Battle of the Plug-ins

August 3, 2007: Source – Bloomberg

Chevy versus Toyota

Last week we heard about Toyota’s road-ready plug-in hybrid. It uses nickel-metal hydride batteries (just like the current Prius, only twice the battery) and can travel around eight miles on a charge without using gasoline.

Last January we heard about GM’s concept plug-in hybrid car, the Chevrolet Volt. But lest you get too excited over Toyota’s efforts and forget about our homegrown plug-in, GM has people talking to reporters about it again.

Here’s what GM’s “people” told Bloomberg:

Toyota Motor Corp.’s plug-in electric car may have less than half the range of a competing vehicle planned by General Motors Corp., people with knowledge of both
companies’ development programs said.

GM wants its Chevrolet Volt to travel at least 40 miles after being charged at a normal household outlet, while the Toyota model may go no more than 20 miles on a single charge, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details of the plans are still secret.

It’s certainly good to see that GM’s taking this project seriously. But just because the company wants its car to travel 40 miles on a charge doesn’t mean it will. By GM’s own admission, lithium-ion battery technology must greatly improve before the Volt can hit the road. And it’s Toyota, not GM, that’s ready for real-world testing.

Perhaps Toyota’s modest eight-mile electric range isn’t so bad after all. Especially if it hits the road first.


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  • Supporting OUR country

    Shame on you for killing the EV-1 General Motors.
    But it’s time to come back and show them what we AMERICANS can do.
    The foreign cars are just fine, but we NEED people to start supporting the COUNTRY they live in and they aren’t going to do that until WE make a superior product. Period.

  • Alex

    If the tesla roadster can exist with a 200 mile range, why can’t the volt, with a 40 mile range exist?

  • SteveC

    I wish GM would put effort into making this Volt car instead of having PR people dis Toyota. I’ll bet a dollar I’ll be able to buy a plug in from Toyota YEARS before I’ll be able to buy this inaginary car from GM. Sheesh they’re becoming liars and PR masters just like the government.

  • DaveM

    call me cynical, but for all of GM’s bragging, they actually need to MAKE something worth a damn on this front before they get to talk themselves up.

    Bottom line is Prius, in some form, is out in the market and popular. We have seen smoke and mirrors from GM before on what is allegedly over the horizon.

    I mean, GM can leak anything they want if they don’t deliver to the market then it is not relevant.

  • Bert

    Why are they touting 20 & 40 mile ranges? You can get more now! Take a look at hybrid technologies -> your talking over 100 now! Check out the multimedia section which explains it all on a recently televised segment (Modern Marvels, History Channel)…

  • Jerry

    A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. GM PR efforts are pathetic. I almost feel sorry for them. IF they could actually show something it would be helpfull. Dissing 8 miles on electric from Toyota is a waste of time. My commute just happens to be 8 Miles I am OK with that!!

  • Hal Howell

    Good points , everyone! I would have loved to buy an good AMERICAN ybrid, if one existed that could match or exceed the Prius. However, while GM/FORD make feeble attempts (SATURN AURA that gets slightly half what the Prius gets in MPG), Toyota and Honda deliver. They talk a good fight but as yet, next to nothing on the road. They still don’t believe the market is ready for a leap in automotive transportation. Most of their cars look little better than what we have seen in the last 20 years, designwise. All the car companies and I do mean all, are still touting higher horsepower and a lot of things that simply don’t matter anymore. So what if your car can get to 60mph faster than my car. Who cares?
    GM needs to put the Volt out on the market now even if the batteries don’t get you 40 miles on electric. The idea of a car that is totally driven by electric and recharged by gas is still a great idea. Afterall, even if it gets 40 on electric only, its still going to need gas after that. So whether its 10, 20, 30, or 40 miles, the gas engine is still going to kick in after that to recharge the batteries. The mileage would still be impressive and seamless if they were to do what Toyota has done. What if they were to use a small diesel instead that could run on biofuel as well as regular diesel fuel? Then, they could get more mpg on the diesel. There are solutions that are viable now if they were willing to take the risk. Toyota has had a great deal of success this year with the Prius (and I helped), but how many of us would have bought an American vehicle of similar quality and capability if one had existed? That is money GM has lost because if has no such offering. Neither does Ford or Chrysler.

  • CLD

    Martin Eberhard at Tesla explained some of the issues with the range limitation in the Volt in his blog back in January ( Essentially, it’s dependent both on how you size the battery stack and how often that stack can be cycled. Tesla is sizing their lithium ion battery to travel 200 miles per charge. If that battery has a lifetime of 650 cycles, that is equivalent to 130,000 miles lifetime range. The Volt, on the other hand is being targeted at a 40-mile range (primarily to keep the battery weight down to compensate for the added weight of the ICE). In order for that battery to last 130,000 miles, it would have to undergo 3250 cycles. According to Eberhard, that’s about the cycle life that GM sources told him they were targeting.

    On the issue of diesel hybrids, GM has already been down that path with the Precept ( As part of PNGV, GM developed a direct-inject turbodiesel parallel hybrid that got 80 mpg (gasoline-equivalent). Why did they abandon it? In part, because GM saw that looming EPA emissions requirements would make their diesel technology obsolete before they even got a chance to develop the Precept to a production vehicle. And the cost of meeting those emission requirements on top of the added cost of the hybrid drivetrain would mean that the car would be prohibitively expensive. The Bush administration then bailed them out by canceling PNGV in favor of FreedomCar, which emphasized hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

  • Mike

    Typical American Auto Company crap. I doubt the Volt will go beyond what it currently is-a concept. Keep talking crap and gaining PR praise, because that apparently is what the American Automakers are good at, rather than actually doing something extraordinary.

    I wish an Apocalypse happened at GM, Ford, and Chryster…in that most of the management be fired, and replaced with people who can actually guide-and save-the Detroit big three.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Is it 2007 or 1997? I’m having a sense of deja-vu. GM is working hard to provide the world with a plug-in car but there are many challenges which they face. The corporate wonks have assigned a few brilliant employees to go out and develop the technology. All the while they’re fighting the laws which the technology addresses.
    Who do you think will win this time. GM has both bases covered – again.
    Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.
    I’ll buy a Volt if they actually sell it but I’m not holding my breath.
    Go Tesla!

  • Geoff Pheeney

    Yes, imagine a rebirth in America. A place where one can buy an American made car, manufactured by Americans, run that car on American energy supplies and fuel up right at home while doing so.

    I’ll buy that car if/when it ever arrives. I’ve watched my friends go to the desert over and over and over again in the Air Force. If we gave only 75 billion to car companies to develop a truly revolutionary engine, that’s 1/10th of what we’ve spent in trying to save the price per gallon of gas by fighting in sand, protecting people who hate our very beings, I’d buy that car. God willing, the GM Volt will be made and work.

  • kevin collins

    My 74 year old father just bought a 2007 Toyota Hylander hybrid 4WD. Not a big stretch these days, but for his entire life he has driven large rear wheel drive American (Ford) cars. I introduced him to hybrid technology, which means primarily Japanese. He is amazed at the seemless integration of gas and electric. I am sure that he will also enjoy the electric driven 4WD during this winter’s snow. This vehicle has taught him the wasteful ways of his prior choice in (outdated) traditional gasoline only engines. This is a pro technology, and (hopefully) pro American blog, Unfortunately the fact remains that America has once again lost market share, and the hybrid nation has gained as a result. This is due to American car companies failing to keep up with the present, and invest in the future. I advocate hybrids and plug in hybrids. My daily driving can be as little five miles, or as much as 60 miles. In any case, a plug in hybrid would suit my needs. I am tired of using my driving dollars to send money to the middle east to support people who hate America. I would rather send this money (and a lesser amount of it) to an electric power company to charge my plug in hybrid, and then fall back on gasoline when ive exceeded my daily electric range. My local electricity costs 4.1 cents per KW hr. That is a gasoline gallon equil to about .60 cents per gallon. I am going to get off the gasoline treadmill and hold onto my 2000 Camry until plug hybrids are available. Good luck to GM and Ford with their plug in projects, but I have a suspicion that my next new vehicle purchase will be a plug in hybrid Hylander, or Plug in Prius. Which car company wants to help me get off of gasoline, and sell me my next car?????

  • Max Reid

    Its not the question of Japanese vs American.

    In Hybrids, its Toyota vs Rest, since that company sells more than 2/3 of all Hybrids vehicles.

    If we drive 8 miles / day on electricity, and we drive 300 days / year, thats 2,400 miles / year.

    Its more than enough. The cost is the important factor here.

    Since people are not willing to pay around 22 for Hybrid car, Toyota is reducing price of Prius by 1,200. So plugin hybrid should be priced in such a way that the premium should be recovered quickly.

  • Scott

    In regards to ex-EV1driver’s post the situation seems to be a bit different this time. The EV1 was developed by GM because they were forced to. The Volt on the other hand is something they are working on voluntarily in response to market conditions. Perhaps Toyota has convinced them that hybrids andor phevs can be profitable.

  • Max Reid

    When EV1 was killed, Oil prices were in low 20’s, now its in low 70’s and thats nearly 3 times the price.

    GM has to launch Volt or risk more market loss.

    Plugin Hybrid could be the ultimate vehicle which could use both electricity and gasolene.

  • geisemann

    have driven many Prius including my freinds.

    I dont care for the car. Its very deceptive and causing major problems for the USA. I real leaders were GM with the EV1 and older electric cars. The evil people are the oil companies… Chevron who made Gm sell the batteries technology to them. Chevron has a stipulation that you have to power a Nickel Metal with gas ie hybrid….

    I looked up the Detroit Electric in 1918 got 40 miles on a charge and never used a drop of fuel..
    Now that was advanced.

    My opinion is the Prius is a big Fad and people who buy it are not reading the true story. Most of the Prius owners have large homes that waste tons of electricity and heating fuel. ( But they can look Green) They waste money and causing more air smog by causing new cars to be built. Plus all the money in one of these goes straight to a foreign country. Only 1/8 of the money in this car goes back to the USA. Where when you buy an American car no matter where its built 85% of the money goes back into the USA.

    I looked up the first electric car was the Detroit Electric in 1918 got 40 miles on a charge and used no gas at all.

    Hybrids come from technologies that are not established. IE. Hybrid TV sets of the 1960s Transistor/Tube. Now its all Transistors or IC’s. The only car you will see in 20 years is all EV you wont see any hybrids because they will be in-efficient.

    First of all Prius is Very frumpy

    Second you can get better millage on many cars close on some SUVs like the Ford escape.

    IN Washington DC I see all the Prius owners ride around in the 100 degree heat with the windows open because when the AC is running the car has to be on Engine Only mode no EV. So you get like 30 MPG … Funny how the famous car fails when you have heat.

    The correct figures on Prius are like 40 City.

    I have friends who own them and they get about that.

    Toyota famous lies is what I cant stand. There cars are not safe in fact I read where the new Tundra failed the crash tests. This company just cares about profits and draining the American dollar to make Japan richer oh and I love the ads ” Made in America” what they dont tell you is all the money and profits dont go back into this country. Infact I read some research you would have to buy 4 toyotas to equal what one GM or Ford puts back into our country.

    Its nasty when people sell out to there own country to just be ” IN Style”

  • Bill Langeman

    I’m pulling for GM. First, Toyota’s are not safe, they all have very poor safety records when compared with most GM vehicles. Second, the money needs to stay in the U.S.. Third, I hate the pathetic slow loser cars Toyota builds which have poor handling, road feel and are generally like driving a barge on jello.

    Give me a 450 hp Camaro hybrid anyday…

  • Angelo

    … but in cars, we trust Toyota and Honda more than GM, Ford, and Chevy. American automakers are all talk and no walk. They sell you what THEY want to push sell you… not what is needed, asked for, or in demand. Who the hell needs a 10mpg tanker such as the Suburban, Yukon, Escalade, or the “All-American Hummer”? 10 years the Prius has been out (7 years in the US). I can bet if GM kept the EV series going and didn’t sell out to the big oil companies and scrap the project, there would be more Electric EV1’s on the road made by GM than foreign Hybrids! But GM took the route of making a quick buck (Enron comes to mind) rather than improving the technology and keeping the car on the market! They would be making millions right now instead of laying off 10’s of thousands of American employees to keep their bottom line from bottoming out! Should the saying be “Buy American, but lets screw the Americans that buy from us”?

    You want money to stay in the US? Then bring our troops home and we will keep $500,000/day within the US economy, not be fighting for oil to power those 10mpg tanks as I stated above, and move to electric vehicles. Why doesn’t GM bring back the engineering staff that made the EV1 to make the Volt and market it correctly this time!