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Chevy Volt, What The Heck Is It?!

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On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 11:53AM | By: John Welch

Chevy Volt, What The Heck Is It?!

The controversy surrounding the Chevy Volt has turned into the sort of PR nightmare that General Motors is famous for, and has famously tried to avoid. Is it a hybrid? An electric car? A plug-in hybrid?! Any categories I'm forgetting? I can give you my personal opinion, which I have formulated over the last week by myself. This isn't the AutoShopper's opinion in any way—we have had a constant inter-office argument going since Monday. Each editor has his own thoughts on the Volt and what exactly it is; they are welcome to share their thoughts in the comments . . . so are you, dear AutoShopperBlog reader!

The media, including our blog, has muddied a few of the issues here. A hybrid car, by definition, consists of an electric motor piggybacked on top of an internal combustion engine. The Volt, by comparison, features an internal combustion engine piggybacked on an electric motor. Okay, so, by definition, the Volt isn't a hybrid, contrary to what Motor Trend and others seem to think. The Volt does not operate without its electric engine, its main source of locomotion, so clearly, it doesn't fit in the box created by the accepted definition of a "hybrid".

So, despite what other outlets say, the Volt isn't a "hybrid". So what is it then? All week the rumors have gone back and forth regarding whether the wheels of the Volt receive any power directly from the internal combustion engine. If this is the case, then the Volt is NOT an electric car either. Turns out, after media drives in California yesterday, GM engineers let slip an interesting piece of info that GM has long denied—the Volt's gas engine is, in fact, connected to the powertrain, and will operate the vehicle if need be. Right there, we catch GM in a lie that has gone on for two years. You can't tell me locomotion provided by the gas engine was an accident; Chevy has known how their Volt operates the entire time. They have stated, numerous times, that the Volt will not receive motivation directly from the gas engine in any way whatsoever. If it isn't a bald-faced lie, then they are totally incompetent. Considering the design prowess evidenced by the Volt, I don't think they're incompetent.

It's a plug-in hybrid then, right? Well, it isn't a damn hybrid, so no, it isn't a plug-in hybrid. AAAhhhrrrggghhh, this is maddening! What I see, personally, is yet another old-GM marketing tactic that has been completely undermined by the Internet. Ahhh, sweet Internet, how I love you and your ability to hold thieving corporate entities accountable. There was no Internet when GM released the Olds 88 Diesel, so no one was able to determine all of its glaring problems before purchase. If the Internet was around, then people would have known that the 88 came standard with a normal Chevy small-block retrofitted for diesel consumption, and that the car was a total basketcase because of it. If the Internet was around GM wouldn't have gotten away with the Cimarron, front-drive Sevilles, over-charging for the C/K 454SS, an IROC Camaro with a paltry 195 bhp, the C4 Corvette and its confusing 4+1 transmission, or any other of a litany of ills wrought by a company who used to get their kicks by ripping off America, or so it would seem.

The Volt is no different. This is a sad sign that the old-GM philosophies are going strong, even after an embarrassing bail-out. I can hear the board meeting now: "How in the hell are we going to make money on this "Volt" thingee?"

"Well, let’s see, the Prius sells for between 26 and 35 thousand dollars, but our car is so much more complex, and so much harder to build, that we will only break even if we try to match that price point . .. "

"Okay, so, what, we have to charge 40 large to be profitable?"


"Who in their right mind is going to spend 40 grand on a car that is no larger than post box? We have to figure out a way to trick these rubes into thinking this Volt represents more than its diminutive size . .. " (Actually, i highly doubt the word "diminutive" has ever been used a GM board meeting, excuse me . .. )

"I know! We'll call it an 'electric' car, that’s a good buzz-word, right?"

"But it isn't purely electric, we would be spreading falsehood and misinformation . . ."

"AHhahAhAhAhAhAHAHaHAHAHahhahahAhAhaha, right Fritzy, right . . . what makes you think the American public is smart enough to notice the difference? If we just call it an 'electric car' for two or three years and take our time rolling out the actual product, no one will question its propulsion system; they'll just bow to their ill-advised patriotism and pony-up for the 'American Prius'. We can't lose guys, we just can't lose!!"

BANG! The Internet sure as eff noticed!

Would it surprise you if those were direct quotes? They aren't, of course, but they wouldn't surprise me. Inside the post you will find every link I could gather regarding the Volt's powertrain and whether or not GM has been totally honest about it. You are encouraged to read each of these articles and make your own decision. I've made mine. The Volt is a huge step forward in technology, more so than the Leaf (glorified golf cart with bargain-basement interior) or the Prius (suffers the same reputation as the Miata—no real men allowed) are. It features an astoundingly attractive interior, one that was conceived way outside the box, and it sheperds in a new age of American design and influence. The Volt is an excellent idea, and may be an excellent car, there is no reason to lie about it. GM's new term, "Extended Range Electric Vehicle" still isn't as accurate as we would like, but it will have to do.






Car and Driver, the link above, LOVES the Volt. I consider C&D to be the most reputable of all the car-based print publications; if they like it, I probably will too. This blog isn't about what I think, however, it's about what you, the reader, thinks. So what is your opinion? Expect a thrilling argument in the comments below . . .

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