Is The Chevy Volt Just More GM Greenwashing?

volttop.jpgI was seduced back in May by GM’s seeming sincerity in developing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt. We must always remember, however, GM is a master greenwasher.

An article in Edmunds, “Chevrolet Volt Goes to Washington To Underline GM’s Anti-CAFE-Increase Argument,” suggests GM is using the Volt the same way it used fuel cell cars to kill the electric car in California (as the movie explains):

General Motors’ North American operations chief, Troy Clarke, is meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill today, and he’s bringing along the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid prototype. GM hopes the Volt will help convince lawmakers that electric and alternative-fuel vehicles are the route to energy independence. The Big Three have strenuously opposed a proposed increase in CAFE standards, saying the cost of meeting higher mpg averages would take away resources that could be put toward development of alternative-energy vehicles.

Sad. If the Volt is mostly or even partly a head fake, then Toyota will win surely win the race for the car of the future.

At the same time, the automakers may be winning the fight against the Senate CAFE bill, according to the Wall Street Journal (subs. req’d) and E&E News (subs. req’d), excerpted below:

… the effort to include CAFE in the summer energy legislation appeared to be floundering, with supporters appearing unlikely to secure the 218 votes needed to assure passage. Even Markey and his House allies told reporters earlier this week that their goal was simply to get a CAFE increase on the president’s desk “this year.”

Both Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) told reporters earlier this week that CAFE likely will not be part of the summer energy package.

But environmental groups and other advocates of the Markey bill are continuing to press for a vote next week and say they believe they can pick up enough support to pass the legislation.

“We are working on the expectation that it will come up next week,” said Dan Becker, a CAFE expert with the Sierra Club. “We’re working to get the votes, and I think we will win them in time to get a vote.”

Auto industry representatives — who backed an alternate version put together by moderate Democrats and Republicans — also say they have received no indication that CAFE is off the table for next week’s debate.

“It’s just so hard to say that we’re just acting under the assumption that it will come up,” said Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated last night that no decision has been made about whether there will be a CAFE vote before the August recess.

Potentially very sad, indeed.

5 Responses to Is The Chevy Volt Just More GM Greenwashing?

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    I have one question for the Big Three: If plug-ins are “the” answer and inevitable and being developed as quickly as possible, then why would they object to higher CAFE standards that plug-ins would easily leap past?

    If it’s a short-term concern, then surely they would be willing to sign on to a plan that says the CAFE standards stay the same for the next 3 or 4 years, to give the companies time to get PHEV’s to market, then rise much more dramatically than anything planned today. Unless, of course, they’re just blowing green smoke…

  2. Felix Kramer says:

    GM does seem to want to have it both ways. I believe the company is trying to get the Volt to market quickly. But it won’t acknowledge the implications of this car.

    The Detroit Free press has a story that backs up Joe Romm and the Wall Street Journal report cited:

    To which I had the same general response as Lou Grinzo: I posted:

    it’s ironic that GM points to the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt as a placeholder for future technologies and therefore somehow as an argument why 35MPG isn’t possible by 2018. This is a car GM hopes to have in production as early as 2010.

    With Toyota saying that it will have hybrid options for its whole line in a few years, and its entire fleet mostly hybrids by 2020, and Ford starting to come around on plug-in hybrids. the whole industry could significantly exceed 35MPG within 10 years.

    — Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative (

  3. Frank Rizzo says:

    Don’t be surprised if we get new CAFE standards, and then oil consumption doesn’t go down a lot. People will drive more in a car that gets good mileage. Same thing with more energy efficient houses; improve efficiency standards, and people will buy bigger houses and set the thermostat to a more comfortable setting.

  4. tim says:

    let me get this straight….
    they’re using money they could otherwise spend to make the bill a non-issue for them to lobby on a bill, and in the process, arguing the bill they’re squandering their R&D dollars from by funneling it into lobbying against this bill… is a bad bill… because it would funnel money away from… R&D to lower the mpg… because it would require… R&D… to do this?


  5. tim says:

    they’re clearly betting the Volt will _fail_

    to markedly reduce their mpg average by pushing back this bill. wtf?