Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Volt’s Reason to Be

The Volt’s Reason to Be - By Henry Payne - Planet Gore - National Review Online

While I'm not as opposed to the concept of a Chevy Volt as others, I just have one question for the manufacturers of such a product.

Why did you choose a small platform first to deliver this concept?

Let me explain.

The normal process for engineering has seemed to be to develop a concept and then scale it down for every day use. It was mere years ago that computers needed a whole room to contain the computing power of one laptop computer today. Computing capacity doubles every 18 months or so as scientists find more and more ways to fit more capacitors on a one inch chip. All manner of consumer electronics prove the case - from TVs to video game systems, from cell phones to treadmills.

And this approach seems logical - when you are developing a concept, size doesn't usually matter - all the developer wants is see the concept to workable application, he/she is not interested in applying the concept to the smallest possible package available right from the get go.

Except when it comes to electric vehicles, it seems.

Let us be clear about one thing - the technology in the Volt really isn't anything new. Diesel-electric train engines have existed for the better part of a century, and have proven that the concept works, so too with diesel-electric submarines. What I would have expected, given how things advance, is that the technology would have been scaled down to fit into heavy equipment where space and aesthetics aren't an issue, and then scale down again to fit into trucks and SUVs where they can make the most difference on ANY emissions in the long run.  After the technology is proven in those platforms would it be scaled down into a size where vehicles already regularly get in the 40 to 60 mpg range just through weight and aerodynamics. 

THAT is a progression I would like to have seen, because honestly, right now all the Volt is is a concept car that was put into production, and that will lose GM money with every sale without government subsidies.  Sure, I get that the more of these things out there, and the more experience there is making them, the cheaper they'll get, but in the end, does it really need a 40 mile battery at highway speeds?  Did it really have to be fit into a subcompact?  Was this really the advancement that would do the most good?

I think I'll wait until they put the technology into a better size.

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