Midwest EVOLVE Wants More EVs In Flyover Country

6 months ago by Sebastian Blanco 22

Nissan Leaf at the Chicago Auto Show 2017.

Nissan Leaf at the Chicago Auto Show 2017.

Michigan might be the center of the auto industry, but it hasn’t been a leader in plug-in vehicles. Heck, the state is still fighting against Tesla (even if is says it isn’t). A new project announced at the Chicago Auto Show today want to change the EV story in Michigan and six other Midwestern states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Sorry, South Dakota.

Midwest EVOLVE is going to try and get car shoppers in this relatively EV-free region of the country to test drive, learn about, and finally buy plug-in vehicles. There’s a logical reason for this, said Lew Bartfield, CEO and president, American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, during a presentation in Chicago. Aside from the logical health benefits of cleaner air that EVs bring, this part of the country hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, he said. “The Midwest has been overlooked as a market for electric vehicles,” he said. The solution is to let people test drive these plug-in cars and see for themselves how they work. “Butts on seats, that’s our phrase,” he said.”Butts on seats.”

Over the next three years, Midwest EVOLVE will do over 25 “large scale” ride and drive events and over 50 smaller ones. It will also participate in a lot of events to do general customer outreach, including the 2018 Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows, Milwaukee Summerfest, and National Drive Electric Week, which will happen later this year. Midwest EVOLVE is supported with vehicles for the ride-and-drives, and in other in-kind ways, by Ford, Nissan and GM. The US Department of Energy is also on board.

Oh, and yes, the all-caps EVOLVE does stand for something. In this case, it’s Electric Vehicle Opportunities: Learning, eVents, Experience. Slightly convoluted, but there you have it.

Source: Midwest EVOLVE

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22 responses to "Midwest EVOLVE Wants More EVs In Flyover Country"

  1. realistic says:

    It mostly comes down to three things: winter, winter and winter. Substantial range degradation is real in the most sophisticated EVs, and more so if you expect even a modest level of comfort.

    Actually the enthusiastic EVangelists may have hurt things more than helped. Admonitions to wear a hat and gloves if you want to “save the world” are annoying. One Leaf driver I know describes how he was able to stretch winter range by wearing a heated snowmobile suit plugged into a 12v auxiliary port, and heating only the seat and steering wheel. He shared the story often. Believe me, there are damned few Prius drivers ready to accept this kind of lunacy to get a 50-mi range day for the hard weeks of winter.

    The emergence of 30kWh+ among most offerings helps to expand interest a bit, as does a 60kWh machine available for a sorta-reasonable price. But $35k for a car with a deep-winter range under 200 miles is still not a seller around the mid-continent stretches of I-90.

    Where I live (modest per-capita incomes and above-average annual miles driven), the Volt has made a dent and gathered some very firm adherents. Many people recognize the odd gen1 shape and ask me about mine. Leafs barely exist still (I was an outlier). Teslas are left to the showy iconoclast (who has several other cars as backup). S Class and 7 series outnumber Model S 10:1. I spend a fair amount of time in/around Rockford IL on one key account, and I have seen three different Maseratis and only one Model X. Both rare as hens teeth.

    1. Minnesota has one of the most active EV owners groups in the country, and they are going to help us train dealerships on how to sell EVs. Winter or no, we are going to make this work.

      1. realistic says:

        Robert, I spent a couple of days in Mpls in mid-January. Rather than a hotel I stayed at an Airbnb residence in the Nicollet neighborhood, where I saw a couple of Leafs. Also there were numerous bicyclists, seeing as how the snow was (mostly) removed/sublimated. This is an unusual crowd, to be sure.

        As a fairly boring, more-or-less mainstream dude I am frequently admonished to look outside my general field of existence. May I suggest the same. Plug-Ins in the Midwest are rare and will remain so for awhile yet (and I know because I’ve been running on mostly leptons for three years now).

    2. Someone out there says:

      EVs seem to work well in Norway and they have plenty of winter.

      1. realistic says:

        The Norway thing again…

        If you pay half the price for a car, avoid ~$8/gal fuel, pay no tolls and reduced/free parking and cuity access, yes, you find a way to go electric. Also in a country where average miles driven is 60% of US and the public transport system is both safe and well-developed.

        Really an absurd comparison.

  2. Bill Howland says:

    Since this is a generalist article, I figure its legal to give my first impressions of the 2017 BOLTev. I’ve already put down a $5000 deposit on one, but, my charitable answer is, perhaps I will learn to like it. I’m selling my 2012 Beautiful Red Volt to a friend, who really needs a newer car, and who really would like mine. But the 2017 BOLTev is a step-backward, from what I can see.

    I spent a long time in the car at the autoshow, and to be fair, my viewpoint was a minority view: the 4 other people who stepped in the car ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT – me not so much – the car looks cheap, the front seats are a bit too narrow (I have no idea why they designed the car this way – my Tesla Roadster – the smallest car imaginable, was larger if you can believe that). Also, the rear seats are more comfortable than the front. And in my opinion the car is a BIG step down from my relatively luxurious 2012 VOlt. – And this BOLTev was the Premier version, I’m getting the LT (plain jane – but from what I can see there’s not much difference).

    I brought my nephew to the show also, and he asked if it was too late to get the 2017 VOLT, no argument from me, a much, much nicer car, and in effect, at least it is 90% electric. Comparing the 2017 VOLT, with the 2017 CT6 Cadillac, = the VOLT could be considered as nice for much less money.

    The kicker here is the NICEST car of the 4 discussed here, is the 2014 ELR, which I’m keeping. That car still turns more heads than even the Roadster did, and I constantly have to explain that due to current Cadillac Management, – if you want one you’ll have to find a used one. The ELR is a much more beautiful car than the upcoming CT6 PHEV.

    The other idiosynchrosy of the show was the beautiful Prius Prime which was showcased on a turntable had absolutely NO MENTION of it being a phug-in hybrid, nor that most people would get a $4000 or so fed tax credit, other than the fine print about charging on the window sticker.

    Reps said for legal reasons they can’t mention anything about the discount since all people might not qualify for it so their lips are sealed. Go figure.

    1. georges says:

      Interesting Bill H. I knew you had one of the first Roadsters. ..and personally I do like the ELR. Really a nice car IMO DonC and Loboc both have them.

      I couldn’t decide between a new BotEV and a used S. I went for the S and so far I’m not disappointed. Yes a tad less reliable than my 2012 Volt but all the other features make it an extremely enjoyable car to own.

      I bot it used S for 50K cash so no monthly payment. Look at Bro’s blog and you will be amazed at what a new loaded Bolt can add up to.

      ….but I use the S for long haul miles since we make frequent miles to Phx and so the used S with 85 kwh works very well and has eliminated the Prius as the long haul commuter.

      I know you are keary after the Roadster but the S’s have been out the longest and they have the kinks worked out for the most part:)
      ..

    2. Josh Bryant says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wasn’t expecting you disappointment in the Bolt. If it were my feelings (and money), I would pass. If you loved the Volt seems like the 2017 would be a good answer. But since you have the ELR maybe a BEV as the 2nd makes sense.

      I haven’t sat in an ELR, but from the outside it is amazing. Not practical for me with young kids, but I see the allure.

      I know you were burned by Tesla, but maybe delay an extra 6 months and see what the final 3 and possible Leaf 2.0 look like. 2017 Volts will only get better pricing once all these are out.

      Best of luck and let us know which way you go.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        Thanks…. I’m not well healed enough to casually forgo the $5000 I’ve already put down on the BOLT. And its overriding feature – the reason I bought the car sight unseen – is that it will go 300 miles with a light pedal in fair weather, between charges.

        That was the one thing I missed in my Roadster, and this battery is around 12% larger. So, I’ll learn to live with it.

        But the car’s dimensions are weird. No other chevy is like this – so you’d think they’d make it a bit wider – unless they were up to getting maximum mileage, and LG’s recommended configurations for the pouches only allowed 60 kwh usable.

        I know there was plenty of argument as to whether this was a GM or LG design, but sounds to me like the OVERALL DESIGN CHIEF was from LG. If the goal is to have a 238 mile EPA rated Chevy, their next vehicle should simply have a larger battery……

        And to compete with ford’s electric upcoming SUV – GM should take its Suburban/Escalade sized vehicle and either come up with a 30/60 kwh phev, or else have a BOLT drive train on each axle for 120 kwh BEV with around 300 miles range. Certainly in the extended versions of these vehicles there is plenty of room for the batteries – and batteries are getting so cheap that large SUV’s are definitely not out of the question for either Phev’s or BEV’s. 400 hp is adequate for an Escallade – especially a low-geared one like the Bolt drive train that would give the vehicle plenty of zippiness.

        1. philip d says:

          I’m a ’17 Volt owner and a previous ’13 Volt owner. I too am puzzled by the narrowness of the Bolt seats and the Bolt itself. The Volt is not a wide car by any means but the Bolt is listed as being even 1 inch narrower.

          I have wondered if the original calculations they made during the design phase to get to at least a comfortable 200+ miles range ended up overly pessimistic. So they made certain sacrifices during design phase like really light narrow seats and a narrow body that turned out to be not needed to meet their goal and resulting in a longer range than anticipated.

          It’s obviously not a bad error to end up with 238 miles of range but I guess once other longer range EVs like the Model 3 show up we will see if it would have sold better with maybe only 210 miles of range but with nice comfortable normal seats and the real ability for 3 people to fit in the back. Or even 200 EPA miles and a little more hatch space to set it apart from all the other smaller EVs with tiny hatches or the Model 3 and its sedan trunk.

          I personally think that all of the companies designing EVs are making the mistake of tweaking their designs out of the mainstream needlessly in one or two categories.

          I mean just make a EV that is midsized with decent 6-7 second performance that will seat 5 adults relatively comfortably and hit a range of around 200 miles with a decent cargo capacity that expands with seats down. The Model 3 seemed to be on track to be that car but they went with a goofy sedan trunk.

    3. WadeTyhon says:

      The 2017 Volt is a wonderful car! In a year or two, my wife will be updating her 2013 Volt to the 2nd gen volt or to a used Model S.

      Too bad the ELR was not more of a hit. I’ve never actually seen one in person even. I have seen multiple i8’s around here and even a Fisker Karma but never an ELR.

    4. Kdawg says:

      “my charitable answer is, perhaps I will learn to like it”
      ———-
      I think this is what will happen, once you get behind the wheel for a bit.

      (side note: man you have a lot of cars. I just have my Volt and don’t know what I’d do with another car)

    5. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “beautiful Prius Prime”

      Sorry, Bill, after this comment, I can’t agree with your assessment of any cars anymore… =)

      Prius Prime actually looked good to me on all the pictures. Once I saw it in real life, the opinion completely changed.. The proportions didn’t look right at all. All the weird lines and curves didn’t make it any better. Sure, it might be hair better than regular Prius, but that bar is pretty low.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        I should have qualified that a bit better. “Beautiful inside for the price”.

        Outside, agreed it has that weird MIRAI fuel-cell styling which takes some getting used to.

  3. Josh Bryant says:

    First piece I have seen by Sebastian here. Welcome aboard!

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Indeed it is, and from the road at the Chicago Auto Show no less, (=

    2. WadeTyhon says:

      Yes, welcome Sebastian! 😀

  4. Kdawg says:

    “Michigan might be the center of the auto industry, but it hasn’t been a leader in plug-in vehicles”
    ————
    Isn’t Michigan in the Top 5 states for plug-in sales?

    1. no comment says:

      as i recall, GM stated that the chicago area was one of the top Volt sales areas.

  5. Mister G says:

    Fox News is not helping the EV cause just saw a piece on Chicago Auto show and only included gas guzzling SUVS and trucks…no mention of EVs.

  6. JeremyK says:

    There are lots of Volts in SE Michigan. I have no doubt that it’s the best selling plug-in around here.

    Seeing quite few Bolts too, now that the captured test fleet is out in full force. There are usually a few taking up charging spaces here at GM’s Global Propulsion HQs every morning.

    Was really surprised to see that MI was one of the last states to get the Bolt. Much more EV activity here than many other states. Oh well, I’m planning on waiting for the 2018 version anyway…hopefully it will have any bugs worked out by this time next year.

  7. Zukidrvr says:

    The L3 charging infrastructure in Michigan is sputtering to life, but is still far to limited to be practical. Holland, where LG Chem is located has many L2 chargers but there are no L3s on that side of the state at all. Vacationers from Chicago are left out cold. Saint Louis has seen a small increase, but no one appears to be taking on improved L3 charging infrastructure seriously. Good luck trying to get up to Springfield or beyond. This is embarrassing.