The following two pictures represent both what is great about the Chevy Volt and what is disappointing about the Chevy Volt.
This comes from starting with a full charge, almost getting to my destination without using any gas, recharging on a Level 2 for four hours and then driving home.
3.765 mi/kwh is pretty efficient given that this was all freeway driving in North Los Angeles County (that means a fair amount of hills and mostly 60+mph with the occasional slow-and-go). On the flip side, 3 miles on 0.1 gallons is a measly 30mpg. However, the gas wasn’t really used until the end of the first leg of my trip, which went from 768ft above sea level to 1200ft above sea level.
Great thing about the Chevy Volt is that you have that generator to take you the extra miles. Plus, 97 degrees at 6 at night… It was a hot day outside but plenty cool on the inside with the AC set way down.
That 210 lifetime MPG is really nice too!
Obviously, 30MPG isn’t great. However, it was going uphill, which is actually really good. However, it was completely unnecessary given the true size of the Chevy Volt battery. After all, the 2014 Volt has 17.1 kwh battery, which is only 3 wkh less than this total trip that included a second charge.
I was fortunate enough to have access to 240 charging during this trip. Had I only had the trickle charger (8 hour recharge) that GM claims is perfectly acceptable, I would have been blowing fumes for the vast majority of the second leg of my trip. I charged for four hours between legs. The Volt’s measly 3.3 charger didn’t give me a full charge before I had to leave. Were GM to offer a 6.6 charger, I would have been recharged completely and used even less gas than I ended up using on this two legged trip.
Of course, if I needed to run errands after I got back home, I’d be blowing fumes out the back of my Volt unless I waited for hours and hours for my trickle charger at home to get me enough juice to go a few extra miles electric.
Chevy Volt fanboys might look at this and see only the great thing about the fact that the generator allowed me to make this trip with minimal gas usage. Sure, that definitely points to a great feature of the Volt. However, it also points to an annoying feature of the Volt: no extended electric setting. Aside from the painfully slow charge rate of the Volt (which I believe will cost GM thousands of customers with the Volt 2.0), the reality is that this trip didn’t require the use of any gasoline.
If the Volt gave you the ability to set an extended EV range (like the Leaf, Tesla, and every other EV) that gives you an extra 1-3 kwh of battery usage, the gas generator would have never been needed on this trip. Even with just an extra 1kwh, I would have gotten the extra 3 miles I needed to stay 100% electric. I have plenty of other trips that I have taken that far exceed this range, so it’s not like I’m expecting every trip I take to be 100% electric. However, when frequent trips are right outside the cusp the Volt’s 60% battery utilization, it’s plain to see that something as simple as an extended EV setting would be a simple software upgrade for the Volt that would make it all that much more appealing and satisfying to Volt owners.
Better in Every Way
Larry Nitz from GM mentioned some interesting stats the other day when talking about the Volt. A few of the numbers are particularly interesting to me because I think GM interpreted them the wrong way:
- 60% of volt customers only charge on 110v rather than 240v.
GM seems to think that this is consumers saying that they are okay with 8 hour charge times. That’s not the case. This is consumers not being willing to invested thousands of dollars for 240 charging when they reap little benefit. Most homes don’t have a 240 that you can just plug your ClipperCreek into and call it a day. Would Volt owners like faster charge times if it wasn’t a multi-thousand dollar investment? Of course. The use of 110 at home is merely because the car sits there for more than eight hours at night most days. Take it out to the beach on the weekend and get ICEd at the public chargers, and your Volt if blowing fumes like any other car.
- 50% of all volts are at home at any one particular time.
Well, when it takes you 8 hours to recharge, where else is the Volt going to be. This would also indicate that the Volt isn’t a highly used vehicle. Despite the notion that the Volt is a commuter car, this number would indicate that the Volt is more of a run the local errands car or a secondary to an EV family that uses it for road trips.
- “Volts plug in on average 10 times per week, not 7. That surprised us. We figured a once a day charge but customers charge more”
How GM hasn’t interpreted this to mean that a 6.6 charger is needed and 8 hour charge times is NOT completely acceptable is beyond me. My guess is that there is someone at GM who really has a thing for 3.3 chargers and is doing everything they can do to interpret the data to mean that 8 hours of charging is acceptable.
If the Average Volt is charging more than 7x a week that means that there is data that is significantly skewing the data upwards. It would be interesting to actually see what the standard deviation is on number of weekly charges as well as a scatter chart.
While, I don’t actually have the raw data that GM has, I can easily make a guess as to what the data actually looks like. My guess is that Volt fit into three major categories: 1) Garage Space Consumption, (2) Everyday Local Commuter, and (3) The Work Horse.
The Garage Volt is what makes up the majority of that 50% of all volts are at home number. The Everyday Local Commuter are the people that are okay with the 8 hour charge time because they drive 15 miles to work and 15 miles back at 40 mph and have plenty of range to spare for the gym visit and grocery store. The Work Horse Volts are what skew the plug-in numbers to 10 plug-ins/week vs 7 plug-ins. This isn’t going to be as high as a percentage of the Volt customer base as the other two, but I believe these are the customers that GM should really be courting.
GM has missed their 30K Volts/year sales goals by a gap roughly the size of the Grand Canyon. I believe that’s because the Volt caters to the first two groups rather than the Work Horse Group. If GM wants to see the 30K/year sales volume, they need a Volt that provides more range and a more efficient generator for roughly $40K before tax incentives. That’s entirely possible with a slightly larger battery, an 80% battery utilization instead of 60-65% like the Volt has now, and a more efficient generator with smaller gas tank. Of course, if GM made the 80% battery utilization a software upgrade for current Volt owners, then they could retain a lot of Work Horse customers. Instead, it seems that GM is going to double down on the first two segments. This should net GM roughly the same results they have achieved so far: missed sales goals, new to GM customers, and low repeat.
Dan Snyder can easily solve his naming controversy AND add to the legacy of his brand with one simple change. Rename the “Redskins” to the “Americans”. Keep the iconic logo of a strong Native American, along with the burgundy, gold, and white color scheme and font. Color scheme and font are just as important to branding as an actual name. Snickers is the best resent example of this where they didn’t use the name “Snickers” in print advertisements but just the font and color scheme that are distinctly Snickers. Washington has the same level of recognition of it’s logo, color, and font.
Snyder has made it clear that he believes the Redskins name honors a heritage of Native Americans, despite numerous Native American tribes’ claims to the contrary. By keeping the logo and changing the name to Americans, Snyder would truly be honoring the native forefathers he believes his current team name honors. It would be a tremendous recognition of the original Americans, and I highly doubt that it would harm the brand in anyway. I’m willing to bet that it would strengthen the brand considerably. Snyder appears to be adamant about NOT being forced to change his team’s name, but the Washington Americans is a stronger brand than what he has now.
Development of the 2016 Chevy Volt is well under way, and it doesn’t seem like GM is giving many hints as to what is going to change with the v2.0 of the Volt. The latest Volt production has slightly more battery range than the first version of the Volt, but there is no guarantee that will remain the case. There have been suggestions of adding a fifth seat and reducing overall battery capacity, among many other rumors (including a minivan version). The only thing that seems to be guaranteed with the 2016 Volt is that it will retain it’s signature look (which means it’s not going to look like a weird space ship like the Nissan Leaf).
Here’s what I think GM should do with the Volt that would make it the most popular electric car in the world!
- Ignore the vocal minority about the fifth seat. Sure, there are people who will swear they’d buy the Volt if they just had that magical fifth seat. I’m calling BS on that. Most commuters are driving by themselves. So, this idea that Volt sales will have a massive leap forward by reducing battery capacity to fit a fifth seat is a farce.
- Reduce the engine size and increase efficiency. From what it looks like, GM is already on this. The reduced weight and better efficiency will make for better electric range in the first place!
- Increase the regenerative braking. Anyone who has driven a Volt in traffic knows that dropping the Volt into L will make your range that much better as well as reduce brake usage significantly. Take it a step further, GM! Give a regen option like the Tesla Model S where it’s so aggressive that you turn the brake lights on. Allow the customer to turn it on or off because there are a ton of drivers that don’t understand regenerative braking and will be bringing it into the dealerships over and over because they think something is wrong with the car.
- Ditch the flywheel transmission. Yes, the Volt does have a flywheel that will engage when going up a hill and the vehicle is in mountain mode. The idea is that it gives just that much more oomph that will help you get up a steep hill faster. Outside the Grapevine in Southern California, I can’t think of many other places that have hills that are so steep for so long.
Here’s an example: You can drive from Santa Cruz to Pleasonton, CA on a fully charged Volt! Again, insane, right? That’s more than 50 miles, and there’s a giant mountain in your way! The Volt only goes 38 EPA electric. Except that the real world and EPA are completely different. I have made that drive in a Volt before. In fact, I almost made it to Dublin from Santa Cruz, and I’ve been able to go nearly 60 miles on a single charge (on several occasions) without driving 20 mph. You drive up the mountain from Santa Cruz and the downhill is so long that by the time you pass the Cat Tavern, you’ll realize that all the battery it took to get up the hill is coming back to you and then some!
Ditch the flywheel, GM! The electric motor is plenty.
- Offer an option with triple (or preferably quadruple) battery range. Sounds completely insane, right!??! Here’s the great news. The Volt uses 10.9 kWh of it’s 16.5 kWh battery capacity (roughly 66%). My understanding is that this was done to avoid the horrors of battery degradation, but batteries are getting better and better for both capacity and less degradation. Given the current EPA rating of 38 miles electric, the Volt’s true electric range is roughly 57 miles before becoming a brick. Of course, real-world scenarios (like the Santa Cruz to Pleasanton drive I mentioned above) could mean range upwards of 90 miles!
GM should stick with at least a little bit of cushion on their battery for warranty reasons alone, but 33% is definitely too much. Take it down to 20% on the existing battery configuration. That’s a software upgrade, so even existing Volt owners could get an electric range of roughly 46 miles by just getting a software upgrade.
What will capacity be with battery technology for 2016 production? Most likely at least another 4 miles EPA with the existing 33% battery reserve. That means we could be looking at roughly 50 miles when we combine battery efficiency improvements with the software update I’m talking about.
Back to increasing total battery capacity… Chevy Volt batteries are on the market to consumers for just over $2600, which means that GM is paying significantly less than that for the battery packs they’re putting into the Volt during production. The trick would be to figure out the proper configuration for being able to triple physical capacity. There’s a limited amount of space to work with, but I’m betting that the Volt can definitely be made to support 3-4x the battery capacity. Reduce the size of the gas tank or even take it out all together (which would then mean you can get rid of the gas generator completely, and could likely get up to 5x). Even if we took the $2600 retail price of the battery price, it would add $7800 to $10400 to the sticker price of a Volt to have 3-4x the battery capacity. Sans a motor and gas tank, and that would theoretically drop costs for GM as well.
Is there a market for a $45000 electric car that can go nearly 200 miles (the additional battery weight will reduce mileage, so it’s not just a projected electric range x4)?
I’m betting there’s a HUGE market for that type of car at that price point! If GM can still keep a small engine and 2-3 gallon gas tank to give you the extra 90+ miles you might need from time to time, then you really have an amazing electric car offering! No, it’s not the performance of a Tesla Model S, but it’s also a fraction of the price.
Going with the increased battery capacity and smaller gas range extender, this Volt configuration would likely net buyers the full federal and state rebates. So, the out of pocket cost on this type of Volt would be roughly $35000 ($45000 minus $7500 federal and now $2500 state) in a state like California. Seems like an excellent option to me!
- Offer an option to have a 6.6KW charger with the larger battery capacity and utilization. Studies are showing that DC fast charging doesn’t have much of an impact on battery life. The Volt takes roughly 4 hours to charge with it’s existing battery setup. Recharging a fully depleted battery would then take 16 hours… Not a good thing. The larger battery capacity would need at least double the charging rate. Better yet, quadruple the charge rate at the same time! 180 miles in 4 hours would be phenomenal, and probably unnecessary.
One need only look at the stats that you can find in the Volt smartphone app to see that there are plenty of people pushing over 2000 miles per month in EV miles. That’s roughly 67 EV miles per day, which means that Volt owners are pushing their Volts’ EV range daily! There’s clearly demand for more electric range, more so than a fifth seat.
- Offer the Traverse as a Volt. Don’t go with the small MPV that many have been suggesting is going to happen or something small like the Equinox. The Traverse is a legit SUV rather than a crossover. It seats 7-8 people, and GM could easily get 5-6x the battery capacity of a current Volt into something the size of the Traverse. Sure, the weight will mean that the Traverse Volt doesn’t go 300+ miles, but imagine an SUV that goes over 200 miles electric with another 90+ miles range extension that starts at roughly $50k! That’s going to be nearly half the price of a Tesla Model X. Sure, it won’t be as cool, but $40K is a lot to pay for cool.
It’s been suggested that GM doesn’t make any money on the Volt right now. That might be the case, but I’m betting that with everything I list above GM would be making a profit on these types of Volts!
Had I stayed away from the news websites, I wouldn’t have even noticed the federal government shutdown. Funny part about that is that I have a family member who works for the federal government, but she didn’t get furloughed since she works in a government agency that actually turns a profit with its services. Naturally, when an organization makes a profit it doesn’t have to furlough people when the rest of the federal government does.
I’m not going to debate whether one side is right or wrong or worse than the other in this blog. I’m just going to post a solution to the one problem that I saw most in the news and on social media: shutting down our national parks. I’m not going to debate if a 1000 square mile range of the ocean in Florida needs our federal government to stay open to fishermen or whether Mt. Rushmore needs federal employees to be open. This solution solves the debate. Here it is…
Have the National Park service issue multiple denomination certificates for the full amount of its annual budget that are a tax credit for those who purchase them and never have to be paid back. In essence, it’s a donation to our National Parks, but rather than just being a tax deduction like a charity, this is a tax credit because our federal government is using tax dollars to pay for the National Parks. It’s a $ for $ in tax money.
Obviously, the National Park service would incur some minor overhead for building and maintaining this system, so it can just add it to its budget. I’m betting that if you put it into an open bidding process you could easily find thousands of companies capable of building this platform.
This would help ensure that our National Parks remain open regardless of federal government wrangling. It would also serve as a model for other government entities for how they can become self sufficient and immune to federal government budgetary gridlock. There are numerous other benefits to this model such as helping to keep spending inline with revenue for the government as a whole and providing citizens with a greater say in how our tax dollars are spent. This idea isn’t just about avoiding shutdown furloughs that are back paid anyway. It’s a solution to an ongoing budget (or lack thereof) with our federal government.
Here are added incentives for our National Parks:
- Want that budget increase you could never get? Increase your budget and see if taxpayers are willing to pay for it
- If Congress acts now, there will be a flood of taxpayers willing to cover your entire fiscal calendar budget since there are just 2.5 months left in the tax year
Edit: Why not make a petition out of it? https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/taxpayer-direct-funding-national-parks/csP0c6Bh
Hotwire sends me a link asking me to write a review about the hotel they scammed me for more than $200 over what I could have paid if I booked directly. I enjoyed my hotel stay, so I figured I’d write a positive review about the place. One of the things I noticed when writing the review is that Hotwire states not to mention anything specific about the hotel: not the hotel name, nearby landmarks, area, etc. My guess is that this is based upon the fact that Hotwire’s business model is all about scamming you. If you had an idea about what was around the hotel, it would be fairly easy to figure out what the hotel is, check the hotel rates directly and find out that you can book directly with the hotel for cheaper.
Following up on my request for a refund from Hotwire in my last post, they did respond back stating that a credit would be issued for roughly $70. Certainly a far cry from the $237 I would have saved booking directly.
This is the review I wrote about the Milford Plaza Hotel in midtown that Hotwire I’m certain will not post since my original post has already been rejected by them for:
- Specific points of interest mentioned reveal the hotel
One of the best bangs for the buck in the area. Easy access to the subway. Fairly easy access to getting a cab. Plenty of restaurants right around the corner. Right around the corner from TS. You have to go upstairs to get to the main elevators, and there was a lot of construction during my visit. However, the staff certainly did their best to keep up. When the construction is finished, this is going to be a *great* hotel! Of course, since Hotwire is a complete scam based upon hiding the hotel information from you so that you can’t figure out what the actual hotel is and discover that the hotel can be booked directly for cheaper, this review will never see the light of day on their website.
I added the last sentence after Hotwire sent me that ridiculous email about revealing the hotel. Wow, a hotel in NY that is surrounded by restaurants, has easy access to the subway, cabs, and Times Square. That really nails it down to at least 80 hotels. Throw in the construction, and we’re down to 30-40 hotels. I’ll just keep ranting about Hotwire as long as I can.
Hotwire has lost my business for good. I’m planning a business trip to New York, and I decided to use Hotwire for my hotel search and booking. I had never used Hotwire before, but with that catchy “H-O-T-W-I-R-E Hotwire dot commmmmm” jingle, I figured it was worth a shot. Plus, after having cross checked rates with Orbitz (my favorite travel site for booking flights) and a handful of the usual suspects (TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Priceline, Booking.com) Hotwire had the lowest “price” for the area I wanted that I could find on the hotel search engines.
The hotel name wasn’t listed, and I started getting the feeling I get when someone is pitching me a MLM idea. Like so many people that get suckered in to things that are too good to be true, I bit. Then I received the name of the hotel. Hmmm…
I went to the hotel’s website and found rates lower than Hotwire. Not only were the rates lower, but naturally the taxes were lower and there was no $49.41 in “fees”. Now, Hotwire does offer a refund for lower rates, but when you look at their “refund” it doesn’t include taxes, nor does it include “fees”. Overall, Hotwire cheated me out of more than $200 between the inflated room rate, higher taxes, and “fees” that are non-refundable.
Hotwire could pay a guy to just make bookings with the hotel at the rate I would have paid if I had purchased directly from them, and they’d walk away with more than $200. Now, I completely understand that a company needs to make money. Perhaps the only way that Hotwire and all the other online booking companies can make money is by inflating the rack rates of hotels and hope that people won’t book directly with the hotel. However, what is really the value I’m getting for their “services”?
The supposed value of the online hotel search engines is that I don’t have to check each hotel one by one. Theoretically, that saves me time. However, between cross referencing all the online hotel search engines: prices, amenities, reviews, rooms, etc. I really started questioning whether the days of using a travel agent shouldn’t make a comeback. What did booking online really save me? Certainly not money and certainly not time.
Received an email from Hotwire about my request for refund stating:
I’m sure half the country has heard about Santa Monica’s smart parking meters. The city of Santa Monica touts them as a great technological advancement in the ability to improve their parking… PUHLEASE! If the city of Santa Monica ever uses the data collected from their parking meter sensors to actual *improve* parking conditions, I’ll be the first to congratulate the city.
We all know what’s going to happen. The second Santa Monica figures out that they can squeeze another peso from your wallet, it will. I’m sure that parking rates will adjust (only upward) based upon their historical data that they collect. Anyone remember the Coca-Cola vending machines that were going to charge more when it was hotter outside. Ya, imagine paying $8/hour for parking in SM during the busy season. I’ll bet money (maybe a parking ticket’s worth) that will happen.
I do have a story about how I think this could eventually be fought and won against the city in the courtroom (unless someone already thought of this and lost – I don’t really keep up too much on a city like Santa Monica since I plan on never visiting that BFE beach town very often). The other day I was in downtown Los Angeles. I got myself a meter (for two hours) near a company that I was visiting. Of course it wasn’t close enough to the company to where I could lug the mountains of merchandise I was purchasing from them from their location to my car. I figured I’d get two hours because it was nearing lunch and I was hungry.
I walked over to my bank, took a picture of ridiculous parking signs right around the corner (oh, the irony!!!), visited the company’s office, conducted my business, went back to my car, drove my car to the loading zone in front of the business, loaded up the merchandise, and then drove back to my parking meter. At the time that I left the meter, there was an hour and 45 minutes left. I figured if someone else ended up stumbling upon my meter, it was a nice gift for them.
By the time I made it back to my meter, it was about 10 minutes later. Nobody had taken my meter (although, there was some poor schmuck who parked in the meter before mine that didn’t have enough time on it). I still have an hour and 35 minutes (which I paid for!!!) left on my meter so I could go enjoy a nice mac & cheese lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. The fact that parking in DTLA is better than Santa Monica puts the city of Santa Monica on the top of my list of craptastic cities for parking. Keep in mind, I have received more than a dozen tickets in DTLA for various reasons and even been towed (well, almost towed) after the crooks changed the parking times that hadn’t been changed in more than 10 years.
Had I been in Santa Monica, my hour and 35 minutes of parking that I had already paid for and had every intention of using would have been stolen from me completely! Would that be any different from someone swooping in and stealing my spot? Yes! Because at least that person would have benefited from my generosity. Instead, the city of Santa Monica is just stealing money from me. Would I have put 2 hours worth of parking in a Santa Monica parking meter? Of course not! I’ll never be visiting that thieving town anytime soon, and I’ll certainly be looking for parking structure parking instead! Or maybe a guy sitting in an alley taking parking donations.
Strange experience on the freeway last night. I was heading home from my office and I’m driving along when a car comes up behind me and goes to pass me. The change lanes and then disappear into my blind spot. Then they just decided to sit in my blind spot for a few miles. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was dark so I saw their headlights, I would have never known they were there until I needed to change lanes. But that wasn’t the strange part. If I sped up, they would speed up. If I slowed down, they would slow down.
I pulled a Maverick. Hit the brakes, and they flew right by. I changed lanes so I could make my way towards my exit. Then things got really weird… They kept slowing down and speeding up so that I was in their blind spot! I’m guessing this has something to do with it being dark and they wanted the extra set of headlights, but this driver was pretty weird.