If Honda can base the new Insight at ~$18k, then Chevy should base this car ~$20k. The $30k price *is* the "average new car price" sweet spot, but they'll start no revolution pricing the car where the Camry and Accord rule... let alone the fact you only have to spend another few grand to get in to a 3er or a C-class.
Of course, the reality is more likely that this is a total niche vehicle, built to keep the "Americans Can Build Good Cars, Too... Look!" dream alive... and my tax dollars being further pumped in to a business that can't build good, mainstream products.
I'm very much looking forward to this car. Even though I won't be in the market for a new car for quite a few years, I'm going to test drive it as soon as I can. I've followed it ever since the beginning, and have high hopes. Love the look too.
What's so revolutionary about the FCX Clairty? That it's powered by a hydrogen fuel cell? GM made their first hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle during the mid-60s. It was called the Electrovan. Like Honda and the FCX Clarity, GM also has a current hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle that they're letting customers use: the Equinox Fuel Cell.
Is it really just a better hybrid? The Volt will use a gasoline engine acting as a generator to keep a battery pack charged (after the initial charge provided by the plug-in has been used). The batteries power an electric motor which propels the vehicle. GM calls this the Voltec platform. This is exactly how a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle would operate, except the fuel cell stack would be providing the electriciity to charge the batteries, not the gasoline generator.
You can see where this puts GM in the overall scheme of things. If hydrogen catches on, GM is in a very good position since their energy storage and propulsion systems are both already in production and have real-world feedback. Adapting a fuel cell stack to this existing system will be considerably less time and cost intensive than developing a system from scratch. Think of the Volt as a half-step to a hydrogen-powered vehicle. It's everything a fuel cell vehicle would be, just without the fuel cell. If hydrogen doesn't catch on, GM can still continue powering the system by a gasoline or diesel generator, maybe using an HCCI engine or perhaps even omitting the engine altogether as battery technologies mature and making an electric-only vehicle. The Voltec platform is pretty darn flexible if the cost hump can be overcome.
thejerk, I'd say actually the FCX Clarity is just a better hybrid. Maybe you don't know that, but the hydrogen car is actually an electric car that has a hydrogen tank to generate electricity instead of a bigger battery to hold what you plug in.
The biggest advantage of the purely electric vehicles over any other is the independence of a single source of fuel, since you can use any kind of fuel/energy to generate electricity. Plus with the convenience of having a 'fueling' network already built so that you can charge it from you house.
Going for hydrogen now would be one of the dummest alternatives given the freaking expensive cost of your dreamed skeletal hydrogen fueling network.
As a Michigan resident looking to get a job in the alternative energy field in a couple years after I finish my program, this has me totally pumped. Looking at the comments here does make some valid points about certain things. With just a couple simple modifications to be able to use a different fuel source, the Volt could become a vehicle that could be always powered by electricity, but also able to use any fuel source. Gas, biodiesel, E85, hydrogen fuel cell, solar cell, wall outlet... it could all work. All you need is a way to generate electricity, and you're golden.
The cost is going to have to go down closer to $7,000. Pretty much every large corporation in America has decided that the answer to the finanicial crisis is to outsource every remaining IT job that isn't bolted to the floor between now and Q3 this year... Myself and literally EVERYONE I know is getting layed off. A car or house is only worth what someone will (or can afford to) pay for it, good luck selling anything that isn't dirt cheap, if the Tata Nano came to America it would dominate the market.
What I was effecting is the US needs a paradigm shift in its vehicle energy useage, and I believe that the FCX Clarity is the larger shift we need. If I wanted a gasoline hybrid, I could buy either a Prius or Insight for far less than $30k.
The following are responses to several people, and I'm too lazy to quote. You'.ll figure it out.
When I said skeletal, I meant foundational, rudimentary, elemental. I didn't mean ubiquitous, as we have with our gas stations. There should be, at least, one hydrogen station in Chicago. There isn't. It's a shame.
None of GM's previous fuel cells could get 270 miles of range from their H2 tanks in the mid-60's. Usefully powerful electric generators have been around since 1832, the argument could be made that the Volt's powertrain is even less of a big deal than the fuel cell. Diesel-electric motors have been used in trains since the mid-20's.
*If* the Volt could be adapted "With just a couple simple modifications to be able to use a different fuel source," great. But, if I buy one when released, I'm still locked in to gasoline. How much will it cost me to convert it to E85/Biodiesel/Solar Cell/Etc?
Plug-in hybrids are fine for local driving, but there are people with massive commutes or, like myself, who do significant amounts of travel that require more than a couple hundred miles before I take a few hours to refuel my car. Or, we'll need significant advances in battery technology... batteries that are environmentally detrimental to create and to dispose of...
I hope you gals and gents understand where I'm coming from. If I'm going to change, I will personally change completely. I want the US to move away from a fossil fuel economy... and either we do it, or we don't. We change, or we don't.
There are no baby steps, and that's why it's so difficult to get us away from oil.
After reading through the comments I still don't understand why hydrogen fuel cells are still being considered as an alternative fuel source. Why not just use pure electricity?
Fuel cells take more electrical energy to create then they produce so why not just skip the middle man and go straight electric.
You would use less electricty, meaning less co2, and eventually batteries will have the capactity for more then 100 miles/charge which would make a gasoline generator unnessary once a the infrastructor is set up.
The reason the Volt costs so much more is that it is attempting to do something no other mainstream vehicle has done thusfar...travel completely on battery power for up to forty miles, using the gas motor only when that battery dies. All other hybrids make regular use of their gas engines (Toyota to supplement the electric motor above certain speeds, Honda the inverse). Volt is the first attempt at basically making a car act like a golf cart at highway speeds for decent distances. For folks like myself who rarely travel more than 10 miles one way, that means my gasoline engine would rarely if ever run. That would be the niche market, folks who do routine travel for short distances.
If the Volt catches on enough, it becomes the R&D for a next-generation Volt, which would drop in price and increase in functionality. I don't usually give much praise to the Big Three for their automobiles, but you have to give Chevy a lot of credit for going outside the existing box.
Just imagine if the rapid-charge batteries being played with right now (ones that supposedly charge in seconds) do become a reality, this car could be sitting VERY pretty.
Getting the drive train all electric is a huge step its not a baby step.
As has been said above, once the drive train is electric, you can use ANYTHING to power it, you are no longer locked into one fuel or generation source. This is huge.
Electric motors can be 90+% efficient. The theoretical maximum efficiency for gas or desil etc is ~40%, real world efficiency is less then 20%.
Electric motors also can be used in reverse as a generator when you break, you can recover the energy instead of turning it into heat in the break pads. Not all of it but you can recover a significant portion.
Electric motors also dont run when you are at a stop light, no wasted fuel in traffic delays etc.
The problem of course is energy storage in a car. But, battery technology has made massive leaps in the last decade, with further massive leaps in the lab(hopefully which will mature in a few more years)
But you arent locked into batteries. You can use a small gas/desil generator(still way more efficient then using a large engine directly). You can use a fuel cell, solar, fusion(if it existed), microwaves, induction via cables buried it he roads, etc. Whatever you want to power the thing. All of them would use the same efficient drive train.
Tesla is quoting less then 5,000 for the battery in their model S, if we assume thats the price for their base version 160 mile range one, thats still cheap. Mass production in the millions would lower that much further.
Battery tech we have right now is good enough, let alone whats in the lab.
[citation][nom]thejerk[/nom]If Honda can base the new Insight at ~$18k, then Chevy should base this car ~$20k. The $30k price *is* the "average new car price" sweet spot, but they'll start no revolution pricing the car where the Camry and Accord rule... let alone the fact you only have to spend another few grand to get in to a 3er or a C-class.Of course, the reality is more likely that this is a total niche vehicle, built to keep the "Americans Can Build Good Cars, Too... Look!" dream alive... and my tax dollars being further pumped in to a business that can't build good, mainstream products.[/citation]
You obviously do not understand the differences between Honda's electric assist and GM's extended-range EV.
Honda's drivetrain consists of a small 3 cylinder ICE engine that provides the main power for the vehicle, while an electric motor assists the gas motor with acceleration and very low speed movement (under 10MPH). There is a very small battery pack in the car that allows the vehicle to recover some of the lost energy with regenerative braking.
The Volt's drivetrain is an electric engine that is powered by a battery pack for up to 40 miles before a small gas generator turns on to recharge the batteries and keep their charge just above 30% to allow for fast acceleration. The Volt also has regenerative braking. You can plug it in at home for only a few cents per kWh (and potentially never use gas again).
The main difference between the two vehicles is that the Insight is still driven by a gas engine for 95% of the time, while the Volt is powered by an electric engine for a majority of the time.