Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

May 06

Parsing the Gen 2 Volt Power Train Efficiency Improvements

 

By George S. Bower and Bill Rollins

The new Gen 2 power train gives increased all electric range and improved fuel consumption in extended range mode, lower cost, and it is scalable to almost all other GM vehicles as either a simple hybrid or as an extended range vehicle. At the time of this writing GM has included it in the new Malibu hybrid and potentially the new Cadillac CT6. Undoubtedly there are other vehicles in the pipeline destined for this power train.

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The power train consists of many subcomponents of an electrical and mechanical nature: the battery, the inverters, the electric motors, the transmission and the internal combustion engine (ICE). How much did the individual parts improve?

Range Extended Mode

Slide1
Figure 1: Contributors to Gen 2 Volt MPG Improvement

The first thing we notice from looking at figure 1 is there were significant improvements in almost all of the power train sub systems with inverters topping the list followed by the motors and transmission. The transmission improvements were probably a result of adding fixed gear and high extended range (compound split) modes to the transmission. Also we know that Gen 2 no longer has a pure series mode like Gen 1 which adds efficiency as well. The authors do not have Gen 1 motor maps for comparison but we do have Gen 2 motor maps. The new larger motor B has a very large maximum efficiency island. The maximum efficiency of motor B is 96% and the motor will be operating at this sweet spot around town.
The other interesting thing to note is that the ICE efficiency only improved on the order of 3%. This came as somewhat of a surprise as I had expected around 10% efficiency improvement.

EV Mode

Slide2
Figure 2: Contributors to Gen 2 Range Improvements

The biggest contributor to the Gen 2 range improvement is the battery which contains 27% more usable energy. In the city, AER increases by more than the 27% battery energy due to efficiency improvements in other sub systems. FTP composite increased more than 27% as well. However, only 22% range improvement was noted in the FTP HWY cycle.

What stands out when looking at the sub system contributors in figure 2? Once again we see the inverters as being the biggest winner with 5-7% efficiency improvement. We see a 3% reduction in motor losses in the FTP city cycle. However, we note a slightly worse situation in Gen 2 in the motor and transmission losses in FTP HWY. We have improved 12V accessory loads but a slightly worse vehicle drag and tire losses. This implies that the Gen 1 city EV rating of 101 MPGe should improve for Gen 2, however, the HWY EV rating for Gen 2 could be less than the Gen 1 rating of 93 MPGe.

The above scenario can be explained by examining the individual motor maps in the Gen 2 Volt.

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Figure 3: Larger Motor B Map

We see from the motor map that motor B has great peak efficiency (96%) and a very large efficiency island centered at lower speeds and torques which occur during city driving

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Figure 4: Smaller Motor A Map

The smaller motor A, on the other hand, has its peak efficiency island at higher speeds where motor B does not. Thus when we use both motors they complement each other. As motor B falls off in efficiency, motor A can be added in to compensate.

As noted earlier, we have a slightly lower efficiency in Gen 2 in the motor and transmission department during HWY operation. The following is the author’s speculation as to why. As said earlier we do not have Gen 1 motor maps for a direct comparison so we must speculate. We do have Gen 2 motor maps however. All the gear ratios in the PG set and final drive have been spelled out by GM. We know the tire sizes so we can easily calculate the motor speeds for any vehicle speed.

Slide5
Figure 5: Motor B Speeds as a Function of Vehicle Speed.

We see from figure 5 that at lower vehicle speed, around 30 MPH, motor B is sitting on its sweet spot at 96% efficiency. This is why motor losses improved in the city cycle. However, as vehicle speed increases we start to fall off the end of the island….ie motor efficiency is decreasing. By 70 MPH motor efficiency has fallen 6-7% and is below 90%. This would explain why Gen 2 motor losses are worse than Gen 1 in EV mode during HWY driving.

In EV mode, the new Gen 2 transmission runs a fixed gear ratio resulting in higher motor speeds than Gen 1 where the motors could mix.
Slide6
Figure 6: Gen 1 Motor Speeds, Steady 60 MPH

Figure 6 shows Gen 1 motors operating at low speeds compared to Gen 2. Motor A is running at 1100 RPM and motor B is running at 2900 RPM. This is based on Dashdaq data acquisition tool in the author’s 2012 gen 1 Volt. For Gen 2 at 60 MPH, motor A spins at 6200 RPM while motor B spins at 6600 RPM.The authors are speculating then that higher motor speeds in Gen 2 are what is causing the slightly worse motor losses in Gen 2 in the HWY cycle.

Conclusion

Sometimes GM is accused of taking the high tech, high cost approach when solving a problem or inventing a new product with the Gen 1 Volt being at the top of the list. We can see from the article today that there were many tradeoffs involved in designing the Gen 2 Volt.

Could GM have gotten higher AER out of Gen 2 if they had used the Gen 1 transmission design? The opinion of the authors is that yes they could have gotten slightly better AER in the FTP HWY cycle with the old Gen 1 transmission. However they had to make tradeoffs. Life, like engineering, is full of tradeoffs. Nothing is ever black or white. In the case of Gen 2 Volt some small sacrifices had to be made in order to meet cost bogies for Gen 2. However,GM also developed a new transmission that can be used throughout their product line as either an EREV, like the Volt or, as a simple hybrid in the new Malibu: an equitable trade in the author’s opinion.

Reference: SAE Paper 2015-01-1152: “The Next Generation Voltec Extended Range EV Propulsion System”, Conlon, Blohm et all General Motors dated 4/15/2015

 

May 05

April Volt sales up a little, Leaf down a little, Spark EV splits the difference

 

Of course the Volt sales questions we’re all waiting to see will be September or October or whenever GM releases gen two.

However, that the Volt got better while the Leaf did not is noteworthy too.

Nissan-Leaf-and-Chevy-Volt1

April saw a bit of a turnabout with Nissan Leaf sales dropping month over month while Chevy Volt sales went up but the Leaf is still holding its lead as America’s best-selling plug-in car since launch.

Last month Nissan reported 1,553 Leafs sold compared to 1,817 in March and Chevrolet delivered 905, a comparable numerical swing in the upward direction next to 639 in March.

Last month the Leaf assumed the lead after many months of catching up to Volt’s sales lead, and their cumulative sales tally since respective December 2010 launches puts the Leaf presently still head at 77,960 sales versus the Volt at 76,136 – if it really matters at this point.

It was a tradition from the start to track these two, but as gen-two Volt prepares for launch and Leaf holds the fort until late 2016 for 2017 we may see a trading places again. Beyond this the novelty calling for simplistic comparisons may wear off as the mainstream is slowly catching on to respective pros and cons.

Spark_EV_Indianapolis

And, speaking of novelties, the Spark EV’s numbers were up due to strong incentives by 509 percent.

Yep, just like the little EV that could, it sold a whopping 920 units to 920 happy Spark EV buyers, none of which were in Puerto Rico, though we are certain at least one could be sold there.

Maybe one day, and meanwhile, who says price does not matter? The deal got perceptibly better, and look how many more salespeople had to do paperwork last month for GM’s torquey little runabout.

Coming back to the Volt, GM did price it from $34,000 (minus five bucks) and maybe it knows it is the most effective at the sole reason why people ante up for plug-in gas-electric cars.

Specifically, last week we reported the Idaho National Laboratory showed Volt drivers traveled 94-percent the range of Leaf drivers on electricity alone in one year meaning the original Volt “extended-range EV” is effective.

The 2016 Volt is due to increase daily range potential by 25-30 percent and buyers are waiting for that car which may prove to be the best gas saver on the road among mainstream-priced plug-in cars if current real-world driving trends hold out.

A Volt is basically an EV with its own charging station on board. If you run the battery dry it keeps going on gas, not so with a pure BEV. If a BEV’s range is “84 miles” that is not how far you can drive it unless you time it perfectly to a charger, but more likely you must maintain a cushion to get it to the charger.

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A 50-mile Volt will go 50 miles. An 84-mile Leaf will go as far as you are comfortable up to that limit.

Of course when 200 mile BEVs begin showing up as soon as October 2016, a trading of places may yet again begin to happen in the favor of pure EVs.

But for now, as always, the automakers’ job is to move iron.

Last month both Chevrolet and Nissan were running promos to sell what they have on the lot at this point.

Chevrolet has increased rebates discounted the car’s monthly lease prices from $299 down to $249, while Nissan in April began offering its “No Charge to Charge” in two new markets in Indianapolis and Fresno, California.

No Charge to Charge is now in 15 U.S. markets including San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

“By mid-2015, Nissan plans to offer the “No Charge to Charge” program at Leaf dealers in 10 additional U.S. markets,” Nissan said in a statement.

By mid-2015 Chevrolet plans to offer the 2016 Volt.

 

May 04

2016 Volt Priced at $33,995

 

The announcement we were waiting for happened earlier than some thought it would. And sure enough, the Volt came in higher than some were hoping, though others will find this just fine.

ChevroletVoltReveal02

On Friday Chevrolet announced that the 2016 Volt will start at $33,995, about $1,200 less than the present 2015 Volt.

The second-generation extended-range EV offers 50 miles e-range, 41 mpg combined when running regular gas only, and with up to $7,500 federal tax credit for those eligible, Chevrolet says it can be netted for as low as $26,495.

The news rides in on the heels of our article last week asking noting a price sweet spot more readers than not from GM-Volt.com and HybridCars.com have suggested should be just below $30,000.

Chevrolet’s announcement also falls well short of hints outgoing CEO Dan Akerson dropped before turning over the helm to Mary Barra that a far-greater price drop up to $10,000 would be in order.

“In this next generation we think we can decrease the price on the order of $7,000 to $10,000, without decontenting” Volt, Akerson said at a Fortune magazine ‘green’ conference. “That’s very important to us. And at that point in time I think you’ll see the second generation be much more, hopefully, profitable. I think it will be profitable.”

As it is, the new Volt may still be profitable and as we’ve noted, GM has a tendency to price its alternative energy products – such as Cadillac ELR, outgoing Volt, Cruze diesel, two-mode light-duty trucks and SUVs – just high enough to slow their sales down.

For its part, Chevrolet notes buyers in its largest market, California, – the only state it advertised the present Volt in – may be able to combine incentives and net the Volt for $24,995.

And, the automaker says the new car will attract new faces to the brand.

“The next-generation Chevrolet Volt delivers more technology, the ability to drive further between gas fill-ups and now with even more value to our customers. It’s what our loyal Volt owners told us they wanted,” said Steve Majoros, director, Chevrolet Marketing. “We are confident we will continue to attract new customers to Volt with the vehicle’s product improvements and attractive price.”

Chevrolet says nearly 70 percent coming to the Volt in 2014 traded in a non-GM product or adding to their household fleet.

This it says is the highest of any Chevy nameplate.

Lutz_Volt_concept

GM says the number one trade-in for the Volt is the Toyota Prius but says nothing about matching the volume of sales the Prius does even as its numbers are dwindling while people are waiting for a 2016 which may get 57 mpg.

In fact, Majoros said in January this year that whatever Bob Lutz once said about leap frogging the Prius is not just history, it’s history he was not privy to, and it makes no sense to him to discuss it.

“What Bob Lutz or any people said 6 or 8 years ago, I wasn’t part of those conversations, I don’t know what they said,” said Majoros. “To think that a, to me, going back in history, that Volt – where we’re priced and the technology and the promise that we make – against a $20,000 Prius, was going to supplant that – that doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.”

Chevrolet’s brief press release merely states what the Volt is for today, and GM has not announced any sales projections for the new car.

 

May 01

Idaho National Lab Tells SAE World Congress Volts traveled almost as far on electricity as Leaf, other BEVs

 

Regulars here don’t need to read this because you already know it. Or, if you’d like further validation that the Volt has proven more effective than many thought it would – and many yet don’t know – read on.

The backstory on this one is Pam Fletcher and Kevin Kelly told me the Volt saves more gas than Leaf but the data I got does not quite seem to make that a slam dunk conclusion. However, they were talking about a presentation from INL’s Matt Shirk possibly this February at the SAE Hybrid Symposium, but I’ve not seen that report.

What follows is pretty good though …

volt_fog

In the Chevy Volt’s early days, GM caught flak for declaring it an “extended-range electric vehicle” and not simply a plug-in hybrid, but this week the Idaho National Laboratory verified real-world drivers annually traveled 94-percent as far gas-free as did Nissan Leaf drivers.

The data was presented by INL engineers Matt Shirk and Barney Carlson to the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

Shirk and Carlson showed electric Vehicle Miles Traveled (eVMT) by the Volt effectively put it in the company with the Leaf as well as Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit EV, while returning double or triple the eVMT of plug-in hybrids.

This was documented despite the gas-electric Volt’s potential electric range being just around four miles for every ten of the EVs according to the U.S. EPA.

Documentation

The INL is no ordinary source, but leads the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity for light duty vehicles. Its on-road data collection and analysis was based on data from 158,468,000 total vehicle miles by 21,600 vehicles.

In all, the study looked at eight mainstream priced plug-in cars comprised of pure battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and the extended-range Chevy Volt.

analysis results
Volt drivers: 9,112 miles compared to 9,697 for Leaf. Volts did burn gas too, as the VMT results show.

Volt drivers drove 94 percent the all-electric miles of not just the leading EV – the Leaf – but roughly 94 percent also of the Fit EV and over 95 percent of the Ford Focus Electric’s miles.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows Chevy Volt Can Burn Less Gas Than Any Other PHEV

Compared to plug-in hybrids, the Volt was driven more than double the miles in EV mode than the Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, 2.7 times more than the Honda Accord PHEV, and 3.7-times more electric miles than the Toyota Prius PHEV.

Avg_monthly_eVMT

On a monthly average basis, the Volt traveled on battery power alone 759.3 miles, just 48.8 miles less than the leading Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf has 84 miles EV range and the 2011-2013 Volt just 35-38 depending on model year.

Range Anxiety An Apparent Reality

How can the Volt with 41 percent the EV range of the Leaf drive 94 percent as many miles?

Averaged

According to GM’s Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles, this INL study fits with other data Matt Shirk presented previously indicating drivers need not worry about the Volt running out of power and stranding them.

With a battery electric car, she said, drivers cannot run it to the maximum e-range but with a Volt they can. Thus, the driver’s comfort zone and familiarity with local charging and logistics and other factors determine how far they’ll push their EV.

The idea with the Volt is no range anxiety, she said.

Volt_compared

This concept of “range anxiety” has also been poo-poohed by critics as marketing verbiage but INL’s study suggests it is a real concern.

Unaccounted for in the study is the determination of individual first adopter types who have often bought the Volt on a veritable mission just to save gas, avoid emissions, and in other words, maximize its potential as a part-time pure EV.

Then again, EV drivers have been reported as resourceful as well, so perhaps that partially explains why INL would not wade into speculation over anecdotal evidence.

More certain is plug-in hybrids, like the Volt, also present no range anxiety as long as there’s gas in the tank but the Volt’s larger battery lets it travel much further without burning gas.

The plug-in hybrids ranged from 2,484 electric miles in one year for the Toyota Prius plug-in to 4,337 miles for the Fusion Energi. The EVs all scored in the 9,000-something annual mile range as did the Volt.

New Volt Pending

The 2016 Volt due September or October will exceed the present Volt’s rated all-electric range by 30-percent, or 50 miles, which could mean it stands to save more gas than any EV on the road, save Tesla models.

Beyond the Tesla Model S and Roadster, the longest-range EV sold in the U.S. is the now-discontinued, limited-market 104-mile Toyota RAV 4 EV, followed by the 93-mile Kia Soul EV which is expanding to more markets this year. The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric when pushed with as much as 15-percent extra capacity beyond its rated 87 miles also is above the three EVs INL studied.

These limited-market EVs have incrementally more range than the Leaf, Focus Electric and Fit EV but they too have no gas backup.

16_Volt_plug1

EV advocates are quick to point out a cure for range anxiety however is simply knowing your surroundings. For example, being aware of where charge points are in one’s daily route and working within limits expands the comfort zone of driving a car that runs on electricity in a world set up for gas.

Resourceful EV drivers have been known to double EPA range through intraday charging and that has become part of the lifestyle for some early adopters.

As things stand in this ever-changing market, the Volt has been shown as effective at returning eVMT as present mainstream EVs, the new 2016 Volt may top everyone except Tesla, but a new standard is coming for EVs.

SEE ALSO: Is a 200-Mile EV the Next Automotive Benchmark?

By October 2016, green car analyst Alan Baum projects the 200-mile Chevy Bolt may be for sale and followed soon enough by a 2017 Leaf and Tesla Model 3. With each of these new-level EVs offering around 200 miles, and maybe other models too, that could turn tables on the present leader, the Volt.

That said, the Volt does appear it deserves the “extended-range electric vehicle” moniker, it should soon exceed its own benchmark with release of the updated model and for yet a while longer, it may be the best gas saver on the road among mainstream-priced plug-in cars.

INL

 

Apr 30

Will Elon Musk Introduce the Model S of home energy storage today?

 

Tonight in California, the epicenter of all things electric it sometimes seems, Tesla will unveil another element of its strategy to change the world.

The announcement was tweeted a month ago, followed by another tweet yesterday. What all it will entail, and how fast it will take off are among details we’re waiting to learn.

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“For the future to be good, we need electric transport,” said Elon Musk yesterday, “solar power, and (of course) …”

To find out the rest of the sentence tweeted by the billionaire with 2.01 million Twitter followers, you will have to wait until tonight when an announcement is made at Tesla’s Hawthorne Design Studio, but actually hints have already gone forth.

What will make the future “good” is being reported to be energy storage systems for home and commercial applications produced as a collaboration between Musk-controlled Tesla and its pending gigafactory and SolarCity.

missing_piece

“We will introduce the Tesla home battery and a very large utility scale battery,” says a quote attributed to Tesla’s VP of investor relations Jeff Evanson “confirmed” as authentic by BuzzFeed News. “We will explain the advantages of our solutions and why past battery options were not compelling.”

Obviously Tesla thinks the business case for large banks of batteries that can store energy on site and which dovetail with emerging markets will now be compelling, particularly once the gigafactory starts pumping out gigawatts worth of batteries.

If the venture proves as successful as the Model S at generating excitement, it will have a leg up against other players in an industry projected by Navigant Research to be generating over $68 billion per year in 2024.

What is This About?

According to some digging by investment analyst Trip Chowdhry, the Guardian reported Saturday that the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) energy backup system Musk wishes to reveal tonight has for over a year been offered to around 300 SolarCity customers.

Tweet_ESS

The big battery housed in an “attractive” dark or white cabinet can serve like an on-site generator would by providing backup for large devices including refrigerators, computers, TVs, HVAC, etc.

Or, it can store and distribute energy when the sun isn’t shining for solar arrays, or when the wind is not blowing for wind turbines.

Affordable?

Some people think the Model S is a bargain, others that it’s too expensive, but to take the sting from what could become pricey batteries in a big box which eventually wear out, it’s believed a creative leasing scheme will be introduced.

Chowdhry told the Guardian the deal offered to SolarCity customers entails a battery costing $13,000. Payment is $1,500 up front plus monthly payments at $15 for 10 years. After this, the battery is returned to SolarCity.

“It’s clean, it’s quiet and it looks good in the garage,” Chowdry told the Guardian while offering it sounded like a good value for a person who would normally spend $100 to $150 per month on data services for phones, computers, televisions and other devices. “This is a speculation on our end, based on what we’ve seen on Tesla battery storage, but so far, this makes sense.”

Whether the announcement tonight is for the exact same configuration, or some other products will remain to be seen.

Undoubtedly more will be disclosed.

GigaFactory Enabled

The construction project in Nevada to build the world’s largest battery factory is more than just about enabling the Model 3 and other vehicles.

Tesla-gigafactory-construction-update1

The operation controlled by Elon Musk is to supply SolarCity with cost-effective batteries enabling the move into home storage as well as other commercial applications.

The GigaFactory is set to come online by 2017, and reports have been it is ahead of schedule, and may in by 2016.

Playing To Regulations

A common theme in all of Elon Musk’s business endeavors has been masterfully working with current laws, qualifying for government monies to fund new technology while these new products are simultaneously embraced by new consumer bases.

This has been a source of deep criticism for old-school capitalists saying Musk is a new-school conniver, but for his part Elon Musk has reportedly always been open about it.

elon-musk
Perhaps it all depends on how you spin it? Or perhaps criticism is well founded? Or perhaps others are envious they did not think of some of Musk’s ideas first?

What ever is true, California has a “groundbreaking” mandate for energy storage in force mandating by 2020 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage to utilities.

The push for residential and commercial solutions by Tesla is right in stride therefore with laws pushing PG&E Corp., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to ante up big bucks as well.

And Tesla is a potential vendor for these captive customers, as well as other markets such as in New York, Bloomberg reports.

“Batteries really are kind of a panacea for the grid,” said Don Clevenger, senior vice president of strategic planning for Oncor. “They provide better reliability.”

So, above home storage, this market worth tens of billions of dollars in the next decade is also about commercial and utility customers.

“Tesla isn’t just going to sell batteries to SolarCity,” said Ben Kallo, an analyst with R.W. Baird & Co to Bloomberg. “They are going to sell to project developers, wind and solar developers, and directly to utilities. The residential product isn’t going to be a huge needle mover, but the numbers are very big on the utility side.”

Not Alone

Another common theme Tesla’s critics may be less likely to trumpet is it is boldly going into an as-yet under developed market.

This has been true for SpaceX collaborating with NASA, SolarCity pushing photovoltaic innovation, and Tesla Motors making electric cars upsetting all the German elites, and making other automakers like GM develop cars to try and keep up.

But as with other industries, the move is not in a vacuum, and other major players Bloomberg observes include Korea’s LG Chem Ltd., AES Corp., and JLM Energy Inc., another startup.

tesla-factory

And just as regulations are helping to enable the enterprise, they will also present a maze of rules to wend through, and a patchwork quilt of varying state rules to either benefit from or potentially be infuriated by.

It’s territory Tesla already is accustomed to however, as its car business is alternately embraced or rebuffed by state car dealer associations or eligible for incentives – or not – as the case may be.

Could this be another big thing for Tesla? Musk – whose tweets have usually been good seems to hint as much.

Today he says he has another piece of the puzzle on par with his other ventures for the “future” to be “good.”

We’ll find out if he’s overbilling it, or on the money tonight.

 

Apr 29

Will Volt sales be in the mid-low 20,000-per-year-range into perpetuity?

 

GM says it wants the Volt to be more of a “mainstream” car but will it price and market it to sell beyond 25,000 units per year? Ever?

pearl_white_16_Volt

Last year the outgoing lame duck Volt sold 18,805 units. In 2013 GM sold 23,094 Volts and in 2012 the number was 23,461. Those two years – essentially flat growth – were the peak, and triple 7,671 sales in 2011, the first full sales year.

The automaker has said the new Volt is to present broader appeal, it will market it more cleverly, support its dealers sufficiently but how is “mainstream” defined?

GM of course is putting no sales estimates on the Volt. That subject may be more sensitive than the price which it may not announce till June or July – even if a commenter from “Dearborn” with ip address in Plano, Texas wrote that after the close of the day last Friday it was supposed to be announced.

Yes, we hear rumors, conjecture, including that the “definitive” number of sales is 25,000 per year, but if this is true, we’ve not seen the source, and whatever it is, it is not an official GM statement.

But that’s OK, because another reliable source, analyst Alan Baum – who really is in Michigan – independently says that 25,000 may be pretty well right. For year one his estimate calls for 24,300 units or thereabouts.

2014 Nissan Leaf.

The Volt start taking sales from the Nissan Leaf EV until that model is replaced around 2017.

In 2017 model year as the pure battery electric Chevy Bolt comes online – perhaps around October 2016 – Baum’s Volt sales estimate drops to 21,500. And by 2018, the Volt may be cruising at 20,000 units per year having peaked a bit, and settled within the range of the first generation.

Because the Bolt may have better interior packaging, 200-miles EV range, and be priced only a couple-few thousand more, it may siphon off sales from a pool of early mover type buyers, suggests Baum. And, GM has shown a mediocre track record of marketing the Volt, but this it aims to reform.

Not Just About Price

Surveys have shown many consumers are befuddled by fundamental questions about electrified vehicles, and it will be incumbent on Chevrolet to educate them as possible to sell its product.

Marketers have long known positive consumer perception can overcome objections to price, and so it will remain to be seen how effective Chevrolet is at spreading the word through social media, video spots, and other channels to get people excited about the new Volt.

SEE ALSO: Lack of Information Hurting EV Sales Says Federal Report
The plug-in car offers double the EV range of any competitive PHEV sold in the U.S. Engineering studies have shown it saves a lot of gas, on the order of pure EVs today.

Chevrolet Bolt.

Chevrolet has not announced when the Bolt will be produced, but estimates are for the 2017 model year.

Volt owners are among the most loyal as a group and the battery and design of the first-generation car have shown it to be durable. Evidence suggests it was “over-engineered” because it was a product with a mandate not to fail being all new, reliant on lithium-ion batteries and needing to overcome concerns.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows Chevy Volt Can Burn Less Gas Than Any Other PHEV

Steve Majoros, Chevrolet director of car marketing, observed in January a bigger promotional budget has been allocated to more effectively overcome objections, enlighten consumers, dealers, and all concerned.

At the same time, the Volt did settle into a “niche” according to Chevrolet representatives and so whether GM has the incentive or desire to truly bump it beyond to that “mainstream” status is unknown.

Majoros said that the Volt is now attracting people who will pay more to avoid buying gas. Will $2 per gallon gas adversely affect Volt sales?

“I don’t think so,” said Majoros. “Eighty percent of trips taken in a Volt are done in all-electric. These people are gas averse; they don’t want to use any gas.”

The car won’t be marketed as the cheapest set of wheels to own he said, rather, low operational costs are just one aspect of its total appeal.

Nor is the Volt just about selling itself anymore, it is about selling Chevrolet and GM as brands.

“If you look at the demographic composition of these customers within the Chevy portfolio, they’re some of our highest household income, highest percent professional managerial, younger in the portfolio; the types of vehicles they’re trading in to come into the Chevy family,” said Majoros, “they’re the types of customers you want to bring into the franchise.”

Mainstream Niche?

(Yes, this subtitle is an oxymoron).

Meanwhile indicators are the 2016 Volt may even be priced nearly the same as the present $35,000 car, said Baum. Never mind cost cuts or savings on the manufacturing side.

2016-Chevrolet-Volt-0112

It’s perceptibly better, GM is known to price things high then if necessary work down as needed, so why not?

At the same time that strategy taken too far has backfired before, so what will GM do?

How much do you think the Volt should sell for, and what needs to happen for it to truly break beyond green halo status?

 
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