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Is the Chevy Volt over-hyped?

by wcunning CNET staff / August 8, 2007 9:41 AM PDT

In my recent column, Chevy Volt runs on hype, I tried to figure out why this concept car from GM has generated so much interest. What do you think of the Volt? Does it deserve all the attention, or are there more worthy concepts?

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to a degree...
by streamline35 / August 8, 2007 1:46 PM PDT

I would agree that it is over-hyped to a degree...

I think it's a great concept car, and I really wish they would hurry up on getting it into production. I like how it's gas engine doesn't run the wheels at all, it only contributes to recharging.

But on the other hand, it's getting alot more hype than it deserves. GM to me seems notorious for acting way more environmental than they actually are. For example, the gas mileage on most chevy vehicles is pretty rotten, and yet they have a whole web page dedicated to how great their gas mileage is. What they list is the old EPA highway estimates for their vehicles. That's about as overblown as legally possible.)
Anyway, as far as the volt goes, like I said, it's a great concept, but somehow I doubt GM is going to be speedy about getting this, and other practical environmentally friendly cars onto the road anytime before they absolutely have to. Toyota on the other hand is currently testing out its plug in prius (they gave one to UC Berkeley and one to UC Irvine to test out) and it apparently get's a 122 miles per gallon.

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Chevy Volt Hype
by J Snow / November 14, 2007 11:11 AM PST
In reply to: to a degree...

It's hard to tell whether Bob Lutz truly believes in the Chevy Volt, however, these are the reasons why I believe that Lutz has no choice but to go full steam ahead on the Chevy Volt:

1) A123 batteries are a proven entity and are already being used in tens of thousands of DeWalt portable hand tools;

2) GM has a negative net worth of about $60/share that isn't going to turn around unless GM does something drastic with their product line. The Chevy Volt is just the flip side of the E85 program of replacing gasoline with ethyl alcohol as renewable fuel;

3) The $92,000 Tesla Motors sports car is a reality and will be on the road sometime next year. They will have all the kinks out of their 45KWH battery pack and they will start full scale development of their White Star $50,000 sedan;

4) Though competitor Phoenix Motors keeps playing with their SUT and competitor Subaru keeps playing with their R1e and G4e, the battery packs in these vehicles will continue to improve and come close to becoming production quality;

5) Toyota is finally seriously looking at Prius Plug-In Upgrade Kits and I firmly believe that they will jump on board and certify a Prius Plug-In design and put in production by 2009;

6) Originally, GM picked Johnson Controls/Saft to provide them with Li Ion battery packs for the Volt. Gm, wisely, figured out that Johnson Controls/Saft were incapable of delivering the goods. They replaced Johnson Controls/Saft with A123 recognizing that A123 had developed a safe and reliable Li Ion batttery pack;

7) GM will produce most of the Chevy Volt components in China and do the finally assemblies in Detroit. The motor, controls, hardware, etc... will be made in China and this will make the car quite affordable (as well as ready for the Chinese market) once the cost of Li-Ion batteries come down in price.

In conclusion, GM must make a bold step in order to regain their lead in the automotive industry. I believe that GM management sees that the Chevy Volt can give them the edge to leapfrog the competition.

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You are misusing the term "hype"
by theBike45 / August 9, 2007 12:53 PM PDT

The term "hype" means inordinate attention or praise for the commonplace. The VOLT, which will become the first mass produced electrically powered vehicle that is a viable alternative to the gasoline engine, at a time when such a revolution is deemed critical for the future of the planet would seem to have a very difficult time being overhyped. Overhyped cars do not possess the revolutionary potential of this vehicle, nor generate millions of hits on General Motor's website for a car that's 3 years in the future.

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no, "hype" is pretty accurate in this case
by streamline35 / August 10, 2007 3:50 AM PDT

Sounds to me like you are just re-enforcing the fact that it's just hype (so far). You mentioned it has generated millions of hits on GMs website during the lengthy period since it was introduced. And yet we've still seen nothing but a concept car at auto shows. Meanwhile Toyota has already made plug-in prius's and is allowing them to be independently tested (by UC Berkeley and UC Irvine).

And you make it sound like it's the only car of it's kind and nothing else even comes close. Here's the only difference between it and the plug in prius: The volt uses it's gas engine to recharge only, the plug-in prius uses it for a small amount of vehicle power (though it's mostly electric) and the prius still gets 122 miles per gallon (in real life testing). So what's more revolutionary? This concept car that is talked about so much, but shown so little in real life, or the plug in prius, a very similar vehicle that is obviously far closer to production than the volt?

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Toyota supports the UC Berkely program
by eeee / August 11, 2007 4:38 AM PDT

Toyota supports the UC Berkely program !
Talk about conflict of interest !

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by streamline35 / August 11, 2007 9:38 AM PDT

It's not a "program." Toyota isn't giving them money or anything. They gave them a test vehicle so the university could test it out and report back to them on it. It's not like Berkeley is promoting it or anything.

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by corydig / August 11, 2007 3:09 PM PDT

Screw Toyota. GM as more vehicles with MPG over 30. WHICH MEANS Toyotas pollute more. Plus they are better quality and you could support your own country.

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by streamline35 / August 11, 2007 6:30 PM PDT
In reply to: Toyota

GM has more cars that get over 30 mph...? Wow, that's a great claim... but how about a little research into the subject. All it takes is 10 minutes over at the government's fuel economy website to quickly disprove your claim. And it's really sad, considering GM has WAY more cars than Toyota.

Toyota wins 4 to 0. That's right. GM has NO vehicles that get over 30 mpg according to the new mileage rating system.

Toyota has:
Camry Hybrid - 34 mpg
Corrola (manual) - 31 mpg
Pruis - 46 mpg
Yaris (manual) - 32 mpg

The closest GM even has to 30 mpg is the pontiac vibe, which gets 29 mpg. But do you know what the vibe is based off of? You guessed it, the Toyota Matrix (which also rated at 29 mpg).

Other notable GM vehicles -
Saturn Vue Hybrid - 26 mpg (matched by the much larger toyota highlander hybrid)
Saturn Aura Hybrid - 27 mpg (hybrid camry beats the crap out of this. Nonhybrid manual camry is close at 25 mpg).

You can look all that up on the link provided.

And now you want to talk about supporting your country by buying American. Well my first and most obvious response is that buying a more fuel efficient car will help reduce our carbon emissions and our dependence on foreign oil.

The other thing I might point out is that recently GM has been cutting quite a few of its American jobs, while Toyota has built plants in Kentucky and Texas. Also, consumer reports points out that American companies have started buying parts from and producing vehicles in places like Mexico and China.

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My Honda Civic 1.7 CDTI
by DELEDWARDS / August 11, 2007 6:36 PM PDT
In reply to: really...

My Honda Civic does a steady 63miles to the gallon if I stick to 75 mph....i can't work out how your fuel economy is so poor!!!

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not again..
by bauer100 / August 14, 2007 7:27 PM PDT
In reply to: really...

your stating the combined MPG for toyotas. the highway MPG number seems to be advertised. so using highway mpg there are more that 0 GM cars with 30+. its all automotive semantics. its really a tired subject.

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Wow...someone intelligent
by ludwigkarl / August 25, 2008 7:46 AM PDT
In reply to: really...

I second everything you just said.
People that say "be patriotic and buy American" does not know what they are talking about it. More American cars are made out of the country then some of the foreign makes. When I see those commercials from the big 3 about "buy American", all I hear is "we still make crappy unreliable cars but if you dont buy us, you are less patriotic." Screw them...I pay my taxes and follow the laws.
They are the one making crap and trying to sell it to the American people.

Note: Everyone would buy American if they were built to last and have great design...but they dont. Change...if you want us to buy.

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GM gas mileage
by Tonylakeside / August 16, 2007 12:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Toyota

For a fact GM cars do get more miles per gallon than what the window sticker says, not so for the others.

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So much miss information its sad...
by bauer100 / August 14, 2007 7:52 PM PDT
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Several plug-in Prius
by albizzia / August 21, 2007 2:17 PM PDT

There are several companies (and CalCars, a volunteer organization) working on retrofits to make the Prius and other hybrids into plug-in hybrids.

Toyota has joined in, and is now testing their own Plug-in Prius. The official Toyota press release:
and video:

The press release indicate that the prototype plugin doubled the standard Prius NiMH battery pack for an EV range of about 15 Km, increased the electric motor power and torque and changed the gear ratios in the power split device to increase the EV speed to 100 Km/hr. It is not yet known whether the production version will use NiMH or some other battery type, it is possible they may first offer a NiMH plug-in, then later offer a LiIon version.

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Volte Hype?
by WAArnold / August 15, 2007 10:32 AM PDT

Absolutely not over hyped. It's is way passed the time an alternative to gas only vehicles came due. If GM is the first with such, so-be-it. Give it all the hype you can muster and hopefully it will inspire them to speed up production.

Actually, gasless vehicles have been available for years in other countries but not available here.

Come on vehicle manufacturers, get outta bed with the oil companies and work for the people. The oil companies wont go broke.

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So be it?
by jason.bluetwo / August 21, 2008 2:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Volte Hype?

I think it's hilarious to imagine GM being the first to do anything. I can just about promise you if Honda, Hyundai, or Toyota WANTED to make a car like the Volt they could do it in less time than GM is going to take and it would probably be better and more reliable.

Bottom line is the Volt is a good idea NOW. Not three years from now. By then GM will probably be behind the power curve.

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Rabid interest, not hype
by doggydogworld / August 10, 2007 6:50 AM PDT

To me hype is mostly company-driven. GM has tried to lower expectations, which is more like anti-hype.

So why all the rabid interest? Maybe my story will shed some light. I was not a fan of the EV-1 or the original Prius. I am not particularly enamored of the Volt's styling or of GM in general and I have too many kids to buy one. Yet I'm very excited! Oil imports are the USA's #1 problem and have been for 35 years. PHEVs alone can solve this problem in the near-mid term. The technology is available and the economics work. $80 billion a year for PHEVs ($5000 per car x 16 million cars/year) would save $300 billion per year in foreign oil purchases PLUS $100+ billion per year in military spending. It's an absolute no brainer.

I'd be equally excited if Toyota announced a plug-in hybrid. Actually more so considering their superior track record. It's nice they'll convert a few Priuses for testing (years AFTER hobbyists did it). But a dozen test cars change nothing. Heck, Daimler tested PHEV Sprinter Vans years ago. Toyota clearly states the modified Prius is not suitable for production. And because of their lithium-cobalt-oxide (LiCoO2) blunder it may be five years before Toyota has a decent PHEV to sell.

It's not really correct to say the Volt's batteries "haven't been invented yet". Both A123Systems and LG sell batteries. These cells meet GM's specs for energy and power density, safety and cycle life. Scaling these cells up to automotive size requires some engineering, but no "invention". Of course GM wants to street-test full-sized packs before making any guarantees. But it's pretty clear the new battery chemistries are up to the job.

The story for LiCoO2 is quite different. Today's cells fall well short of the power density and cycle life specs. Worse, the weak cobalt-oxygen bond is a huge safety problem. It's bad enough to have a small laptop battery go into flaming blowtorch mode; a full-sized PHEV battery would be 100x worse. Significant invention is required for LiCoO2, and success is very much in doubt. It's baffling why Toyota chose LiCoO2 -- it seems their keiretsu approach may have blinded them to the alternatives. Their dominant position in conventional hybrids still gives them a huge manufacturing advantage, but their stumble has opened the door for GM (or someone else) to leapfrog them.

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Yes it deserves the Hype
by eeee / August 11, 2007 4:45 AM PDT

Hype is what sells things. Self invented hype is how products become popular so more power to GM. If they start selling the Volt and the next generation of Volt cars they may even keep some good paying jobs here in the USA which is not the case with all known hybrid cars now.
----Do you thing Apple held back on the hype and the non stop TV ads for the iphone? It worked didnt it? Hype sells things.
----Ford and Southern California Edison's new plug-in hybrid partnership needs more hype but I dont see much here in the CNET pages
I only see an editorial from Wayne that bashes GM possibly to generate more readership to his web pages.
----Whatever it is called, it is all HYPE ! From GM, from Toyota, from Apple or from Wayne Cunning.

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GM Management: Inept, Technically, and in Business Too
by randomotion / August 13, 2007 3:03 AM PDT

GM does not yet have its act together. They spent over $1 billion on the Hy-Wire car then backed down, gutless, and immune to the true needs of the market, even in light of California's new Hydrogen Highway. The GM Hy-Wire was a beautiful concept that should be on the market now! Here's a picture of it:

Even if the membrane of GM's fuel cell only lasts 20,000 hours, who cares? Design it for easy relacement! Its obvious that GM management is a combination of lawyers and weak-spined backsliders. Whereas, Toyota and Honda, who will clean GM's clock are run by brave electrical technolgists who understand true market needs.

The real market needs are rapidly shifting: from dirty offshore, killing fields oil, to clean home-grown fuels that provide zero net CO2 footprints. GM Management would be best to clean the oil off its face and move agressively towards that new reality.

Move quickly from the ugly hybrids to the new all electrics (which obviously Honda and Toyota are bringing out), with proven technology, that exists now.

I pity the loyal GM employees and GM stockholders, who must suffer the technical ineptitude, the oil mongering attitude, and the meager marketing backwardness of the current GM leadership.

Put me in charge of GM and I will have it strategically straight in 3 to 5 months, AND I will bring out the new fuel cell, advanced technology vehicle that America wants now.

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oh really
by bauer100 / August 14, 2007 7:34 PM PDT

if you can install hydrogen refueling infrastructure in this country in the time you frame you mentioned, then more power to ya.

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The U.S. Government is a serious lead weight on our economy
by randomotion / August 15, 2007 6:18 AM PDT
In reply to: oh really

The States have the answers we need. California is leading the way.

The plan for a California hydrogen highway is in motion and you will find who, and when at their website:

The main problem, from a technology point of view is this.... How do you get hydrogen from renewables and not use a depreciating fuel such as natural gas? This highway will hopefully find these answers, and California will have created yet another industry for their state.

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New tech not quite ready...
by albizzia / August 21, 2007 3:32 PM PDT

There are simple reasons why the GM Hy-Wire was never put into production. The driving range on a tank of H2 was only 65 miles, and H2 isn't available in most places, certainly not every 60 miles! The car would have cost a half million each - in production! As for replacing the PEM membrane, that's several thousand dollars, not a minor repair.

The current GM hydrogen efforts have managed to reduce the vehicle price by using smaller less powerful fuel cells and relying much more on cheaper LiIon batteries, but they still cost far too much to be remotely competitive. Oh, and dropping the "drive by wire" used in the Hy-Wire also cuts costs.

But I agree that GM dropped the ball. Had GM not wasted so much money, time and effort on H2 fuel cells, which are going nowhere fast, and had GM not literally crushed their EV research program, they might now be leading the hybrid revolution rather than playing catch-up, and they would have plug-in hybrids for sale now, not 3 (or more) years from now. Yes, GM actually made hybrid prototype 4 passenger versions of the EV1 - then crushed them.

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Check out the Popular Mechanic's Article
by dannonebr / August 13, 2007 3:21 AM PDT

There was an interesting article in the May 2007 Popular Mechanics magazine about P-HEVs.
I read in the newspaper this last week that Toyota has pushed back their release of their P-HEV a year or two.

While I know this is off the subject, the only reason why we are talking about electric cars to begin with is because the price of gas is going up. The price of gas is going up because the oil distribution system is max'ed out from increasing consumption. If we begin using more electric cars, the already nearly max'ed out power grid will not be able to keep up (because of increased consumption). Hydrogen is not going to happen for the masses, the infrastructure would be too great. Our natural gas distribution network is maxed out. Our only reasonable is a change in life style and reduce consumption. America can be at a turning point here if it decides to be at that point. We are spending about one billion dollars every week or two on the war in Iraq. Support the war or not, it's about control of oil. Like it or not, if the oil gets cut off (or reduced) from the middle east, we are going to have TREMONDOUS economic problems here. Can you say $6 or $8 a gallon for gas? Forget about your 401K. If we could spend half of the money that is going to the war on energy development here at home, both renewable and what we have, we would be better off. Our nation NEEDS a strategic energy plan that phases out our dependence on foreign energy. This may mean increasing nuclear and clean coal power, making oil from coal and coal sands, better more efficient ethanol technology, increasing hydro and maybe forced rationing of gas (and maybe electricity) to change our drive everywhere life styles.

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The entire "alternative energy" car concept...
by Bill Polhemus / August 13, 2007 3:45 AM PDT overhyped. They don't save energy, they don't save money, and they don't save the planet.

Speaking of which, said planet doesn't need saving. The idea of a three billion year old world that's able to withstand a "Mt. Pinatubo" every couple of decades, but not the dribbles of "pollutants" that we humans put out at 1/1000th the rate is funny in and of itself. That people are so gullible as to BELIEVE that rot makes it pitiful.

But revealed religion is passe' and people have to have SOMETHING to put their faith in. Al Gore, Elmer Gantry...who can tell the difference?

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"Environmentally friendly" is also hype
by phrelin / August 13, 2007 4:18 AM PDT

You should have grave reservations about the label "environmentally friendly" related to any motor vehicle existing or proposed. There are no "environmentally friendly" batteries, and the supporting electronics are full of poisons. Regarding electric motors which are full of stuff we don't talk about yet:

"Dry ice blasting (CO2) for electric motor repair shops is preferred due to strict California environmental regulations concerning industrial hazardous waste disposal."

Oh, good. Twenty years of rapidly expanding electric motor cleaning with CO2...

And GE Plastics:

"BRUSSELS, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Chemical company Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (2010.SE: Quote, Profile, Research) (Sabic) won permission from the European Commission on Friday to buy GE Plastics from General Electric Co....
"...As a top-ranked maker of petrochemicals, SABIC will be in a position to lower the raw-materials costs of the plastics business."

If you think you had problems getting straight answers about plastics from American manufacturers, just try to get the truth from a company located in oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

We Americans have already poisoned our own landfills and a portion of rural China. Are we really so deluded that we think poisoning the land and water is a good trade-off to reduce poisoning the air? The "environmentally friendly" technology we want to believe in is as real as Santa Claus.

It appears that the only "environmentally friendly" means of transportation that will be available to us within the next 20 years will be those things at the bottom of our legs and god forbid we abandon our automobile most days of the week to use our feet.

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Over Hyped
by De Vaughn / August 13, 2007 4:39 AM PDT

Didn't GM already produce an electric vehicle, the EV? So how could it "produce" an electric vehicle with batteries that have not been designed yet, but it has an engine? That sounds like a sorry compromise to "Big Oil" for having produced the EV1 in the first place.

Since GM came out with the EV1, I feel like no american auto car company will ever produce a completely gasless vehicle ever again. When the EV came out it was a self-contained already to go vehicle that was basically doing its trial before it hit the dealerships. Then poof.. without as much as a word, it was gone.

The Volt is more like Vapor-ware. Yes its a concept, but I guess I was expecting more solidity from this company, because it produced the EV1. The fact that you still have to use gas really soured my intrest. It made me honestly feel like it was the price it had to pay for having an electric vehicle. Find a way to use gas, or don't even think about producing an electric vehicle.

Again.. how can you have a recharge unit.. if you aren't sure what you are recharging? I.E. non-existant batteries? That sounds like the reasoning behind the cost increases in gas through out the US. Nonsense.

Did Big Oil produce this vehicle and slap GMs name on it?

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Hype, Smychpe....
by RColapietro / August 13, 2007 5:41 AM PDT

Build it as presented and I'll buy it!

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Ford HySeries
by tonybelding / August 13, 2007 6:23 AM PDT

Yeah. . . Ford actually had a working prototype of their AirStream concept van, something we haven't seen from GM yet. So why did GM get all the excitement?

1. The AirStream is goofy. It's obviously not intended to be produced and sold to paying customers. The Volt looks pretty close to something that could be.

2. The AirStream is powered by hydrogen. Very few people have ever seen a hydrogen fuel station, much less have one within driving distance of their home.

3. Most people at first (and I suspect many today) had no clue that the Volt concept car wasn't a fully functional prototype. GM certainly didn't go out of their way to advertise this fact.

4. Thanks to a certain movie, GM got most of the blame for killing the EV1 -- even though Ford and other makers also "killed" their own EV programs in a similar manner. For GM to return with a new plug-in vehicle makes a great story. It was a great angle for the press to work with.

Incidentally, Toyota was the first to announce a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). It was several months prior to the unveiling of the Chevy Volt and may have contributed to GM's crash effort to create the E-Flex program. Why did almost nobody (outside of GM) notice Toyota's announcement? Toyota didn't provide a timetable, a name, any kind of photos, sketches, or "concept car", or anything else for the press to sink their teeth into. They basically just issued a small, quiet, press release saying that they intended to make a PHEV someday. Many automotive journalists probably didn't even see the importance of this announcement, since Toyota was already known for hybrids. It didn't sound like news.

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All-Electric Tesla Is Already in Production - Take That, GM
by dlauber / August 13, 2007 7:18 AM PDT

Hype, heck that's the American way. But the real news in electric cars continues to be the all-electric, 200+ mile range Tesla from Tesla Motors excrutiating details available at . The Tesla Roadster's battery pack represents the biggest innovation in the Tesla Roadster and is one of the largest and most advanced battery packs in the world. Tesla (of California) combined basic proven lithium ion battery technology with its own unique battery pack design to provide multiple layers of safety. It's light, durable, recyclable, and it is capable of delivering enough power to accelerate the Tesla Roadster from zero to 60 mph in approximately four seconds. Meanwhile, the battery stores enough energy for the vehicle to travel more than 200 miles without recharging, something no other production electric vehicle in history can claim. A full charge takes 4 hours; a half charge 2 hours.

So while it's great that GM is seeking to produce an all-electric car and Toyota a plug-in hybrid, it's a shame nobody's paying attention to the Tesla. At its $98,000 price it's obviously too expensive for the average household. But new technology always comes with a huge initial price tag (how many readers can remember that the first handheld calculators cost $1,000+ -- now you can get then for $3). Meanwhile, those among us who insist on purchasing and driving gas guzzlers are simply unpatriotic. It really doesn't matter which car company manufacturers the car you buy -- they're all composed of parts from throughout the world. We've been thrilled with our 2001 Honda Insight Hybrid (30 to 50 mpg city, 60 to 70+ highway; 45.3 mpg for the life of the car) and our 2007 Honda Fit Sport (30.1 mpg for the life of the var, 39 mpg highway). If you think about it, there are very few people who need a gas guzzler except for selfish, self-centered reasons. And it's this selfishness that continues to undermine this great nation.

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Tesla cool, price not
by bauer100 / August 16, 2007 10:14 AM PDT

i like the Tesla alot, but the goal of the Volt is to be affordable to anyone.

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