GM Introduces the Volt
GM will introduce the Volt today, and it is a huge step forward in terms of a proposed production vehicle. The Volt is essentially an electric vehicle that has a small supplemental internal combustion engine (bio-fuel, diesel or gasoline), as opposed to the current hybrids which have ordinary gasoline engines supplemented by small electric motors. GM says this is the first iteration of their “E-flex” system (not called E-flex 1.0 because that wouldn’t sell too many cars).
The Volt is not ready to buy, and in fact, the 400-pound lithium ion battery it needs to hit its performance goals like range and acceleration hasn’t been invented yet. GM says the battery probably is not going to be available for another 3-5 years, and if GM’s projection regarding battery improvements don’t pan out, then the Volt, and the E-flex system with it, is effectively a technological dead-end.
But GM is betting that won’t happen, and I think that’s a pretty good percentage bet, and if it doesn’t happen, then the Volt is a production car revolution. Bob Lutz of GM calls it the equivalent of an automotive “moon shot” and I don’t think that’s overstating the case in this instance. If the battery technology shows up on time (or early), then the worldwide axis of automotive technology suddenly tips considerably in GM’s favor. Depending on what percentage of the battery charge was employed during driving, a vehicle like the Volt would realize an effective actual mpg of anywhere from 150-200 mpg of whatever fuel the internal combustion engine was burning. If the driver only drove the vehicle on trips of less than 40 miles, then no gasoline would be burned. And that’s just the first iteration of the platform – it would get better. Such a vehicle would make every car on the road now look like an antique.
This is not some flimsy lab project; this is a real car on a real platform from the largest auto company in the world. It simply needs a better version of a battery that exists today, and it’s not that improbable that those batteries are going to show up. This could change everything.