Motor Trend slams Limbaugh for attacking the Chevy Volt: “Driving and Oxycontin dont mix”

Car reviewers rave about GM’s PHEV while Rush fumes.


Rush Limbaugh is so dedicated to destroying Obama at any cost that he is doing everything he can to undermine the prospects for GM’s revival (see Granholm: Limbaugh’s attacks on American-made electric vehicles are ‘un-American’).  While General Motors is gaining business and sharply reducing the government ownership share, the Politico reported Limbaugh has been on the warpath against “Obama motors“:

Limbaugh told listeners that his radio program last year canceled an advertising campaign with General Motors because he “knew this was coming.”

Good for you, Rush.  Hey, why not just discourage companies from hiring people, since that would only help Obama in the end.

Now GM’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) the Chevy Volt has opened to rave reviews by car magazines (see below), and was named 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, which raved:

This is a fully developed vehicle with seamlessly integrated systems and software, a real car that provides a unique driving experience. And commuters may never need to buy gas!

… This automobile is a game-changer.

So Limbaugh has been forced to broaden his attack to include the venerable car enthusiast magazine.  ThinkProgress has the story — and MT’s pushback:

Last week, the influential auto magazine Motor Trend announced that it had named the breakthrough plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt as its 2011 car of the year. Conservatives immediately picked up on the story and attacked Motor Trend. The magazine “awarded the Obama-approved, government-subsidized Chevrolet Volt its annual ‘Car of the Year’ appellation,” the Weekly Standard whined. Referring the federal government’s auto bailout “” which turned out to be hugely beneficial for GM and the ailing industry “” conservative Washington Post columnist George Will complained about the government “spending some of your money” to produce the Volt.But right-wing radio blow-hard Rush Limbaugh was perhaps the most vocal critic. The Volt has been a Limbaugh nemesis for quite some time. He even launched a campaign last August to undermine the innovative car. And this week, Limbaugh said of the Motor Trend award, “[O]f all the cars in the world, the Chevrolet Volt is the Car of the Year? Motor Trend magazine, that’s the end of them. How in the world do they have any credibility? Not one has been sold [and] the Volt is the Car of the Year.” Last week, one of the magazine’s editors, Todd Lassa, shot back at Limbaugh, noting that GM hasn’t sold any Volts “because it’s not on sale yet“:

So, Mr. Limbaugh; you didn’t enjoy your drive of our 2011 Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Volt? Assuming you’ve been anywhere near the biggest automotive technological breakthrough since “¦ I don’t know, maybe the self-starter, could you even find your way to the front seat? Or are you happy attacking a car that you’ve never even seen in person? […]

All the shouting from you or from electric car purists on the left can’t distort the fact that the Chevy Volt is, indeed, a technological breakthrough. And it’s more. It’s a technological breakthrough that many American families can use for gas-free daily commutes and well-planned vacation drives. It’s expensive for a Chevy, but many of those families will find the gasoline saved worth it. If you can stop shilling for your favorite political party long enough to go for a drive, you might really enjoy the Chevy Volt. I’m sure GM would be happy to lend you one for the weekend. Just remember: driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.

Lassa also noted that the Volt isn’t some left-wing “tree hugging, Obama-supporting Government Motors” conspiracy, but was in fact conceived of well before Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006 and well before Obama began his campaign for the presidency. Lassa even points out that former GM executive “Bob Lutz, who famously decreed, ‘Global Warming is a crock of shit’ introduced the car two years before Bush gave GM its first bailout from TARP pocket change.”

“Limbaugh’s beef with the Volt isn’t a question of automotive aesthetics or engineering,”’s Jeff Wattrick notes. “He just doesn’t like the Volt because it’s one of them librul eel-eck-trick cars that Muslim-Socialist Obama forced on the real ‘Mericans in Detroit.”


Kudos to Motor Trend for deflating the hypocritical right wing blowhard.

In fact, plug-in hybrids are not merely a core climate solution, but electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence.  The world’s top energy economist from the traditionally staid and conservative International Energy Agency warned last year of impending peak oil: “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us.” It is PHEV and EV “” or bust!

And so the only hope for the US auto industry in the medium term and beyond is more fuel-efficient cars, which, thankfully, the administration understands (see “White House rolls out details of fuel economy, emissions standard “” The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2“).

Finally, many other independent reviewers are raving about the Volt.  Here’s Dan Neil, the Pulitzer prize-winning automotive columnist for The Wall Street Journal (!) in “Chevrolet Volt: A Win for the Home Team“:

A lot of people don’t like GM because: 1) the bailout, or 1a) Obama; or 2) the United Auto Workers; or 3) because some Monte Carlo or Cutlass Sierra or deuce-and-a-quarter left them walking a long time ago. That’s understandable. These are sour times. But for the moment, we should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet. And they did it in 29 months while the company they worked for was falling apart around them. That was downright heroic. Somebody ought to make a movie….

it works like a champ. Actually, it’s extraordinarily efficient….

Around-town, stop-and-go traffic is where the Volt shines, sluicing effortlessly to speed on a hushed carrier wave of electrons. Zero-60 mph is about 8.8 seconds, GM says….

I caution against what author Rebecca Costa calls “extreme economics,” the pecuniary mindset that says every choice is reducible to a simple cost/benefit ratio. There was a moment last week when I borrowed a Volt to drive to a local mall. It was raining. I was alone. And I had a moment when I felt, ever so slightly, less of the problem and more of the solution. That feeling was priceless.

Exactly.  We are going to hear endlessly about the “payback” or lack thereof for a feature that has multiple benefits, many of which are very difficult to monetize.  One of the things I like about the Prius, for instance, is that I waste a lot less time going to gasoline stations.

USA Today notes, “Chevy’s easy-driving Volt could be your only car:

Most impressive, though, is that the Chevrolet Volt is a premium execution of a pleasant-looking, easy-driving small car “” one you’d probably be satisfied to have as your only vehicle (assuming you don’t need a big car or roomy back seat)….

Instant torque of the electric motor made the car quick in traffic, less so at highway speed.

Volt lacked the road racket and wind noise that mark some small cars. The drivetrain was quiet, free of the whine and other faint, unpleasant noises that accompany some electric machines. Smooth, too “” electrics inherently are….

There’s an undercurrent of criticism about that, as if Volt’s somehow impure. But so what? Most of the time, you drive on battery power only. Some of the time, you burn gas to keep the juice flowing. No place to plug in to recharge? No problem. Fill the gas tank and drive on.

How, exactly, is that anything but genius?

Here’s CNN/Fortune/Money’s judgment from “Chevy Volt can go the distance“:

The Volt, it turns out, is a really good, fully functional automobile that could just save you a lot of cash on gasoline, too….

The Volt has a sophisticated, almost luxury-like, feel over the road. The steering is very responsive and the battery pack, which runs down the center of the car and across the back, provides a nice weight balance. Braking, often a weak point in hybrid and electric cars, is also smooth and predictable.The Volt’s interior is trimmed out in a way that makes it look appropriately high tech. It has few buttons or knobs, mostly touch-activated bumps. It all works pretty nicely.

Bottom line, the Volt is a very good car and oh, it can drive for 40 miles without using any gasoline.

Car & Driver raves after its “full road test“:

The Verdict:  The ideal, near-term EV solution….

Is it cheap? New technology never is. Still, the Volt strikes us as the closest in concept to the winning formula of the Prius, albeit with the next generation of propulsion and the whole thing inverted. Nothing else has so successfully incorporated all of the key aspects of Toyota’s golden child””big fuel-economy numbers, a unique name and styling, and enough range and people and cargo space that it can be an only and everyday car. Those traits have enabled the sales of nearly 2 million Priuses worldwide since its 1997 debut. With the possible exception of a fairly cramped back seat and an undersized cargo hold, the Volt checks all the boxes, plus it outdrives the hybrid competition. This is without a doubt the most important new car since the advent of hybrids in the late ’90s, and GM has nailed it. Is this the handing off of the Prius’s very illustrious torch?

Here’s “Expert Review“:

After years of anticipation and inflated expectations, the Chevrolet Volt still manages to impress, bringing a new type of motoring in a package that’s remarkably refined, comfortable and livable.

For certain buyers, it’s perfect. Who are those buyers? People who want two things: to drive an appreciable distance on electric power and to not worry about what happens if the battery runs out”¦.

With time it could prove to be the model that makes drivers comfortable enough with the experience of plug-in motoring that they’ll consider a battery-electric without the safety net of an onboard generator as their next car….

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the Volt is or how it works under the surface. What matters is how it works out in the real world “” and at first blush, it works damn well.

And the Detroit News reviewer’s column, “Volt test drive quiet, efficient “” and fun” opens

Who knew a revolution could feel so normal?

This revolution will be televised — but apparently it won’t make it onto the radio, at least for the Ditto-heads.

118 Responses to Motor Trend slams Limbaugh for attacking the Chevy Volt: “Driving and Oxycontin dont mix”

  1. Bill W says:

    Limbaugh apparently doesn’t read car magazines (or much of anything else but political stuff). It’s quite common for them to crown a “car of the year” before it goes on sale.

    That being said, I hope the Volt fares better than some past Motor Trend Car of the Year winners, such as the Chevy Vega. The fact that Car and Driver also likes it lends the award more weight in my eyes.

  2. I just love that ‘Rush fumes’ bit.

    ICE exhaust fumes, Rush fumes what’s the difference? Chemically quite a bit but they are both noxious.

    But then his pal Beck must be warming up over at Fox if this is anything to go by:

    Fox News Anchor Poses In Her Underwear: This Is Journalism?

    Looks like Fox News have at last agreed with us about their not being a serious news channel.

  3. James Newberry says:

    Wind power, solar power, high efficiency and energy storage (like regenerative braking) for transport through electricity, including rail transit, is one of the, if not the, biggest technology game changers for the USA. The resultant efficiency improvements are measured in orders of magnitude rather than a few percent.

    Now we need to think about allowing millions of citizens to own and work smaller organic sustainable farms across the USA, deep energy retrofit existing buildings and cut down on a vast sea of toxic synthetic chemicals in commerce so we can start eliminating the use of fossil fuels (except perhaps as material feed-stocks, but not for “fuels”) to improve health and security like Denmark is planning (see Green Energy – the road to a Danish energy system without fossil fuels, Sept 2010).

  4. Disagreeable Physicist says:

    Wind power, solar power, high efficiency and energy storage (like regenerative braking) for transport through electricity, including rail transit, is one of the, if not the, biggest technology game changers for the USA.

    I disagree. The United States is hemorrhaging energy, especially in the northern climates, but everywhere, from homes, particularly uninsulated and exposed basement foundations of older homes. And guess what. They are still building stickboard condos with uninsulated concrete foundations and basements just as fast as they can sell and dig up pristine farmland and spread the black agricultural soil on the yards.

    What the US is suffering from is a complete breakdown of education and understanding of some very fundamental ideas in basic thermodynamics. You’re not even heating water for showers from solar yet.

  5. Scrooge says:

    So rush doesn’t like it. I would be willing to bet that might increase initial sales.

  6. Dana Pearson says:

    Thanks so much for covering this issue so thoroughly, Joe… The Volt is indeed a revolutionary vehicle and I am so glad they’ve done such a bang up job! I have said for years that I will not buy another ICE again and now I can finally buy into the future…

    Hopefully, even in these tough economic times, enough people will fall in love with the Volt to make it the smashing success we need to begin a widespread movement to adopt the necessary technologies that can help us survive the coming troubles ahead.

    we make the future…

  7. KeenOn350 says:

    A plug-in electric may be very nice – but when is someone going to point out the fact that there is not much gain from a plug-in until the plug provides electricity from a clean source?

    The PHEV just adds to the list of reasons to eliminate fossil-fuel (read coal-burning ) based power generation.

  8. Alteredstory says:

    This is the thing that bugs me when I hear people saying that we shouldn’t bother with the volt, because it uses gas, or with wind power because the turbines cost energy to build, or with solar because it costs energy to build and run, or any of these other excuses for not doing anything because it’s not perfect.

    What serious climate action plan has claimed that there was one perfect solution?

    Since when has ANYONE not actively selling a product claimed that they had the one silver bullet on this?

    As far as I can tell, it’s another kind of straw man set up but the denialists.

  9. Peter M says:

    When gasoline prices double again- and that’s very likely

    the Volt, Leaf and other combination’s of electrics and hybrids will look very good to the consumer- Limbaugh’s bombastic propaganda is for those with a few pistons missing.

    Also a New PC Game about Climate Change has been released in Beta-

    I downloaded it and its pretty authentic.

  10. MapleLeaf says:

    So, really, Limbaugh is anti-american.

    This is a wonderful opportunity for the USA.

    Our family will seriously consider purchasing a Volt down the road.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    Not sure if you linked this yet

    Motor Trend Gives Rush Limbaugh A Smack Down!

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    I just drove around the block with my GM colleagues waiting in a suburban Detroit parking lot, so the test is very short. The most impressive part is the interior. The white dashbroad seems to be designed by Apple, only better. The car is extremely silent – you can see that I didn’t realize that the power was on! Small car but luxury touches such as keyless drive and rearview camera abound. I was told that it needs about $1 worth of electricity for normal 40 miles drive per day.

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Chevrolet Volt Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year

  14. Prokaryotes says:


  15. Prokaryotes says:

    The Chevy Volt is one of the most groundbreaking motorvehicles, motortrend tested in 60 years …

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    The Unplugged Tour: The Chevy Volt from Detroit to Chicago

    This is so cool.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    It has 40 gb harddrive to download music from your apple device or internet, LOL!

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    My Chevy Volt test drive

    The user hardware interface is just pure awesome.

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    I think it comes down to that this car will be the first apple on wheels.

    Thus this unpatriotic smug limbush attacks unjustified – with disinformation (surprise) the future US key car economy.

  20. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Crap. Now that I know Rush hates the Volt so much I might have to change my mind about getting the Leaf and go for a Volt instead. I haven’t purchased a car from an American car company in over 30 years. This would be quite a change.

  21. Sasparilla says:

    #7 Alteredstory – you said it perfectly. Bugs me as well.

    We’re going to need everything going forward as fast as we can get them, including EV’s and plug in EV’s like the Volt.

    Wonderful to see these kinds of superlatives coming out about a GM family sedan. Its great to see GM did it right and nailed the car – one of the portals to a much less oily future.

    #8 _Flin_ – well you could do that (get the BMW), but the Volt is $41k minus the $7500 tax credit ($33,500), add in some options and dealer gouging and its $35k so lets say add $10k for the BMW. Also if you go for the BMW, you’re giving up the ability to drive without using gas for the most part and continuing to send your money for gas to people that don’t like us like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia (where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from) etc., contributing to the US trade deficit and of course missing the chance to reduce CO2 emissions. The Volt is also made in the US (although the battery, temporarily, is coming from Korea I think). The wonderful thing about the US is its a free country, so please, go for the BMW. I think I’d rather go for the Volt.

  22. Barry says:

    Rush is defending Big Oil. Duh.

    The reason he and other Big Oil spokespeople are attacking the Volt is because it has the potential to free average Americans from Big Oil dependency. Americans don’t want to buy “oil”…they want zippy fun cars to get around in.

    A major part of the climate denial in USA citizens is because they recognize that they rely on it for what they want. As soon as you give folks a normal, easy way to carry on without “oil” then they will drop it like a hot potato.

    Once Americans aren’t dependent on “oil” they will suddenly see climate science in a whole new way. Think “reformed smokers”.

    THAT is what freaks out Big Oil.

    The Obama narrative is a distraction Rush and others use to shift attention from the Big Oil reality.

    Latest version of Prius has a mode-switch to allow much sportier performance at the cost of mpg. And guess what…the car buffs switched from dumping on it to raving about it.

    Hey Rush, why are you against Americans having a choice to get around without having to send their paychecks to foreign oil regimes? Why are you opposing a car that many people say they love driving and that lets them drive on made-in-America energy?

    Side note: there is a home heating equivalent game changer for natural gas: the electric heat pump. We installed an air-to-air ductless heat pump and saw energy bills plummet and air quality inside go way up.

    I’d definitely replace my Prius with Volt if it turns out as advertised so far.

  23. caerbannog says:

    A little OT, but worth a mention (linky:

    Dr. Roy Spencer & Lord Christopher Monckton to Challenge Climate Orthodoxy at Cancun UN Conference Available for Radio and All Media

    CANCUN, Mexico, Nov. 24, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — CFACT, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, will feature two prominent experts on climate science and policy at COP 16, the UN conference on climate change which convenes next week in Cancun.

    Lord Christopher Monckton will be in Cancun December 1 – 10.

    Dr. Roy Spencer will be in Cancun December 6 – 10.

    Both will be available (allowing for travel) before and after Cancun.

    Keep this handy — pro-science bloggers/activists should make absolutely sure that Monckton remains securely tied around Spencer’s neck.

  24. Dana says:

    Awesome. Kudos to Motor Trend for putting Rush in his place.

    Nice article Joe, very thorough coverage of the various expert reviews. The Volt sounds like a great car.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    The volt has even a better mpg ratio than the lame 200 years old tech based bmw.

  26. Dean says:

    Not that I want to rain on any of this, it’s all great news, and it needs to seep through that the effort to save auto companies was a big success, but how are these cars in cold climates? ICE cars have so much waste that the waste easily heats the interior space. I remember learning years ago that if your car is overheating – turn the heater on.

    What kind of space heating does the Volt have and does it shorten the range considerably if you’re driving it in Minneapolis in winter with the heater on? I don’t live there, but it was 16 degrees outside when I got up this morning, so I can’t help thinking about this. Does the car shift to gas if you have the heater on?

  27. Prokaryotes says:


    GM’s Bob Lutz: Weather will impact Chevy Volt’s electric range “If on a standard day you see 40 miles with the Volt, on a cold day where it’s right around 32 degrees, you’re going to see 28 or 30 miles,” Lutz said.


    It’s Winter … What’s Happened to my Car’s Fuel Economy?

    Numb fingertips. Icy toes. Frosty windshields and frozen locks. Just when the cold blustery days might be getting you down, you notice that it’s taking more fuel to fill-up your vehicle. While it may be tempting to think that your calculator’s batteries just need replacing, it’s time to face the cold, hard truth:

    Winter conditions do cause a drop in fuel economy.

    First of all, cold temperatures lower the pressure in your vehicle’s tires by 1 to 2 PSI for every 10 degrees that the temperature plummets. Secondly, when the weather turns foul, vehicles must work harder to push through snow and slush. Both of these conditions equal greater rolling resistance and more fuel used to cover the same distance. Add to that the fact that gasoline doesn’t atomize and burn as well in cold temperatures; trace amounts of unburned fuel are left in the cylinder and evacuated with the exhaust. Yes, it’s a double-whammy. Not only does that unburned fuel equal lost power, it also substantially increases your vehicle’s emissions. But that’s not all—throw in heavy use of the heater, winter gas formulations and short trips to and fro, and it’s a recipe for pain at the pump.

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    “Best of all, its efficiency is unmatched, as long as interstate travel is omitted,” Car and Driver concluded. “One editor drove the Volt 101 miles in 18 hours (including a 10.5-hour charge) and only used one gallon of gas. That’s some seriously eye-popping arithmetic.”

    If they think those numbers are good, how about these: I have now driven the Volt 817.8 miles using 5.27 gallons of gas. 622.5 of those miles have been all-electric, and the total fuel economy thus far is 155 MPG. One day in these two weeks I had to drive more than 100 miles, which would have made a pure electric car unusable. Nearly all of those miles have been at vigorous highway speeds, and temperatures at or below 40 degrees with a 72 degree cabin temperature. I have not babied or hyerpmiled the car and almost always are either using the handsfree phone or cranking music.

  29. Ric Merritt says:

    I don’t need a car at the moment, but if it annoys Rush, that puts a big plus in the Volt column. I’ll keep that in mind for my next purchase.

  30. Steve UK says:

    To KeenOn350:

    “A plug-in electric may be very nice – but when is someone going to point out the fact that there is not much gain from a plug-in until the plug provides electricity from a clean source?”

    I believe that the emissions (due to electricity generation) from an electric car are still lower than from a petrol one even from a “dirty” mix of elecricity generation:

  31. EricG says:

    #26 Dean: I was wondering the same thing about heating, and also air conditioning. If the Volt uses 250wh/mile, and the AC draws 250 watts, the battery-only distance will be reduced 20%. 32 miles rather than 40. Perhaps the heater is more efficient, but the battery-only range will also be reduced.

    Anyone know how the Volt handles HVAC? I can’t find anything on the web.

  32. Colorado Bob says:

    Looking a little more closely at what just happened in Alaska. The air mass was huge, wet, and warm ……. The records from Barrow are amazing :
    11-22-10 Barrow ……. 33.0°F (new) 32.0°F 1926 94 years in the record
    11-22-10 King Salmon …. 52.0°F (new)48.0°F 1947 68 years in the record

    King Salmon is on the Bering Sea, in southwest Alaska.

    11-21-10 Barrow ….. 23.0°F (new) 17.0°F 1926 94 years in the record

    11-22-10 Barrow ….. 22.0°F (new) 16.0°F 1996

    Breaking night time heat records on the 3rd week of Nov. by 6 F degrees on the Arctic Ocean.

    For the past week Alaska set 29 new high temperature records 9 during the day, 20 new night time highs. They record zero new low records for the same period.

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    EricG, yes

    The instrument panel is installed as a single piece that contains the gauges, the center stack with stereo and HVAC controls,

    HVAC panel closeup

  34. Rafael says:

    This is in response to Dean’s comment about the heating reducing efficiency.

    I have no idea how the cabin heating on the Volt works, but my experience with a Prius could be indicative of what to expect. I have already tested a few times the influence of cabin heating on the Prius’ mileage. In warm weather, without using the heating or AC, I regularly get 55 to 64mpg driving the 80 miles I commute each day (depending on my speed, especially on hills). If I start driving in a cold morning (40F or so, San Francisco cold, not Minneapolis) with the heating on, my mileage will invariably drop to 48-53mpg, because the gas engine keeps running continuously to provide heat for the cabin (instead of turning off when its motive power is not needed). So I can imagine that in Minneapolis the impact of heating will be even larger. But if I keep the heating off during the first 10 miles or so, especially if those are highway miles, then I can turn the heating on and the impact on mileage is negligible (the engine has time to warm up without using extra gas).

    If the Volt has an electric heater, the all-electric range will obviously be reduced. But if it doesn’t, it’s very likely that the gas engine will be forced to run some of the time to provide cabin heat, even when you want to go fully-electric.

  35. Sasparilla says:

    The Volt handles heating in a couple of ways, from what I’ve read and my memory is correct.

    It lets you tell it when you’re planning to leave (e.g. daily commute) and will heat the car up prior to leaving using the plug. It also uses the heated seats since they are much more efficient, but it will also just use the HVAC system off the battery and heat it up if necessary. From what I’ve read it will not start up the engine for heating – although if its cold enough maybe that would change (just guessing there).

  36. dp says:

    congratulations to GM for a great product, here’s wishing them success on their future high-efficiency buses & trucks

    oh yeah i forgot the right wingers don’t like people having jobs w/o republicans getting all the credit, that point-of-view sure is interesting. but then they’re also lined up w/ china trying to stop the fed from working on unemployment, and w/ russia trying to stop climate action — real patriots don’t ask “why,” i guess. ‘the enemy of my fellow american is my friend.’

  37. Sasparilla says:

    The biggest challenge GM faces with this car, IMHO, is the fact that they planned on making so few of them – next years plan was like 10k worth of cars for a few states which I think was raised to 15k recently, thank goodness. The execs that came in (after the guys who funded and made the Volt happen were thrown out) appeared to have little faith or desire to push the concept (the CEO who made the initial year production target of 10k is/was on the board of Directors for Exxon Mobil!), killed 2 Voltec models that were moving forward (a Caddy and Voltec version of the Orlando microvan model as well as canceling the ICE model of that vehicle for the US only), obviously they wanted the Volt as a Halo car and didn’t understand what they had in their hands.

    The battery plant GM is building is sized to produce about 65k of packs per year starting in 2012 I think – which is a piddly number compared to what the demand for the vehicle will probably be, but a whole lot better than 15k a year. ;-)

    Nissan is looking at much larger production numbers for the Leaf and will be why, although alot of people would probably prefer to buy a Chevy Volt, if they want an EV over the next couple of years they’ll probably have to buy a Leaf (which isn’t a bad vehicle either). Just my $0.02.

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    Sasparilla, indeed i thought that too and wonder how long you have to wait to get a volt :)

    GE will buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, converting at least half of one of the world’s biggest vehicle fleets to mostly electric.

  39. William P says:

    Anybody who would hope for a President to fail – any president – is a clear enemy of this nation.

    This isn’t politics. Its a form of treason.

  40. Roger Wehage says:

    My Prius is 8.5 years old, and I’m expecting that the battery (8 year warranty) could go at anytime. I haven’t heard any mention of the Volt’s battery warranty. Anything less than 8 years and I’d be concerned. But I wouldn’t feel too overly cheated if the battery did go, considering that my Prius cost less than 50% of a Volt.

    When my Prius says I’m averaging 50 or 55 miles per gallon (mpg), I know that’s what I’m getting, because all the energy comes directly from the diluted gas that I’ve put into the tank. But the Volt is different; I won’t know what mpg I’m getting. Electricity from a dirty coal-fired grid may be considerably more unfriendly to the environment than gas or propane, not to mention the additional line losses. If I put up a bank of solar PV panels (at additional expense to me) and limit my excursions to 40 miles or so, then the Volt will be green. But what if I need to drive a thousand miles strictly on diluted gas? What is the expected mpg? Does the Volt use regenerative braking, and how streamlined is it in terms of drag losses? I drive my Prius at 55 miles per hour on highways and Interstate alike, and, all things being equal, I get about 5 mpg more on the Interstate. Will the Volt allow me to monitor my driving performance as the Prius does, so that I may adjust my driving habits to achieve even better driving efficiency? My Prius appears to be optimized for speeds around 45-55 mph. At what speed is the Volt optimized for maximum mpg?

    How expensive are those specially designed low rolling resistance tires, and how long will they last? I get about 20,000 miles on a set of tires over-inflated to 35 pounds per square inch (psi), because nobody sells a Prius-sized tire designed for 35 psi.

    What about the auxiliary battery? The Prius uses an expensive baby battery, available only from Toyota Japan. Don’t run your stereo more than an hour or two in accessory mode, or you’ll find yourself looking for a jumper cable, even though the Daddy battery is still fully charged. What problems along these lines can I expect with the Volt?

    Sorry, it is very likely that I will not be experimenting with another Chevrolet for a long, long time. The bile is still churning in my stomach from the five previous Chevrolets I’ve owned—1966, 1968, 1974, 1980, and 1981. Generous Motors had earned the reputation for having the largest proving ground in the world for good reason; it was true. But I haven’t been one of its stool pigeon since dumping those last two pieces of shit (sorry) in the mid 1980s.

    New and improved GM? We’ll see.

  41. richard sequest says:

    Last January I bought a Ford Fusion Hybrid, Motor Trend’s 2010 Car of the Year. The magazine got it right last year, and it looks like they got it right this year with the Volt. Nice to see both Ford and GM on a roll. I wonder what Chrysler is up to.

  42. Sasparilla says:

    #38 Prokaryotes, ” i thought that too and wonder how long you have to wait to get a volt ”

    Yes indeed. If you are in one of the lucky states (CA, MI and some others) you better have your order for the vehicle in already if you want one in 2011 (when they make 15k of them) – I think nearly all if not all of them for 2011 are locked up already (just a guess on my part). Another downside to this is that Chevy Dealers are seriously gouging (by the thousands) on the cars since GM just allocates the cars on a dealer basis and the dealers that are getting the cars are getting so few (one salesman who is on the GM volt website basically said his dealership in CA was getting less than 10 cars for the year). So its up to the consumers to compete for them – whoever will pay the most to be the first will get the cars. Yikes!

    Nissan did something really cool here, their Leaf is also going to be in low production numbers (20 or 25k in 2011) for the first year, but in the US they are allocating the Leaf delivery to the customers through the advance orders. The brilliance of this is that the dealers now have to compete for the deliveries from the customers (since the customers have the deliveries not the Dealerships) and people are getting them for less than list price – not alot less but less) – since the customers will just take delivery of the vehicle with whoever gives them a fair deal. Brilliant thinking on Nissan’s part.

    Its too bad GM didn’t go the route Nissan did – if they knew of the concept. I’m in a state that doesn’t get either vehicle till 2012, but I’m going to do my darnedest to get one at that point (been waiting since the EV1 to buy an EV). I’d rather have a Volt, but will probably get a Leaf. ;-)

  43. Ziyu says:

    I was waiting for you to run this article. The conservatives have gone from just opposing cap and trade to opposing climate change to now opposing anything clean energy or energy efficiency related.

  44. Barry says:

    The biggest game-changer of all might be this:

    “And finally, the Volt is built on GM’s highly flexible Global Compact Vehicle Architecture (other GCVA vehicles include the Chevy Cruze, the Opel Astra, and the forthcoming Opel Zafira minivan), which means its advanced powertrain can be easily adapted to other vehicle formats.” — from Motor Trend review.

    Sounds like GM design-heroes were swinging for the fences.

  45. Ziyu says:

    The Volt, just counting the electric battery, gets 84 mpg. (33.7kwh =1 gallon, Volt Battery =16 kwh, 16/33.7=0.475, 1/0.475=2.105, Range =40 miles, 40 x 2.105=84.2). Counting the extended range of 300 miles for 6 or 8 gallons (I can’t confirm which it is), the mileage would be
    300+40/6.475 or 300+40/8.475 for a total mileage of 53 mpg or 40 mpg.
    That’s actually better than it sound because it does not have an ICE. The gasoline engine creates electricity, with a smaller loss ratio, and power plant efficiency is greater than ICE efficiency so the net CO2 output for the same amount of energy would be less.

  46. dbmetzger says:

    I’d say something nasty about the #1 ditto head but it’s the time of the season to play nice.
    LA Auto Show Features Dozens of “Green” Cars
    Electric cars are no longer a gimmick at the car show – they’re now at your local dealer. At the 2010 LA Auto Show, US auto manufacturers confirmed that “green” is a part of their long-term business plan.

  47. Christopher Yaun says:


    It is now possible to build near zero energy homes. Zero energy homes can be built using standard, readily available construction materials, local labor/talent, and for standard construction cost.

    Our 1960 square foot home for four used 20,000btu/sqft last year. 60% of that energy was solar. A typical energystar home uses 80-100,000btu/sqft/year.

    I encourage anyone contemplating building a new home or a major renovation of an existing home to consider buildging to a near zero energy standard.


  48. cr says:

    Beam Me Up Scotty at @47:

    Actually, that’ s not a bad book. On the other hand, Matthew Kahn’s Climatopolis was just crappy-sort of light and fluffy and meaningless.

  49. Mike Roddy says:

    I still like what Howard Stern once said about Rush:

    “There’s a reason Limbaugh keeps getting married. It’s fun for the bride at first, going to nice restaurants, getting fawned on by the help, tooling around in the big house and so on. Eventually, however, she realizes, to her horror, that she has to climb into bed with this man”.

  50. BBHY says:

    Disagreeable Physicist,

    The problem is really that there is no price on carbon. Hence, stuff with no worth is destined to be wasted. What we are suffering from is extremely toxic politics. It’s been going on for the past 40 years, and getting steadily worse all that time.


  51. David F Collins says:

    One interesting advantage of the VOLT is how its internal engine works: it is either on, full power, or off. And ICE engineered for full power operation is the most efficient and the least trouble-prone.

    Indeed, this looks like an amazing car. Now, to see how it does in the hands of Dear Old Uncle Susan, out in the unpredictable reality of the world away from the beautiful GM Tech Center.

  52. A face in the clouds says:

    Joe, you should send a copy of your book to Rush. Just look what he’s doing for Volt. Wonder if Glenn Beck is up to the challenge of translating “Volt” to imaginary stick figures on his chalkboard?

    Seriously, I’ve got a question for auto experts out there. Did it occur to GM to go retro and put the Volt in, say, a ’57 Chevy body?

  53. Flin says:

    I cant post here anymore? Strange. So one has to have to the opinion that there is nothing better than the Volt to be allowed posting?

    The Volt is a nice improvement, but neither does it reinvent the car nor is it the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    When it comes down to climate impact, you arrived at something around 80g/km CO2? So basically you shift the emissions from your exhaust to the power plant. And as long as there is no improvement on that front, the Volt is an improvement of about 25% when compared with something like a BMW335d, which is in the same price range and, in my opinion, a better car.

    Nevertheless you CAN turn down emissions close to zero, as long as you buy 100% renewable electricity and never go further than 50 miles a day.

  54. Prokaryotes says:

    Further Consider
    One factor of mass scale distribution of electric cars and hybrids are the lesser impacts on long term health. Driving a volt means less cancer, less health/medical costs.

    In the short term it also contributes to children brain power, because studies have shown that even a small inhale of fuel fumes lessens brain powers, which is of special concern for kids who walk to school by the roads.

    Actually you should instruct kids – everybody to hold breath while crossing the street or getting aware of fuel fumes. This particular important where experimental fuel additives are used or even lead additives, such as in countries like the iraq today.

  55. Prokaryotes says:

    As of 2007, unleaded automotive gasoline is available throughout the world, and the only countries in which leaded gasoline is extensively used are Yemen, Afghanistan and North Korea. Leaded gasoline is still available in parts of Northwest Africa, Europe, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

    Lead pollution from engine exhaust is dispersed into the air and into the vicinity of roads and easily inhaled. Lead is a toxic metal that accumulates and has subtle and insidious neurotoxic effects especially at low exposure levels, such as low IQ and antisocial behavior. It has particularly harmful effects on children. These concerns eventually led to the ban on TEL in automobile gasoline in many countries. Some neurologists have speculated that the lead phaseout may have caused average IQ levels to rise by several points in the United States (by reducing cumulative brain damage throughout the population, especially in the young). For the entire U.S. population, during and after the TEL phaseout, the mean blood lead level dropped from 13 μg/dL in 1976 to only 3 μg/dL in 1991.[7] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control considered blood lead levels “elevated” when they were above 10 μg/dL. Lead exposure affects the intelligence quotient (IQ) such that a blood lead level of 30 μg/dL is associated with a 6.9-point reduction of IQ, with most reduction (3.9 points) occurring below 10 μg/dL.[8]

    Also in the U.S., a statistically significant correlation has been found between the use of TEL and violent crime: taking into account a 22-year time lag, the violent crime curve virtually tracks the lead exposure curve.[7] After the ban on TEL, blood lead levels in U.S. children dramatically decreased.[7]

    Even though leaded gasoline is largely gone in North America, it has left high concentrations of lead in the soil adjacent to all roads that were constructed prior to its phaseout. Children are particularly at risk if they consume this.

    Coincidence that lead which makes people more aggressive is distributed in countries where military operations are held?

  56. thisisnotmyname says:

    @A face in the clouds #56: It’s not possible to put a car like the Volt in a chassis from the 50s/60s. The aerodynamic values are too bad. You don’t want to end up with a car that can only drive 15 miles. So, no 50s design.

  57. Prokaryotes says:

    Ethanol and the rhetoric of the technological sublime

    The cultural and political significance of alternative fuels goes far beyond the simple substitution of one ordinary product for another. Ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable fuels have long been seen in a broader symbolic context rather than simply a narrow technological one. Opponents have seen ethanol technology as a scheme for robbing taxpayers to enrich farmers, as a way to turn food for the poor into fuel for the rich, as compounding soil erosion problems, and as a marginally useful enhancement or replacement fuel for a transportation system that is poorly designed in the first place.

    For advocates, ethanol has had the potential for revolutionizing agricultural economics, for dispelling city smog, and for curbing the power of the petroleum industry over the economy. In other words, ethanol was good for rural development, public health and national security. Proponents could also see in ethanol the potential to help strike balance between city and farm and the prospect of civilizing and humanizing industrial machinery. In addition, the idea that agriculture and biological resources could be primary sources of energy, the idea that humankind could live on solar “income” rather than fossil fuel “capital,” has held a fascination for automotive and agricultural engineers, including Kettering and Ricardo, as we will see.

    The literature of ethanol is filled with the rhetoric of the technological sublime, and no better example can be found than Alexander Graham Bell’s 1917 National Geographic article in which he predicts that alcohol will be the fuel of the future when the oil runs out. It “makes a beautiful, clean and efficient fuel…” Bell goes on to say: “Alcohol can be manufactured from corn stalks, and in fact from almost any vegetable matter capable of fermentation… We need never fear the exhaustion of our present fuel supplies so long as we can produce an annual crop of alcohol to any extent desired.”

    This same level of rhetoric is graphically depicted in the symbolism used at the 1902 Paris alcohol fuel exposition. On the cover of the exposition’s proceedings, a muse with an overflowing bouquet of roses looks down over the steering wheel with a confident smile. She is a portrait of wisdom and beauty, firmly in control of a gentle machine which seems appropriately located in some lush flower garden. (See Fig. 1 )

    This rhetoric frequently attends the birth of any new technology, and of course there is nothing surprising about the high hopes of French automobile enthusiasts or Alexander Graham Bell. Their rhetoric was also probably a factor in the way automotive engineers viewed the technology. What is surprising, however, is the comparison between the rich historical record and the very poor modern understanding of the history of renewable energy.

    As an alcohol tax relief bill passed the House in 1906, Roosevelt tried to rally Senate support in a letter to Congress:

    “The Standard Oil Company has, largely by unfair or unlawful methods, crushed out home competition. It is highly desirable that an element of competition should be introduced by the passage of some such law as that which has already passed in the House, putting alcohol used in the arts and manufacturers upon the [tax] free list.” [28]

    While alcohol could easily replace kerosene as a lamp fuel, just as kerosene replaced alcohol in 1862, the bigger question was what would happen with the new automobiles being developed. Before the final passage of the free alcohol bill, the Washington Post noted: “Henry Ford, the Detroit automobile manufacturer, is preparing to meet the new conditions with an automobile that will use the new fuel instead of gasoline.” Tests in Ford’s labs showed that 52-horsepower engines ran at 60 horsepower with alcohol as a fuel.[29]

    The Senate passed the bill May 24, 1906, and the New York Times again noted the low cost of alcohol. “The new fuel and illuminant will utilize completely an important class of agricultural crops and byproducts thus benefiting in a double sense the farms and villages throughout the country,” an editorial said.[30]

    American enthusiasm for the new fuel increased even more when the German government shipped in 1907 “a comprehensive collection of apparatus employed in the production and consumption of denatured alcohol for the exhibition in Jamestown.” The 300th anniversary celebration of the founding of Jamestown was opened by President Roosevelt and had, in the industrial alcohol section, a variety of German and American irons, coffee roasters, stoves, lamps and engines all running on alcohol.[31] This same exhibit, which had been in Paris and Italy in previous years, went on to tour fairs and National Grange meetings in the US until at least 1909.

    As the nation’s largest farm organization, the Grange, was strongly Prohibitionist, since half of its voting members were women. In 1909, the Grange was divided in its support for denatured ethanol in fuel, with many purists believing that any support for distillers of alcohol would be a “deal with the devil.” As the debate unfolded, the pro-alcohol fuel faction was politically damaged by secretly taking money from distillers, and as a result, the farm community was no longer solidly behind the ethanol idea.[32]

    Ford’s support continued. When Michigan’s state Prohibition law took effect in 1917, Ford said it would be “a shameful waste” to let the plants go idle. “Denatured alcohol can be used successfully as a fuel for automobile engines” Ford said.[33] Ten years later, Ford told a New York Times reporter that ethyl alcohol was “the fuel of the future” which “is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.”[34] Throughout his life, Ford hoped that these kinds of developments would bring on “the greatest era of prosperity and happiness we have ever known.”

  58. Prokaryotes says:

    The workers themselves named the fuel additive loony gas because they knew it was, literally, driving them crazy. The media “attack” was nothing more than reporting on a commercial enterprise with grave public health implications. GM, Standard Oil (Exxon) and the Ethyl Corp. employed a physician who at one point insisted to the press that “nothing be said about this in the public interest.” When that request was shrugged off by the media, any subsequent reporting would be seen as an attack.

  59. John Mason says:

    Looking in from the other side of the Atlantic, it absolutely staggers me that:

    a) anybody even listens to Limbaugh’s programmes
    b) any credible company funds them via advertising

    I would urge all Americans to permanently boycott this unpatriotic, anti-progress hate-monger forthwith. He seems hell-bent on taking America back to the time of its founders – a series of small colonies living a marginalized existence without any infrastructure! It was exactly the opposite of Limbaugh’s mentality that permitted America to be built from that initial start.

    Cheers – John

  60. Richard Brenne says:

    This is all very interesting on many levels. At the level of most people’s thinking and action the Volt sounds great, as do the Leaf and Prius relative to almost all other cars.

    And yes, Rush Limbaugh is acting as a force for evil, drumming up hatred however he can on most issues. If America ever follows the path to hell like the Nazis, Rush would be the first and loudest leading the way.

    I’m old enough to remember when people felt shame and retired from public life in disgrace for doing things like whining for the imprisonment of all drug users while being a drug user (thus the oxycontin reference) himself.

    I’m a big fan of the Prius and five of us have taken it skiing (although the skis on the rack cripple mileage because the Prius’ aerodynamics are so carefully designed and executed).

    But I don’t get too excited because a 1970s Honda Civic could get within 10 mpg or so of the Prius.

    Doing the full-cost accounting, one has to look at the environmental and other impacts of securing (the biggest new lithium findings appear to be in Afghanistan, and going – or continuing – a war for lithium isn’t that much better than going to war for oil), mining and finally disposing of lithium as well as everything else in a car.

    The same with building a new home – better to upgrade what we have whenever possible.

    And since almost half of America’s and the world’s energy is generated by coal, an electric car can be a hybrid of coal/nuclear and other sources unless one charges from their home’s own solar panels. Even then, any stand-alone home can’t be as green as the same concepts going into condos or apartments with multiple units.

    The easiest way to cut one’s gas consumption, CO2 and all other impacts in half is to drive half as much.

    I don’t disagree with anyone here per se and there are many good points, but especially here at CP we always need to do the full-cost accounting and keep the really big picture in mind as well, because this is about the only place where that happens.

    At the core of the problem are almost 7 billion people with almost a billion motorized vehicles of all kinds because the richest half wants to go anywhere any time they want without thinking about it. Is this sustainable no matter how we do it?

    I have no idea how we get here, but if you were an alien advising Earthlings how they might survive indefinitely, you’d visit a century ago and say never grow the population above a billion and resist the temptation to use fossil fuels and generate electricity every other clean way possible, have electrified light rail in cities and faster electrified rail between cities and towns, with greater population density for efficiency. Then bicycles, bike-rickshaws and the fewest possible number of electric delivery vans and van-taxis to get to the rail. Also, people might be encouraged to walk, and to live in communities and neighborhoods that are designed for walking.

    Yes, that’s a pipe-dream now since we went another direction entirely. The only bullet train in this country is the one we’re all riding off a cliff. But a guy can dream about what might have been, and might be in some other time and place.

    Thinking that billions can each have their own cars in perpetuity is the biggest pipe-dream of all, and the primary one turning into a nightmare for many, most or all future generations.

  61. catman306 says:

    I guess this means that the Koch brothers and Exxon-Mobile don’t like the Volt. Fiddler Rush plays the tune, but they call it. What a waste of music lessons.

  62. catman306 says:

    Prokaryotes, I met this guy about 1971 who said that the lead in gasoline was killing the trees and poisoning the land. Everybody thought he was nuts. That’s the way the world often treats early adapters and leading edge thinkers.

  63. A face in the clouds says:

    Mr. Mason @57 — Limbaugh’s career and influence have peaked. He and his pie-in-the-sky audience see the world beginning to move on without them. Surely the audience is wondering if any pie is left after seeing how much Rush has taken. He’s now trying to remake himself into a populist but it’s a bad sign when interest in the Volt rises after he trashes it. He has no heir apparent either. Even Glenn Beck’s cohorts at the fading Fox-titious think he’s (fill in the blanks). Palin is lost in reality television without a paddle.

    The incoming Republicans and Tea Partiers are going to make a racket but their influence will soon wane after the first few circular firing squads. Limbaugh himself is already seeing to that. In any event, they don’t have much of a prayer against the Senate and Obama. Times will get better and the country will recognize the GOP/Tea Party folly come 2012.

    Much of the progress and that just ahead is due to you, Joe and other tireless folks here. It may not seem like it sometime, but from where I stand outside the fray it looks for the world like you are winning.

    Congratulations, thanks and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  64. _Flin_ says:

    @64 Richard Brenne:
    Why should the Kochs not like the Volt? They earn money with it. It’s the only car up until now that runs on a big amount of coal.

  65. catman306 says:

    Flin, Big Fossil Fuel has to hate today’s electric cars because they point the way to a future where all electric cars are charged up with solar power and most automobiles are electric.

    So you may be correct that they make money on these first Volts, providing the coal and oil to make the electricity and gasoline to run them, but in the longer run it limits their market.

  66. Prokaryotes says:

    catman306 says “So you may be correct that they make money on these first Volts, providing the coal and oil to make the electricity and gasoline to run them, but in the longer run it limits their market.”

    And which does not have to happen. Koch’s could easily start investing into clean tech, to participate from the industrial revolution 2.0.

    As for example the italy based Eni Oil company does on large scale today.

  67. fj3 says:

    The level of developed-world socio-economic change required to satisfactorily address climate change is directly evident in the mistaken popularity of electric cars of little or no consequence to long-term substantive solutions.

    Large scale implementations of well-insulated extremely efficient passive solar homes that face the sun and advanced lighter-than-human-weight-vehicles traveling virtually everywhere will indicate that we are starting to understand how to effectively integrate with this world’s natural capital using human capital as the most important component.

  68. Roger B. says:

    I would think that most individuals posting to this site would be promoting the idea of not owning a motor vehicle but it appears that owning one is fine as long as it’s what one perceives as a “green” vehicle.

    What if the typical American can’t afford the +$30,000 price tag for a Volt even with the large government subsidy? If all adult Americans can own a motor vehicle does that mean that all adults in China, India and the rest of the developing world can and should own a motor vehicle? What if they can afford the steep price of an electric vehicle? What environmental impact would be involved if all adults worldwide owned a motor vehicle, even if it were all electric?

    On a lighter note, Resolute, Nunuvut reached a temperature of 14.9 F (-9.5 C) today (Nov. 24, 2010) according to Environment Canada. The record for the 1947-2009 period was 12.9 F (-10.6 C). The average high for this date is -7.8 F (-22.1 C).

    Roger Blanchard
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI

  69. Roger Wehage says:

    Roger B says: I would think that most individuals posting to this site would be promoting the idea of not owning a motor vehicle…

    You can’t be serious. If your kids lived two blocks from the school bus pickup, how would you get them there without an SUV?

  70. catman306 says:

    Roger Blanchard and Roger Wehage, “Don’t let the PERFECT be the enemy of the GOOD.” Improvements to a person’s carbon footprint don’t have to be the best possible solution.

    You are advocating top-down solutions to a problem that can only be solved from the bottom up. Some people still need to be driving their cars. Fewer people will be driving in the future. Those cars will be greener because of the Chevy Volt. Less carbon will be introduced into the atmosphere.

    Put a tax on carbon!

  71. Flin says:

    I highly doubt the Volt will be a great success. It is an extreme car. Not a lot of car, for a premium price, with the sustainability feelgood factor. After all, when push comes to shove, people will ask: What does it cost? What are the alternatives?

    The people who value the sustainability feelgood factor high enough will buy it. Is it ambitious? Definitely! Is it a great car? The press thinks so. Will it outcompete other “green” cars like the hybrids Prius and Camry? We will see. Maybe the “pure electro + American + early adopter appeal” will be enough to make it into a success (which I hope). Looking at the price I have my doubts, though. And if it fails, electro cars will be dead in the US for quite some time.

  72. Alteredstory says:

    Flin, while that’s a possibility, other countries are coming out with electrics for themselves, and you can bet that they’ll aim at the American market too.

    If the Volt fails and American car companies take that as a sign to give up on electrics, then all that is likely to mean is that they will be right back where they were, struggling to compete with the more foward-thinking Asian producers. China’s energy mandates have required an advance in electric car technology, and those companies would be foolish to not sell to the US in coming decades.

  73. John Mason says:

    @ A face in the clouds – Thanks and I do hope you are right!

    China will lead in this race, I suspect: the question of “peak car ownership” is however an interesting one. Can we have individual mechanised travel units?

    Since checking all this out my mileage has steadily dropped in a vehicle that does ~50 mpg, 198 g/km CO2. Most weeks I now do less than 50 miles, some none at all, in contrast to a pre-awareness 10,000 miles a year. Yes it is “inconvenient” at times, but I can live with that. It’s about behavioural adjustment. Last time I flew was 1980 and I use trains to get me from A to B if I don’t have too much stuff to bring along. We can all do this sort of stuff and put a mega-dent in emissions – the baseline question is “can we do it and still have motor vehicles?”…

    Cheers – John

  74. Ziyu says:

    #34 Prokaryotes, how did you get 155 mpg? 33.7 kwh is the energy equivalent of 1 gallon. The Volt can go 40 miles on a 16 kwh battery. That’s a fuel efficiency of 85 mpg. If you have any special driving techniques or knowledge that may increase fuel efficiency to that degree, please tell me. Gas prices are $3.30 a gallon in my area.

  75. Ziyu says:

    #76 Flin, the federal government offers a $7500 tax credit. State governments offer tax credits too. CA, in my case, offers $5000. So you can just shave around $12500 off the cost. That’s a cost of $28500. That’s very affordable. Only 10,000 Volts are coming off of production lines and most are targeted at more progressive states with tax incentives for electrics so I am sure it will be sold out. Next year, costs should drop and it will be expanded to more states. GM thought this through very thouroghly.

  76. Prokaryotes says:

    “I have now driven the Volt 817.8 miles using 5.27 gallons of gas. 622.5 of those miles have been all-electric, and the total fuel economy thus far is 155 MPG.”

    Worth to read the article as well – it isn’t me driving the volt. Ofc i would, got a driver license for all kind of cars and even huge trucks but its years i last drove :)

  77. Barry says:

    Re: Richard (#64) and others about full cost accounting.

    I agree it is important to do full cost accounting. The essential thing to keep in mind though is that by far the biggest resource use in cars is the gasoline used to run them.

    Compare gas for a Yaris and a Prius over standard lifespan of 160,000 miles.

    5,200 gallons Yaris
    3,200 gallons Prius
    2,000 extra gallons for Yaris

    2,000 gallons weighs over 6 tons and litters about 20 extra tons of waste stream in the form of climate damaging CO2. Both those dwarf the size of the car.

    In addition 90%+ of today’s cars are recycled. So the waste stream from a scrapped car is a small fraction of a ton. Gasoline is by far the biggest resource use in cars in terms of energy, weight and waste stream. It dwarfs the car itself even in something like a Prius.

    The embodied energy to build a car is very closely tied to weight. Argonne research labs has estimates on embodied energy for various materials and people have done estimates on what that means for cars. Expressed in terms of gallons of gas, here are estimates I’ve seen:

    1,000 gallons embodied in Prius
    800 gallons embodied in Yaris

    According to all the data I’ve seen, you can even save energy and resources and reduce waste stream by scrapping a brand new Yaris and replacing it with a new Prius. Similar results are likely with Volt. Imagine how much energy and waste and resources could be saved by scrapping most cars on the road today and replacing with Prius, Volt or similar.

    As James Hansen points out, it doesn’t matter if you burn fossil fuel more slowly…it is how much you burn in total.

    Driving a fuel piggy car less often still burns all the fuel eventually to go a certain distance. For most cars on the road it would be much better to scrap them and replace with a much higher mpg option and drive that car the same reduced amount.

    The stack of gasoline barrels needed to drive a Subaru Outback for example is taller than the world’s tallest tree and weighs 23 tons. All of it become waste instantly. And drive climate change.

    Most cars should be scrapped even if it means replacing them with yet another car…as long as the replacement is very efficient mpg like the Volt seems to be.

  78. Ziyu says:

    Now I understand how he got the 155 mpg figure. He recharged the car mutltiple times on the way and went a total of 817.8 miles and only went into gasoline mode for a short period of time. But he didn’t count the energy used by electricity when calculating mpg.
    My calculation would be like this. 75% of Americans won’t exceed 40 miles most of the time so 79 mpg (lowered slightly to adjust for driving conditions) is weighted at 75% while 37 mpg (gas mode) is weighted at 25%. 79 x 0.75 +37 x0.25=68.5 mpg. Still very impressive.

  79. Prokaryotes says:

    I read a study about the fact that around 80% of daily car usage ranges around 20 mile trips. I think that was a european study, might be a little higher for US but should be still covered with the 40 miles range of the volt.

    *google* …

    UK Electric Car Tests Reveal Average Driving Range of 23 Miles

  80. Prokaryotes says:

    Electric vehicle drivers enjoy low cost ‘refuelling’ and increased car confidence

    Cost conscious prospective EV drivers may also be interested to learn that the cost for those recharging at home has been on average between just 25p and £1 per day.

    data presents a positive outlook for the mass take-up of EVs. “The phenomenon known as ‘range anxiety’ – concern about battery life when undertaking long journeys – is falling as drivers become more familiar with their vehicles. The low costs of ‘refuelling’ in relatively short periods of time reinforce this. While there are technical challenges ahead – extending vehicle range and preparing for increased demands on the national grid – our results show that even current vehicles are more than capable of meeting users’ day-to-day needs3.”

  81. Prokaryotes says:

    GM: Volt will get 93 mpg in electric mode
    Nearly matches the 99 mpg Nissan says its Leaf will attaain

  82. Prokaryotes says:

    EnerFuel, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ener1 (NASDAQ: HEV), has been developing electric vehicle range extenders using its proprietary high temperature PEM (HT-PEM) fuel cell system. The range extender assists the vehicle battery power for additional propulsion and acts as an onboard battery charger while the vehicle is parked or idling. The result is increased electric vehicle range without toxic pollutant emissions.

  83. Prokaryotes says:

    The Fit EV will achieve an estimated 160 km (100 mile) driving range per charge using the US EPA LA4* city cycle (112 km when applying EPA’s adjustment factor). Driving range can be maximised by use of an innovative 3-mode electric drive system, adapted from the 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid. The system allows the driver to select between ECON, NORMAL, and SPORT to instantly and seamlessly change the driving experience to maximise efficiency or improve acceleration.

    Honda is also using innovative ways to produce and distribute energy through sustainable methods, such as using solar power to produce hydrogen fuel from water. Additionally, Honda is developing home energy-management systems that utilise micro-cogeneration technology and solar cell modules to power and heat homes as well as charge electric vehicles. The Honda Electric Mobility Network joins clean vehicle technology, renewable energy production and energy management solutions for the benefit of customers and society.

    Honda Environmental Leadership
    The Fit EV and a plug-in hybrid sedan will be introduced to the U.S. and Japan in 2012,detail,0,1613-DEFAULT,21,text,1/index.pmode

  84. Prokaryotes says:

    Because nearly 50% of U.S. passenger vehicle miles are traveled by vehicles driving less than 20 miles per day (Samaras and Meisterling, 2008; US DOT, 2003), there remains significant potential in targeting this subset of drivers.

  85. Prokaryotes says:

    Long distance range drive

    The future of gas station should be like this:

    Have “Better Place” like battery swap stations and fast charging devices, which are capable to charge a battery in around 20 minutes.

    People would pay more instead when charging from home conventional household chargers. This is indeed a great business model too and the reason why “Better Place” is so successful. The oil companies make a fundamental management errors to not invest and switch into the clean solution. The future will bring new leaders, because the current energy leaders (oil) are lacking the wisdom, insight, intelligence and risk their hall enterprise. All they do is playing on time, why? Are they just stupid and primitive? Apparently yes and they will fail miserably and will end up in court with the path they have chosen. Epic Fail Exxon etc. etc.

  86. Tim says:

    I commute to work on one of two bicycles. One is a speedy Windsor Knight for use when the weather is nice, the other is a heavier hybirid with fatter tires for when the road is wet. When the weather is much worse, then I take a Corolla that I now fill up about once a month. I expect my gas consumption is at least as low as the Volt and climbing six flights of steps no longer has me wheezing.

  87. Ziyu says:

    The market for electric vehicles is much larger than 50%.

    “the Volt has an expected all-electric range of 40 miles (64 km), a distance longer than the daily commute for 75% of Americans,[9] whose average commute trip is 33 miles (53 km).”

    It’s all in the description.

  88. Andy says:

    The other new Chevy, the Cruze, comes with a small turbocharged 4 liter and gets 40mpg. Pretty good for a conventional gasoline engine especially when you compare it to the typical gas guzzling cars/trucks of just 10 years ago. I think the Cruze will be the best selling car in the U.S. in a couple of years. It’s good to see a U.S. auto company really inovating and doing something first, and it’s good to see that young people of today prefer small cars over pickup trucks. The urban cowboy is dead. Rest in peace.

  89. ToddInNorway says:

    Hi Flin @76, When the long lines at the gas pump return (WHEN, not IF) you can bet everyone who can afford a Volt, Prius or similar will buy one. The thought of standing in line for hours to fill your tank will motivate very effectively the choice for a very fuel efficient (or electric) vehicle.

  90. Bob Wallace says:

    Todd, there’s a lot of oil left. Just not easy to extract oil. It’s doubtful that the motivator will be low supplies but higher prices as the oil sold becomes more and more expensive to bring to market.

  91. ToddInNorway says:

    Hi Bob @96. There is a lot of oil left in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela…. and Canada. When it is clear to Canadians what environmental horrors must be experienced and the unavoidable, complete exploitation of all fresh water in their region to make it happen, then you can expect that there will be no more growth in Canadian oil production. My guess is that this will happen around 2.5-3 million barrels/day. Now for Iraq, Iran, KSA and Venezuela, do you honestly think these will be dependable, stabile and friendly suppliers to the West, and that they will invest and cooperate with international oil companies to ramp up their production to accomodate us? Sorry, I think a snowball has a better chance in you-know-where.

  92. Prokaryotes says:

    Todd the iraq people would love to sell their oil at any time. The only force which i guess is not happy about money flow into iraq is iran.
    Every “oil dollar” sent to the arab region will further advance climate change and has the chance to fund future terror plots.

    At least two people have been killed after some 20 oil tankers caught fire on the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

    Iraq Says to Sign Shell, Mitsubishi Deal by January

    The country has 143.1bn barrels of known and extractible oil, up from the 115bn barrels previously estimated.

    If correct, the revision means that Iraq now has bigger oil reserves than its neighbour Iran.
    “This is fairly significant,” says David Hunter, analyst at M&C Energy Group. “You have to bear in mind that 80% of the Iraqi economy is based on oil.”

  93. Stefan says:

    I’m another one who thinks the Chevy Volt is overhyped. It only makes sense when you drive less than 40 miles so that you use the battery only. However, if you go the full distance of 300 miles or so, you’ll get a much better mileage from any German compact car with a modern diesel engine. And it comes a lot cheaper, too, even without government subsidies.

    [JR: It may be overhyped, but those aren’t reasons. First, few people drive 300 miles in a single day. Second, it is a very good hybrid beyond 40 miles. Third, diesels give off black carbon. Fourth, people may not want a German compact. Fifth, every car doesn’t have to satisfy 99% of consumers, just the several percent needed to be a monster success.]

  94. Stefan says:

    Note that I didn’t mean to say the Volt is completely useless, far from it. It makes sense if you drive only short distances, which may be the case for most people in their daily lives. But as with all hybrid cars, there’s always the problem that you have to schlepp around two engines. I’m not sure if that is very energy-efficient. And then there’s always the question of electricity generation.

    [JR: It actually makes sense if you drive like most people drive. It’s still FAR more efficient with two engines, in part because of regenerative braking. Still cleaner, regardless of generation, and far cleaner for most folks.]

  95. Stefan says:

    Golf BlueMotion

    61.9 mpg sounds a bit optimistic, but 55 mpg should be possible with ease.

  96. pete best says:

    Re #96 – its not so much the amount of oil left but the flow rates that matter becuause each year the world demands 2% more than the year before and hence the flow rates much increase year on year to keep up with demand. Now as most of the worlds oil exporting countries have already reached their peak conventional oil reserves its all down to deep deas and tar/shale sands to bridge the gap but its unlikely to happen.

    The latest IEA WEA report (probably ignored in the USA to be fair) states it quite clearly. Conventional oils peak is in the rear view mirror. Now can coal to oil, gas to liquids and unconventional oils fill the gap – doubtful!

  97. Flin says:

    @ToddInNorway 95:

    Long lines? Cannot remember this happening, probably was in the 70s during the oil crisis? Rising prices I can remember, but no long lines. Oil doesn’t run out, cheap oil does.

    I do not doubt that it is reasonable to buy an efficient car. I do not doubt that it is reasonable if parliaments makes laws or governments make rules that lead to lower emissions from the transport, utility, housing, agriculture or other sectors.

    And 12.000$ subsidy are about the same as 20 years of guaranteed feed-in tariff for a 4kwp PV installation (4% interest, 1195 kwh/kwp/year, 22ct. higher feed-in price than standard electricity price).

    Don’t want to talk bad about the Volt, it is a step in the right direction, I am just not sure that it is the best way to spend the money, be it private or public.

  98. ToddInNorway says:

    Yes the oil embargo of 1973 is what I had in mind. Here is a picture from the New York Times from then.

    Your point about alternative use of the subsidy is well taken. I will check what the total cost of two wars in Iraq are, and then we can compare the $12000/car subsidy to this.

  99. Stefan says:

    I’m a bit confused. Are posts being sceptical of the Volt not allowed here?

    [JR: Plenty have been posted, including posts by me! But the car appears to deliver.]

  100. Flin says:

    @ToddinNorway 99: Costs for the DoD or Homeland Security etc. have nothing to do with that.

    Plugin subsidies for the first 250.000 plugin cars are estimated around 758 mil$. That is not a such a lot of money.

    As long as the power comes from coal plants, the CO2 emission reduction is still substantial with ca. 20% compared to a current modern car in the same class. But when you look at the cost, it’s madness.

    With my personal, coalpowered estimate of 80g/km CO2 and a lifetime of 200.000 km, a Volt saves 40 tons of CO2 over it’s lifetime. The tax reduction of 7.500$ puts the price for a ton of CO2 at 187,50$. And, no matter how you look at it, this is a lot. This is way too much. There are many, many better solutions if your goal is to save CO2.

    Just sayin’.

  101. Flin says:

    Another addition: In my opinion it is better to advance renovation of buildings with a goal of lowering the energy usage per square meter to 70 kwh. This is a modest goal, where the gains from saved energy are similar to the cost and where a little financial nudge from the government could lead to huge CO2 savings without disadvantages for the owners.

    Sponsoring electric vehicles or hybrids is just one the most expensive ways of CO2, that is the problem I am having with the Volt.

  102. Stefan says:

    @Joe Romm

    Thanks a lot for your replies, and please accept my apologies for my impatience.

    Despite my initial scepticism, I think this new car is an interesting concept and well worth being inspected more closely. I also expect the costs will come down over the years.

  103. Bob Wallace says:

    Stefan – EVs that will be affordable will have limited range. The Nissan Leaf range can drop as low as 62 miles under severe conditions. While that 62 miles will easily cover most American drivers daily commutes it isn’t sufficient for the infrequent longer trips. People with only a single car in the household are going to be reluctant to purchase a car that requires them to rent a longer range vehicle.

    And, initially, a lot of people will suffer from ‘range anxiety’. They will pay extra for the security of an auxiliary engine. Over time many of those people will realize that they really don’t need a fuel option.

    Later on we will have affordable EVs with 200+ mile ranges, a network of rapid charging stations, and better public transportation. At that point I would expect PHEVs like the Volt to fade away. PHEVs like the Volt are most likely a transitional step on the route away from ICEVs.

    Carlos Ghosen, CEO of Nissan, has stated that the price of EVs will drop to the level of comparably featured ICEVs as soon as manufacturing levels reach the 500,000 to 1,000,000 units per year. The price problem for EVs is lack of economy of scale. Nissan is ramping up to hit the 500,000/yr. level by 2014.

    (And I expect we’ll see a much battery option by then which should significantly increase the 100 mile range of EVs.)

  104. Bob Wallace says:

    I well remember the gas crunch of the 1970s. I spent my share of hours sitting in line waiting for my turn to fill up.

    The ’70s gas crunch was an artificial event, caused by an intentional supply limitation on the part of oil-producing countries. And it was very abrupt.

    The shortage of oil also drove up prices as many station operators maximized their profits (gouged). And people were creative in their conservation.

    Car pools sprung up. The California system of ‘park and ride’ lots near highway intersections was created. Car pool data bases were created (rather crude ones in the days before personal computers).

    People with long commutes into cities found ways to cut their number of trips back and forth. They slept on friends couches, pooled together and rented rooms which each would use 1-2 nights per week, slept in their offices, and even found parking places for their RVs in the city so that they could use them as Pied-â-Terres.

    It’s highly likely that we’re looking at another, permanent, rise in fuel prices as more and more consumers come on line and cheap-to-extract oil is depleted. This time we will also adapt.

    When you next drive a commuter route in/out of a city take a look at the traffic. What you’re likely to see is the majority of cars with only a single occupant. Double the number of people in each car and fuel usage drops 50%. Leave the car at home and take public transportation and the fuel usage drops further. That’s how we will deal with rising fuel prices at first.

    At the same time we will be developing the EV to the point where it is affordable without subsidies, has plenty of range for most drivers, and can be rapidly recharged during the occasional long trip.

  105. ToddInNorway says:

    Hi again Flin, you said
    “@ToddinNorway 99: Costs for the DoD or Homeland Security etc. have nothing to do with that.” I disagree. Gulf War I and II were both about securing oil import supplies. They were certainly not about taking Sadams weapons of mass destruction away from him. Joseph Stiegler, Nobel prizer winner in economics, has co-authored a whole book analyzing the cost of Gulf War II, entitled “The 3 Trillion Dollar War”. So although I agree that the metric of CO2 abatement cost is important, it is not the only metric. Energy security is at least as important. Sustainable global trade is another important metric. Assume that Gulf War II cost only 1.2 Trillion dollars. One alternative use of this oil security subsidy would be to subsidize cars like the Volt. At 12000 dollars subsidy/car, this would have subsidized 100 million cars. If they each saved 2 gallons fuel per day, these 100 million subsidized cars would reduce the US bill for imported oil by about 100 Billion dollars/year (80 dollars/barrel oil).

  106. Anonymous says:

    [JR: It may be overhyped, but those aren’t reasons. First, few people drive 300 miles in a single day. Second, it is a very good hybrid beyond 40 miles. Third, diesels give off black carbon. Fourth, people may not want a German compact. Fifth, every car doesn’t have to satisfy 99% of consumers, just the several percent needed to be a monster success.]

    And don’t forget that diesel is denser than gasoline – burning a gallon of diesel results in about 20% (IIRC) more CO2 emitted to the atmosphere than burning a gallon of gasoline.

    Nearly everyone who tout TDIs as being almost as efficient as hybrids ignore this fact.


    Note that I didn’t mean to say the Volt is completely useless, far from it. It makes sense if you drive only short distances, which may be the case for most people in their daily lives. But as with all hybrid cars, there’s always the problem that you have to schlepp around two engines. I’m not sure if that is very energy-efficient.

    On the other hand, automotive engineers *are* certain, as are those who’ve studied the issue.

    The Prius, at least, has a gasoline engine using a modern take-off of the Atkinson 4-stroke design, rather than the Otto 4-stroke design. This allows greater extraction of energy from each explosion of fuel, but results in relatively low torque, making such engines iffy for automobile use. The Prius gets around this by using the electric engine to boost torque.

    Also, by combining power from the electric motor and the ICE, the Prius is able to keep the ICE running at close to its optimum RPM under a wide range of driving conditions. Stepless transmissions (or transmissions with many gears) can narrow the operating RPM range of the engine in a regular car, but not as effectively as a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain.

    The proof is in the pudding, as they say, everyone I know who owns a prius gets better mileage on the highway than an equivalent gasoline-powered sedan (along with 2x better mileage in city driving, of course).

    Also … if carrying around two engines is inherently inefficient, as you seem to believe might be true, why do you think locomotives in the US are universally diesel-electric rather than diesel alone?

  107. RW says:

    It is still a source of amazement to me that an arrogant, ignorant, obnoxious twerp like Limbaugh can have the following he has.

  108. catman306 says:

    So how come no one is asking how many miles of BS Rush gets to a gallon of oxycontin?

  109. fj3 says:

    Getting recumbent 3-wheeled vehicles very light say, less than 75 pounds — the lighter the better — with hybrid human-electric capability is where the technology is going and last week’s New York City RFP for a major public bicycle system is a game changer.

    Currently there are something like 900 million cars and the number will peak some time soon — just like oil — even though global affluence and population counts will continue to climb; where basic material throughputs must be constrained and ultimately reduced dramatically.

    There are much more practical, safe, environmentally-friendly mobility solutions than overweight, overpowered, expensive, unsafe transport killing millions annually while devastating the environment and this awareness will go viral — and practical — just like cell phones.

    Some links:

  110. fj3 says:

    115. fj3 continued,

    . . . and,

  111. catman306 says:

    Here’s some minimalist solutions just slightly more techy than pure bicycling.

    36 volt sit-down scooters have a 10 mile range and cost about $500.
    This old ad has specifications:

    Any bicycle can have an electric motor booster to help climb hills. This conversion kit replaces the entire front wheel with a motorized hub. Less than $300.

  112. fj3 says:

    Providing even more functionality and practicality are the types of folding vehicles such as those made by Challenge-Alize much more readily accommodating multimodal travel such as by train and car and storage requirements such as in one’s bedroom or cubicle.

    Cars do not even come close on so many fronts!