For Today: Polestar 1 could be longest range plug-in hybrid, Toyota showing long range fuel cell vehicle

Polestar 1 could be longest range PHEV:  Volvo Car Group took a step forward on its commitment to electrify its fleet through the new Polestar division. The Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid is scheduled to roll off the production line in mid-2019. It’s a two-door, 2+2 seat coupe with an ‘Electric Performance Hybrid’ drivetrain capable of going about 93 miles on battery power. That could be less in the U.S., with Polestar not specifying whether range is based on European or U.S. standards. If it is 93 miles, it would be the longest range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle on the market. It will have a lot of power, with an output of 600 horsepower and 1000 Nm of torque, appealing to the high-performance car buyer. It will be built on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) but approximately 50% is new and created by Polestar’s engineers. A carbon fiber body reduces bodyweight. The company confirmed plans are in place for three Polestar models to be built at a production facility in China. Polestar 2 will be a battery electric vehicle, mid-sized to compete with the Tesla Model 3. It’s slated to start production in late 2019 and will have higher production volumes than the Polestar 1.

Autonomous Bolts in NYC:  General Motors will be testing out self-driving Chevy Bolts in New York City through its Cruise Automation subsidiary. The automaker will be the first to test Level 4 autonomous vehicles in the state, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo; Level 4 allows the car to go into fully autonomous mode with the driver capable of taking control. GM engineers will travel along in the driver’s seat to monitor performance, with a second person riding in the passenger seat. The state of New York has taken a cautious approach to testing out self-driving cars, with its current rules expiring on April 1, 2018. Participating automakers need to list specific vehicles being used for the tests in their application, and each tested vehicle must be covered by a $5 million insurance policy. Another rule under the state’s law is for each testing company to pay for a police escort to accompany the autonomous test vehicle. Other states are taking a more flexible approach to testing autonomous vehicle, with New York requiring the most oversight.

Toyota showing hydrogen-powered concept:  Toyota will be showing the Fine-Comfort Ride fuel cell concept vehicle next week at the Tokyo Motor Show. The company claims it can be refueled at a hydrogen station within three minutes, and will have 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of driving range. That would be double the U.S. rating of 312 miles of range for the Toyota Mirai; however, Toyota said that the 1,000 km range rating is based on Japan’s JC08 test cycle, which would likely be farther than the U.S. rating. The concept car will also come with artificial intelligence and automated driving features, Toyota said. The “premium saloon” will have room for six passengers. The seat layout can be flexibly adjusted to make the vehicle as comfortable and user-friendly as possible.

For Today: Ford Escape plug-in coming, Avis managing Waymo’s autonomous vehicle fleet

Escape plug-in hybrid:  Ford has a new plug-in hybrid in the works, which will be built on the Escape crossover SUV. It may not arrive until the 2020 model year, and it’s slated to replace the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Ford has been disappointed with the C-Max Energi’s sales performance, though it has been doing a little better lately. Ford has been playing with the idea of a PHEV Escape for about a decade, having tested out a small fleet. Hybrid versions of competitors are out there with the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, and an expectation that Honda will bring out a hybrid CR-V.

Fuel-efficient Camry hybrid:  Toyota announced that the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid will be delivered to dealers later this summer with a better, more fuel efficient hybrid system. The automaker said the LE option received a 52 mpg combined highway estimated-EPA rating, the same as the 2017 Prius hatchback gets in EPA combined rating. The Camry Hybrid will be priced at $27,800 for the LE to $32,250 for the XLE, but there will be an additional cost for a delivery, processing and handling (DPH) fee. Fuel economy improvements come from a few changes being made, including a new Total Hybrid System (THS II) through a more-efficient transmission system.

Waymo inks deal with Avis:  Alphabet’s self-driving car division, Waymo, has signed a deal withAvis Budget Group for the car rental company to manage Waymo’s fleet of autonomous vehicles. Avis will service and store Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans, with Waymo owning the vehicles and paying Avis for these services. It will start out in Phoenix, where Waymo has been doing much of its testing lately. The agreement will cover multiple years but won’t be exclusive. Avis has been very active in the mobility space, having purchased carsharing market leader Zipcar a few years ago.

This Week’s Top 10: Fisker Inc. bringing ‘spiritual successor’ to market, Tesla doubling Fremont plant size

by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market

Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….

  1. fisker-inc-logoFisker Inc.:  Henrik Fisker is bringing his brand name back to the electric car space through Fisker Inc., which will be launching a car he refers to as the “spiritual successor” to the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid sports car. The new model will probably be all-electric, and will be revealed in the second half of 2017. He says it will have a driving range of more than 400 miles, and will come equipped with an industry-leading battery life that will potentially match the life of the vehicle. The company has a battery division called Fisker Nanotech based in northern California. Jack Kavanaugh will serve as chairman of Fisker Nanotech, while Fisker will be chairman and CEO of Fisker Inc. He will lead other business units including being head of design and product strategy at VLF Automotive, the company he founded with former GM executive Bob Lutz and Gilbert Villarreal in January 2016. Fisker Automotive went through a structured bankruptcy auction in February 2014, where Wanxiang Group bought certain assets, excluding the Fisker brand name. Fisker also retained his logo, as you can see in this article.
  2. Tesla doubling plant size:  Tesla Motors has filed for a zoning proposal in Fremont, Calif., to double in size its assembly plant and meet a 500,000 vehicle annual production goal. In May, CEO Elon Musk said the company would be building a million vehicles a year by 2020, but that will also involve setting up more factories overseas. Tesla has set a goal of producing 500,000 Model 3s a year from 2018 to 2020. Earlier this year, the company said that about 373,000 pre-orders of the Model 3 had been placed. Tapping into the capital needed to ramp up factories will be difficult for the company. Last week, Goldman Sachs downgraded Tesla Motors soon after Morgan Stanley did the same. That came at a bad time – right before Musk begins rallying investors for a new fundraising round.
  3. Battery partnership:  Faraday Future announced a partnership last week with LG Chem to supply lithium-ion cells for the startup’s electric supercars. Both companies have agreed to collaborate on EV battery technology that they say will have the world’s highest energy density for a production automotive battery. These cells will be incorporated into Faraday Future’s VPA platform, the company’s “universal and scalable modular battery structure.” LG Chem says it now has more than 20 global automaker as customers.
  4. Formula E:  Mercedes-Benz will be gearing up to race in the 2019/18 Formula E electric racing series. Pending approval from FIA World Motorsport Association, Mercedes-Benz’s British-based subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix, hopes to bring its experience in motorsports over to electric racing. The automaker gained a lot of electrified racing experience through its hybrid Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One racer. Mercedes-Benz is expected to use Formula E as a marketing platform for its newly created EQ electric car sub-brand.
  5. Concerns over Autopilot 8.0:  Consumer Reports tested out Tesla’s new Autopilot system 8.0 upgrade. The changes were appreciated, and the magazine encouraged the automaker to keep working on making the system safer. One issue is that drivers have time to drive hands-free for about a minute and even longer on highways. The publication thinks the Autopilot name should be changed, since it’s not really in autopilot mode. There’s also concern that system remains a beta release. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had said last month the system isn’t really a true beta release, but the company labels it a beta release to reduce people’s comfort level when turning the system on – keeping them more aware and safe.
  6. STORM electric motorcycle trip:  Cal State LA College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology and EcoCAR team today are welcoming on campus a team of students from Eindhoven, Netherlands, going around the world in 80 days with their STORM Wave electric motorcycle. STORM Eindhoven left the Netherlands to tour the world on Aug. 14, and traveled through Europe, the Middle East, and China before coming to the U.S. A short impression of their tour so far can be found through this  link. The motorcycle runs on a battery pack designed by Eindhoven students. The pack consists of 24 cartridges that have 28.5 kWh of energy, which enables the motorcycle to travel 380 kilometers (236 miles) on a single charge. It is possible to adapt the whole pack to enable a lighter motorcycle for a more sporting driving style. The bike will travel down the West Coast and through the South and Midwest before finishing its tour of America in New York on Oct. 26. STORM will make stops in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Columbus, and Pittsburgh, among others. During each stop, the STORM team will meet with universities and companies interested in smart urban planning and sustainability to demonstrate the potential of sustainable transportation and recharge the motorcycle. Track and trace the team live on this page.
  7. EPA on ethanol blends:  A new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal would reclassify ethanol blends above E15 as “ethanol flex fuels,” potentially opening the door to wider use of these blended fuels. The proposal would place fuels with 16 to 50 percent ethanol in the same category as E85. The agency believes its proposal could encourage more interest in flex-fuel vehicles and the “blender pumps” needed at fueling stations to add greater amounts of ethanol to gasoline. Some gas station owners have expressed concern that there’s a lack of consumer interest in blends of E15 or higher, and the cost of installation isn’t worth it. It’s not clear whether the new proposal will settle the oil vs. biofuel industry battles, or if advanced biofuels would be supported through the revised rules. The EPA is expected to put its new proposal for adding more ethanol blends to the flex-fuel category up for public comment in the near future.
  8. Hydrogen and fuel cell day:  U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory released a Q&A guide to commemorate October 8th as National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day. Check out the Six Things You Might Not Know About Hydrogen guide. Here’s an interesting one: The day is celebrated on October 8 (10/08) because the atomic weight of hydrogen is 1.008 atomic mass units…. Hydrogen can also be used as a way to store energy, and this use has the potential to have a large impact on our future…….. Current commercial fuel cells use platinum, a rare and expensive metal, as the catalyst. Researchers are working on new catalysts that use less of this expensive metal, or that don’t need platinum at all……. Argonne operates four different divisions where labs conduct research on hydrogen and fuel cells.
  9. Wheego and Valeo win self-driving car permits:  Wheego Electric Cars and Valeo North America have received permits to test self-driving cars on public roads in California. Wheego is based in Atlanta and is led by former EarthLink Inc. president Mike McQuary to design and sell electric vehicles. Valeo is a unit of French auto supplier Valeo SA, which joins several other parts makers trying to develop technology that auto makers may need to put self-driving cars on the road. Cruise Automation received a permit before General Motors Co. in March agreed to acquire the startup in a deal valued at $1 billion.
  10. 48V taking off:  Navigant Research just published a report on the increasing importance of 48V systems adding to fuel efficiency and performance. While 12V has been the standard for many years, 48V is taking off for stop-start systems combined with other technologies including electric turbochargers that can increase efficiency in traditional gas engine vehicles without the adoption of hybrid or plug-in vehicle capability. For comparison purposes, several plug-in electric vehicles have battery packs with about 360 volts. According to Navigant Research, global sales of light duty stop-start vehicles will exceed 61 million by 2025, accounting for 59% of all light duty vehicle sales. Of these, about 15% will feature 48V components.

Fuel cell cars and Chevrolet Volt gain prominence at 2015 LA Auto Show

Ford Transit Connect - Wahoo fleet vanThe Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, Chevrolet Volt, and Toyota Mirai were the leading green cars at this year’s LA Auto Show in gaining media attention. The Volt took its second “best” award since its initial launch in late 2010. Other auto show highlights included launching of the ROEV Association electric vehicle group, a first look at the production version of the Elio Motors 3-wheeler, and the Volvo Concept 26 self-driving car (and the Wahoo’s Fish Taco van pictured to the left.)

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell had its North American debut at the LA Auto Show with more details released on the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle’s gains in interior space, efficiency, and performance. The Clarity Fuel Cell has a fuel cell stack that is 33% more compact than its predecessor with a 60% increase in power density compared to the outgoing Honda FCX Clarity. Honda says that the arrival time for the Clarity Fuel Cell will be in late 2016 for the U.S. market. Honda also announced that the platform used in the Clarity Fuel Cell will also serve as the foundation for a next-generation Honda plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that will launch nationwide by 2018, with more than triple the all-electric range of the Accord Plug-In Hybrid Sedan.

The completely redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Volt has been named Green Car of the Year, repeating a victory it claimed when the original plug-in hybrid debuted five years ago. The revamped 2016 Volt has been built on a new, lighter chassis, utilizing a smaller but more powerful battery pack that allows it to now squeeze in five passengers, and increases range to 53 miles per charge. The four 2016 model year finalists were: Toyota Prius which has a new body style and a fuel economy increase of about 10%; Honda Civic, which was also redesigned for 2016; Hyundai Sonata with its high-mileage gasoline engine as well as both a plug-in and a standard hybrid option; and Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, the automaker’s first U.S. plug-in hybrid model.

The Volt was available for the ride and drive, along with the Toyota Mirai fuel cell car. Those visiting the Toyota exhibit inside the hall could look under the Mirai’s hood; they could also watch a video playing tribute to the anniversary of the “Back to the Future” movie trilogy. Toyota participated in the 30th anniversary of the first film in the series with a commemorative video with the film’s stars, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. It also served as a kickoff for the U.S. debut of the 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. Toyota says that about 2,000 people have already placed orders for a Mirai, which is now on sale in select California markets. Toyota anticipates that it will fulfill about half of those orders for the 2016 model year.

Located in Gilbert Lindsay Plaza right outside the convention center, the Green & Advanced Technology Ride & Drive also made available the Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel; Fiat 500e; Ford Focus 1.0-Liter EcoBoost; Ford Focus Electric; a Harman International test model with connected car features; Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell; and Nissan Leaf.

The Ford Transit Connect urban delivery van was prominent in the Ford Motor Co. exhibit space. As seen in the photo, one of the vans shown in the Ford display was a fleet vehicle used by Wahoo’s Fish Taco for catering. The most visible vehicle at the Ford exhibit was the refreshed 2017 Ford Escape that will go on sale next summer. Ford will put about 275,000 of these new vehicles on the road with start-stop technology, making it Ford’s biggest push into the fuel-saving technology to date.

On Thursday morning at the LA Auto Show, five partner companies announced the creation of the ROEV Association (which stands for Roaming for Electric Vehicle charging), a collaboration of industry stakeholders designed to support electric vehicle adoption by facilitating public charging network interoperability. BMW of North America, Nissan, and three EV charging networks – CarCharging/Blink, ChargePoint, and NRG EVgo – are working together on ROEV. The association says that its participants operate about 91% of the charging stations open to the U.S. public, with a total of 17,500 stations. One of ROEV’s primary goals is to provide easier access to all networked, public EV chargers by adopting and promoting interoperability standards. “The ROEV Association is working to streamline EV charging access across multiple charging networks in order to help bring EVs further into the mainstream,” said Simon Lonsdale, Chair of the Board of ROEV. (To learn more, visit

Those attending LA Auto Show were able to view the debut of the production version of 3-wheel gasoline-engine car from Elio Motors. The car is small and light enough to get 84 mpg and will cost $6,800. The company plans to launch production at an old General Motors plant in Shreveport, La., by the fourth quarter of 2016. Elio Motors is still looking for more financial backers to get the car ramped up for production and out for sale.

The Volvo Concept 26 is still years out, but gained attention during the auto show. It will be equipped with features such as a tablet computer built into the center console, a fold-away tray table, and a 25-inch color monitor that pops out of the passenger-side dashboard. The Concept 26 shares the same new Scalable Product Architecture used for most of Volvo’s future products, including its new XC90 SUV. Volvo says that the concept car had “26” added to its name as a reference to the fact that drivers average 26 minutes a day stuck in traffic-snarled cities like Los Angeles, which adds up to 100s of hours each year.

Karma Automotive partners with BMW to survive in the tough global auto market

Karma AutomotiveKarma Automotive is transitioning beyond the original Fisker Karma electric-drive system through a new partnership with BMW, using its latest powertrain components. Karma, which recently opened a manufacturing plant in California, plans to begin selling its flagship luxury car late next year that will start with a $115,000 price tag. Owned by Chinese auto parts giant Wanxiang Group, Karma Automotive has contracted with BMW to supply its battery charging system and some of its electric-drive technology.

Sharing components through automaker alliances has become a common practice in global auto manufacturing in recent years. With BMW’s successful i Series electric drivetrain used in the i3 and i8 models, it was probably inevitable that a partner company entering the luxury electric vehicle space would make an alliance with the German automaker.

For startups like Karma and Tesla Motors, relationships with large, established automakers has been essential for breaking into the capital-intensive, competitive automotive space. Tesla was able to go that route to cut time and cost through acquiring the Lotus chassis for the Tesla Roadster. Tesla also gained investors and corporate clients selling its powertrain components to Toyota and Daimler for their electric vehicles. While the Tesla/Toyota deal is ending, the Japanese automaker’s investment in Tesla, and turning over its old NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif., to Tesla, were important steps for the startup electric carmaker to survive and move forward.

Karma’s battery will be provided by A123 Systems, a company Wanxiang also purchased out of bankruptcy. A123 was the original supplier to the Fisker Karma, but has developed a new battery for the Karma model coming out late next year. BMW will supply high-voltage battery charging systems and a wide range of hybrid and EV systems.

The year 2012 was devastating for Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems. In January 2012, 239 Fisker Karmas were recalled due to A123 battery defects blamed for causing fires under the hood. In March of that year, Consumer Reports called the Karma “undrivable” from its testing site. The year wrapped up in November with Hurricane Sandy causing a New Jersey port to be flooded, which took out more than 300 Karmas parked there waiting for carrier trucks.

Karma Automotive thinks that the alliance with BMW will lead to other new vehicle announcements, according to Karma Chief Marketing Officer Jim Taylor. One of them will be a battery-electric model. “Carmakers buy parts from other carmakers, especially in expensive areas like powertrain technology. As we launch the vehicle under the new name Karma, using BMW components will be a big help to the brand,” Taylor said.

Karma Automotive will be assembling its cars at its Moreno Valley, Calif., 555,670 square-foot facility.  Its headquarters office is located in Costa Mesa, Calif. The company currently has about 300 employees, with about 40 working at the plant.

Chinese automakers are expected to play a vital role in the future of electric vehicles in the U.S. and China. Along with Wanxiang Group bailing out Karma Automotive and A123 Systems, there are several other alliances picking up steam:

  • Santa Rosa, Calif.-based three-wheel electric carmaker Zap nearly went out of business until its merger a few years ago with Chinese company Jonway Auto. Dong Feng Motor Corp. expects delivery of at least 3,000 electric vehicle minivans from Zap and Jonway by Dec. 31, 2015. Dong Feng expects its order to increase to at least 2,000 units per months starting in January 2016.
  • Faraday Future, owned by Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corp., is developing an electric vehicle to compete with rival Tesla Motors. The start-up is based in Gardena, Calif.
  • Atieva Inc., based in Menlo Park, Calif., is also working on a new electric car. That company is also backed by Leshi, as well as by Beijing Automobile Industry Holding Co.
  • Coda Automotive, a battery electric carmarker based in California, has gone bankrupt. Coda had partnered with Chinese battery company Lishen, and carried that technology over to its Coda Energy battery energy storage company after Coda Automotive went out of business.
  • Chinese automaker BYD, which impressed Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway enough to bring them in as a major investor, has set up U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. BYD is lining up contracts to deliver electric buses to transit agencies in the region.

More teasers released on the upcoming launch of the 2016 Chevy Volt

2016 Chevy VoltGeneral Motors Corp. will introduce the redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Volt next Monday at the Detroit Auto Show. The automaker has been releasing a series of teasers that started back in August with the photo of the Volt’s new back end and badging; and lately, there have been photos of a sheet-covered 2016 Volt with just a little bit of the front left corner showing. All of this has triggered a wave of media coverage and online commentaries in the past few weeks. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • The sheet was briefly pulled off the refreshed 2016 Volt two days ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – see the photo above. The back-end of the car wasn’t viewed during this brief display.
  • Looking at what was shown at CES, it does have a more pointed, aerodynamic look than the 2011 to 2015 model year Volt, which likely comes from changes being adopted during the redesign to increase fuel efficiency. GM is waiting to reveal more information on the improved fuel efficiency.
  • Some of that fuel efficiency will come through installation of the Regen on Demand regenerative braking feature that was originally introduced in the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid.
  • The 2016 Volt does look more like a sedan look than the first-generation Volt models. Whether it will retain the five-door hatchback function from the previous version will have to be determined next week in Detroit.
  • There’s less noise generated from tires on the road in the NextGen Volt, according to GM’s product chief Mark Reuss as he takes another test drive in this video. An improved steering system also takes the car to the next level, Reuss said. Chevy Volt owners were listened to during the redesign to make sure all the little glitches have been cleaned up.
  • A crossover utility version, the Volt MPV5 or Crossvolt, probably won’t be shown off next Monday. It is possible to see it roll out in the next couple of years. In August, GM applied for a trademark for the “Crossvolt” that was published for opposition on Dec. 23. In 2010, GM showed a concept called the Volt MPV5, a compact crossover running off the Volt’s drivetrain. In 2013, a prototype very similar to the MPV5 was spotted as it was being tested with a fleet of Volts. I would bet that a plug-in hybrid crossover would find a lot of interest from those thinking about acquiring a Volt but wanting more storage space and functionality.
  • The “bi-coastal” strategy for the Volt isn’t going away. Chevrolet’s marketing chief, Tim Mahoney, says that the west coast and northeastern region of the US will likely to continue being where most all of the Volts get sold, current model year and through the 2016 MY changeover.

Is General Motors holding back with the Chevrolet Volt?

Chevy Volt redesignedGeneral Motors Corp. has been championing the next-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt that’s scheduled to debut at the Detroit auto show in January. “You’ll see improvements all the way across, from technology to design,” Tim Mahoney, GM’s chief marketing officer for Global Chevrolet, told reporters last week. “Detroit seems like the right place to do that.”

GM is holding back on information – it will be “good value,” but no details have been released on what it will cost, if the battery pack can deliver longer range than its current 38 miles, and what these technology and design improvement will look like. Automotive News reported that it will have a third seat in the rear and will feature a downsized, 1.0L, three-cylinder engine compared to its current 1.4L, four-cylinder engine.

If I were present at the Management Briefing Seminar in Traverse City, Mich., I may have mustered the courage to ask Mahoney two questions:

  1. How many Volts does GM plan to build and deliver this year and next?
  2. How committed is GM and Chevrolet to marketing the Volt through corporate advertising and supporting and encouraging its dealer network?

Mahoney also said that GM considers the Volt “not a mass-market” vehicle any longer. I would ask another question: When has it ever been one? When the plug-in hybrid was introduced in late 2010, former GM CEO Dan Akerson thought the automaker would produce 60,000 Volts in 2012. The reality has been that GM has only built and sold about 65,000 units in nearly four years.

GM has been proud to build the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the US, but it potentially could have been much higher in sales volume. It was competing neck-to-neck with the Nissan Leaf, but the Leaf left the Volt in the dust several months ago.

To my colleagues at GM and Chevrolet, here are a few points to consider:

  • You have passionate, loyal fans out there – many of them Volt owners and some of them looking forward to owning their first. Mahoney mentioned that GM plans on doing it, including on social media. What about on TV commercials during sporting events? Ride and drives and event sponsorships also make much sense. The Chevrolet brand is popular with many Americans, and experiential testimony from Volt users could be a tipping point for car shoppers.
  • If you’re able to extend the range on a charge, why not get on the stump and hawk that point? Volt drivers many times have been amazed how many miles they’ve traveled on battery only and what the actual extended range could be if driven correctly. Their testimonials would help, and emphasizing that benefit in ads would do so, too.
  • Consider building more of them and getting them out to more dealer lots around the country. Like other EVs, sales have been heavy in just a few markets. There is interest in other markets, though it would need more advertising and showing the product. That’s where the Chevrolet brand image would come in handy – GM considers the Volt to be a “halo” in its Chevrolet marketing and that could be exploited much more. If the price is coming down, and with incentives for buyers and good leasing deals, that would help. As for production, GM has been happy enough to see cost-saving results in Volt assembly at its Hamtramck plant that it decided to invest $121 million more there late last year. You’ve got best practices in place – why not assemble and deliver more Volts?
  • Promote the EV charger options owners have. Last year, Bosch unveiled a new $450 Level 2 charger, which is the preferred charger for the Volt. It’s cheaper and simpler to set up and use than other chargers have been. That’s a key stumbling block for car shoppers.  They’d be impressed if the charging station were more affordable; and if dealers could get them assistance on having the charging stations installed at their homes.
  • Show off the technology.  GM’s Voltec powertrain has been strong enough to move beyond the Volt to the Cadillac ELR. Volt owners are finding that the Volt’s electronic and cooling systems are working well – they’re experiencing lack of range degradation. It also helps that the Volt emerged from its NHTSA-investigated lithium-ion battery fires a few years ago, while Tesla Motors still faces questions about the fire-proof safety of its li-ion battery pack.
  • Speaking of safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2014 Volt a Top Safety+ rating. That followed a crash test on a dozen small cars including the Volt along with the Nissan Juke, Mini Cooper Countryman, and the Ford C-Max Hybrid; the Volt was the only model to receive the institute’s coveted safety rating.