The Seen and Unseen

I am thinking about renaming the Chevy Volt the Chevy Bastiat.  Because the entire vehicle concept is based on the hope that people will ignore the unseen.  Specifically, those pushing the vehicle are hoping that buyers will just assume the electricity for the vehicle is free (after all it is not separately metered) and that the CO2 footprint is zero (despite the fact that in states like Michigan, an electric car is essentially powered by coal combustion.  From autobloggreen

We often, though sometimes incorrectly, assume that it's cheaper to operate an electric vehicle than a comparable gasoline auto. Hey, who hasn't? While this assumption generally holds true, electrical rates vary widely across the nation and can throw off the numbers. In some instances, like when Inside Line's engineering editor, Jason Kavanagh, drove the Chevrolet Volt out in sunny California, one discovers that operating a vehicle powered by electricity can indeed cost more than running it with the liquid fuel that pours from a pump.

Earlier, I took down the absurd initial advertising that the Volt got 230 MPG.


  1. Ted Rado:

    If one looks up the specs on the VOLT and makes a few calculations, the following obtains: You save 0.8 gals of gas at the start of each trip. This is offset by the use of 16 KWH of electricity, which will cost you anywhere from $1.60 up. After that, you have a 40KW (53 HP) gasoline powered car. All this for only $40,000 or so. Whoopee!!

    If you want a higher voltage, faster charge, call the electrician and spend big bucks. Or, you can wait all night for a low voltage recharge.

    Another interesting and not advertized cost item: The battery is supposed to last 7 years, and costs (as I remember) $15,000 to replace. Try selling the car near the end of its battery life.

    There are a host of other questions. Look up the specs and do some calcs. Very interesting.

    As Warren points out, electricity generation uses about the same energy as if the fuel was used directly in an engine. Thus there is no CO2 reduction, unless using nuclear energy.

    The Japanese have a 600cc car in production. If one wants a low-powered small car, why not simply get one of those?

  2. T M Colon:

    I find the gushing of some folks over hybrid vehicles slightly amusing. Besides what you mentioned, it's that some people seem think the whole hybrid concept is novel and innovative. Boiled down to basics a hybrid powers the wheels with electric motors and the electricity is generated with an onboard internal combustion engine. This concept has been up and running all over the world for 75 years or so. It's called a diesel-electric locomotive. (Being a train guy I thought you'd appreciate that.)

    Oh, and you can also plug a hybrid into an outlet and run off the batteries for a while. Woohoo!

  3. Max:

    Actually, why do most news people (they are certainly not journalists, because that would be praise) not know the difference between an EV and an HEV? I am sorry, but those people are paid to be at least kind of informed about the subject they write. Obviously it is too much to ask to actually read up on your subject. It is not that hard to realize that the Chevy Volt (or Opel Ampera) is NOT an Electric Vehicle but a Hybrid-Electric Vehicle, because it has an on-board fossil fuel generator (petrol combustion engine, anyone!!).

    However, that said, I'd be willing to pay a premium for a Volt-like concept, if I get two things:

    - The same horse-powers and acceleration I get with a regular model (e.g. a VW Golf GTI or a Mercedes C-Class)
    - I don't have to sacrifice other comfort features!

    Why? Because to drive a electric vehicle is fun. Sadly, the "update" price between a Vectra and a Volt is almost 10k and thus a bit pricey.
    I think a modern car with a CVT would or a double clutch transmission would be much more interesting. Or why not do a Hybrid-car that uses the electric engine only as a transmission and NOT as a means to go FULL Hybrid?! Modern direct current motors are not that big anymore and you could easily replace the clutch and the transmission.
    But hey, this is not as shiny as an all electric vehicle...

  4. Mark:

    Interestingly the electricity might just be carbon free.

    The whole point of these plug in hybrids is to charge the vehicles at night when power usages is low. With our current mega sized power plants, they can not shut down at night when power usage is low, and they tend to produce almost as much energy as they would during the peak of the day. This is because the turbines are so large that a sudden stop or start, like a car engine would cause the turbine to literally explode.

    So what happens to all this power produced at night which isn't used. It is basically wasted, grounded back into the earth. If we could plug in our cars at night to use this energy which is being thrown away now, we would basically get it for free, without needing to use any more fuel, or build any more plants.

    And where did I first learn of this (and verify elsewhere of course). Yep from Warren on Coyote blog, when he was attacking wind generators, which I don't like either.

    Of course the fact that getting the energy at night is free, does not mean that the volt is necessarily cleaner than a regular car. Many things have to be taken into account, including the destruction of the environment to get the rare earth metals to build the batteries, the extra weight of batteries, extra weight due to having two propulsion systems, ...

  5. DensityDuck:

    So when electricity is REALLY expensive, then it costs more to buy?

    Ho-lee SHIT guys, STOP THE PRESSES.

    (I look forward to tomorrow's hard-hitting report on the need to put the lid up BEFORE you start to piss.)