Sounding somewhat like he’d emulated heavyweight fighter Jack Dempsey’s philosophy who said, “the best defense is a good offense,” yesterday Bob Lutz defended his recent fighting back against right-leaning Chevy Volt detractors, while in related news, he continued to rally support for the car.
The occasion for defending his approach was while speaking at the Electric Car Symposium, EVS26, in Los Angeles. There, Lutz said he thinks his strongly rebutting the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly was effective at helping restore respect for his former employer’s halo vehicle.
“It’s unfortunate the Volt became the target of the right-wing propaganda machine,” said Lutz. At the end of January he wrote a strongly worded editorial for Forbes countering the flippant regard for facts by fellow conservatives who he termed “the wrong-headed right.”
Lutz, an outspoken denier of the theory of global warming, said electric vehicle advocates ought to focus on the prospect of enhanced domestic energy security for maximum effect.
Unfortunately, he said, EVs cost too much, and offer too little distance traveled per charge to make believers out of most consumers.
“Range has to go up. Price has go down,” he said.
And he could be right in gauging mainstream perceptions. Yesterday also, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors said if drivers of the pending 85-kwh version of the Model S really nurse it, they may see as many as 400 miles on a single charge. He and his team are thinking of what prize to give out should a Model S owner reach this distance.
Of course, 400 miles would be great by EV standards and probably acceptable to the mainstream, but the 85-kwh vehicle’s price can approach six figures. Meanwhile also yesterday, VW got attention for a world record 1,626 miles squeezed from a single tank-full of diesel by a stock 2012 Pasatt TDI carefully driven by a hypermiling husband and wife pair from Texas to Virginia.
Those are two production car peak range benchmarks – the electric one having yet to be attained – and the disparity between internal combustion and electric capability remains significant in the public’s eye. More to the point, EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Focus Electric get somewhere around 70-100 miles range, and that more-common level is where the average consumer’s real range objection lies.
As for Lutz’s perspective, he said electric vehicles make sense in larger sizes where the potential gains are greater compared to fuel-driven counterparts.
And speaking of larger electrified vehicles, Lutz managed a plug for the plug-in VIA Motors Chevy trucks, which are range extended, built on some lessons learned by the Volt, a car for which Lutz is undeniably proud.
So proud he is of the Volt, in fact, at another event in suburban Detroit, Lutz was recorded by Automotive News expounding on the benefits the Volt has brought, and its implications for the industry.
On the sidelines Automotive News asked him whether the Volt would have been better suited as a Cadillac, given its price of $40,000-plus before incentives. Lutz agreed in part, but explained the rationale.
“The sticker shock would have been less and the acceptance of the vehicle as being value for money would have been quicker,” Lutz said, “But it would have had the disadvantage of not having the global potential that Chevrolet has. The reason we selected Chevrolet is that it is the ubiquitous General Motors’ nameplate.”
In any case, Lutz went on to tell industry leaders in a speech that the Volt has had a deeply positive effect for its maker and its symbolic value has also been great.
“The Chevy Volt single-handedly reversed GM’s declining reputation for innovation and technological excellence,” Lutz said. “I mean it was at a point where everybody was pointing to wonderful Toyota; Toyota the savior of the planet, the greenest car company on earth, the producers of the wonderful Prius … ”
That said, Lutz projected the internal combustion engine will be around for perhaps 20 or 25 more years, adding that the faster battery energy storage potential goes up, and the faster their prices go down, the sooner will come the day when the internal combustion engine is made obsolete “because it simply won’t be needed anymore.”
But in the meantime, as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandates come into stricter effect, Lutz said every maker will need a percentage of electrified hybridization in its fleet to make the cut.
Collaboration with suppliers for new vehicles from their inception is also the way to go, he said, a lesson GM has since learned compared to previous administrations.
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