Monday, May 24, 2010

The Chevy Volt Fulfills A Dream?

General Motors allowed some test drives of their Chevy VOLT, the electric auto that is supposed to change the world. HybridCars.com has posted their early impressions and I'll tell you that I don't think that I'll be in line to buy one.

The big selling point is the all electric driving for up to 40 miles before you need the gas engine kick in and maintain the charge level. Ideally, this type of vehicle would be used by someone who has to travel less than 20 miles to work or shop. 20 there and 20 back, simple. For a lot of us that is no problem, but that means few or no side trips elsewhere. Like HybridCars says, the EV miles are the simple ones.

A number of my friends live just a little farther out that the 20 miles to get to town and their jobs. They would be using up the 40 miles before you know it. Maybe, for these folks, they will want to use the EV mode to leave home and get to the main highway where the can make better speed, then switch to the gas engine till they get to the city and switch back to EV for the easy miles around town. You know, save the electric usage for the in town driving. At that point all the engine noise will be left on the open road.

This is the kind of thing that fits well with the relationship that GM has with Google. They have an app for that, or there will be apps for it. You should be able to program your commute to fit your schedule and hopefully program your re-charging and down time. Maybe you could reprogram your lifestyle to fit your car.

Right now it seems that the availability will be more limited that the Toyota Prius was after it was introduced. There are currently 130 and all in the hands of engineers and test cases. Next year's model will be produced in the thousands(hardly enough to fulfill the hype and don't expect to see any major changes) and later models in the tens of thousands. Whoopee!!!

Then there is the solution that they have come up with for the problem of quiet electric autos. The driver will be allowed to control a chirp like sound that emanates from the hood. This would supposedly alert the blind and possibly an unaware pedestrian. Most drivers don't know when to use their turn signals, so how would they know when they are approaching a blind person in order to initiate the chirping sound. Maybe there will be an app for that too.

With enough apps maybe Randal O'Toole is right and a simple software upgrade will make it a driverless vehicle that is in limited availability and that hardly anyone can afford to keep on the road.

2 comments:

Ben said...

Have you seen the nissan leaf? Much cooler, in my opinion. Pushes the envelope a lot farther. And at a much nicer price point (and quicker volume - some people will buy in August)

http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index#/leaf-electric-car/index

Streetsweeper said...

No doubt the Nissan is a better deal. With 2.5 times the range per charge and lower base price, this will still fit the needs of urban dwellers more than our largely rural population. The other basic problems will still exist, the blind, the un-attentive pedestrians and others.

Drivers will still have to adjust their driving and road habits to take major advantage of the electric vehicle revolution, if there is one. Charging the family auto, or autos will greatly increase the monthly utility bill, don't you think? Rewiring a three car garage in some of our homes to accommodate everybody in the house will also be expensive and all of our neighborhoods may end up with major power poles in the future.

Just some more of those unintended consequences that we will have to plan for. Where to start, where to start.