Friday, March 23, 2007

What up with GM's Plug-in hybrid Volt?

"GM tries to unplug Volt hype" is not the headline I've been hoping to see out of Motor City this spring. But there it is in a Detroit News Autos Insider piece today. Just weeks after announcing production, perhaps, in 2010, the industry's hometown paper lets us know this is no done deal.
The Volt grabbed headlines, lit up online chat boards and dominated the buzz at the auto show in Detroit.
There's just one problem: The Volt may never get built.
GM continues to spread the gospel of the Volt. The recent "presser" to explain how all things Volt are coming along was very well-attended. Interest in plug-in cars of all sorts is real and growing. However, as the article points out, it feels like a trip down a well-traveled green road to nowhere.
The auto industry has disappointed before when it comes to green technology. DaimlerChrysler AG promised a production fuel-cell vehicle by 2004, but couldn't deliver despite spending $1 billion on the technology. And little came of a $1.5 billion taxpayer-funded effort, called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), to build an 80-miles-per-gallon car. Last year, Ford Motor Co. took an image beating when it backed away from a pledge to put 250,000 hybrids on the road by 2010.
The story essentially asks whether the Volt is intended for production, simply a green gesture, or perhaps both. Arguably, the Prius hybrid halo has enabled Toyota's more recent play for the American's profitable big SUV and truck market.

Is GM just looking for its halo or a future? Regardless, GM ought to be producing the Volt now with the best available batteries, a PHEV-version of the NiMH in every hybrid on the road and which took the EV1 140 miles between charges. Laptops didn't wait for Lithium, and neither should cars.