GM-Volt.com Founder Dr. Lyle Dennis Trading In His Volt For Ford C-Max Energi

The founder of the GM-Volt.com enthusiast Web site which once upon a time contributed to GM’s decision to build the Chevy Volt, Dr. Lyle Dennis, is trading his 2011 Volt for a Ford C-Max Energi.

The only reason, he says, is the pending five-seat Ford plug-in hybrid has room for his wife and three growing children, whereas the Volt is a four-seater.

Lyle noted further that his wife used to have a three-row SUV but wanted a Nissan Leaf. Now that they have the Leaf, the two-EV family needs a five-seat long hauler, he said, and observed otherwise the Volt has been a great car.

“I have had the honor of owning the eighth unit off the production line since December of 2010,” he wrote today on his new blog site, InsideEVs. “So far I have driven the car 14,000 miles with a lifetime 190 mpg. It has been a fun high tech and dependable car. In fact I always imagined I would own the car for 20 or 30 years. That is until this summer.”

(Full disclosure: I took over for Lyle as the editor and writer for GM-Volt.com in late February 2011 after he sold the site to VerticalScope which also owns HybridCars.com.)

Lyle’s site accumulated a buyer list of over 54,000 names around the world helping convince GM the Volt would be viable, and eventually earning him a spot on GM’s Volt Consumer Advisory Board.

He was given opportunity to meet with, interview and in cases become friends with GM engineers, executives, and many others involved with – or cheering on – the Volt’s expedited development from 2007-2010.

Writing today of the C-Max Energi decision, he said he was surprised and disappointed when he first learned the Volt’s large T-shaped battery pack impeded rear seat room, eliminating the rear middle spot. But next month, Ford is launching the new plug-in hybrid he said, which should meet his family’s needs.

“The vehicle is a small wagon or crossover design and has a 7.5-kwh lithium battery pack mounted below and behind the seats,” said Lyle. “It offers a real world EV-only driving range of at least 20 miles (down from the [2011] Volt’s roughly 36 miles). However in hybrid mode, the Ford delivers an impressive 47 mpg combined city/highway mileage, way up from the Volt’s 37 mpg. The car is also reasonably priced at $33,745 before a $3,750 tax rebate.”

On Friday out of sheer coincidence, after long knowing and pondering changes at GM, I offered a longish commentary discussing how little GM was willing to divulge about its plans for what it calls Voltec technology.

GM’s Voltec powertrain technology is of course the basis for the Volt, which has a gasoline generator to back up electric drive for no “range anxiety.”

The positive news is GM says it wants to continue with Voltec development and is contemplating other models. The frustrating part for some who have followed and believed in the technology is it has not yet said anything about introducing lower priced variants. Instead it is developing a more-expensive variant, the Cadillac ELR, which may likely be a four-seater also.

GM-Volt.com attracts engineers, scientists, IT professionals, and others who can appreciate its potential, and have no problem comprehending its vast potential to change the automotive paradigm.

It has often been suggested however that GM should show as much boldness now as it did in bringing the Volt to market. Various and repeated Volt enthusiast requests have been for GM to strike while it still has the lead and perhaps announce a Voltec crossover, a lower priced Volt version, a high-performance SS model, and so on.

Last year at an industry conference in Washington, GM’s former Volt media representative, Rob Peterson gave a speech touting GM’s policy of communications “transparency” during the dark days leading to and after its 2009 bankruptcy. With regard to the Volt, Peterson, who is now working in another capacity for GM communications, said this aided GM’s credibility and it was the beginning of a public perception turnaround that bought GM great faith from early adopters eager to see the Volt succeed.

But GM’s Voltec communications policy has since subtly shifted. Although it has not come out and stated a non-transparent policy, it is playing it conservative while the Volt has faced and seems to be overcoming much politicized criticism.

While saying he still likes his Volt and conceding the C-Max Energi may not go as far on electric power as the Volt – which for 2013 is EPA-rated at 38 miles because of its tweaked 16.5-kwh battery – and the Energi may not look as aesthetically pleasing, Lyle said the Ford is simply more practical for him.

“I am grateful to GM for launching the plug-in revolution, and I have enjoyed my two years of Volt driving. Change however is an inevitable fact of life,” he said. “After all the Volt’s greenlighting GM CEO Rick Wagoner is long gone, vehicle line executive Frank Weber is at BMW, vehicle line director Tony Posawatz is CEO of Fisker, and Volt spokesperson Rob Peterson is gone from the Volt team. And so it is that the Volts number one fan, and founder of GM-Volt.com has no choice but to trade in his car.”

In making this decision, Lyle said nothing actually negative about the Volt, and continues to believe in its technology.

Many others do too, and hope to see a five-seater, and other models priced down-market from the Volt, not just up. When this will be, is something GM has yet to announce.

InsideEVs


  • Van

    I read and commented upon the good Doctor’s blog during the development phase of the Volt. I pretty much lost interest when its price was announced. Rather than comfortably below $30,000 it was north of $40,000 at introduction.

    I think this is the first article where a specific size battery for the Ford Energi drive-train was disclosed, 7.5 kwh, which is a tad small, i.e. I had expected 9kwh.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    With 7.5KWh battery, the C-Max Energi model will be lucky to get EPA rated 25 miles range without full depletion of battery.

    If Energi keeps about usage range down to 5.6KWh (75% to extend battery life similar to Volt), then its EPA rated electric only range will drop to 19 miles at best.

    The battery size is less than HALF the Volt battery size. That is why it is cheaper by exactly that much…

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    I think this Dr.Lyle guy didn’t do all his research. He ASSUMES that Energi model will have the same EPA range. I seriously doubt that with the extra battery weight.

    Also, Energi models will NOT reach its top speed as Volt do in pure EV mode.

    Here are some “REAL” specs by Ford.

    http://www.ford.com/cars/cmax/specifications/engine/

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    Here is another fact confirmed by Ford’s own page…

    Its engine will kick on like Prius Plugin to “assist” power, unlike the Volt which can stay in true EV mode up to its max speed…

    http://www.ford.com/technology/electric/howevswork/?tab=PluginHybridEV

  • Markw

    I am just happy ford is stepping up to the plug in plate with what looks like a solid offering. The Volt is still king in my eyes but we should support fords efforts to get the word out about plug in cars being ready for prime time. At $500 million in R&D cost they have done it on a shoestring too!
    But once they sell the first 1000 get ready for the attacks. I predict it will be Reuters first in with an “ugly math” article announcing that the real cost to Ford to produce the C-Max is $500,000 a copy!

  • CharlesF

    @MMF, your statement that the C-Max will not stay in true EV mode up to its max speed is true and totally bogus at the same time. It will stay in pure EV mode up to 85 MPH unless it is floored. Those two exceptions are meaningless in context.

    With that said, if the Volt fits your needs it is the better car when pretending to be an EV.

    The Volt does not fit my needs, so I am hoping that the C-Max plug in does. If the C-Max Energi does not meet my needs, than the best for the environment car that I can buy would be the regular C-Max Hybrid. I hope to find out soon.

  • Van

    5.6 times 2.8 miles per kwh equals 15 miles of EV range. If it gets the 3.5 miles the EPA gives the Volt, then 19 miles seems near the limit.

  • TPGIII

    Looking at Dr. Dennis it appear he is not very tall, I believe there is only one male shorter than him in the picture. I am 6′ 4″ and have sat in the Volt. That is a seriously small car. When I am in my preferred comfort settings in the front, not even a child could sit behind me. Without exaggeration, I measured less than 2 inches between the front seat back and the rear seat cushion. I own a gen3 Prius and I can squeeze in the back seat behind my front seat at it’s normal position, smaller people would fit fine. The C-Max has 10 more cubic feet of passenger space than the Volt and about 7 more than the Prius. This is a fairly roomy car. Unfortunately the cargo space is somewhat compromised. 20 miles of electric is very possible, since Ford tends to use far more battery capacity that the Volt and even more than the Prius. Additionally Ford claims more than 100 eMPG, which is higher than the Volt. Those two attributes together leave little doubt that 20 miles is realistic. 20 miles is more than twice what I need and likely more than Dr. Dennis need on a normal day (7000mi/yr). Once on an extended drive the C-Max will use 27% less gas combined. The C-max goes about 80 mph on battery, faster than I normally drive. The only times I’ve been over 80, I was more than 100 miles from home, and any Volt would be sucking gas (at a faster rate) at that point. I think he is making a very wise decision, and I am seriously considering the C-Max Energi too.

  • Donald

    They need to get EV’s on the road with a minimum 150 mile range and priced at $20k. Let’s go techies!! What about making the entire roof, hood and trunk solar? I can’t wait for the death of the gasoline vehicle..

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    @ CharlesF,

    Well, maybe that is why Volt is truly an “EREV” instead of “Plugin hybrid”. Volt can function as an EV regardless how you drive inside its EV range.

    If C-Max fits your need, then that is fine. Like I have always said that Prius is a better value than the “scam” Prius Plugin. Energi models seems to be a sligtly better than the Pip in terms of functioning as a true EV. However, with more and more plugins on the road, it will increase the demand for public charging stations, but at the same time, it will end up “hogging” up all the EV charging spots and creating issues for PURE BEVs which don’t get charging spot.

    From money point of view, the regular C-Max is a better buy.

    @TPGIII.

    Sure, Volt is NOT a large car. Neither is C-Max. The only thing that C-Max is significantly larger is the head room. With hip room, should room and front leg room being very similar to the C-Max. Also, most people who sat in the Volt has NEVER fully adjust the Volt correctly. I know plenty of 6′ 3″ people who drive the Volt just fine.
    Sure, the cargo area are limited. But most of the time people drive by themselvs anyway. Volt made a tradeoff in space in favor of larger battery so its owners can drive on electricity most of the time as shown by its owner stats which 63% of the Volt miles are electric. In my case, it is 82%.

    As far as the 80mph goes, that is “ideal” situation. Without hard acceleration, with extreme temperature, with extra loading or hills. Sure, if you drive it like “typical Prius” driver, then you can keep it in EV mode just like the Pip. But I am pretty sure its EPA rating will show 6 miles EV only also since that is where EPA will “floor” the car..

  • Jesse

    @MM Fan,

    Doing some simple research I was able to find out that the c-max energi will have an EV selector switch to switch between EV modes.
    EV Now, EV Auto, and EV Later. Here is the link, also read the press release included as well.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2012/08/07/ford-c-max-hybrid-officially-gets-47-mpg-across-the-board-energ/

    Basically, EV Now sets the car to use battery power as long as its available. Which means that you could floor it and not have the engine turn on. From what I read, Ford did everything they could to make sure you use only battery power in that mode. In that respect, it is very similar to the Volt, besides a lower EV range and better MPG rating than Volt. But still very compelling.

  • usbseawolf2000

    Having midsize interior is more important than the ability to use only the battery for high speed / full acceleration.

    Both of the blended plugins — Prius PHV and C-Max Energi all have midsize interior, priced lower and better gas mileage (using regular gas). The Quasi-EV — Volt and Karma have compact or subcompact interior.

    As you can see, there is more practical benefits in using both onboard power sources when you need full power.

  • TPGIII

    @Modern Marvel Fan

    Maybe you didn’t read what I said very carefully. I did NOT say that I could not drive the Volt. I said that when I adjust the front seat for my comfort, no one with legs long enough to hang over the seat cushion can sit behind me. I did a quick lookup on specifications and as usual, found more than one answer, but the C-Max has between 2.5 and 4 inches more rear leg room. That sounds significant to me, and in person it feel even more significant.

    Since you brought up front leg room, while I would say it is adequate in the Volt, I found ingress/egress difficult due to the door opening size or shape. I had to twist my foot in an uncomfortable position to get in and out.

    If you know plenty of people who are 6′ 3′ and own a Volt you must be a Chevy salesperson in Detroit. 6′ 3″ is above the 95 percentile for any age and only about 24,000 Volt have been sold in the US. The chances of more than one 6′ 3″ person having a Volt in most counties is very remote. Maybe at GM HQ there will be plenty, but not likely anywhere else.

  • Chuck in NJ……

    Oh well I have ownedmany Ford vehicles…hate to be negative BUT the Energi will NOT get the EPA numbers Ford is boasting…..I HAVE NEVER OWNED a Ford that TRUELY avhieved its EPA numbers….firstly the vehicle is 1,000 lbs. more than a Prius Plug IN….the weight has quite a lot to do with Range….I have driven a Prius Liftback and achieved 56 and better MPG….I doubt very much that the Hybrid numbers will come close to 47 either….If it achieves 20 miles in EV I will be very surprised….the weight issue is against the claimed EPA figures….oh and btw…the Plugin Prius is my current vehicle ….it acheved 57 or better in Hybrid mode and its range has given me up to 15 miles without the Hybrid assistance…the more you plug in the Prius the better the MPGe….started with 110 have achieved up to 183 MPGe to date and on 10.6 gals of gasoline gone over 2,435 miles before resetting the trip counter ..unreal results….just to inform the truths about the Plug In…..great job Toyota…….

  • dutchinchicago

    I get Lyle’s predicament. I love my Volt and could very well see myself buying a Volt as my next car but I have 2 growing kids who in a couple of years will want to bring a friend along so it would be nice to have a 5 seater (2015/16 Volt?).

    I would love to be able to get a Model X but I can not see my budget stretch to that easily.

    Who knows in a couple of years there might be a Volt seven seater like the Model X.

  • Eric E

    I find myself in the same predicament. Love my Volt (#3219) but I’m now a single dad of four children so the four seater isn’t enough. I considered trading in my Volt on a Leaf but really must have the range extender.
    I want to trade in my Volt for a crossover with Voltec that has five seats, but since I am hearing nothing out of GM about the MPV5 I may be doing exactly the same thing as Lyle.
    Funny actually… I’ve been “following” Lyle since 2007, and now it looks like I’ll be following him right into a Ford C-Max. LOL.
    Oh the irony.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    @ Jesse,

    Even in “EV now” mode, C-Max Energi will NOT reach its top speed of 102mph (115mph for C-Max). Also, during heavy loading, the engine will come on to assist.

    @usbseawolf2000,

    Well, the whole point with Plugin is trying to stay in EV mode as long as possible and in as many condition as possible. What is the point of paying thousands for the tiny range of plugin with extra weight, worse handling/braking and extra price? Not to mention the fact that those “plugin hybrids” are going to clog up the already limited Public Charging Station. I have already seen plenty of Prius Plugins “Hogging” public charging stations for HOURS (Pip only takes about 1.5 hr to fully charge at Public Level 2 charging station).

    @TPGIII,

    I am NOT a car salesman and I don’t live in Detroit. I actually live in the heart of Si valley, SF Bay Area. You can almost call it the “Mecca” of Prius, Hybrids, EV and “green” stuff…

    Volt is designed to be a “commuting” car. That is why its EV range is about 40 miles since 75% of the people in this country commute less than that per day. Most people commute by themselves.

    Sure, will Volt be good for all situation? Absolutely NOT. Dr. Lyle “had” to change over to C-Max (which makes sense for him) b/c his Wife bought a Leaf. They need a “long range” high MPG vehicle to take care of longer trips. That is NOT what Volt is designed for. This is why you see a lot of Prius/Leaf combination out there. In this case, he is choosing C-Max Energi/Leaf combination.

    But don’t make Energi or Pip models sound like they are truly efficient for day to day driving without gas. Energi or Pip can do what most Volt owners have done with 63% EV miles (Pip is less than 30%)

    Also, I will seriously doubt the energi models can have the 47MPG rating or the 100 MPGe rating. The Energi models are at least 250lbs Heavier if NOT more (based on the PIP vs Prius gain of 150 lbs).
    That is adding one large person plus some luggage. It is seriously doubtful that it will retain the 47mpg rating.

    That is why everything are TBD on Ford’s page.

  • taser54

    Given that many states require child seats up until the child is eight (NY is age 7), would 3 kids really be able to fit in the back seats of a cmax?

  • Anonymous

    MMF: “Sure, the cargo area are limited. But most of the time people drive by themselvs anyway.”

    Yep. And if people bought cars based on the fact that 95% of their trips involved only the driver or driver and single passenger, then the Ford EXP, Pontiac Fiero, Mazda Miata, Toyota MR2, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky would have been huge hits.

    Strangely enough, they weren’t huge hits. The Volt’s 4-place seating looked, to those of us who think about how people buy cars, like a serious problem. It’s no surprise that someone with 3 children is giving up on the Volt.

    Not that it matters much, the C-Max Energi’s low price with 20 miles of range plus better range-extended fuel economy is going to make it seem much more attractive than the Volt. If Ford really delivers these things in quantity, they should sell fairly well; better than the Volt, anyway.

    Finally, someone challenges Toyota. Well done, Ford.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    “It’s no surprise that someone with 3 children is giving up on the Volt.”

    Actually he is giving it up b/c his wife bought a Leaf. Most family with Leaf usually also have a Prius for longer distance.

    FYI, neither C-Max or Prius can fit 3 child seats properly in the second row. It will only work if they are Out of Child Seat requirement. Even at that point, having 3 children in the back seat is a “task” that most parents don’t want to deal with. It should have been a minivan job instead.

    “the C-Max Energi’s low price with 20 miles of range plus better range-extended fuel economy is going to make it seem much more attractive than the Volt.”

    NONE Of your “statement” are fact. Neither Ford Nor EPA has confirmed any of the “claims” here.

    We shall see. If Prius Plugin’s extra 150 lbs battery weight degraded the MPG by 4% and Lowered PiP’s crash results by 1 star (from 5 to 4), I wouldn’t be surprised that C-Max Energi’s MPG rating is lowered as well. Sure, it would still be in the low 40s. But we shall see.

  • Jesse

    @MM Fan

    “FYI, neither C-Max or Prius can fit 3 child seats properly in the second row.”

    Well, I don’t know about that, don’t have kids yet. But you won’t know unless you try. He doesn’t have to worry about that though since his kids are 6, 10, 13(From the source article). He should have no problem with it. A minivan or a SUV with third row, which is what they got rid of for the Leaf, would have the room but not the MPG or electric range they want.

    The PiP and C-Max Energi are comparable in price.
    PiP – $32,795 starting – $2,500 tax deduction
    Energi – $33,745 starting – ~$4000 tax deduction

    That other guy, Anonymous, just meant lower price compared to the Volt.

    Please tell us where you got the 4% hit in MPG for the PiP compared to the regular Prius because I can’t find that. The EPA rated them both the same, the PiP actually got a 1mpg bump in city cuz of the bigger battery and the gas engine getting more help in stop and go. They are both rated 50 MPG Average. So I can only surmise that the C-max will also stay largely the same, maybe taking a 1 MPG hit, based on what happened with the Prius.

    Ford did rate the Energi as having ~20 mile range in all electric, still waiting for the EPA though. I’m guessing the MPG would be about the same as it is now, maybe 46 MPG average.

    “Even in “EV now” mode, C-Max Energi will NOT reach its top speed of 102mph (115mph for C-Max). Also, during heavy loading, the engine will come on to assist.”

    True, it won’t go to the top speed in all electric, but why would you want to? In all electric you really only need to care about freeway speeds. Sure its nice, but you don’t need it.

    Also, in “EV Mode” you could stand on the go pedal and not have the engine turn on. It will in “EV Auto” mode though. PiP can’t do that. It can do 6 miles all electric, 11 miles total blended electric/gas. From Toyota’s own website:

    “Prius Plug-in EV Mode is a blended operation of electricity and gas and can work under certain conditions up to 11 miles on a full charge.”

    I agree with you, total scam. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that the 11 miles rating is blended electricity/gas not pure electricity.

  • Giuseppe

    Because of the federal tax credit, the C-Max Energi is a better buy than the C-Max hybrid SEL. The Energi costs $1000 more net than the SEL, but fuel cost is lower. At 12 cents per kWh and $4.50 per gallon, assuming 1/3 of all Energi miles are electric miles, the $1000 is recovered after 70,981 total miles, about 6 years at 12,000 miles/year. But it is surely better than that if an Energi owner is careful to start every trip with a full charge and plug in after every trip. This should get 2/3 of all miles on electricity.

    I’ve assumed EPA’s 47 mpg for the SEL, 44 mpg for the Energi (it’s heavier), and 2.97 miles/kWh (EPA’s 100 mpg-e @33.7 kWh/gallon). The EPA numbers are probably optimistic, but if so, the break-even mileage would be less than the 70,981. And if the price of gasoline continues to increase as world demand rises, the Energi looks even better.

    Finally, if you live in California, there is a state rebate of $1500, which makes the comparison a no-brainer.

  • Anonymous

    the honda plug in is going to kill everything on the market with its MPGe and full size interior and mid size exterior plus awesome standard equipment

  • Twist

    DuPont is working on solar paint. The entire outside of the vehicle adding to battery range. Just a matter of time.