Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Chevy Volt Disaster Keeps Getting Worse

Not only does the battery have stability problems, it also has a short life. The GM warranty for the battery is for 8 years with a replacement cost of $10,000. Comments on an article I read were discussing the resale value of an 8 year old Volt. Zip, nada. The government has come up with a real gem this time, an electric hybrid that goes only 30 to 40 miles on a charge (if the weather isn't below freezing), that uses electricity that is generated by plants that are over 80% fueled by coal, whose economic life span is 8 years, that costs more than conventional hybrids and is subsidized by the taxpayer at $8,000 per car.

By the way, guess who makes the batteries. You guessed it, GE and Jeffrey Immelt, the company that pays no income tax due to their "environmental" tax credits, and the President's favorite CEO and political supporter. I guess we should also mention the President's giveaway of the GM stock to the auto union and his political vested interest in keeping GM's workers busy at any cost, as long it is cost to the taxpayer.

People who have looked into the history of automobiles have noted that while electric cars have never managed to rival internal combustion cars for their performance, comfort, reliability, or customer-attractiveness, they persist in inspiring a small segment of the public. And would-be social engineers have always loved them.

As Robert Bryce points out in his book Power Hungry, electric cars are the "Next Big Thing. And they always will be." Bryce observes that EV-boosters have been flogging electric cars since 1911, when the New York Times declared that "the electric car "has long been recognized as the ideal solution" because it "is cleaner and quieter" and "much more economical." Of course, that all depends on how you define "ideal" and "economical."

Let's talk economics first. Electric and hybrid-electric vehicles are more expensive to make and bring in less profit than other cars. They cost more to finance, more to repair, and more to insure. Their sales depend heavily on tax incentives, which means that selling more of them will require more taxpayer dollars. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that plug-in hybrid vehicles cost $3,000 to $7,000 more than regular hybrids, even though the performance differences between the two models are slight, and the really fuel-efficient hybrids cost $12,000 to $18,000 more than the conventional brand. Consider the GM Volt. When it was first announced, the price estimate from General Motors (GM) was $30,000. That soon jumped to $35,000. Today, they sell for nearly $40,000.

Hybrids are also more expensive to insure, which has been known for some time. Back in 2008, online insurance broker showed that it cost $1,374 to insure a Honda Civic but $1,427 to insure a Honda Civic Hybrid. Similarly, it cost $1,304 to insure a Toyota Camry but $1,628 to insure a Toyota Camry Hybrid. According to State Farm, hybrids cost more to insure because their parts are more expensive and repairing them requires specialized labor, thus boosting the after-accident payout.

And that, of course, presumes they don't burst into flames, which brings us to today's not-so-"ideal" headlines. Several crash tests have suggested that the plug-in hybrid Volt, the flagship vehicle at Government Motors, has a bit of a problem: when hit or badly disturbed in accident tests, the Volt's Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery packs have been seen to spark, or burst into flames afterward.

GM is a bit spooked by all this, and is offering Volt owners loaner-cars in case they're concerned about the prospects of their vehicle, well, exploding on them. GM denies any real risk of this, of course. But then, they didn't exactly emphasize the fire risk in their last electric car foray.

Read full article here.

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