Yesterday at the EVS 26 symposium in Los Angeles, former GM vice chairman and “father of the Chevy Volt” Bob Lutz defended his recent fighting back against right-leaning Volt detractors, while in related news, he continued to rally support for the car.

Lutz said he thinks his strongly rebutting the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was effective at helping restore respect for his former employer’s halo vehicle.

“It’s unfortunate the Volt became the target of the right-wing propaganda machine,” said Lutz.

At the end of January he wrote a strongly worded editorial for Forbes countering the flippant regard for facts by fellow conservatives who he termed “the wrong-headed right.”

Lutz, an outspoken denier of the theory of global warming, said electric vehicle advocates ought to focus on the prospect of enhanced domestic energy security for maximum effect.
Unfortunately, he said, EVs cost too much, and offer too little distance traveled per charge to make believers out of most consumers.

“Range has to go up. Price has go down,” he said, adding that all-electric powertrains make better economic sense in larger vehicle sizes where the potential gains are greater compared to fuel-driven counterparts.

And speaking of larger electrified vehicles, Lutz managed a plug for the plug-in VIA Motors Chevy trucks for which he is a paid consultant to promote and help develop. These are converted light-duty commercial hybrid vehicles initially intended for fleet duty built on some lessons learned with the Volt – a car for which Lutz is undeniably proud.

So proud he is of the Volt, in fact, that at another event in suburban Detroit, Lutz was recorded by Automotive News expounding on the benefits the Volt has brought, and its implications for the present and future auto industry.

On the sidelines Automotive News asked him whether the Volt would have been better suited as a Cadillac, given its price of $40,000-plus before incentives. Lutz agreed in part, but explained the rationale.

“The sticker shock would have been less and the acceptance of the vehicle as being value for money would have been quicker,” Lutz said, “But it would have had the disadvantage of not having the global potential that Chevrolet has. The reason we selected Chevrolet is that it is the ubiquitous General Motors’ nameplate.”

In any case, Lutz went on to tell industry leaders in a speech there that the Volt has had a deeply positive symbolic effect for General Motors – which is now again the world’s largest automaker and rebounding well from a bout with bankruptcy in 2009.

“The Chevy Volt single-handedly reversed GM’s declining reputation for innovation and technological excellence,” Lutz said. “I mean it was at a point where everybody was pointing to wonderful Toyota; Toyota the savior of the planet, the greenest car company on earth, the producers of the wonderful Prius … “

Lutz has often been good for a straight-shooting, if not colorful or controversial quote. He was also featured as one of the heros in the documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car” for championing the nascent technology while not losing a pragmatic edge gained after years in the Detroit auto industry.

That said, Lutz projected the internal combustion engine will be around for perhaps 20 or 25 more years, adding that the faster battery energy storage potential goes up, and the faster their prices go down, the sooner will come the day when the internal combustion engine is made obsolete “because it simply won’t be needed anymore.”

But in the meantime, as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandates come into stricter effect, Lutz said every maker will need a percentage of electrified hybridization in its fleet to make the cut.

USA Today, Automotive News