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William Maley

Industry News: Bob Lutz: Plug-In Tech Is Better Suited For Larger Vehicles

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By William Maley

Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

January 17, 2013

Former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has been know to speak his mind. At the Detroit Auto Show this week, Lutz told Autocar that he thinks that the technology in the Chevrolet Volt should have been put into a larger vehicle first.

“Frankly, unless that customer is philosophically, religiously or economically affiliated to buying an electric vehicle, then they can’t be convinced. The first two types of buyer will buy whatever’s built, but the latter is a harder case. The obvious answer is to electrify as big a vehicle as you can, because that’s where the fuel and running cost savings make the most sense," Lutz said.

Lutz goes onto say, “If I had my time again at GM then I would have started with the Cadillac Escalade for the range-extender technology, and brought the Volt in later. The more gas-guzzling the vehicle, the more economic sense of electrifying it. Car companies need to get their minds on that: electrifying an Opel Corsa that uses virtually no fuel anyway and then lumping a huge premium on it to cover the battery costs is nonsensical. Why bother? It uses virtually no fuel anyway."

Lutz is part of a new company called VIA Motors which takes GM full-size trucks, SUVs, and Vans, and converts them into plug-in hybrid vehicles. Its first vehicle is due out sometime in 2013.

Source: Autocar

William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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He is so correct, I love the Volt and ELR, but have wondered why not use the technology in large fuel thirsty auto's first.

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There's a nice episode of Jay Leno's garage on the Via site with Lutz and Leno going over the trucks, pretty interesting stuff.

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At $79k, this is interesting, but not "must have".

Economy of scales and adoption of new technology. Too bad its booth was empty every time I was there - I wanted to talk with representatives.

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I'm only interested in Lutz projects like his Fisker with Corvette ZR-1 engine... now THAT is a project worth doing! (even though I still think the car itself is not well made, an LS9 can transform ANYTHING into hotness!)

  • Downvote 2

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I think Via is wise to aim this at large fleets, they have lots of number crunching to do before the public will pick up more than a handful of these.

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He is correct! Its the large and less efficient models that need this tech more then the smaller and more efficient ones! I would have liked to have seen a larger RWD sedan model like say a true fullsize Buick Electra using the Voltech system were the cost of said system would be less important and impactful to the model! GM should have thought this out better I think!

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Considering how many trains and container ships use electric motors with diesel generators, I totally see the sense of getting the full size trucks and SUV's to use the Volt style system. This would truly make a difference in the market for petrol. If semi trucks did this it would probably stop the need to import any oil period.

Course better yet would be CNG and just leave all those dictators with having to find alternative markets for their oil. :P

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Considering how many trains and container ships use electric motors with diesel generators, I totally see the sense of getting the full size trucks and SUV's to use the Volt style system. This would truly make a difference in the market for petrol. If semi trucks did this it would probably stop the need to import any oil period.

Course better yet would be CNG and just leave all those dictators with having to find alternative markets for their oil. :P

Yes, Stephan Harper may be a bit too conservative for my tastes... but I wouldn't call him a dictator..

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Considering how many trains and container ships use electric motors with diesel generators, I totally see the sense of getting the full size trucks and SUV's to use the Volt style system. This would truly make a difference in the market for petrol. If semi trucks did this it would probably stop the need to import any oil period.

Course better yet would be CNG and just leave all those dictators with having to find alternative markets for their oil. :P

Yes, Stephan Harper may be a bit too conservative for my tastes... but I wouldn't call him a dictator..

:rofl:

Yea I always do forget about Canada as I consider it the Black Sheep of the NA Market. Was thinking more inline with the Arab countries and primarily Venezuela and their dictator for life.

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Considering how many trains and container ships use electric motors with diesel generators, I totally see the sense of getting the full size trucks and SUV's to use the Volt style system. This would truly make a difference in the market for petrol. If semi trucks did this it would probably stop the need to import any oil period.

Course better yet would be CNG and just leave all those dictators with having to find alternative markets for their oil. :P

Yes, Stephan Harper may be a bit too conservative for my tastes... but I wouldn't call him a dictator..

:rofl:

Yea I always do forget about Canada as I consider it the Black Sheep of the NA Market. Was thinking more inline with the Arab countries and primarily Venezuela and their dictator for life.

Most of our imported oil comes from Canada and Mexico. Venezuela's dictator for life doesn't have much life left anyway (bad cancer prognosis).

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Yet with Canada, Mexico and Us producing more oil, the refined Gas stocks are going up and the oil companies are shipping the gas overseas due to higher prices they can get there and so our prices are not going down and even worse, lately they are going back up again.

The Gov has done nothing to deal with the pricing fixing that is clearly going on with oil and gas prices.

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I'm also skeptical. Lutz is saying this because he has a stake in VIA. Either that, or he's completely delusional.

Starting off with an E-REV Escalade? An Escalade is $70K. Adding plug-in tech would push it past $100K, since the size and weight of that thing would necessitate beefier components than what's on the Volt. The market for $100K trucks is already slim, and for a major manufacturer to electrify a vehicle with such low sales potential for their very first PHEV would be an absolute joke. (Volt outsold Escalade, Escalade EXT, Escalade ESV, and Escalade Hybrid combined in 2012). People with that much money to spend don't care much about fuel costs, and if they are rich but care about the environment, they wouldn't drive around in something as conspicuously wasteful as an Escalade. As a GM stockholder, I'd seriously question their commitment to the technology, let alone their ability to plan products.

Lutz is right in that going after high-volume gas guzzlers has the greatest impact on fuel use. But there are multiple ways of doing so. An automaker could spend millions hybridizing an existing oversized truck to be less of a guzzler, or a consumer could altogether buy something else. GM assumed that the demand for body-on-frame full-size SUVs is elastic, that people really needed Tahoes no matter what, when in truth, consumers were flexible and open to substitutes like a conventionally-powered Lambda crossover, which has the same fuel economy and space as a hybrid GMT-900 but costs $30K less and sells in much higher quantities. The E-REV Volt makes sense because it's built on an efficient platform to begin with, whereas with large SUVs, there was low-hanging fruit with a greater return on investment that should have been picked first.

As for VIA Motors, it's the same hyperbolic crap that Lutz is known for spewing but not delivering. A Nissan LEAF gets 99 MPGe; the only way a VIA E-REV to get 100 MPG is if you don't count the electricity consumed and drive a few miles in range-extended mode. It's a pretty meaningless metric that's just a matter of how far one travels with the gasoline engine on. Judging by the specs, in all likelihood an E-REV Silverado will get 45 MPGe (EPA) on electricity, have a 30 mile EV range, and get 18 MPG in range-extended mode. Depending on whether or not you count electricity consumption, here's the likely range of MPGs:

DOES NOT INCLUDE ELECTRICITY

30 miles EV, 0 miles gas = infinite MPG

30 miles EV, 5 miles gas = 126 MPG

30 miles EV, 10 miles gas = 63 MPG

30 miles EV, 20 miles gas = 45 MPG

30 miles EV, 30 miles gas = 36 MPG

INCLUDING ELECTRICITY

30 miles EV, 0 miles gas = 45 MPGe

30 miles EV, 5 miles gas = 37 MPGe

30 miles EV, 10 miles gas = 33 MPGe

30 miles EV, 20 miles gas = 28 MPGe

30 miles EV, 30 miles gas = 26 MPGe

These estimates are reasonable given a 6,000 lb truck and 24-kWh battery. A more aerodynamic 5,300 lb Fisker Karma with a 20-kWh battery gets 56 MPGe on electricity, has a 32 mile EV range, and gets 20 MPG in range-extended mode.

Edited by pow

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The problem here is that truck owners are already a closed-minded bunch. Brand loyalty is huge and it'll be hard to dissuade them from sticking with a tried-and-true diesel or gas V8 drivetrain, as evidenced by the low adoption of GM's hybrid system. Factor in reliability concerns that truck owners will undoubtedly have about plug-in's and it pretty much equals a 'no sale.'

If GM put a Volt-Tec drivetrain into a truck, I'd doubt it'd have gotten the traction the Volt has.

Methinks Maximum Lutz is trying to minimize the Volt for his own gain.

Edited by FAPTurbo

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The problem here is that truck owners are already a closed-minded bunch. Brand loyalty is huge and it'll be hard to dissuade them from sticking with a tried-and-true diesel or gas V8 drivetrain, as evidenced by the low adoption of GM's hybrid system. Factor in reliability concerns that truck owners will undoubtedly have about plug-in's and it pretty much equals a 'no sale.'

If GM put a Volt-Tec drivetrain into a truck, I'd doubt it'd have gotten the traction the Volt has.

Methinks Maximum Lutz is trying to minimize the Volt for his own gain.

Agreed. I don't know why the Big 3 won't offer a ~3 liter diesel for full-sized trucks and SUVs.

I've driven a GL350 BlueTEC, and it seems to have all the motor one would ever need: 3.0L V6, 240-hp, 455 lb-ft. The curb weight is 5,800 lb, it does 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, and it gets 19/26 MPG.

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The problem with the Volt is that it is neither as philosophically interesting as the Teslas or as economically approachable as the Prius. The folks who drink the Carbon Footprint Coolaid and have the money to spare will buy a Tesla. Those who do but don't have the dough buys a Prius. People who really want to save money buys a Corolla or a Civic. None of the above are particularly attracted to a $40K "economy" car which can go 40 miles on a charge then post worse mileage than Cruze afterwards.

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      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Whenever Bob Lutz speaks, many people tend to listen as he a number of years of being in the automotive industry under his belt. Recently, Lutz wrote an editorial for Automotive News' Redesigning the Industry where he predicts we are “approaching the end of the automotive era,” within the next 20 years.
      “The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other modules traveling at 120, 150 mph. The speed doesn’t matter. You have a blending of rail-type with individual transportation,” Lutz wrote.
      Lutz sees governments pushing for a 'no-human-drivers' mandate when it becomes clear that self-driving vehicles are much safer than vehicles operated by humans.
      "The tipping point will come when 20 to 30 percent of vehicles are fully autonomous. Countries will look at the accident statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 percent of the accidents."
      This according to Lutz will have catastrophic effects for the industry. Most of the driverless pods will be owned, operated and branded as "Uber or Lyft or who-ever else is competing in the market." Many automakers will be forced out of the business as people turn to sharing and not owning a vehicle. Some will remain, but acting as a supplier. Other parts of the business such as dealers, repair shops, and enthusiast magazines will fade away.
      "The era of the human-driven automobile, its repair facilities, its dealerships, the media surrounding it — all will be gone in 20 years."
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      That isn't to say it will not happen. Elements of Lutz's viewpoint are coming into focus. For example, Waymo will not have any way for a human to intervene in emergency situations. 
      We highly recommend reading this piece.
      Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)
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      Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Volt, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
       

      Album: Review: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier
      14 images 0 comments
       
      Year: 2016
      Make: Chevrolet
      Model: Volt
      Trim: Premier
      Engine: Voltec Electric Drive Unit, 1.5L Four-Cylinder (Range Extender)
      Driveline: Electric Transaxle, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 149
      Torque @ RPM: 294 @ 0
      Fuel Economy: EV/Gas Only - 106 MPGe/42
      Curb Weight: 3,543 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI
      Base Price: $37,520
      As Tested Price: $40,225 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge)
       
      Options:
      Chevrolet MyLink Radio w/ Navigation - $495.00
      Driver Confidence 1 Package - $495.00
      Driver Confidence 2 Package - $495.00
      Kinetic Blue Metallic - $395.00


      Click here to view the article
    • By William Maley
      General Motors took a huge gamble when they introduced the first-generation Chevrolet Volt for the 2011 model year. It was positioned as an alternative to a standard electric car by having a gas generator providing electric power once the battery was depleted. This different take on an electric vehicle solved the issue of range anxiety. But GM was too ambitious in terms of sales numbers. This lead to dealers being stockpiled with models because not many people were buying them. Within a year, GM made some key changes such as reducing the production amount and offering incentives that the Volt was finally able to make some headway in the market.
       
      Now we come to the second-generation Volt introduced last year. Chevrolet felt that the Volt needed to lose a bit of the concept car look to make it somewhat more appealing to buyers. But they also improved key components to make the Volt more efficient. Let’s see if these changes help or hurt it.
       
      The design of the first-generation Volt looked like someone’s prediction of what the vehicle of the future would look like. It stood out, but not in a good way. Thankfully, Chevrolet’s designers addressed this with the second-generation model. Yes, the 2016 Volt does have a similar profile to the outgoing model. But designers have smoothed out the shape and added some new lines. Take the front end for example. There are new grille inserts that are not only smaller, but have a pattern that mimics sheet metal. The back end features a reshaped tailgate with an integrated spoiler that not only improves the overall aerodynamics, but makes it look sleeker. Finishing off the design are a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and what Chevrolet calls Kinetic Blue that sets off the Volt’s design.
       




      The sore point of the first-generation Volt had to be the interior. It began with the material choices. For a vehicle that started near $40k, the cheap and shiny plastics were a big no-no. Then there was center stack full of capacitive-touch controls. The implementation wasn’t great as it would take you a few moments to find the one control to change the temperature or fan speed. The controls also didn’t respond when pressed, meaning you needed to hit them a couple of times before something happened. The back seat was only useable for small kids due to the small amount of head and legroom. Thankfully, most of these issues have been addressed. 
      The interior has grown up with a handsome design for the dashboard and better quality materials used throughout. There is a fair amount of soft-touch plastics and faux metal trim used up front. Disappointingly, Chevrolet didn’t give the back any soft-touch materials. The rear door panels are plastered with hard plastics. For the price tag of just a hair over $40,000, this isn’t acceptable. The new dash also brings forth a simpler center stack layout with an eight-inch touchscreen and new controls for the automatic climate control.
       
      Our Volt tester featured heated leather seats for both the front and rear. Getting yourself comfortable up front is quite easy with manual adjustments for the seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. The back seat is slightly larger with more head and legroom, but it is best reserved for those under 5’7”. I happen to be 5’8” and found my head touching the roof.
       
      Chevrolet has improved the Volt’s various bits of tech. The driver faces an eight-inch color screen that provides basic details such as battery charge, fuel gauge, and trip computer. You can customize the layout with various themes and efficiency gauges to coach you into being a more efficient driver. Another eight-inch screen resides in the center stack with the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink. The system seems to be getting better in terms of performance and reliability.
       




       
      The big news for 2016 is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to MyLink. We tried out CarPlay and it was simple to setup: Plug in a compatible iPhone into the USB input and hit the CarPlay button, and you’ll be greeted with a screen that is similar to your iPhone’s home screen. You’ll have access to various things such as Siri, Apple Maps, your music, and other applications such as Audible and Spotify. Using CarPlay is very easy since it is like using an iPhone but with a larger screen. There are still some issues that need to be ironed out with CarPlay such as various applications freezing or not responding to various commands. We also found that the MyLink wouldn’t recognize our phone when plugged in. After restarting the Volt, the system would recognize it.
       
      The Volt’s powertrain has seen some major changes for the second-generation model. A set of electric motors produces 111 kW (about 149 horsepower) and 294 pound-feet for torque. A larger 18.4 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack helps boost overall electric range. Finishing off the powertrain is a new 1.5L DOHC four-cylinder generator producing 101 horsepower. The improvements in the powertrain boost overall electric range from 35 to 53 miles and overall range stands at 420 miles.
       
      Pulling away from a stop, the Volt feels spritely as it gets up to speed at a surprising rate. This is due to the torque being available at zero rpm. Around town, the Volt zips around with only the gentle hum of the electric motor entering the cabin. Once the battery is depleted, the gas generator will kick on. The transition is seamless and the generator stays quiet for the most part. However, if you push the accelerator into the floor, the generator will make a lot of noise.
       
      Like the previous Volt, the 2016 model offers a set of different driving modes that changes how the powertrain behaves.
      Normal: Powertrain runs on electric power until the battery is depleted, then the gas generator kicks on. Sport: Improves throttle response. Mountain: Turns on the generator to provide battery charging when driving through mountainous or steep terrain. Hold: This mode preserves the battery charge by having the gas generator provide power for the electric motor. For when you are driving on the freeway and know you'll want to save your battery power for city driving later

      One other trick the 2016 Volt has up its sleeve is the Regen on Demand system. First used on the Cadillac ELR, the system uses a paddle behind the steering wheel allows a driver to control how much energy is being regenerated when driving via the electric motors. Think of Regen on Demand as putting the vehicle into a lower gear; the electric motors act as an engine brake to slow the vehicle down and recapture energy to charge the battery.
       





       
      In terms of range, we were able to go between 47 to 51 miles on a full charge. EPA fuel economy estimates say the 2016 Chevrolet Volt will return 106 MPGe when running on electric power only, and 42 MPG when gas generator kicks on. Our averages for the week landed around 112 MPGe and 43 MPG.
       
      Chevrolet says it will take about 4.5 hours to recharge a depleted battery when plugged into a 240V charger. When plugged into a 120V outlet, time increases about 13 hours. We found the 13 hours estimate to be right on the money as that is how long it took for our test Volt to fully recharge. When half of the battery charge was depleted, we found the charging time to be around 6 to 7 hours.
       
      In terms of ride, the 2016 Volt retains the smooth ride of the first-generation model. Bumps and other imperfections are ironed out to provide a comfortable ride. More impressive is how little outside noise comes into the cabin. When running on just electric power, very little wind and road noise comes inside. For handling, the Volt doesn’t embarrass itself. There isn’t any sign of body lean and the vehicle is able to change direction quickly. Steering feels responsive and heavy. No, the Volt would be replacing a sports car anytime soon. But compared to other plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, the Volt has to be one of the better driving models.
       
      Pricing for the Volt starts at $33,995 for the base LT and $37,820 for the up-level Premier. Our Premier tester featured a pricetag of $40,225 with two safety packages, navigation, and the Kinetic blue paint. For our money, the Premier is the way to go as it is the only trim that you can get blind-spot warning and lane change alert, both necessary features due to the Volt’s poor rear visibility. I wish these features were standard on the Premier and optional on the LT.
       




       
      In 2016, electric vehicles are still seen as a bit of novelty. Despite the number of improvements made in terms of batteries and infrastructure, there is still the issue of range. This is where the Volt stands on its own as it provides a fallback option. Use up all of the battery? No problem as the generator will kick and get you to your destination where you can plug in. Plus the changes made by Chevrolet not only make the Volt somewhat more useable and efficient, but it also looks quite handsome. There are some niggling issues that we hope get addressed in the near future.
       
      If you’re intrigued but don’t want to fully jump into the electric vehicle landscape, then the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is an excellent place to start at.
       
      Cheers: Improved electric only range, design that stands out in a good way, clever bits of powertrain tech.
      Jeers: Cheap materials are still here, MyLink still has some issues to work out, blind spot monitoring and lane change alert is optional on the Premier and not available on the LT (how does this make sense?!)
       
      Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Volt, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
       

       
      Year: 2016
      Make: Chevrolet
      Model: Volt
      Trim: Premier
      Engine: Voltec Electric Drive Unit, 1.5L Four-Cylinder (Range Extender)
      Driveline: Electric Transaxle, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 149
      Torque @ RPM: 294 @ 0
      Fuel Economy: EV/Gas Only - 106 MPGe/42
      Curb Weight: 3,543 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI
      Base Price: $37,520
      As Tested Price: $40,225 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge)
       
      Options:
      Chevrolet MyLink Radio w/ Navigation - $495.00
      Driver Confidence 1 Package - $495.00
      Driver Confidence 2 Package - $495.00
      Kinetic Blue Metallic - $395.00
    • By William Maley
      Imagine a future where the powertrain from the Chevrolet Volt is found under the hood of another automaker's vehicle. This might actually become reality if General Motors global powertrain chief Dan Nicholson gets his wish answered. Speaking to Automotive News, Nicholson said he was open to sharing the Volt's powertrain.
       
      "We want to be the partner of choice in propulsion system development in this complex and turbulent era we are approaching," said Nicholson.
       
      If this idea is given the green light, it would pay dividends for GM and the other automaker. For GM, giving the Volt powertrain to another automaker would drive costs down due to larger economies of scale. The other automaker wouldn't have to spend so much on research and development for a powertrain like the Volt.
       
      Whether this happens or not is a wait and see matter.
       
      Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)
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