Sunday, January 6, 2008

And now, Toyota's turn

An anonymous commenter on my previous blogpost asks,
"GM has alway said that the battery might not be ready.... GM never lied about it but like always lots of people like to knock GM. Why not pick on Toyota for a while."
I've got no problem picking on Toyota, too. Toyota continues to use the Prius to cover a multitude of sins. They are selling larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles than ever; they slap a hybrid drive into a $100,000 Lexus, achieve minimal fuel savings, and earn more green kudos all while continuing to spread disinformation about the value of true electrification by advertising their hybrids as half electric cars "you never have to plug in." Of course the truth is you can't.

But unlike GM, Toyota hasn't promised a plug in car. They haven't had to. (Although they built a damn good one when they were forced to. Read all about it here.) While I have no doubt Toyota will release a plug-in car as soon as someone else does, until then they will join the "batteries aren't ready" chorus.

It truly is, not surprisingly, all about the bottom line. Every automaker wants to continue selling only internal combustion engine cars (hybrids included) because they believe that is the best route toward the greatest profitability in the near term. Needless to say this hasn't proven true in GM's case. They couldn't have been in worse shape had they continued even very limited production, and sale, of the EV1. It would have been their Prius, only better.

GM CEO Waggoner Sows Doubt about Volt Debut Date; Volt Ads Continue Unabated reports on an online chat with GM CEO Rick Waggoner.
General Motors might not be able to hit its target to have its breakthrough electric-powered car the Chevrolet Volt in production by 2010...

GM has already started to build advertising campaigns around the Volt, even though in the best-case scenario it is years away from production. It is seen as a way of trying to change public perceptions about the fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility of the U.S. automaker, which is more closely associated with large SUVs or pickup trucks.
Not the way to mark the 100th anniversary of the company. If GM wants to be believed, they need to do more than flap their lips, run hopeful ads and buy dinner for bloggers.

They ought to have used the 100th anniversary to deliver even a few real electric cars, something they actually know how to build. Hell, they could simply sell the few EV1s they still have running around. They could encourage museums and universities with donated, disabled EV1s to rebuild them as electric cars and allow them on the roads. They could make a preliminary, limited run Volt without waiting for "perfect" batteries - say something like the NiMH that worked quite well in the EV1 (and still do in our RAV4 EVs.)

Had GM taken any such actions, some of the continuing disbelief might be dissipated.