Bob Lutz, one of the masterminds behind the Chevrolet Volt, has said that he now considers the ground-breaking range-extender technology to be wasted in a family car-sized vehicle.
While at GM Lutz championed the cause of the Volt, and was instrumental in pushing the technology through. Its creation was also a key part of GM’s bargaining package when it asked President Obama’s administration for financial aid during the economic crisis, since it allowed GM to pledge investment in environmental technology.
However, Lutz, who is currently involved in a project to bring electric trucks, pick-ups and SUVs to market with a new American firm called Via, now believes that range-extender technology would have been better showcased in larger vehicles first.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and we shouldn’t forget that the Volt and sister car Opel Ampera are the world’s best-selling electric car, but the truth is that even then it’s not meeting sales expectations, and that’s because most customers don’t want to pay out a major expense for the technology to make minor savings.
“Frankly, unless that customer is philosophically, religiously or economically affiliated to buying an electric vehicle, then they can’t be convinced. The first two types of buyer will buy whatever’s built, but the latter is a harder case. The obvious answer is to electrify as big a vehicle as you can, because that’s where the fuel and running cost savings make the most sense.
“If I had my time again at GM then I would have started with the Cadillac Escalade for the range-extender technology, and brought the Volt in later. The more gas-guzzling the vehicle, the more economic sense of electrifying it. Car companies need to get their minds on that: electrifying an Opel Corsa that uses virtually no fuel anyway and then lumping a huge premium on it to cover the battery costs is nonsensical. Why bother? It uses virtually no fuel anyway.”
The first Via truck is expected to go on sale in mid-2014, using an electric motor coupled to a 402bhp 4.3-litre V6. It will travel 40 miles on electric power alone and is expected to cost twice the price of a conventionally powered equivalent. However Lutz says the running costs mean the price of ownership over the vehicle’s lifetime will be substantially less than a standard vehicle.