Doug Korthof

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Who does GM think they are fooling??

GM refocuses on Volt, thinks 2010 sales are doable {Autoblog}

May 9th 2007 5:05PM Editor
Tribune-Chronicle

RE: Volt talk has sparks flying at Lordstown, LARRY RINGLER, May 9
http://www.tribune-chronicle.com/Business/articles.asp?articleID=17820

Dear Editor:

A great article about the future of the Lordstown plant. Unfortunately, if Lordstown employees are looking to produce GM's concept EV car, the Volt, they are bound to be disappointed.

Our country desperately needs a serial plug-in hybrid EV, such as the Volt, capable of driving at least 40 miles (or 80, or 100, depending on the battery option chosen) using an electric motor and batteries alone. For longer trips, a range-extending small gas, diesel or other Internal Combustion ("IC") engine chimes in only to provide more power for the batteries, just like a diesel-electric locomotive.

The plug-in series hybrid EV operates like a real EV for the first 40, 80 or 100 miles, which allows the driver to avoid IC fuel entirely on the daily grind. The Plug-in Hybrid EV is referred to as a "PHEV-40", for example, if it can go 40 miles without gasoline, or PHEV-120 if it can go 120 miles without gasoline. For longer trips, a very small, one-liter IC engine is capable of keeping it at highway speed, if the IC is only used to generate electric.

But automakers such as General Motors ("GM") have a long history of joining with oil companies in adamantly opposing plug-in cars. GM recognizes the public-relations benefit of a "green" car, but still has no intention of actually producing it.

GM Vice-Chairman Lutz admits that making the car itself is easy, but claims that the batteries are not available. Mr. Lutz claims that research into Lithium batteries is required before the Volt can get a range of 40 miles in all-electric mode. This is just plain false, and indicates that Mr. Lutz is either ignorant of existing and past EVs, or else is not telling the truth on purpose.

The Toyota RAV4-EV uses superior Panasonic Nickel Metal Hydride EV-95 batteries. Last sold in 2002, it runs up to 120 miles on a charge without any help from an IC engine. Adding a small gas, diesel or ethanol genset to this car would, in fact, make it superior to the Volt, with a 120-mile all-electric range and over 600 miles combined range. One intrepid Toyota RAV4-EV owner tows an IC genset in a small trailer, the "Long Ranger", and has created an instant PHEV-120 where Mr. Lutz claims he can't produce even a PHEV-40.

Can it be that Mr. Lutz is unaware of the hundreds of Toyota RAV4-EV on the road? Perhaps even a Vice-Chairman can be blind, but there's worse.

GM itself had an EV, the 1997 EV1, which used poor-quality Delco lead-acid batteries to attain a range of 60 miles. After replacement by good Panasonic batteries, the same car had a range of 110 miles. We know this, we had such a car, and loved the increase in range and added reliability.

The 1999 GM EV1, using lower-quality Ovonics Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, had a range of up to 160 miles on a charge, and great acceleration. Both these EV1, the Honda EV-plus, and the Toyota RAV4-EV, weighed more than the proposed Volt, so there's really no reason to avoid use the same batteries (Panasonic lead-acid or Nickel Metal Hydride) to get much more than 40 miles all-electric range.

In fact, using the superior Panasonic EV-95 batteries, the Volt could be a PHEV-150. This is the car that America needs, and the question is why Mr. Lutz is stonewalling it.

But even worse facts impugn Mr. Lutz' credibility. GM, if it were serious about the Volt, would need customers. Mostly, GM ignores customers, so maybe that's intentional. But with a new technology, GM would want a core of early-adopters, to spread the word and increase demand. If it were serious, of course.

There was an EV fan club, dedicated to the GM EV1. With family members, supporters, and those who would have liked to lease an EV1 but were not able to get one, even for a while, this is a target demographic of more than 10,000 potential advocates, evangelists and buyers. Yet GM has made no effort to crank up the EV1 fan club, and has basically not bothered to rebuild bridges with its fans. Many EV1 drivers were incensed that GM would not even listen to them, let alone sell them the EV1; the natural course of business logic tells us that GM should start with this built-in market, nurturing the fan club, bringing the idea to the mainstream, holding club events, taking deposits.

But GM is not doing these things. GM is acting as if its destruction of the EV1 was completely separate from its re-creation of an EV via the Volt. This tells the objective observer that GM is giving the appearance of producing the Volt, but is not going to carry through with the reality of producing it.

Mr. Lutz has shown not only his unwillingness to address the issue of using lead-acid or Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, but has shown ignorance of battery technology. Lutz has stated that Nickel Metal Hydride is toxic, is too heavy for an EV, does not have the needed acceleration, and is too expensive.

Can Mr. Lutz be ignorant that it's Nickel-Cadmium that's toxic, not Nickel? Nickel or lead was not too heavy for the great acceleration of the EV1, and those weighed more than the proposed Volt. Nickel metal is cheaper than Lithium, and does not need expensive, uncertain research. Lithium has life-cycle cost issues, and may not last as long as Nickel batteries.

One might believe that GM were serious, if Mr. Lutz, or the other spokespersons, ever attempted to answer these issues. But they duck the facts, refuse to answer, or give non-responsive sneering replies to serious issues.

I challenge Mr. Lutz to visit our two Toyota RAV4-EV, which are completely charged up and powered from American electrons via our rooftop solar system. Let him drive in a Toyota RAV4-EV, one of the hundreds of others still running fine, and see for himself. Each year, we donate excess electric to the grid, while helping to meet daytime peak demand with our excess electric; at night, we slow-charge our RAV4-EV cars. So far we have over 470,000 oil-free miles on our EVs, over 170,000 of those miles on our two current Toyota RAV4-EV.

That's a challenge to Mr. Lutz: I know he's in Southern California from time to time, the Chevrolet dealers we picketed said that he comes around. Well, come around and see for yourself, Mr. Lutz, the plug-in EV is real, present and accounted for. It's GM and Mr. Lutz that are AWOL.

Will the Lordstown workers, loyal and steadfast, once again be disappointed by failed GM management? As usual, the GM line workers, who are the finest in the world, have to bear the brunt of GM management mistakes. The Lordstown plant workers are willing to make the sacrifices, willing to make the effort, to bring the PHEV car America needs to market. It's Mr. Lutz, and GM management, that's failing America.

I hope they will change course, and really produce the Volt. This is not rocket science; the EV1 was, essentially, delivered to GM in 1989. It can be produced right now, with lead-acid or Nickel Metal Hydride batteries until Lithium becomes available, if ever.

Sincerely,

Doug Korthof
1020 Mar Vista
Seal Beach, CA 90740-5842
562-430-2495

cc.

Bob.Lutz@GM.com

JChristopher.Preuss@GM.com

kmerx@freepress.com

sterlep@detnews.com