Consumer Reports recently wrote a scathing report on Government Motors new Wundercar -- the Chevy Volt.
Consumer Reports concluded that:
"When you are looking at purely dollars and cents, it doesn't really make a lot of sense. The Volt isn't particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it's not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy."
They are exactly right.
In real world conditions, the Volt will go about 28 miles on a charge. It takes 3 to 4 hours to recharge it.
Contrast that with the Tesla Roadster (made in America) which gets up to 245 miles on a charge and the upcoming Tesla Model S sedan, which will get up to 300 miles on a charge.
Unlike the Tesla models, the Volt has a gasoline engine that kicks in to recharge the battery when it runs dry. As Consumer Reports concluded, the combination doesn't live up to GM's hype.
Plug-in electrics are not the future anyway.
I've been convinced for quite a few years that Hydrogen Fuel cell electrics are the future. Most of the major auto companies, including Mercedes, Toyota, and even GM, seem to agree.
Fuel cell cars are powered by the most abundant molecule in the universe -- hydrogen. They produce electricity through a chemical reaction that is caused by combining hydrogen and oxygen. That energy is fed into an electrical motor. The only tailpipe emission is water vapor.
GM has a pretty good fuel cell prototype in the Equinox Fuel Cell SUV. The Equinox is a full size SUV powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
The Equinox will currently go 160 miles on a tank full of hydrogen in real world conditions. It can be refueled in a couple of minutes. On a fuel cost basis, it gets about 70 miles to a gallon of gas. Not bad. And it's electric, so you get close to full torque at all RPMs, even in reverse!
Toyota has been showing off a similar fuel cell SUV. Mercedes is currently piloting a small "B-class" fuel cell car, with plans for larger fuel cell cars in the near future. Toyota and most other car companies have major fuel cell efforts underway.
The big challenge to fuel cell adoption is the refueling infrastructure.
GM has partnered with the Hawaiian Gas Company, which is building hydrogen refueling stations across Oahu. Mercedes has formed similar partnerships with energy companies in Germany who plan to roll out 1,000 hydrogen refueling stations in Germany over the next five years. California already has a handful of hydrogen refueling stations, with plans for many more.
Tesla has proved that electrical cars can be sexy and powerful. The Telsa Roadster is a great looking car. It goes from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, which is as fast as the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, Corvette Z06, and Porsche 911 GT3.
Electric cars are definitely the future.
What we need is an electric car that can be refueled in about the same time as a gasoline car.
That is what hydrogen fuel cells provide.
Hat's off to GM for trying something new and innovative with the Volt. Innovations don't always succeed. I suspect that the Volt will wind up amongst the long line of failures that GM has tried to bring to market over the last several decades.
However, GM is also on the forefront of fuel cell technology. That's a good thing.