree of battery and powertrain savings. And efficiency goes up too–but that’s a side benefit of the more favorable bill of material costs.

    That is the “criticism” of the Volt in its entirety. If GM can meet its targets with the spec’d platform physics, wonderful! We just feel that more emphasis on platform physics–as GM did meticulously on the EV1, e.g., the mass clipboard carriers in “The Car that Could,” would be beneficial to this vehicle and ultimately make it (counter-intuitively) more affordable.

    Again, it’s counter intuitive in that by going to the global small car architecture (formerly Delta), the Volt in a way is more “production ready.” But because this platform, for its size, is indeed pretty heavy, it could incumber greater volume penetration.

    Second, as for the platform physics (lightweighting) arguments, I think a few posters capture the argument very well here.

    Low weight in combination with good aero and low rolling resistance tires (and a focus on accessory efficiency) creates an “efficient platform” which lowers the wh/mi requirement, even with strong regen.

    A poster claimed here 5 mi per kWh which if true would be incredibly impressive–about 2/3 better than Tesla’s ~3 mi per kWh (thus I have doubts). More likely it’s going to be about
    ~2.5 mi per kWh, which means ~14-15 kWh for the battery pack. At today’s cost, that’s $14-15k, and at an optimistic cost of $400/kWh, we’re talking upwards of $7k just for the pack.

    John W’s weight assumption below was based on a very early estimate from ~2006 conversations with a GM engineer, and clearly the concept has come down in mass significantly (if the 3000-lb target mentioned is right).

    That is the right direction, and continued focus on mass and aero as this platform evolves will pay strong dividends in reduced kWh–and battery cost.

    Lastly, some posters state (passionately) that RMI has a “carbon fiber process” it wants to sell/license.

    To be clear, RMI does not own or have a carbon fiber process. RMI is “materials neutral,” and supports the use of lightweight materials–in particular aluminum.

    These posters should have noted that in the PHEV design consortium that Alcoa was a partner!

    RMI indeed spun off Fiberforge (known then as Hypercar) in 2000; the companies are completely separate, with the only link being our chief scientist and founder Amory Lovins is on their board.

    Indeed, I do see long-term potential with carbon-fiber to lightweight automobiles, but it is not in the Volt’s time frame of ~2010-11 production. I see carbon-fiber showing strong potential in the 5-15 year time frame.

    In the near term, we feel aluminum has a much stronger potential to practically lightweight automotive structures.

    ——–

    Overall, I can say genuinely that RMI supports GM’s efforts in commercializing PHEVs, and we are bullish on their potential.

    But careful attention needs to be paid to lightweighting/platform physics in order for the Volt and other advanced vehicles to go beyond niche, and ultimately in all of our driveways and (smart) garages.

    Just note Toyota’s 1/x concept–again noting the lightweighting and NOT the carbon fiber–as Toyota’s push for next generation plug-ins. Just as many were skeptical of the value/practicality of the first-gen Prius–ultimately in its third generation which is now the 8th best selling car in the US–we should pay careful attention to this concept and the implications for future plug-in hybrid design.


  35. 35
    John Waters

     

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    Oct 16th, 2007 (7:06 pm)

    Wow! What an amazing experience. Now I understand a little what politicians must go through! Let me set a few things as straight as I can.

    - the quotes above were NOT taken in a formal or informal interview but cut (out of context) from a videotaped presentation made last winter (a few weeks after the Volt debut)
    - at the time of the presentation, the Chevy Volt was reported to have a curb mass of 3850 lbs. and a Cd of 0.30 (EV1 was around 3000 lbs and 0.19 Cd)
    - in no circumstance do I, nor does RMI, have any criticism toward GM developing a more efficient platform that potentially leverages alternative energy
    - the PHEV Consortium that was formed had absolutely nothing to do with these “quotes” and does not endorse the reported position

    I hope this clears the air that I did not and do not wish to participate or contribute to any “GM bashing”. I worked for GM and am proud of my experience and the company that gave me opportunities to positively change the world through a revolutionary product known as the EV1. I have plenty of opinions on the EV1 but will not discuss those here.

    My only point, and I deeply apologize for the confusion and the controversy, is that the battery cost on advanced vehicles is often prohibitive for the widespread proliferation of efficient transportation products. If the platform physics of the vehicle can be optimized (this is what EV1 taught us) by reducing mass, aerodynamic drag, and rolling resistance, then the battery capacity requirement is reduced along with the associated costs. GM knows this well and I trust will move toward this business and technical solution.

    It is a documented fact that the platform physics of all vehicles have moved in the wrong direction over the past decade. This is mainly due to the proliferation of larger vehicles and options – many of these options being safety related. RMI has significant strategies to assist in the improvement of platform physics and are working with several manufacturers to bring these to the marketplace.

    Btw, I really enjoyed the comment about “I liked John Waters better when he’s directing movies like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray!”

    Me too!


  36. 36
    Mike756

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (9:46 am)

    Michael Brylawski said

    “A poster claimed here 5 mi per kWh which if true would be incredibly impressive–about 2/3 better than Tesla’s ~3 mi per kWh”

    But Tesla’s website says they are getting 110 wh/km, which is about 177 wh/mile(5.64 mi/kwh).
    http://www.teslamotors.com/efficiency/well_to_wheel.php
    The DOE testing of converted Priuses shows they are getting about 200 wh/mile.
    http://avt.inl.gov/phev.shtml

    Can we get some clarity here?


  37. 37
    Van

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (10:32 am)

    The 5 miles per KWH number represents peak mileage, achieved at about 30 MPH on level ground at steady state speed. We we stop in traffic but the AC or heater continues, the mileage goes down. Regenerative braking only recovers a portion of the energy, so where we drive stop and go, the mileage goes down. In real world tests, 2.5 miles per KWH is readily achieved. So in a new design it is reasonable to expect 3 or even 3.5 miles per KWH. Time will tell, but I expect the Volt to get about 3.5 miles per KWH overall.

    All these 200 miles per gallon claims are bogus. They are built on assumptions. Anytime you see a city mileage higher than a highway mileage, you know the test cycle did not account for a loss in the state of charge of the battery. There is no free lunch in physics.

    If I had a car that got 3 Miles per KWH, how could I claim 200 miles per gallon. Lets say I drive 50 miles using the battery for 40 miles and burn .25 gallons for the other 10 miles (a real 40 MPG ICE). What can I say… I went 50 using .25, so I got 200 MPG. Bogus but that is what is being done for the purpose of hype.


  38. 38
    AES

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (10:44 am)

    A couple quick points, since a few of their comments were obviously a response to some of mine-

    1) Waters and RMI seem eager to distance itself from the aforementioned “carbon fiber process”. While I think we’re both fundamentally in agreement of the benefits of lightweighting in general and supportive of the associated technologies (aluminum, lexan, etc), RMI is indelibly associated in the public eye with their HyperCar concept, and with the associated carbon fiber technology that one way or another spun off to become FiberForge. So while RMI may be open to many solutions, any general comment by RMI on lightweighting is invariably associated with carbon fiber. Is that a PR liability on their part? Possibly, and that’s why having interview comments taken out of context is somewhat dangerous. So kudos on their part for stepping up to the plate and responding.

    2) RE: energy efficiency of 200Wh/mile, that’s the implied goal of GM. I’m not sure which EV1 pack Mr.Waters was involved with (lead acid or NiMH), but all the data I have seen published indicates that with a curb weight of over 3000 pounds, that’s something that was perfectly achievable for that car, albeit dependent on driving habits. Perhaps as time progresses, we’ll see stickers advertise miles/kWh as a substitute for miles/gallon, and with an EPA-prescribed method of determining that. As for making a direct comparison for the Tesla’s relatively poor efficiency of ~3.77mpk (pessimistically assuming a 53kWh pack and 200 mile range), the Tesla has its own rather severe weight penalty with its ESS device (1000+ pounds, maybe even more), so I’m not sure that’s a perfectly valid comparison.

    3) re:aluminum, I think GM is eager to get the Volt on the road as soon as possible, which is why they are using an existing platform made of affordable material. However, like you, I’m all for aluminum. Audi makes extensive use of it in the new, lighter Audi TT – but then again, that’s a $34,000 car for the base model. So cost may be a significant factor as well.


  39. 39
    Van

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (10:56 am)

    BTW, I expect the Volt to actually get about 65 miles per gallon overall, whether from equivant “gallons” of electrical energy or from gasoline. A fabulous achievement, and I am saving my money right now so I can walk in and buy the first real PHEV that hits the show room, and wouldn’t be great if it was the Volt.

    Lets run the numbers again, shall we. The ICE will get about 55 MPH operating at peak efficiency. This efficiency has been achieved by other ICEs like the Insight, so it is a reasonable expectation. And the electric drive should also get about 3 miles per KWH. Now the price of a KWH varies but the baseline price in California where the bulk of the market is, is 13 cents per KWH. So 13 cents for 3 miles means $1.30 for 30 miles, or about 70 miles for $3.00 worth of electricity. So we drive 2/3 using electric mode only and 1/3 using the ICE, we get about 65 MP”G”.


  40. 40
    Steven B

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (11:22 am)

    The Volt will be the 2nd mass-produced plug-in hybrid. The Saturn VUE in 2009 will be the first. The Volt will be the first mass-produced electric drive vehicle with range extender (RxEV). Also, if you want to get your own electricity, you can always get PV for your home. Figure the cost difference on your and make your decision. And I recommend mailing your utility company for information regarding whether they’re developing V2G programs. 13 cents per Kwh is pretty high. Here in Texas we pay 7.5 cents. Explore your options.


  41. 41
    Mike756

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (11:31 am)

    Hmmm. Here in CT we pay about 22 cents per KWH.


  42. 42
    Jeff M

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (12:12 pm)

    And here in New Hampshire I’m paying 13.43 cents/kwh from PSNH (7.8 cents of that is supplier charge, the rest is delivery services).


  43. 43
    Tom

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (1:27 pm)

    WRT weight: Let’s say GM were to convert the Cobalt to a series hybrid. The Cobalt is a pretty heavy car for its size, at ~3000 lbs. Its engine has twice the displacement of the Volt’s, but the Volt will need an electric motor, so let’s say the weight of the drivetrain is a wash. That just leaves the batteries to increase the Volt’s weight. Most guesses about the battery’s weight are around 400 lbs, which seems reasonable considering it will have much less than half the range of a Tesla and the Tesla’s pack is 900-1000 lbs. So we are talking about a car that we can conservatively estimate to be 3400 lbs. Of course, lighter is better, but this weight is not too unusual for a sedan these days and is only a little more than the “usual” 3000 lb weight that most all-electric cars seem to have.


  44. 44
    Michael Brylawski

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (3:18 pm)

    Great discussion! Quick point on where I got the ~3 mi/kWh:

    I used the dyno results from the EPA (so called “real world”) cycle Tesla did in September when they restated their range to 245 miles:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog4/?p=60

    They ended up getting 31kWh/100 mi, or 3.22 mi/kWh for the cycle.

    Their car (now) is 2690 lbs

    http://www.teslamotors.com/performance/tech_specs.php

    I haven’t seen official GM numbers for the Volt platform efficiency but would be very interested if people can point to them.

    Thx! MB


  45. 45
    Don

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (3:37 pm)

    WRT cost -

    Yes, the pack is not cheap. But are there not cost savings as well? What is the cost of an electric motor system and regen with a small ICE generator compared to a larger ICE hooked up to a transmission sytem and all of it moving parts in parallel?


  46. 46
    Jeff M

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (3:42 pm)

    #44 (Michael)… that’s great news about the Tesla range! That brings them pretty close to their original 250 expected range before they reduced it to 200 earlier this year because they thought they were going to have to come in heavier.


  47. 47
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (4:07 pm)

    In northern CT was use CL&P for electric delivery. We are paying a little over 18¢ per KWH.


  48. 48
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (4:08 pm)

    In northern CT was use CL&P for electric delivery. We are paying a little over 18¢ per KWH.

    Mr. Brylawski and Mr. Waters, Thank you for the clarifications.


  49. 49
    Bill

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (7:45 pm)

    I think everyone’s too high on kWh costs, at least if you plan to charge overnight.

    Utilities already charge much less to commercial users whose A/C system makes a huge block of ice overnight so it doesn’t have to run a compressor the next afternoon.

    Overnight EV charging would follow the same model.


  50. 50
    Jeff M

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (7:53 pm)

    #49 (Bill)… my total bill for last month was $112.92 for 775kwh. The customer charge (flat rate for having service) is $8.84, so $112.92 – 8.84 = $104.08 / 775kwh = $0.1343/kwh. Same as if I add up all the broken down rates based on kwh together.
    And I’ve never lived in a house where my utility (PSNH) has a meter to keep track of peak vs. non-peak (evening) usage.
    Regardles, I’d rather have a plug-in EV and save money, reduce use of foreign oil (which supports terrorism), and reduce GHG emissions.


  51. 51
    John FK

     

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    Oct 17th, 2007 (8:14 pm)

    RMI recommends aluminum because Alcoa can’t wait. And what do you bet that the Rocky Mountain Institute uses Apples to design their PHEVs?

    I did notice the change in position towards the Volt in their comments. They realize GM is going all out on this one. That is something I am sure GM didn’t do while John Waters was still at GM.


  52. 52
    Devin AGM

     

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    Oct 19th, 2007 (12:42 am)

    I’m not completely sure about this. But my last energy bill here (northern Ontario, Canada) was 5.8 CAD/KWH.
    We already plug in our cars to run block heaters using some amount of electricity. Why not the charge the actual engine.

    I’m very excited about the volt.
    I think it will save money and save the environment at the same time.

    Have they said anything about how the Volt will manage in 10F to 30F weather?


  53. 53
    Oil Jihadi

     

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    Oct 23rd, 2007 (12:17 am)

    Jeff M. said: “Regardles, I’d rather have a plug-in EV and save money, reduce use of foreign oil (which supports terrorism), and reduce GHG emissions.”

    I’m glad to see others with this opinion. If driving a Volt cost me MORE money, I’m still going to do it. I don’t care if it’s the equivalent of $4.50 a gallon, I’m going to do it because my gas money is supporting Saudi and Iranian backed terrorists. I want to see their economies (and Russia & Venezuela’s) destroyed.

    Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) did not have air conditioning, modern medicine, etc. We should assist them in their desire to return to their roots and rid their societies of evil western influences, by not buying their oil, thus they can go back to burning camel dung in their tents at night, chopping each others heads off during the day, and dying from splinters in their toes because of a lack of (evil western) antibiotics.

    I declare jihad against oil!
    http://www.oiljihad.org


  54. 54
    Allan H

     

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    Dec 12th, 2007 (1:44 pm)

    GripperDon – Hey guy. You’re wrong the ICE is used only to charge the batteries. The Chevy Volt is a “Serial Hybrid”. This means that the electric motors are the ONLY motive device in the vehicle. When the battery level dips below 20% the ICE comes on, runs at steady state optimum efficiency and is ONLY a generator to recharge the battery.

    Therefore the rest of your argument is null and void.


  55. 55
    Allan H

     

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    Dec 12th, 2007 (1:50 pm)

    Sorry, that was for the guy working off your comments. My response to you is I don’t know where you get 17% as the efficiency of charging a battery. The ICE running at steady state, especially if it is bio-diesel is way above that.

    If your assumption is correct then the ICE generator would only be able to generate about 12.5 mpg instead of the 50 claimed by GM. Not to be insulting, but since this is a make or break deal for them I will accept their numbers until the EPA guides prove otherwise.


  56. 56
    Janelle Hayden

     

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    Apr 22nd, 2008 (3:09 pm)

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