Chevy Volt Solves Zombie-Induced 'Range Anxiety'

It won a film award in Spain, it’s not coming to the U.S., and frankly, it’s not that big a deal because a recent Chevy Volt ad sidesteps the actual target its marketers no doubt thought of in highlighting primordial fears associated with “range anxiety.”

Face it, some people today would worry about electric cars in the event of a terrorist attack, or calamity, or emergency – or some reason for needing to hightail it out of town.

Beyond that, GM has always emphasized the Volt solves a perceived everyday problem of limited electric range by offering gasoline backup serviceable at normally available gas stations.

That said, GM’s ad playing off of subconscious fears baked in from Hollywood-style post-apocalyptic scenarios features a gasoline car running out of gas while zombies chase two guys running from the mutants left from the catastrophe.

Portrayed this way, GM bypassed its opportunity to implicitly diss the likes of the Nissan Leaf, or Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric, or any other electric car that can go 70-100-some miles before running out of juice without a plug in sight.

Instead, the poor refugees picked a gasoline-powered clunker car that runs to Empty, with zombies closing in.

To be fair to more optimistic critiques, we’ll note others have observed this is a first Volt ad that emphasizes the car’s ability to travel on electricity when gas leaves you stranded.

This is possible. The European Volt and Ampera do have a “Hold” feature enabling them to run exclusively on gasoline, saving the battery power for later.

OK, we get that point too, but assuming it was in electric mode – and ignoring that the Mazda in the ad is in an American desert with a California license plate – the Volt would be a victim of range anxiety soon enough – possibly sooner than a Leaf for that matter which has a larger battery.

And otherwise, how much difference does it make comparing gas car versus gas-electric Volt? Those guys could have stashed a couple of 5-gallon gas cans in the trunk and put hundreds of miles between them and disaster.

Their odds were otherwise nearly equal to the Volt’s extended-range solution, but perhaps GM was being too polite?

GM even made up a new definition of “Range Anxiety: The fear of being stranded in an automotive vehicle.’’

Nope, sorry. That is not what was said before. The message has consistently been the Volt beats EVs as a solution for range anxiety and offers all the advantages of a gasoline car.

Oh well. It’s an novel commercial at any rate. People can be entertained for a minute and still get the point, even if it is watered down.

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  • perfectapproach

    I would rather NOT see GM attack other auto manufacturers’ electric cars (and their limited range). Electrics cars are hard sells as it is. GM doesn’t need to make any enemies at this point. It’s no big deal to poke fun at old, clunky gas-guzzlers (even GM’s own cars), but start poking fun at Ford’s, Nissan’s, and Mitsubishi’s current offerings, and they might poke back. An electric car war wouldn’t be good for anyone.

    But just for the record, I DO think the Voltec powertrain is superior to anything else on the market. If there was a war, the Volt would win it. 😉

  • MKW

    The problem with GM and the Volt is they honestly don’t know what they are fighting for. Trying to market burning gas as an “advantage” when the whole point of electric cars is to not burn gas comes across as a bad joke. Each new GM ad is in another random direction and annoys potential customers that are very suspicious of GM’s corporate greenwashing and lobbying connections with oil companies. GM has spent years saying Prius as if it were a dirty word and now they are trying to sell a hybrid. Two years later and GM still won’t admit how the engine really works. Talk about a huge red flag! All the damage the Volt and their owners are trying to inflict on electric cars is just proof that they are no friend of EV’s and cannot be trusted. Check out the snarky first post for an example.

  • perfectapproach

    Firstly, there isn’t anything snarky about my post. The article asks the question, “Why doesn’t GM attack other electric cars for their lack of range?” My post is the answer to that question.

    Secondly, what damage are the Volt and Volt owners doing to electric cars? Are they somehow making people shy away from electric cars? I don’t understand what you mean.

    Thirdly, if GM “won’t admit how the engine really works,” how does it REALLY work? Because I’ve seen some pretty detailed analyses as to how the Voltec system works, complete with diagrams and fancy big words like “epicyclic” and “planetary.”

    If you’re going to make exaggerated claims like the ones in your post, you should be prepared to explain why you’re making them.

  • MarkW

    What type of zombies have you guys been drinking? The point that Gm is making very clearly is that the volt is one of the most efficient cars on the road. Even running on all gas it’s real world gas mileage is awe inspiring !
    we are not talking about a 90lb driver going around on an EPA test track at a constant 45 mph with no wind or rain to slow you down. This is 600 lbs of zombie food making a get away in a new tech car of the future!

  • Thomas J. Thias

    Oops, Just want to point out that the source of this entertaining Volt piece is The 2012 Barcelona Video Contest.

    “We’re pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 MOFILM Barcelona Video Contest. A massive thank you to everyone who entered and an even bigger congratulations to all our winners.”

    As you can see, the Zombie Ad was one of the 5 finalists. While the category may of been sponsored by Chevrolet, in no way is this video from the official GM Mad Men Devision!

    The Amazing Chevy Volt E.R.E.V.- Facts Guy-

  • Dave M

    GM is not hiding anyting about how the volt works.
    I have read the technical papers, and seen the animated demonstrations. The car runs 100% on electricity most of the time.
    Through a set of planatary gears, the main motor is connected to the sun gear, and the wheels connected to the planet carrier. Mode 1, the ring gear is locked to the case, forcing the main motor to provide all the drive through the reduction of ratio created by the planet carrier, and planatary gears. In mode 2 the ring gear is unlocked from the case, and connected to the secondary motor, to split the load between 2 motors. This allows the 2 motors to run at a 1:1 ratio when less torque is needed such as for cruising, as 2 motors running at lower speed will consume less electical power.
    Once the battery runs down, mode 3 is entered. In mode 3 the ring gear is again locked to the case, so the main motor provides all the porpelling of the car. The second motor is disengeged from the ring gear, and is coupled to the gas engine. The second motor is used to start the gas engine, and then produces the electrical energy to maintain the charge in the battery, and provide electrical power to drive the main motor. In this mode, the gas engine cycles on and off depending on the speed of the car, and the charge level of the battery. At low speeds the generator produces more power than the motor uses, and this excess energy goes into the battery. Once the battery has a bit of extra charge, the gas engine shuts down untill they extra charge is used up, and then it starts again.
    There is a 4th mode of operation that can be engaged. If the computer determines that it is more efficent to transfer some of the excess energy from the engine into the planatary power split drive this can be also done, by unlocking the ring gear and also connecting it to the secondary motor, which is coupled to the now running gas engine. In this mode, power from the engine is driving the generator, and passing also onto the power split planetary gear set. The electricity produced by the generator us totally consumed by the main motor, which must also be running. In my year of ownership I have only had my volt enter this mode once, and that was when I was driving through the mountains and did not enter mountain mode first. The switch over was noticable, and a message came up on my display telling me that my speed was limited to 115KMh due to available electical energy reserve. I switched it back over to moountain mode, and a few minutes later I felt the system switch back to mode 3, which is the normal mode used when in extended range, where the engine operates at a single speed just to generate power. In mode 4, engine coupled to drive train, the engine speed varies just like ina prius. No mystery here, no deception. The engineers figured that they could imporve efficency in specific conditions by doing this. The volt is the most technically advanced car in the world, and all the other card makers wish that they had thought of it, but GM holds the patent on the design. Good on them.