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Why don't more folks respect this car? It's quite an engineering accomplishment.



Why don't more folks respect this car?

That's an excellent question, and I find the answers so far unconvincing. My guess is more psychological / sociological: GM has none of the sex appeal / marketing that Tesla or even BMW has. For that reason the Volt is easily overlooked or disrespected.

I'll also add that GM and other car companies already have some second-life battery efforts underway (http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/05/09/3775606/used-sec...), which is a very cool way of killing two birds with a single electric stone (I'm surprised this story and other like it haven't gotten more traction online). The second lives of batteries are incredibly underrated right now.

By the way, let me also recommend Steve Levine's book The Powerhouse: America, China, and the Great Battery War, http://www.amazon.com/Powerhouse-America-China-Great-Battery..., which concerns the initial development of the Volt, among many other things. People who disdain the Volt should in particular read it!


Considering how awful the Cadillac ELR has sold I don't really thing that it's just the GM brand.

IMO Tesla really nailed it with the S, many parts of it being thought of completely as an electric car from the ground up. Look at what they did with OTAs, the sled design, etc.


The Cadillac ELR isn't awful by any means; it just doesn't offer nearly enough features and quality over its Chevrolet stablemate to justify the difference in pricing.


Shame too. The ATS and the CTS both look a good car that's getting screwed by Cadillac branding.


Cadillac is also an unsexy brand (and a GM brand). It's the luxury car your grandfather buys.


It isn't pretty. Even worse: its concept car was gorgeous, so the Volt actually looking like a production car is even more disappointing.


I remember thinking the concept was gorgeous at the time; I just looked up some images and found it ugly. Tastes change, I guess.

Regardless, the concept car was distinctive. The Prius has shown that distinctiveness helps to sell hybrids.


It's all very subjective, but I think the Tesla Model 3 is underwhelming visually. It's not ugly, but it looks like any other sedan and the nose is just weird -- make the car look sort of like a wooden shoe.


Myself, because it's got a whole ICE powertrain it lugs around on top of a whole electric powertrain. So you've got two expensive and complicated drivetrains to maintain, all apparently to avoid simply replacing the weight and cost of the ICE powertrain with an equally heavy and costly, but much simpler and more elegant, larger battery.


The powertrains are integrated.

Handwaving, the electric motors are part of the transmission.

It's also not supposed to be elegant. It's supposed to be easy to power with gasoline.


> It's supposed to be easy to power with gasoline.

Right - that's why the car may not get a lot of respect, and why I personally also don't care for the car no matter how good the engineering. We should be innovating for full-on electric cars. We should be ditching all cars that run on ICE equipment or support the ICE industry.

Commit fully to electric cars.


This is like saying eating less meat is worthless because the only valid choice is to go vegan. The Volt has comparably practical electric-only range to popular "full-on" electric cars like the Leaf (~50 miles, so plenty for daily commuting). That is has much greater overall range with the ability to refuel in 5 minutes at any of the over 100,000 gas stations in the US also means that it can be practical today for millions of households for which pure-electrics won't be practical for many years to come.


Fully electric cars are not (yet) realistic for many people. Most people at least occasionally drive beyond the range of even a Tesla and don't want to stop for a lengthy recharge (lengthy compared to refueling with gasoline, especially if they aren't near a supercharger).

A plug-in hybrid is a more realistic option for more people.

Edit: not to mention far more affordable.


But it is better than a pure gasoline car, yes? For many people a full electric car neither practical nor affordable, whereas a hybrid is both.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


I'd argue yes, the Volt is better at its price range. But even the Volt's $25k+ new price (after credits) is above-and-beyond what is practical and affordable to the typical American.

"Practical and Affordable" is used vehicles, and maybe the $15k Honda Fit / Ford Focus / Toyota Corolla / similar cars. EVs aren't anywhere close to competing against the daily-driver for the typical American. They need another $10,000 off or so.

For now, electric vehicles have to mask the costs and add a bunch of luxury features (that don't really cost much money) to kinda-fake a better experience. When we see a barebones electric model under $16k, I'll know they finally made it.


Build me a battery that functions well in cold temperatures and build out a fast charger network everywhere.

These cars see about a 1/3 reduction in range in the cold, and there simply aren't any supercharger stations around here. In the winter, a Model S wouldn't be able to make it to the next nearest major city from a full charge.

The Volt is a useful intermediary step between gasoline and full electric for markets where full electric vehicles simply aren't practical yet.


Sure, but it achieves something no other car can (full electric for short range, and infinite range in any location on petro infrastructure).

I prefer the Tesla approach, but it's also unproven at Volt's price point and also infeasible for long travel in rural areas (like mine) until the Supercharger network is more developed.


> Sure, but it achieves something no other car can (full electric for short range, and infinite range in any location on petro infrastructure).

Except the Prius PHV and Prius Prime, among others, actually exist, so the "no other car" part is wrong. (Sure, the exact parameters of the "short range" differ, but the general description does not.)


Prius Prime is barely in showrooms and Prius PHV has puny AER.


Ah, fair enough - I should have said "achieved".


Tesla works fine in rural areas as long as your path is along the interstate.


Because GM burned a lot of good will with the EV1.


Exactly. I was looking forward to the EV1, I would have even purchased one. Instead they killed it off. As other's have stated not only is it an American car (which I consider much lower quality than anything German or Japanese), it's also ugly.


I'd love to see the demographics of the people downvoting this comment.

Once bitten, twice shy.


The other replies are all correct. The EV1 debacle earned them a bad reputation (plus their bad reputation in general from decades of substandard, unreliable products compared to the Japanese, plus their more-recent ignition switch fiasco resulting in many deaths), the general lackluster reputation of the Big 3, and the looks.

It's pretty sad really. If GM sold the tech to some Japanese automakers and they built cars with the exact same drivetrain but more attractive bodies (and likely nicer interiors; GM isn't known for great interiors either) and the promise of Japanese reliability, these things would probably be selling like hotcakes.

Perception and reputation are important things.


GM interiors are actually quite good now, but it takes a while to reputationally recover from making cheap, tacky, rattle-prone pieces of crap from 1969 to ~2008.


I'll admit they're a lot better than they used to be, but the GM rental cars I've had since 2008 haven't been all that great. For instance, they still have the idiotic put-everthing-you-can-on-a-single-stalk mentality instead of putting lights and wipers on separate stalks like the Japanese. A friend of mine has a 2010 Impala and the interior in that is still pretty lame, and worse it's inflicted with the common problem that GM cars had for a whole decade where the cheapo vent control motors would break a gear tooth and make clicking noises.



I respect it, but they lost me as a potential buyer when they added a transmission. To me the whole appeal was the de-coupling of the ICE to be just a generator. That would have unlocked so many interesting development and customization directions. Now its just a prius with a much bigger battery, not something truly different.


This is a bogus argument, I get about 42 miles free and clear electric (in spring and summer) no engagement of ICE, unless it is too damn cold or steep or I choose HOLD mode (which I do for distances over 40 miles). Yes, the ICE propels the wheels but only in limited circumstances, and its not simplistic as glorified Prius.


It's from a domestic big three automaker. That's the equivalent of HP or IBM coming out with a smartphone.


Except that HP and IBM have little to no smartphone marketshare today, while that is certainly not the case with the domestic big three. They're not some dead breed of automakers like the comparison might imply.


Sure, but I think his point is about perception. The GM brand is every bit as ugly and even if they rebadged a Tesla and sold it (or maybe an iPod) it would be perceived poorly.


Is it about the brand, or is about the challenges established market participants face when they're disrupted? I.e. Microsoft reacting to the iPad by trying to compromise and maintain two UIs for Windows, or GM reacting to EVs by maintaining two power trains?

GM's decision is defensible IMHO, anecdotally, one of the major concerns around EVs is the "What happens when I run out of energy in the middle of nowhere?", and GM's approach answers that question handily. It's also shipping today at a price point Tesla can't hit. Engineering purity and the absurd performance a pure EV power train can hit aren't very relevant to the mass market.


> GM reacting to EVs by maintaining two power trains?

GM wasn't reacting to EVs (except, perhaps, to GM's own experience with them); when the Volt was announced (as an EV), it was as a "better" alternative to hybrids. And for years, the "coming soon" Volt was what Chevy was waving around when other companies were actually delivering hybrids.


Remember HP did actually have the only license for iPods (the whole iPod + HP thing – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod%2BHP) and it went nowhere. Their brand didn't do anything for it and the deal ended quickly, never to be repeated by Apple.


Ok then, I'll give you a better analogy: Microsoft making a mobile-phone OS.

Microsoft made very successful desktop and then server OSes. They also made embedded OSes with varying success. Then other companies made very successful smartphone OSes, and MS tried to do the same with Windows Phone. It's been a complete disaster. Many people even admit that WP is (supposedly) a very reliable and snappy OS compared to its rivals, but it doesn't matter: it comes from MS so no one wants it. Why not? It's butt-ugly, and it has no apps, and the popular opinion of MS is not good, unlike Apple. Sound familiar? It's exactly like GM except for the bit about the apps (doesn't really apply to cars, at least not yet).

Usually, people who buy Chevys do so because they're cheaper (than foreign cars), or because they want their muscle cars (Camaro, Corvette). Volt is neither a muscle car nor cheap. People who can afford BMWs are not going to buy a Chevy, no matter what. They might have done a little better had they sold the Volt under the Cadillac moniker instead, or maybe Buick. But both of those brands have a lot of baggage too. Honestly, it would have been better for them if they still had the Saturn brand around; Saturn brought a lot of buyers into GM showrooms when it was new because it was such a departure from the same-old GM of the other brands. But they killed that off a while ago as it had turned into yet another GM brand selling nearly-identical cars with the same internals and sales were at a trickle. Cadillacs are mainly just purchased by old people, and Buicks are mainly purchased by old people who want something cheaper and more sensible than a Caddy. GMC doesn't sell cars, much less hybrids or EVs.

The only way the Volt could do worse is if it had been made by Chrysler, and even that's debatable. If it were sold by Ford, I think it'd be a lot more successful than it is now. If it were sold by Toyota or Honda, it'd be a good success.

Maybe GM should just sell the drivetrain to other carmakers. This isn't an offhand remark either: there are many instances of automakers teaming up this way, including GM which used to sell Japanese cars under its "Geo" brand in the early 90s. Right now, Subaru and Toyota sell a sports car they co-developed (Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S), which has a Subaru-made engine (I think the body is by Toyota). Scion looks like they're in the process of folding now, but they were going to sell the Mazda 2 as a Scion vehicle in the US. Lotus cars use Toyota engines. Mazda recently built a prototype version of the Mazda 3 that has a Toyota-licensed hybrid system from the Prius. There's no reason GM can't license its tech to other automakers, or even sell complete drivetrain systems. If the performance is good enough (to be similar to my current car's 184hp engine), I'd love to have a car that combines this drivetrain with a body and suspension/steering like my current Mazda.


>> They might have done a little better had they sold the Volt under the Cadillac moniker instead

GM sells the Cadillac ELR - they only sold about 2,000 over them over the last 2 years, and it was canceled this year. It's too close to the volt and has a way higher MSRP. They might have been better off just releasing the Cadillac version, and then released the Volt later as a cheaper alternative. The Volt MSRP'ed at $39,900 but you could get a $7,500 tax credit and $4,000 incentive from GM, effectively making it a $28,000 car.


After having already killed one of the first EV cars. So it's like Microsoft releasing another tablet after the iPad launched.

This might have something to do with it as well:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/02/gm-ignition-switch-...


I speak only for myself but I think it's has to do with GM spending decades and billions of dollars to produce something a Tesla handily out performs.

I'm aware that a Tesla Model S is twice the cost but nonetheless I consider the Model S to be lightyears ahead of the Volt, if for no other reason that it does 300+miles on electricity alone.


> I'm aware that a Tesla Model S is twice the cost but nonetheless I consider the Model S to be lightyears ahead of the Volt, if for no other reason that it does 300+miles on electricity alone.

Which is a ridiculous way to look at it. Engineering is all about system optimization: maximizing a performance function while keeping a set of metrics within limits. Having a twice-as-large cost limit gives you an enormous advantage in optimizing the other metrics.


Well, lets think of it this way - the Tesla maximizes electric range.

There is no other production car that has as large an electric range. Combine it with the superchargers and other chargers, and you can go quite far without gasoline.

For some people, getting rid of petroleum as fuel is the goal.


Still a meaningless comparison without controlling for price. Could Tesla have released a car at the same price that had sufficient electric range to be viable in the market? It's highly unlikely that was possible at the time the Volt came out.


Why does price have anything to do with engineering success? Tesla has a product and it's wildly popular and they sell it at the prices it commands.

None of this diminishes the Volt (I'd prefer one over my Prius), it's just not an aspirational vehicle.


How about this the Tesla Model 3 costs just as much as the volt and has a 215 mile electric range. Which one do you want?

IMO, hybrid car with an ~80 mile range and a ~50 HP gas engine that only runs at a single RPM and charges the battery's would be a great option. Instead the volt is just a 1997 Prius with a slightly larger battery. Yay for stagnation.

Note: Less than 40 HP can maintain ~85MPH on the highway. The battery can also kick in for a little extra acceleration, but you want some extra to recharge the battery ahead of time.

Instead, they add a 'full' engine and a full transmission which costs extra and adds more weight.


Absolute dumb comparisons, just because you made Tesla Model 3 Rez does not take any credit away from Volt. Show me a Prius with 200mpg, and I will show you at least 10000 Volts with 200 mpg or better.


Is projected to cost just as much and is projected to have a 215 mile electric range. If I'm supposed to use it tomorrow, the choice is really easy.


I actually think the range is one of the least impressive things about the Tesla. They just spent a lot of money and put a really big battery in there. Yes the range makes it very practical but it's not particularly difficult.


possibly because GM failed to market in a package that was more appealing? It should have been in CUV form or at least that by the second version they should have had both forms. You had to be a diehard fan of the ideology behind the car to suffer that dash and such of gen1.

The real test comes when the Bolt arrives. How will be people weigh the difference of 150 miles of EV range to have a range extender? Will that 150 mile gap be too high for the Volt to compete with or will how space is used and packaging matter (CUV vs small sedan)?

While I think they had a good idea in a two door version the ELR was so silly over priced (gen 2 of it was as bad or worse for reusing gen 1 tech even after gen 2 volt was selling) that it was a failure before it shipped. Chevy should had the two door as well as small CUV form. Cover all bases, same frame, just different bodies. (think Cruze).



Personally it's because I've owned and driven too many GM products.




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