Posted on October 15th, 2010 No comments
I met Darren Ewing this past weekend at the Prius Tenth Anniversary (yeah, all those pictures down below). Here’s a link to his commentary and thoughts on Toyota vis a vis the sudden acceleration incidents from earlier this year and later year. You might find some argument with some of his points but what you won’t find missing are two things.
His willingness to honestly admit he was wrong before and he forthrightness in correcting that.
And his passion for greatness and respect for it.
Two things I admire a great deal.
Posted on September 17th, 2010 No comments
Seriously? Unintended acceleration jokes? Jokes about Toyota going out of business? I certainly don’t have to defend Toyota, they have platoons of lawyers and flacks to do that. But I can make the observation that someone shouldn’t have given this dork the password to the corporate YouTube account. I mean, he’s so out of touch with the news that’s it’s frightening. Still, this is yet another example of how out of touch much of the established media has become.
I have a feeling that after FastCompany has “re-invented” itself several more times after finding that it is irrelevant, Toyota will still be making great cars.
Posted on July 23rd, 2010 No comments
A first: Lincoln hybrid costs the same as a gas-only car
Really? The cost is the same? Or do they mean retail price? And I’m not just nitpicking here. Ostensibly, CNN/Money is a financial news service and one might reasonably make the presumption that a financial news organization would be in tune with costs versus retail price.
But let’s dig further.
The sticker price will be $35,180 — exactly the same as the non-hybrid version of the car.
So it is retail price, not necessarily “cost”. Ok, cleared that one. It’s just the headline which is stupid. Or is it?
Hybrid cars generally cost considerably more than non-hybrid versions of the same car. In many cases the extra cost of the car can cancel out what the owner saves on gas.
Over the years here we’ve been down this road so many times that I would think most news organs would just avoid this. Yet, here it is again. The old trope that hybrids cost so much more than “regular” cars. Not true and not true.
The rest of the article isn’t much better. It’s basically press release and some mindless rumblings from, oh god save me, an analyst.
Here’s my take on it. Ford probably makes a decent amount on the MKZ. If not, they’d be GM. So the idea that they’re giving a few points in profit to price these cars equivalently isn’t a big deal. In fact, said analyst says,
It’s not unheard of for a hybrid and non-hybrid versions of a car to be priced close to one another, Toprak said, but not exactly the same and not in the luxury market.
So aside from refuting the earlier part of their story, this analyst says something I don’t get at all. While it may not be standard practice in the luxury market, that sector is the one that can most easily absorb this kind of strategy because of the higher retail prices and the larger profit margins. That’s kind of obvious, no?
I guess not.
Posted on March 11th, 2010 1 comment
And here’s where I rip CNN a new one.
Let’s face it, running a huge multi-national, like the proverbial sausage factory, isn’t pretty but that doesn’t stop millions of people from gobbling up the product.
This story, no matter how it ends, is going to be real ugly for Toyota.
Apparently, a person whom CNN describes as “former in-house defense attorney Dimitrios Biller” resigned from Toyota, cashing in a four million dollar severance package and walked out with more than 6,000 documents and emails from his former employer. In the article, Biller claims the documents are damaging to Toyota, “Not potentially, they are. They are very damaging,”
There’s little doubt in my mind that just about any lawyer could produce documents that were damaging to a former client. That’s the nature of legal representation, right or wrong, we’re only pondering half the story if we can’t admit that. So even under the best circumstances, this is going to be another nightmare for Toyota.
So the real question is, so what does he have? What do these documents show us?
So what did CNN learn?
The documents — some of which were reviewed by CNN — were sent by Biller to Toyota officials. There are numerous references to so-called “Books of Knowledge,” highly confidential information on design, safety systems and testing records allegedly generated by Toyota engineers on everything from roll-overs and roof safety to sudden unintended acceleration.
Here’s a photograph of one of the not-so-secret “Books of Knowledge” I took in January of 2009. It happens to be “the Book” for the third generation Prius. The man holding it is known simply as the “The Chief”. He’s Chief Engineer of the Prius, Akihiko Otsuka.
And this picture…
And this picture of The Chief actually consulting the book to respond to a question…
So, yeah, secret book of knowledge. The Chief referred to this “book”, well, folder, that appeared to contain a vast amount of very well organized data on the the third generation Prius, many times throughout the presentation and questioning.
Here’s how CNN described it;
highly confidential information on design, safety systems and testing records allegedly generated by Toyota engineers on everything from roll-overs and roof safety to sudden unintended acceleration.
Of course any company that designs and builds a car has this information. In fact, I would guess that every car company has this information on every vehicle they’ve made and yes, it’s confidential. Is that surprising or somehow “damaging” to Toyota?
Again, the question is, depends on what’s in there. But by no means does mere existence of this information mean Toyota has done something wrong. This is shoddy, tawdry reporting. Give me an example of something that’s damning from these documents which CNN claim they have examined. CNN does, later on, but it’s, well, read on please…
So far, we know an ex-Toyota lawyer grabbed a bunch of privileged communications and is now, now that he’s out and has his four very-large bonus, he’s claiming these documents are damaging.
Further on we read about a specific liability case. A case, as it turns out, which Biller defended Toyota in. The accident was a Camry rollover which Toyota settled for $1.5 million. The plaintiff’s lawyer in the case is quoted as saying,
Embry, who added Toyota provided just enough information to show Toyota vehicles “met the minimum standards.”
Perhaps sad but again, what I would expect from any company defending itself in a multi-million dollar and not proof of guilt by any means.
Again, from the CNN article:
Included in Biller’s documents is an e-mail he said he sent to his bosses summarizing negotiations. It says, “TMS [Toyota Motor Sales USA] concluded that it would be better to pay a premium to settle this case and avoid producing the ‘Books of Knowledge.’”
So Toyota decided to pay off this claim rather than divulge what is basically a blueprint for building the Prius, even more, they’re the results of building the vehicle using those plans and testing it. I’m sure there’s a lot of folks that would like to get that information for free. GM claims to have spent three quarters of a billion dollars designing, building and testing the Volt, so far. Who wouldn’t love to see “the Book” on the Volt? Do you think GM would fight to keep that information secret?
Although Toyota calls the materials “trade secrets,” Embry said,
So why, if Biller knew a judge had ordered all information produced, didn’t he produce it? He said he tried but was stopped by a superior who told him, “You have to protect the client at all costs.”
“Even if that includes,” Biller asked, “committing criminal acts or violating the law?”
The answer, Biller said, was yes.
Did he break the law? “No, I did as much as I could as a lawyer for a client to not break the law,” he said.
At least he follows orders.
Toyota says publicly that Biller is full of it and they will continue to fight to keep those documents private. I can’t blame them but I will add this, if there is something in there that is truly damning, I’d be at the head of the line to kick some Toyota ass. But the evidence has to be there. I won’t do it on the allegations of a former lawyer who left Toyota years ago because of a “nervous breakdown”, grabbed a bunch of privileged communications and then, four years later, threatens to make them public.
I want evidence. Where is the evidence? We have enough allegation and assumption on this issue. Enough to clog the news organs of this country all too much. Where are the real facts?
There’s no doubt CNN should be reporting this story. My question for them, when will they actually do some reporting? If their goal was act as flack for this former lawyer, job well done. If their goal was to inform the public, they haven’t really bothered to tell us anything important, have they?
And as I said at the top, there’s no way this can end well for Toyota. It just adds more ironic gasoline to the fire. Even if Toyota is successful in keeping “the Book” and rest secret, then they lose image wise. If they make it public, everyone gets everything they spent millions learning.
Yes, this is going to suck for Toyota.
And by the way, just for laughs, here’s The Chief and I later in the day…
Posted on February 9th, 2010 No comments
And not much for brains.
The AP is reporting that the City of New York pulled all of the Prius in their city fleet today. Why? Well, something scary is going on, right?
Apparently, this decisive action by the Mayor involved six vehicles.
The rest of the story is a veritable style guide of contradiction and conflation. Read it if you must.
Now, this story, also sourced from the NYPost, is great. There’s a Toyota dealership in Manhattan offering free manicures to customers waiting during recall service. The story also mentions other dealers in the area giving movie passes and whatnot. I think this is great. It may sound silly on the face of it but look at this way. The silver lining to this recall cloud is that all these customers are going to pass through the dealers again. It’s a great opportunity to re-connect to your existing customers and show them you care enough about them to do something. Anything.
I’ll be interested to see if this catches on nationwide.
Posted on February 8th, 2010 No comments
In this thread.
From a WaPo story on Toyota. It goes over how at least one insurance may have warned NHTSA about accelerator problems as early as 2007 but read on braver visitor, the punchline awaits…
“When we see something that might be helpful, we pass it along,” said Dick Luedke, a State Farm spokesman.
Luedke declined to go into detail about the alerts, except to characterize them as “numerous” and not “everyday” occurrences. He directed further questions to NHTSA.
NHTSA spokeswoman Karen Aldana said the agency received a claim letter from State Farm in September 2007 regarding a Camry crash. (emp. mine)
“Our investigative staff reviewed the report and added the information to our complaint database,” she said in a statement.
Aldana offered no comment on the other alerts from State Farm on Toyotas.
Now that is some excellent reporting. Almost content free. How many people had crashes? Had bad were they? Could they could connected to a common fault? Everyone is talking in this story but as the song goes, “They ain’t sayin anything”.
This could be huge, important information that could be devastating to Toyota and their customers. It could be trivial. We don’t know. We can’t evaluate it for ourselves because the critical details aren’t there.
Oh, and yes, NHTSA is a big issue here and one reason why, I would opine, that Toyota isn’t saying a lot.
Posted on February 5th, 2010 No comments
There was time when America was informed by newspapers. Don’t get me wrong, half-assed journalism has always been with us. There never was a “golden age” where all journalists (in any medium) were daring and sought naught but the truth. But I would contend there is a reason that newspapers have been declining in readers steadily for the last twenty-five years.
Kiah Haslett of the Chicago Tribune contacted me via email yesterday about the Toyota recall. I called her back while on my way to a job (I’m a working photographer, but no, not for a newspaper, I do commercial work). I spent probably twenty minutes chatting with her in detail about the 2010 Prius and carefully explaining the “brake problem”. I thought we were really communicating. Maybe we were. But if you read this story, it’s difficult to to tell.
The lead off graph is about how a man is “distraught” and cannot relax since the recall. Lucky man if the worst thing in his world is a car recall in a year when the economy is cratering, hundreds of thousands die in natural disasters and we’re still involved in two wars which kill Americans nearly every day.
Which isn’t to say that the gentleman Haslett profiles in the beginning of her article is foolish for being concerned about his daughter. That’s natural. It’s the way he characterizes and what he thinks the solution is that is downright stupid.
Lucy Liu says she’s getting rid of her Solara and doesn’t want another Toyota. So she’s buying a Lexus. All that beauty apparently surrounds less than a probing intellect. That’s sad.
We get a one liner from another Toyota owner and then, me.
The problem with doing a “phoner” is that I didn’t record my end so I can’t compare how she quoted me to what I actually said. Suffice to say, I thought I spent more than enough time trying to explain the situation and the jumbled mess there attributed to me makes it seem as though I’m comfortable with brakes that don’t work so much as entertain.
The finale of Haslett’s article is a redux of the distraught man from the top. He says complained a problem to the dealer but the dealer said it was ok. Well, what was the problem she complained about? Is it too much to ask a reporter to report critical details? Is he alleging the dealer ignored an out of control acceleration issue? or something else? Readers of the Tribune won’t find out.
The article ends with this plaintive but utterly pointless quote,
“When I signed for the car, I didn’t sign for this,” he said.
Does anyone ever buy a car thinking it won’t be perfect and trouble-free forever? However unrealistic that is, I get it, but so what? It’s silly to think that way. There’s a reason why car companies offer warranties and reason why car buyers love them. Because we live in an imperfect world. But that’s trivializing the issue and I’m here to do that. I am here to point out how shallow that ending sentence was.
Look, I’m not minimizing how much it sucks to have a car recalled especially for something potentially serious. That said, out of millions of Toyota out there, we’re talking about, quite literally, a handful of complaints. To my knowledge, no accidents or injuries have resulted. Again, that’s not to minimize that a recall sucks but let’s be adults here. We live in a world of mass produced goods. Sometimes, with some of the things we buy there are problems. To expect otherwise is to live in some odd fantasy world filled with marshmallow clouds and unicorns. Cars get recalled all the time. If this were a Chevy recall, it wouldn’t be a story. Want me to prove it?
This week the NHTSa announced it was investigating 1,132 complaints about steering defects in four model years of the Chevrolet Cobalt affecting more than 900,000 cars.
Have you heard about that on the Today show?
Maybe the president of Chevy made a video and apologized for it?
Maybe your local news station went to their Chevy dealer to ask about it?
None which makes the Toyota recall any different but it does highlight the unique nature of this story, something which I think, is fueling this media feeding frenzy. It’s weird. Toyotas don’t usually have problems. Toyota isn’t typically involved in a mass recall such as this one. So it’s different. So it deserves the insane amount of coverage it’s getting, right?
So, back to intrepid reporter Kiah and the Chicago Tribune. Sure, as the story headline makes clear, many Toyota owners are frustrated. Some of them are downright nuts (see the idiot Tundra owner in the post below). But for most of us, it’s an inconvenience and not much more. And that’s the way it should be. Since we can’t expect any manufacturer to be perfect, we hope they are very, very good and when there is a problem we want to them to solve it quickly and effectively. Which, curiously enough, is exactly what Toyota is doing. And yet, the news cycle grinds on.
As I try to wind this epic screed down I want to specifically address the 2010 Prius “brake problem” and compare and contrast this with the accelerator recall. I’m also going to toss a little gasoline on this fire.
Keep in mind, the accelerator recall only involved Toyota’s made here in the US and the part specifically involved is also made here in the US. Toyota’s made in Japan are not affected by the recall or, apparently, afflicted with this issue. Funny how that gets glossed over, eh?
All Prius currently come from Japan, so conflating this “brake issue” (and I’ll get to why I keep putting that in quotes shortly) with the accelerator is really mixing two very different issues together as one.
Ok, here’s the deal on the 2010 brakes and Prius brakes in general. Prius uses a system common to most hybrids where the brakes are a combination of two things, a generator and the standard friction brakes common to every car. The generators are used during the first part of the braking procedure. The generators reduce the speed of the car in the same manner standard friction brakes do but, unlike standard friction brakes, they generate electricity which is used to keep the hybrid batteries charged. Standard friction brakes only generate heat and wear down the braking surface. It’s one reason why most Prius owners don’t replace brakes for 100,000 miles or more.
Now, there is a transition, when braking where the generators are no longer engaged and the standard friction brakes are. Let me put it another way. If you were to index the pressure you apply to your brakes from 1 to 100. As you apply pressure that index number increases. In Prius, you’re not using the standard friction brakes until you hit about index number 80 or so (depending on how you apply them, this is much simpler than the actual process is). From 80 or so onward, the regenerative braking is no longer engaged and the standard friction brakes are.
With me so far? It’s pretty simple actually. The whole thing is controlled under a very much more than I bothered to explain set of computer instructions that react much faster than you possibly could. This computer also takes into consideration whether or not all the wheels are turning (if you were sliding for instance). All in all it makes the Prius brake system very safe and extremely efficient (like the rest of the car). This isn’t much different from the standard ABS braking system. It’s a lot tougher than it used to be to stand on the brakes and make the car skid around. That’s an improvement, not a defect.
So, where “issue” comes up is this. There are times when applying the brakes in Prius, if you happen to traveling over a broken road surface, a pothole or, something that happens to me all the time because of where I live, if you’re going over something like a railroad crossing. If you’re applying the brakes steadily as you go over this surface sometimes you will feel the transition between the regenerative system and the standard friction system. It’s a weird feeling, somewhat akin to being in free fall for a brief instant, then, the friction brakes kick in and you continue to slow down. It’s a fraction of a second but an intense fraction of a second. Next time it happens, you think to yourself, “Oh yeah, that.”
I first noticed this in my 2005 Prius and I’ve noticed it in my 2010. We have especially mediocre roads in Lancaster. Some Prius owners have never noticed it. The thing is, it’s not necessarily a “problem”. It’s not a “defect” in the general sense. It’s the way that braking system works.
Allow me to make a final analogy.
Let’s say you’re a Prius owner. Maybe a new Prius owner. Maybe out for your first drive in your new car. You’re driving away from the dealership and and you see a red light ahead. You stop at the intersection and as you do, the gas motor in your new Prius stops running! Dead silence. You can’t believe it. Your Prius just stalled. When the light turns green, you press on the accelerator and glide through the intersection.
Now, did you just experience a “defect” or a “problem” or was it the normal behavior of Prius?
The answer is, of course, it’s the way Prius works. Same goes for the brakes. Yes, it’s different from “standard” cars. Yes, if you don’t know what’s going on it’s weird as hell. But it’s not a problem.
Did you know that more than three quarters of the people who drive a 2010 Prius are brand new to hybrids?
All of which is to say, Toyota is being unfairly lambasted for this 2010 brake issue. I don’t think it’s an issue at all. And I very much hope that the solution is not something which kills the regenerative braking system, one of the great things about Prius.
We, as the public, must grow up and not be lemmings eager to hurl themselves into the sea at the slightest provocation. We need to demand, because as customers, we deserve to know, good explanations and complete resolutions. But we also need to be reasonable and fair. Acting like a spoiled child may be satisfying for some but it’s not any more appealing than it sounds. I know a lot people at Toyota. To a person they are nice, reasonable people who work very hard to build honest cars at a good value. History shows us that they’ve been successful at it for a long time. Toyota builds a lot of cars here in the US. Toyota employs tens of thousands of Americans. This isn’t about bashing a “foreign” car company. When Ford builds the Fusion in Mexico and Toyota builds the Camry in Kentucky, we have to revise our thinking on who is “foreign” and how that word even applies anymore. Piling on Toyota and allowing a pathetic media to do so is not good for us. It doesn’t inform us. It’s infantilizes us. We’re not spoiled children.
A long time ago one of my bosses told me, “No one is perfect. To err is indeed human and what distinguishes us is how we deal with those imperfections both ours and of others.”
Wise words indeed. It’s how we fix mistakes that distinguish as human beings both good and bad. Expecting things to be perfect isn’t human. It’s just stupid.
If you have questions about your Toyota drop me a line. I’m always here to help.
Posted on February 5th, 2010 No comments
Most importanly, if you have questions, go here: http://www.toyota.com/recall
Chances are the media have it wrong.
Priuschat is reporting via an anonymous source at Toyota that a “fix” is imminent.
Ok, fair enough, I guess but I’d really love to hear what exactly is being viewed as the “problem” right now. I understand that because hybrids don’t work in exactly the same manner as grandpappy’s old Buick, some people feel their cars are defective. Sadly, just explaining that situation isn’t enough.
Or, is there really a problem with some 2010′s? All 2010′s? My brakes work just fine.
One thing is for certain, we’re getting a lot more heat than light from most of the media who either don’t understand the issues involved or don’t want to bother with explanations that are longer than most peoples’ attention spans. Oh. I wonder if I just nailed that one?
Suffice to say right now all we official know is that both the NHTSA and Toyota are looking into the “issue” of 2010 Prius brakes.
More here, of course, when it is available.
(hint, might be a good thing to have your VIN number handy)
Previous eight models of Toyota recalled for accelerator issues
As I understand the replacement parts are on their way or have already arrived at dealers now. The training for technicians was this week. We should start seeing dealers reaching out to owners to schedule replacements next week.
Try not to do what this idiot did…
A Toyota Tundra crashed into the showroom at All Star Toyota in Baton Rouge on Saturday morning. Officers said a customer tried to return his truck following a recent recall on the accelerator. According to the Baton Rouge Police Department, the general manager offered to fix the truck and repeatedly offered to give the customer a loaner in the meantime, but the customer declined and left the building. Police reported the man then drove his Toyota into the side of the dealership, causing major damage to the truck and the building. The customer claimed his accelerator became stuck, causing the crash. All Star said the truck was purchased last March [emphasis added] and did not have any records of mechanical problems.
Police added the accelerator was not stuck when they examined the truck after the crash, but they could not find any evidence that the crash was intentional. The driver was not ticketed.
It’s this kind of dishonesty from a customer that doesn’t help anyone, anywhere in situations such as this. Yeah, sure dude, your accelerator stuck.
Posted on May 6th, 2009 No comments
Edumunds Inside Line continues to astound me with, well, see for yourself.
This is bold, first paragraph from the story…
Hybrid sales in the U.S. rose in April for the fourth consecutive month and posted the highest monthly volume since October 2008. The bump illustrates the influence that novelty and price still have on the market: The all-new 2010 Honda Insight and a heavily incentivized Honda Civic Hybrid largely account for the gain.
Eh? What? Hybrids are price competitive or so I’m told in nearly every bit of the mainstream media. Yet here seems to one source telling hybrids are selling because of price? Novelty? For whom? It’s 2009, hybrids aren’t a “novetly” anymore. They’re just another car. And there’s a lot of them on the road.
And the second line, the Honda Insight and Civic are what drove this increase?
Well, not so much. From the same story just a few more lines into it…
Toyota’s Prius, due to be replaced by an all-new, next-generation model by the end of this month and helped by big incentives in some markets, continued to be the top-selling hybrid in the nation, although April sales of 8,385…
And as it turns out, the top four selling hybrids, in order of sales were, Prius, Civic hybrid, Camry hybrid and Insight (Source, the same Edmunds story).
Posted on October 27th, 2008 No comments
I hope that James Shomar, biomed student at Syracuse University puts more work into his studies than he did in this, mostly plagiarized and inaccurate, summary of why hybrids are not good.
Just another CNW Marketing victim. Well James, at least you’re there in good company.
Posted on September 29th, 2008 No comments
From a Motor Trend piece on the Paris Auto Show and cars writer Angus MacKenzie “wants to see”…
Honda Insight. Can Honda really deliver a cheaper Prius fighter? Despite its Paris reveal, the Insight is really all about America — and Prius. Having seen how successfully Toyota’s hybrid has distracted the mainstream media and public opinion away from the reality of the gas-guzzling Tundras and Sequoias and Lexus LS sedans, and wreathed Toyota in a gentle green haze, Honda is going all out to regain the high ground, both in terms of its engineering reputation, and its green credentials (remember the CVCC?).
The styling is clearly Prius-influenced, logical, perhaps, as the Prius’s lozenge-on-wheels profile screams earth-saving, eco-responsible citizen in a way the Civic Hybrid never could. Under the hood is said to be a more cost effective version of Honda Integrated Motor Assist hybrid powertrain. Like everyone else, I’ll be fascinated to see what mileage numbers Honda claims. But I’ll also be interested to see whether Honda can give the hybrid a little more soul.
Actually Mr. MacKenzie, logical yes hence the reason the Prius has the one of if not the lowest drag coefficients of any car currently on the market.
And despite your protestations to the contrary Toyota to continues to be a world leader in fuel efficient vehicles regardless of whether or not you perceive a soul.
Posted on September 20th, 2008 No comments
With a hat tip to Harry Shearer, yes folks, I mean the LA Times.
Here’s the problem with this article.
Apparently lost in all the hype over General Motors Corp.’s reveal of its Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle — a.k.a. the greatest American invention since the automatic bread slicer — is exactly what the darn thing is and how it works.
We at Up to Speed know this because of the huge volume of reader comments we’ve been getting that confuse the Volt with an all-electric vehicle, a GMC Sierra 2500HD pickup, a soulless marketing ploy, and, most commonly, a Japanese import. Dear readers, as far as we can tell, it’s none of the above.
This is the first bit of smoke and mirrors. The idea that GM has been pushing, pushing hard, that the Volt isn’t a hybrid and the resulting implication that somehow what GM has come up with is better than a hybrid is hilarious. Gas engine, electric motors, hybrid. Now we can argue the fine points of what kind of hybrid it is because there are different kinds of hybrids but any vehicle combining a gas motor and an electrical motor can be called a hybrid. Making other claims is just trying to obscure the details.
The not-yet-rolling hypemobile isn’t due out until late 2010, but GM has essentially bet the farm on its success, putting a lot of cash (around $500 million in R&D alone) and a lot more of its image and public goodwill at risk. If the car succeeds, it could be a quantum leap for the struggling company. If it fails, well, pretty it won’t be.
Adding by subtracting, a quick primer on what the Volt ain’t:
–It’s not the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic Hybrid. That’s because, and GM will back us on this one, it’s not really a hybrid. Unlike the Prius and its ilk, the Volt doesn’t combine an electric motor and an internal combustion motor to turn the wheels. The Volt uses only an electric motor to drive the wheels. Separately, it has a gasoline generator aboard that turns on when the battery runs low in order to create extra electricity for the drivetrain.
–It’s not the EV1. That car, a.k.a. the little two-seater that could (sour the greeneies on GM forever), was a battery electric vehicle. It ran only on electric power and had a range, depending on driving and geography, of up to 160 miles on a charge. Both cars plug in to charge the battery, but in the case of the EV1, there was no generator aboard. The Volt will run on pure battery power for 40 miles and then switch on the gasoline-powered generator to produce extra juice. GM says that the shorter all-electric range is to compensate for the weight of the motor, and allows the vehicle to have room for four passengers and significant cargo space.
–It’s not a Tesla Roadster. That’s a pure electric car (it plugs in). True, the Tesla uses lithium ion batteries like the Volt rather than nickel metal hydride batteries that were in the EV1. But in order to get its 220+-mile range, the Roadster has only two seats and essentially no trunk space. Then again, the Roadster, once a few transmission problems are worked out, will get to 60 mph in four seconds flat. The Volt? Think again.
–It’s not a plug-in hybrid. Toyota Motor Corp., Fisker Automotive and others are working on that technology, which is essentially a hybrid with a bigger battery and a power cord. Those cars would use increased juice to take more of the load off the gas engine and, at low speeds, run on electric power only. But unlike the Volt, the gasoline engine still is part of the drivetrain. The Toyota plug-in Prius is expected to have an all-electric range of up to 10 miles, compared to 40 for the Volt. (The current Prius’ all-electric range is only about a mile.)
Calculating the Volt’s mileage is tricky.
No, not tricky, impossible. GM won’t give us the details and frankly I think it’s ridiculous to either trust GM on what they “swear” the details are or try to guess because there are too many variables involved to make any kind of educated guess.
GM has sworn that it will get 40 miles on the battery alone, and another 320 miles once the 1.4-liter gasoline generator kicks in. But it hasn’t said how many gallons of gas the Volt’s tank will hold, so it’s hard to say how many miles per gallon GM expects it will get on generated power.
To get a sense of what it would cost to operate the Volt on battery power, a little math is in order. The Volt battery has a 16 kilowatt/hour capacity, but to preserve battery life (think of a laptop battery), GM has tweaked it so that only half of that is drawn upon, for a total of 8 kilowatt/hours per charge. The average consumer price per kw/h in 2006 (the most recent data available) was 10.4 cents, according to the Energy Information Administration.That works out to 83.2 cents per charge, or 2.08 cents per mile.
By comparison, a Toyota Prius, which has a city/highway average fuel economy of 46 mpg, runs about 8.3 cents per mile (at today’s average gas price of $3.83 per gallon). On paper, the Volt costs only a quarter what it costs to operate a Prius.
The people in GM’s PR department are wetting themselves laughing about publicity this wonderful. How stupid is it to compare a car whose details we know nothing about with a car that has been on the market for a decade? And then to make the further leap into absurdity by saying the mythical car is clearly superior.
You have to try to be that dumb.
But there are some big uncertainties in there. First, the average price of electricity has risen since 2006 and is certain to rise a bit more by the time the Volt comes out. And in some parts of the country, people pay as much as 33 cents per kw/h. At that rate, the Volt costs 6.6 cents per mile to operate.
Second, since we know little about the Volt’s operation on the gasoline generator, we don’t know what its cost per mile will be after 40 miles.
GM officials say the purpose of the gasoline generator is to give drivers the peace of mind that if they need to go far, they can, but that the most efficient use of it will be daily trips under 40 miles or so.
That enough info? Remember, kids, we don’t endorse it, we only tell it like it is.
What a bit of arrogant contempt. “only tell it like it is”? You made or passed along GM fantasies and then say you “only tell it like it is”. You’ve got to be kidding me right?
As GM spokesman Rob Peterson says, “We just want people to understand this vehicle. Some of the facts out there overstate its capabilities and some of the facts understate them.”