For GM, Making More Affordable, Longer-Range EVs Is a Top Priority

By · September 17, 2013

Chevrolet Volt

General Motors may be readying itself to launch the Cadillac ELR range-extended luxury coupe later this year, but building more affordable and capable plug in cars is its top priority, Doug Parks, GM’s vice president for global product programs said on Monday. Talking with reporters at GM’s global battery systems laboratory near Detroit, Parks reinforced that affordability and performance were two key goals to widen electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid adoption.

“We’re trying to put more stress on getting this right for the lower-priced vehicles,” he told Automotive News, explaining that GM wanted to build on technologies used in the Chevrolet Volt and Chevrolet Spark EV—and make EV ownership more affordable for a new wave of consumers.

Parks confirmed that the next-generation Chevrolet Volt would benefit from a lighter curb weight, better efficiency and a higher all-electric range in addition to a lower, more affordable sticker price, perhaps $7,000 to $10,000 cheaper than the current Volt.

Getting the Message Right

Previous reports have claimed that the second-generation Volt—due sometime in 2015 as a 2016 model year—would also feature a smaller, all-aluminum turbocharged three cylinder engine, dramatically increasing fuel efficiency in combined and gasoline-only modes. At yesterday’s press event however, Parks did not confirm second-generation Volt engine choices.

But while part of GM’s challenge is to make plug-in cars affordable for all, another major challenge facing GM is its advertising strategy, Parks said. He admitted that, despite numerous advertising campaigns and various different sales strategies, GM hasn’t yet “simplified the message” of plug-in cars to make them attractive to more buyers.

With a stated sales target of 500,000 electrified vehicles—including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric per year—by 2017, GM’s advertising strategy must now focus on the economic advantages to electric vehicle ownership, not just social and environmental benefits.

While cheaper, better performing electric cars are GM’s biggest goal, the automaker is also keeping close watch of the luxury plug-in car market, currently dominated by Tesla Motors. While the Cadillac ELR is unlikely to compete with the Tesla Model S on all-electric range, GM knows it needs to produce a plug-in car that appeals to high-end buyers.

“We may do a couple of cars up there too because that’s a great place to be and we’re a full-line manufacturer,” said Parks. When asked if he believed in Tesla’s approach to plug-in vehicle manufacturing, he added that “coming in and matching what Tesla did isn’t that exciting for us.”

Nonetheless, there is one thing that GM wants to mimic from Tesla: driving range. While the next-generation Volt won’t have Tesla-level range, GM CEO Dan Akerson has hinted several times that the Detroit automaker was working on an EV that can go 200 miles on a charge.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

".....“We may do a couple of cars up there too because that’s a great place to be and we’re a full-line manufacturer,” said Parks. ....."

Its refreshing that at least someone at GM has half a brain. If they made a big EV, or PHEV, that surpassed the "S" 's creature comforts, they'd have that market all to themselves for years. I don't mean coming in with a bigger touch screen. There are ways to make a Big Comfortable Car without gadgets.

· · 1 year ago

I believe electric cars will replace i c e engines in the future. There will be some companies that get on board with what we want then some companies that produce a car and tell that what we need. I like the bull coming out of GM. Hope they can produce.

· · 1 year ago

Ok lets have some fun with this...

How bout making a Cadillac Fleetwood ( or to prevent date - ing myself), or Mercedes E-Class vehicle size wise?

Have they got the Synergy Drive manufacturing cost down now so that the marginal cost of individual units is minimal? Ok Great.

Put Two SD's in, one for the left front, and right front. Stick with the 4 inverters since they are now cheap to make. Have that Toyota Subsidiary do a once over on their CadCam software to plunk out a mirror image of what they've already designed.

In the center put in a big 4 cylinder engine with dual shafts (170 hp, double what they have in the ELR now). To really stand out, put in a 48 kwh battery, giving the thing a 100 mile range on battery alone.

Whether they want to stick with GM's 3.3 kw charger is fine by me. Maybe they could take a page out of Tesla Marketing and shoehorn TWO of them giving 6.6 kw so that the battery would charge up overnight. As for a QuickCharger option, I vote for Chademo but I'm in the minority there. Maybe leave that for the next year's enhancement until the standards situation improves.

Put it in an Elegant Car Body and sell the thing as "Kinda like an S, but a lot MORE"
.

· · 1 year ago

Advertising - The problem is that all of the people creating the advertising drive conventional cars. They have no idea why people buy plug-ins and struggle to make old-school car advertising fit with plug-in advertising. I bet that, similar to car reviewers, they drive a plug-in for a week, then think that they 'get it.' Frustrating.

As far a 'matching Tesla manufacturing approach,' GM NEEDS to get excited about it. They keep trying to do things on their own terms, even though the need for improvement is apparent.

· · 1 year ago

Your right Brian no need advertising to a nich market. The small car market that manufacturers are in could be dominated with 200 mile range and good price point. The car will pay for itself with fuel savings.No Brainer. I thi.k the car companies forget when the fuel companies left them out to dry.

· · 1 year ago

"Here, here!" to all of this. As with Bill, I'd like to see a Volt with fewer gadget and less emphasis on that massive dashboard screen with all those buttons. If you have to take your eyes off the road long enough in order to carefully study the button choices to adjust the radio volume, you're going to get in trouble eventually.

As with GM's Doug Parks, the idea of a lower curb weight and a revising it to be more EV centric (greater electric-only range) and being less ICE ranger extender dependent would be a welcome trend. Perhaps a Volt that dispenses with the ICE extender all together - pure EV Volt - is something that GM sees in their crystal ball?

All I know is that my 2 weeks of borrowing a Volt from the local dealer last fall was a pleasant experience. The car felt very solid on the road and I found the rear hatch design to be ideal (a criticism I had regarding the Leaf's.) The battery storage in the center tunnel didn't bother me, as I never attempted to carry more than three passengers at once.

I did tend to drive it in a "gas anxiety" fashion, though, where I felt a sense of shame when, after the 50 miles of battery power was depleted, it would switch over to the ICE. If the battery capacity could yield something more like the Leaf's 70+ miles (more is better, if Chevy thinks they can give that to us,) I could have driven it exclusively as an electric. At that point, the range extender would be nothing more than extra baggage.

Final observation on the current Volt: I really like the lines of the car overall, but think the front end sheet metal is rather old fashioned looking. That oversized grill is a hangover from the gasoline era (I suppose that's a criticism I could advance to almost all recent vintage Chevys, but it's particularly out of place on a car that - for all intents and purposes - is running on electricity almost exclusively.) Clean that up 20th century grillwork, Chevy, and you'll have one sharp looking vehicle.

· · 1 year ago

Yeah . . . one of Tesla's good moves was just building a car with a big battery. Until they did, no one believed people would buy an expensive EV with a massive battery. But Tesla pulled off the "Build it and they will come."

· · 1 year ago

I'm glad to see GM doing so well with the Volt and taking the EV market seriously. Although the Spark has been slow to take off, I predict it will also do well. GM is smart to realize that nobody is going to beat the Model S at it's own game for years. They are also smart to realize they really need a 200 mile EV, before the Gen III comes out. I believe their biggest opportunity lies in the Truck and SUV market, where they are already doing really well. Something like the VIA powertrain in their Tahoe and Silverado could be huge, provided the cost is reasonable.

The more EV, EREV and PHEV competition the better.

· · 1 year ago

I hope though when they say 200 miles it is not like the mythical 100 miles range of the Leaf (which turns to 55 miles when it gets really cold).

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead,

"If you have to take your eyes off the road long enough in order to carefully study the button choices to adjust the radio volume, you're going to get in trouble eventually. "

I am disappointed in you. After driving the Volt for 2 weeks and you are still complaining about the radio volume button? First of all, that is one of those EVs that actually has a LARGE rotary nob. Tesla doesn't even have it. It is one of the largest button on the center console. Second of all, almost 90% of all the so called "small" center console button functions can be duplicated by the touchscreen. It means you don't have use any of the buttons. Touchscreen will take care of it all that includes your Radio Volume button. Third of all, the radio/source control are on your steering wheel. You don't have to even move your hand off the steering wheel to adjust volume, moving stations, or changing between FM/AM/CD/Bluetooth/USB/XM radio or even your smartphone radio...

Come on, that complain is as bad as it gets. Try to do that on a Tesla or any other 2013 model of cars and see if any of them has a more CLEARLY standing out volume button.

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead,

"If you have to take your eyes off the road long enough in order to carefully study the button choices to adjust the radio volume, you're going to get in trouble eventually. "

I am disappointed in you. After driving the Volt for 2 weeks and you are still complaining about the radio volume button? First of all, that is one of those EVs that actually has a LARGE rotary nob. Tesla doesn't even have it. It is one of the largest button on the center console. Second of all, almost 90% of all the so called "small" center console button functions can be duplicated by the touchscreen. It means you don't have use any of the buttons. Touchscreen will take care of it all that includes your Radio Volume button. Third of all, the radio/source control are on your steering wheel. You don't have to even move your hand off the steering wheel to adjust volume, moving stations, or changing between FM/AM/CD/Bluetooth/USB/XM radio or even your smartphone radio...

Come on, that complain is as bad as it gets. Try to do that on a Tesla or any other 2013 model of cars and see if any of them has a more CLEARLY standing out volume button.

· · 1 year ago

Im eagerly looking forward to the next generation of EV's and Plug-Ins. TESLA, GM will be competing on their Longer range, sub $40k cars and maybe Toyota or FORD will bring something interesting to the table as well. Here I sit excited and anxiously awaiting the design and production of the supposidly Model E from TESLA...weither its a S or E ill surlely have one within the next 3-4 years.

· · 1 year ago

@MMF

Please don't complain about my apparent ineptitude in operating the Volt's radio controls or the generally unwieldy nature of the Volt's center console (and I'm not the only one to bring up the subject on this blog or elsewhere) if you are unable to control your own computer well enough not to post the same message twice.

· · 1 year ago

hahaha!! (sorry MMF I do it too),

Actually the only thing I'm not wild about the volt is that somewhat unreliable touch screen, mostly that it takes so long to set the heater or air conditioner the way you want it. I like the 'old fashioned' way in my roadster... Just 3 small knobs and 2 pushbuttons. And I can shut it off in 1/2 second. But the inability to shut off the radio is just weird. What were they thinking? If you do shut it off, the next button you touch ANYWHERE turns it back on.

Its obvious that I'm politicing for it, but my idea of a nice EV luxury car is like the ones made before I was born, nice and big , stylish and comfortable. When you sat inside the car they may not have had a lot of controls or gadgets, but it was obvious if you had one of these, you had "arrived". You were not travelling in a go-cart any more. That said, I don't want something flashy either, I'd prefer "understated elegance".

That was why I basically said make a big Cadillac luxury EV out of the parts of 2 volts.( and 2 spark ev batteries to get the 48 kwh or thereabouts). If GM had already Amortized the cost of the EV specific parts, why not reuse the parts (multiples of them in this case) and make a Fleetwood EV or something like that? I'm certain they would sell like hotcakes.

The Volt sells pretty good, but it is expensive as compact cars go. On the other hand, there are Plenty of people who would pay $90,000 for a big fleetwood ev that was styled correctly. It would directly cut into S sales.

The buyer would think, well, the S kinda looks like an Impala, I want a nicer car. Also, 265 miles is ok, but I need to go a lot further on occasion, and Albany is out of the way for me for supercharging.

Even with 48 kwh of battery, there'd be plenty of room to shoehorn it in and still allow for 4 people in the back seat as well as a huge trunk. And it could have a frunk storage since the Drive components would be no deeper than a volt, just somewhat wider. Lotus does the same thing with the Elise, in that the trunk and engine share basically the same real estate.

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead,

So Volt's center console is a problem that Tesla's 17 inch touch screen is NOT? I serious DOUBT anyone who uses that 17 inch touch screen wouldn't take their eyes off the road for a brief second. The point is that the critics aren't all equal in their complains. Tesla's dash doesn't even come with a knob....

Typically, modern cars are fancy with many controls. Volt is no exception. Anyone who get into a brand new car with a new interface will take a bit of time to get used to. Most of the time, it is just whining b/c it is NOT the same as something else that you are used to. But complains about NOT finding a CLEARLY MARKED GIANT knob is just silly. I agree with Bill that Volt's interface is NOT perfect. In fact, sometimes the touch screen has bugs. But nobody has EVER complained about NOT being able to adjust the volume on the Volt. GM engineers make the Volume adjustment a large knob for a specific reason so "average" people won't complain about it.

If "modern" technology is such a bad idea, why don't we throw away our "smartphones" and go back to our old rotary dials.....

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead,

BTW, for your whine on the computer part. Well, it is partly my fault and it is also the fault of this site where the server is slow to respond. Sometimes it requires it requires you to enter those stupid code and sometimes it doesn't. You never really know if the comment is posted or NOT and it doesn't allow editing once you do post. It has NOTHING to do with computer skills. In fact, I am willing to bet that I know far MORE about computers than you do on cars....

· · 1 year ago

@Bill,

Usually your complain on the Volt are legit. I don't flame people for real complains. If there are real HW or SW issue or real ergo or safety issues, I support the complain and I push manufacturers to change them. But "hard to find the volume knob" is usually the type of complain that ticks me off. In the Volt, there are ONLY 2 large knobs on the entire center console. Both of them control the radio. 1 for the volume, the other for station or tuning. In fact, you can reach the volume knob with your fingers while it is on the "electric shifter". If Benjamin had complained that those "touch buttons" are too small, hard to see or doesn't work while wearing gloves, I would have given him a thumb up. B/c those are real issues. Can't find a knob even after 2 weeks just sounds like a silly whining to me.

In fact, he could have changed the volume with his right thumb on the steering wheel. Just about all MODERN cars have those volume control on the steering wheel. Volt's steering wheel is as standard as it comes, EXACTLY the same as just about every other Chevy models... Can't control volume is just lame excuse to me.

Not to pick on Benjamin, but he also complained that he can't replace his serpentine belt on his Saturn SL1 while in fact there is a belt diagram in his Saturn right on the front of the radiator frame which even comes with a wrench diagram showing him exactly where the wrench goes to loosen the belt and how the belt is configured....

Anyway, most of his posts are good and well informed and I actually like him. It is just sometimes, one of his comment would tick me off and send me on a flaming path. It is probably my fault for getting too work up for it... But I expect more from him. :)

· · 1 year ago

No time to get into another rant session with you, MMF. I'm working on much more important things today . . . as I would on most days. These activities - some work related, some not - keep me from working on my own car . . . and I'm fine with that, even if you've determined it to be a major character that I carry around with me. You may find later model ICE cars a pleasure to service. I don't and I'm happy to hand off repairs to professionals who I hope will do good work and charge fairly. The vast majority of today's auto owners do likewise.

Also . . . not to belabor the point and add further to this insane argument about volume knobs that you've managed to develop mostly on your own all afternoon (while I was away from my computer and, yes, doing far more important things,) I should note that I operate audio mixing consoles for a living.

Every professional in that field who has ever done that will eventually encounter a consumer audio product that they find unintuitive and not to their liking. That I have disparaged parts of the Volt's control console - which even you, an owner of this car, find at least some faults with - gives me pause to wonder why this ridiculous discussion continues. Bill, another Volt owner, also has criticisms with the control layout. 'nuff said.

On to more productive things . . .

· · 1 year ago

@mmf

My complaints on the Volt are legitimate since it merely shows the attitude of the designers. I hate stuff that thinks it knows better than the guy who paid for the party.

When I had trouble the first week of ownership with the 12V battery going dead, I went to the dealer (I had to charge the thing with a homemade pwr supply from the 'frunk' since I couldn't open the rear hatch since the solenoid was dead), and asked to speak to engineering when they had the dept on the phone. They told me I wasn't qualified to ask them a question. If you ever heard that "Head Engineer" on You Tube you'd agree one doesn't need to be very qualified to be more qualified than her. Ever hear of "Reactionary Forces"? Neither have I. It was illuminating cuz the other GM engineers cringed at that statement.

I had to train the dealership's 'top tech' who bragged he went to school for a week on the thing. He said the engine is always a GENSET and thats what they called it in school. I said ok, if so what does clutch #3 do? There was a pregnant pause, then he said, "you know, they never did tell us what it was for".

I said the true info only appeared in "Forbes and Motor Trend" since they definitely will lie to dealers and their mechanics before they'll lie Big Bankers.

I never did get an answer from GM and finally figured it out myself. But its that kind of arrogance that I just can't stand. And that design philosophy filtered into what I mentioned. Thats why its legit.

· · 1 year ago

@Benjamin Nead,

Do you ever complain about take your eyes off the road for a second for adjusting the volume of the 17 inch Tesla Touch Screen?

I don't think so.

So, nuff said there...

· · 1 year ago

MMF . . .

1) How old are you?
(I'm 55, for the record.)

2) How many moving traffic violations have you accrued?
(I've never gotten one in the almost 40 years I've been on the road.)

3) How recently have you been involved in an auto accident that was your fault?
(I think I was 19 or 20.)

Honest answers to the above will tell me a lot about you.
But I have a feeling that you'll avoid directly answering them.

I've never driven a Telsa S and, until I get a chance to do so, I honestly don't care about the dash display, the touch screen or any other such techno marvels in the cockpit. It's highly unlikely that I'd be able to afford that car anyway, so I don't obsess about it's finer points. I'm more interested in the batteries in that car than anything else and how that part of the technology will trickle down to more affordable cars in the next few years.

While I generally enjoyed my borrowed time in the Volt, I did find the instrument panel unwieldy. You like it? Good. Why can't you leave it at that and move on? Are you so obsessive/compulsive that you have to argue about this for days?

Beyond the three questions I've asked above, I'm not going to invade your privacy any further. But I'm going to guess you also have to regularly take some sort of medication to deal with an obsessive/compulsive disorder of some sort . . . and you haven't been taking it recently. Otherwise, you wouldn't be filling up this article with so many posts that go completely over the top about this radio knob thing.

Please deal with this obsessive/compulsive problem in the best way medically possible and adjust your radio volume from the steering wheel or dash (or both at the same time) to your own heart's content all day and night long, if it keeps you from going off the deep end and
continually posting about it here.

Done with this conversation . . .

· · 1 year ago

So...on the original topic...GM's top priorities are to make a more affordable and longer range EV? In a way, I find this disappointing. They already have a breakthrough technology in the Volt - one for today, not tomorrow. Let's put it in a crossover or small SUV already. Make THAT your top priority, GM!

· · 1 year ago

Brian i completely disagree, personal i hate the technology of the volt. A car they said gets 40 miles on a charge ( more like 35 ) and then an extended range at 35 to 37 mpg. Before i would buy a volt i would buy a cheap i c e. But to each his own. Sorry

· · 1 year ago

@jah,

No need to apologize to me, I certainly don't take offense. I wouldn't buy another pure ICEV, but I know that about 99.5% of the public isn't buying a car with a plug today.

I think that the Volt's design is a great way to get a mostly electric car on the road, while dealing with the limitations of today's technology. 35 or 40 miles isn't that different. My friend gets 50+ miles in the summer, but 25-30 in the winter. But he still drive 90+% electric.

For me (and many others), the fatal flaw of the Volt is its size. Many complain about the lack of a 5th seat. That doesn't matter much to me (I have two kids in car seats - there is no using the middle seat). For me, the 10 cubic feet of trunk space is insufficient. A larger cross over or small SUV could accommodate the dual power trains while providing a much larger cargo space (with seats upright). I think GM should be focused on bringing such a car to market. This car would use today's technology instead of just postponing it until technology advances.

In other words, don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

· · 1 year ago

@jah, You are wrong about the range of the Volt. A lot of people get 50 miles on a charge, and is plenty for their round trips. If it is cold out, hot out, or they want to go on a trip to Grandma's and not drive 45 mph getting there, the Volt still delivers at an affordable price.

· · 38 weeks ago

After one year and 8300 hard city miles ... my Chevy Volt told me I had to use the remaining 3 gallons of gas in the tank so it will not go stale.
I used just 5.8 gallons to go 8300 miles.
My total fuel and maintenance costs were less than $275.
I have a wattmeter on the charger that totals the electricity cost.
Unlike the Leaf I have had no range anxiety ... even after forgetting a few times to plug in the charger.
Only one trip to a gas station in a year and the total maintenance was one tire rotation that cost $12. No oil changes.

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