Let The Next Gen Chevy Volt Guessing Game Begin!
Having worked for Apple for a few years before Steve jobs’ passing, I’ve become somewhat jaded on the “next release news engine.” As the days got closer to an announced product delivery date, the pundits would list the things the new Apple device would be able to do or the features the new device would have. People would come into my Apple Store to see what news I had and what articles I’d seen. This happened for iPhones, iPads, iMacs, laptops, Mac Pros, iPods, Apple TVs, (no, those other Apple TVs…) and the list goes on and on and on.
Some of the guesses were laughable. Some were thought-provoking. Almost every single one was BS.
Everyone wants news to spread, even when it just does not exist. Everyone wants to be the pundit, to appear to be plugged in and to have advanced knowledge. This seemed especially true for Apple-centric websites. Everyone wanted to chat about America’s favorite gadget or favorite technology company. Even an obviously bogus, death-knell story about Apple would generate thousands of visits, pages and pages of debate and advertising dollars for the sharp-minded hooligans of the interwebs…
*Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Buzz Smith’s “My Electric Vehicle Journey” blog. Check it out by clicking here.
But no, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name’s Reggie Hammond…er…uh…Chevy Volt.
With GM investing $450 million in two plants, everyone wants to guess what features will be on the new Volt. If GM is smart, it will remain completely silent on the issue. Nothing will get the public whipped into a frenzy quite like mystery. As we’ve come to realize, the EV community is already in a frenzy about their vehicles’ cool technology. All it will take is a tiny nudge to start the all-out drool-fest!
Nissan is starting to say a few things about the next generation Leaf. Tesla is always talking about the future with Gigaplants, Model Xs and the Everyman Tesla… There is a fine line between promoting your new, upgraded product and killing the demand for your current one. Apple definitely learned about this fine line. Apple Store staff gets a feel for impending change as demand for existing products starts to wane, then inventory levels fall, then cooperative marketing firms start the price slashing and then…BIRTH!
Cars, with their MUCH longer development cycles cannot afford for enthusiasm to dry up for existing models while the next is still in development. So, it is in their best interest to remain muted in their announcements of future vehicles.
Many have said extending the electric range of the Volt, is critical. Odd, because this appears to be where GM did a lot of research before designing the first Volt. They build a vehicle that would handle the commute required by 80% of us. Yes, once we made the jump to a plug-in hybrid vehicle, we wanted to do all our driving electrically. But that’s not the Volt’s mission. Battery range is arguably more important to 100% electric vehicles than it is for a hybrid. In a Volt, I can always pull in to a gas station to keep going.
Some have mentioned charging time as a place for improvement. I would agree with this, as my percentage of electric driving increased when I got a high-speed charger. I believe GM was very, very conservative in the design of the battery as well as how slowly (or gently) it is recharged. Obviously, GM wanted to kill any battery-life questions or issues. If the average Volt could be 100% recharged on a Level 2 charger in 2 hours or one 100V between 4 and 6 hours, do we even care about battery range? (answer: yes, we would, but maybe not as much…)
Some have mentioned the need for a charger network, similar to the Supercharger network being rolled out by Tesla. I actually think this is a major area of misapplied focus. Governmental groups, retailers and others are trying to figure out how to reach the “tipping point” for EVs. As I’ve mentioned before, I think charging away from home is too expensive. What I’ve recently come to believe is that it’s also too inconvenient! I regularly brag about how long it’s been since I’ve been to a gas station. Currently, it’s been about 5 months. The last time I went, I noticed how my Volt has changed me. I was ticked off that I had to be somewhere other than my home to refuel my vehicle!
How odd it was to realize what I’d been feeling. Most drivers are on the other side of the fence on this. They haven’t experienced what I have. In fact, I’ve had some people actually using refilling at home as an argument against EVs! We all became conditioned that rain or shine, hot or cold, hell or high water, we had to go somewhere to keep our vehicle fueled. What if, in the horse & buggy days, we had become convinced that we needed to take the family coach to a special field with “transportation grade grass” to feed our horses!
There has been discussion about Chevrolet moving to a 3-cylinder engine as the range extender. Who cares? Just keep me going between plugs and I’m happy.
Some have mentioned the need for five seats. I would agree that this is a needed enhancement as I’ve seen people walk away from the Volt because they needed one more seat. I’d actually like to see GM extend the availability of the Spark EV nationwide. We need a “beginner electric vehicle,” to which the Volt would be the “next logical step.” I’d like to see a variety of EVs from a single manufacturer. There will be car buyers who go their entire lives without buying a gasoline-powered vehicle. It’s about time someone stepped up and grabbed that market segment. A Spark EV, the Volt and then perhaps an Electric Impala, Traverse, SS or (dare I say it???) an electric Corvette Stingray!
Finally, a convertible. Yes, I said it. Out loud. I want a topless Volt. I accept I may lose some electric range due to it not being a aerodynamic but I’m willing to accept that (unless you’ve got a bigger battery in the offing…If so, I want that too!)