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Driving Miss Volt

I am taking custody of a Chevy Volt electric car Wednesday, and I can't wait to take it out for a spin. Brian Fuller, editorial director for EE Times' EE Life engineering community, will hand off the vehicle to me in Philadelphia, and my charter is to deliver it undented and unscratched to Boston in time for the Fall Embedded Systems Conference.

{complink 577|Avnet Inc.}, one of the biggest global electronics component distributors and IT services companies, is a co-sponsor with UBM Electronics of the Drive for Innovation program, which gave birth to the idea of a cross-country test of the Volt. Fuller, whose passion for baseball is matched only by his wit and devotion to electronics, has been on the road with the Volt for a few weeks. The trip has taken him from San Francisco to numerous American cities, including Chicago, Phoenix, St. Louis, Dearborn, Mich., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Richfield, Ohio.

Since embarking on the trip, Brian has been asked, “Why are you driving a Chevy Volt around the country, in the summer and then into the fall and winter, when you have a job, when you have a family?” Check out his answer here. My favorite question asked by anyone ahead of Brian's departure was “Why aren't you leaving sooner?” That was from his wife!

See more reports from Fuller's experience on the road and contributions from industry executives he has methere.

Jests aside (your wife's question was a joke, right, Brian?), I can't wait to take over the Volt temporarily from Fuller. EBN has written in the past about electric and hybrid vehicles, focusing on the utility, the competition, and the varied technologies being deployed by manufacturers. We have also focused on the opportunities the renewed interest in electric and hybrid vehicles has created for companies in the IT and electronics industries. (See: Nissan Leaf vs. Chevy Volt vs. Toyota Prius, Part 3.)

There are numerous sales opportunities here for component vendors, as well as system integrators. The parts and subsystems that go into electric and hybrid vehicles include semiconductors, processors, software, and passive components such as capacitors, resistors, relays, sensors, and connectors. Power products are, naturally, quite important to the market. Ron Demcko, applications engineer manager at {complink 12806|AVX Corp.} and a frequent blogger on EBN, explained in his blog how manufacturers are driving innovation in the capacitor products offered to automotive makers. (See: Plug-In Chargers: Implications for Capacitors.) Chip vendors have been quick to get on board, especially suppliers to the automotive market like Freescale Semiconductor, NXP, and Renesas. Many of these companies have products in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Come on the road with me over the next few days in the Volt. I will be sharing my experience in this blog, but more information is available at Drive for Innovation.

37 comments on “Driving Miss Volt

  1. AnalyzeThis
    September 19, 2011

    Bolaji, I'm envious! Looking forward to seeing what your impressions are (and how many times you'll have to recharge during the trip).

    It's very cool for UBM and Avnet to come up with this, thanks for alerting me of the Drive For Innovation, because I previously wasn't aware of it.

    I agree that there are a lot of opportunities for component vendors and system integrators to become involved in the auto industry if products like the Volt catch on. And they will indeed probably catch on eventually, the only issue up for debate is the timeline and rate of adoption, I think.

    One thing that the Drive For Innovation blog brought up that I hadn't really thought much about was the ethicial issues involved with finding places free places to recharge while on the road. Have you figured out how you'll deal with that? I think this is something that may be an unexpected challenge to early hybrid adopters in certain areas of the country.

    Regardless, hope you have a fun trip!

  2. Nemos
    September 19, 2011

    owhh thats is amazing… Great idea I didnt expect to read something like that. First of all I wish you a nice and safety trip. The EBN community will be your co driver and we are waiting for news from you.

    (In your next blog post a few questions what did you like most in the car and during the trip?) What do think about driving electric car.

    see you soon.

  3. Clairvoyant
    September 19, 2011

    Very exciting, Bolaji. Can't wait to hear about your experience. I hope that the Chevy Volt becomes very successful and that more manufacturers follow this trend.

  4. bolaji ojo
    September 19, 2011

    @DennisQ, I'm going to solve the charging problem the good old American way. Wal-Mart welcomes campers (hoping they would stock up there, of course) so I'll be sure to stop at Wal-Mart. Then there are the many watering holes on the way, all the rest areas and hotels. I'm also going to talk with Brian Fuller who's been in the driver's seat all the way from California and get some tips from him. I wonder if anyone has solutions from the tech world, like wireless charging?

  5. bolaji ojo
    September 19, 2011

    @Nemos, You bet. I love driving and hope the car can give me some good ooomph on the road. I am not looking to be overtaken by a tractor trailer. Also, I wonder if you can talk a cop out of a speeding ticket by saying: “Sorry, officer. I am road testing the vehicle and the manufacturer wanted to be sure the trooper's car can keep up!” What do you think?

  6. bolaji ojo
    September 19, 2011

    @Clairvoyant, Success for the Chevy Volt will have to be based on the level of customer satisfaction. I'll let you know how satisfied I am but then you'll have to agree you'll go and test-drive one yourself. If we are both satisfied, a Volt in your garage and mine? By the way, the government will also provide tax breaks.

  7. Darr247
    September 19, 2011

    We want 1/4 mile and 0-60 times, too.

    If the previous drivers left you any tread, that is.

    If you can plug the charger into a Kill-a-watt meter (I recommend the 4480), we'd like to know if it actually takes 8 KW-hours to fully charge the Volt's battery pack from the 20% cutoff point back to full charge, as Chevy said earlier this year. At $0.13 per Kilowatt-hour, that would be just over $1 for a 40-mile round trip (e.g. a 20 mile commute) without using any gasoline.

  8. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 20, 2011

    This is great that the UBM and you get this honour of making the first impressions on this GREEN car, among the electronics community.

    The success of this journey will also mark the opening of new market opportunities for the component suppliers. 

    I will be interested to know your experince about how VOLT negotiates the steep gradients and how much you save in the traffic jams ( I assume the motor automatically cuts off when the vehicle stops).

    All the best !

     

     

  9. Anand
    September 20, 2011

    “I'll let you know how satisfied I am”

    @Bolaji, why dont you post some pics of the car. May be you can upload a video of you driving the car. Any idea if this car will be launched in India ? 

  10. FLYINGSCOT
    September 20, 2011

    Bolaji.   As an owner of a Prius I am very impressed with the technology, quality and capability of the car.  I hope you enjoy the Volt and would love to hear how you compare the experience against a conventional car and a Prius (or any other hybrid you have tried before).

  11. jbond
    September 20, 2011

    Living here in Michigan we've had a chance to check this car out from the beginning. The concept is great and it's great to see an American company trying to be successful at something only the Asian manufacturers were pursuing for so long. As long as GM can get the future pricing right and stir up customers, the Volt should be successful, just not a lot of people in the market to spend $45000 to drive one.

     

    Have a safe journey and keep us updated on your journey.

    Cheers!

     

  12. Eldredge
    September 20, 2011

    Bolaji,

          What a great opportunity! Anxious to hear your assessment of the vehicles features and perfromance.

  13. Ariella
    September 20, 2011

    @anadvy That's a great idea for a video. Consumer Reports uses videos to show features of cars, including a demonstration of how some “improvements” make simple things like putting on the radio much more complicated.

  14. bolaji ojo
    September 20, 2011

    @Anandvy, Video and pictures coming along with answers to your question about whether the Chevy Volt will be available outside North America.

  15. eemom
    September 20, 2011

    @Bolaji – The journey of the volt along with your experience will be very interesting to read about in the days to come.  I have often thought of the hybrid cars since my travel is usually local and in short spurts.  That is how I have viewed hybrid cars in the past but perhaps learning from your experience will open up my mind to more capabilities I did not know hybrids have.  Safe journey and can't wait to hear about it.

  16. Kunmi
    September 20, 2011

    If this is the case for future, my dream will surely come to pass that the gasoline came back to $2 per galon in the USA. If this chevy product can deliver 40 miles for the rate of $1, that is cool enough for many people that commutes to work on daily basis. More grace to these inventors. Does anyone know how expensive this car is?

  17. Kunmi
    September 20, 2011

    This price, $45k will class the users of this car type. I hope GM will factor price into this great invention so that it will be generally accepted. Perhahps many people will give a second look to American cars

  18. FLYINGSCOT
    September 20, 2011

    The Chevy Volt has already been advertised in the UK as being available.  I image it will be available all over Europe soon.

  19. Anand
    September 20, 2011

    Bolaji, thanks for the reply. I will be eagerly waiting  for those photos and videos.

  20. elctrnx_lyf
    September 20, 2011

    With the fuel prices in India are higher than any other countries in the world this kind of a powerful electric car would be welcome. But the cost should be reduced in a big way to attract the customers here. REVA, which makes electric cars in India is acquired by Mahindra and would be launching the latest models in the next two years. These models would be much cost competetive than the volt.

  21. Kevin Jackson
    September 20, 2011

    Despite GM's insistence, it's not an electric car, it's a hybrid. If you want to call it a “plug-in hybrid” that's fine. But, I am disappointed that a reporter for what I thought was a technically oriented organization like EBN can't distinguish the difference between marketing hype and reality. GM can call it what they wish but you should call it what it is – the Volt Hybrid.

    For $45K I can get two cars with better highway mileage and improved amenities.

    If you want to save the world from CO2 don't forget that, in much of the US, electric and plug-in hybrids generate more CO2 emissions than regular hybrids because of the coal burned to create the electricity they are charged with (The dirty truth about plug-in hybrids – Scientific American).

    So, we have a somewhat interesting car that is for wealthy early adopters and ignorant environmentalists.

     

  22. garyk
    September 20, 2011

    I hate to be negetive but in the California I've seen two plug in stations at golf course I play at. I haven't seen any signs for plug station when I'm driving around.

    I hope on your trip you don't run in to any areas that have power outages, like we have in California every once in a while.  

    As far as elecric cars in India I'm sure they have the infrastucture to support electic car's?

    Have a safe trip!!!

  23. Ms. Daisy
    September 20, 2011

    Kevin:

    I think this post is more about the opportunities for the electronic supply chain than the sale of GM Volt alone. The issue of hybrid vs electric car manufacturing is not a debate that the industry cares about. The opportunities offered by the manufacturing of these vehicles is what I believe Bolaji is inviting the audience to.

    I hear your concerns about clean air, enviromental pollution etc, but cars on gasoline emit CO2 too, even though you can get  a better mileage as you stated. We can go into a long debate about how to limit emissions and other public health and environmental concerns. But  that will be outside of the realm of EBN in this particular forum.  

     

  24. bolaji ojo
    September 20, 2011

    @Kevin, I was tempted to delete your comment after seeing the “WTF” subject line but I thought I should leave it just this once. On EBN, we don't accept swear words and we don't encourage foul words or name calling. Please don't use these on this site again.

    As to the points you raised in your comments, the Chevy Volt runs on both gas and battery and you'll find the reference in Tony Masimini's article referenced in my blog. I didn't need to repeat what has already been extensively covered here already. I learned decades ago that the “best advertising for a product is the product itself,” as a former lecturer once said. Hype has a way of getting uncovered. I am interested in sharing with EBN readers details about the Chevy Volt's onroad performance. I am not going to do that before I get inside the vehicle. If you have already driven or bought a Chevy Volt or have other first hand experience about it, please share that with us.

  25. Eldredge
    September 21, 2011

    Bolaji,

       Perhaps a little off-topic, but has anyone analyzed the potential impact of electric and electric-hybrid vehicles on the supply grid and existing infrastrucure? I know that one of the arguments is that the vehicles will be charged at night during low demand times, but I'm not sure that is a realisitic expectation, unless the miles between charges becomes much higher. Obviously, hybrids would be less of an issue than full electric vehicles.

  26. Kevin Jackson
    September 21, 2011

    @Bolaji, thank you for not deleting my post. I debated about abbreviating my “Where's The Facts?” subject line but I figured I'd get more attention with the abbreviation.

    I've become increasingly irritated with the poor quality of reporting of all types. We live in a world with so much deception, distortion and “spinning” of facts. And other than the political arena, the renewable energy-efficiency-emissions world seems to be one of the worst. Those of us that don't know first-hand must rely on reporting and the reporters that do it to it to provide the facts and the truth.

    GM marketed this hybrid as an electric car with, from an engineering standpoint, an impossible range, for years before its release and I couldn't wait to see how they did it – they didn't.

    Ok, maybe I'm naive, maybe that is what is expected from marketing efforts today but, when I read on an EBM post, EBM a place where I thought I found a shelter from nonsense, a small bastion of truthfulness, a place where I thought reason reigned, when I read about GM's Volt “electric” car, I was so upset, disappointed and dejected I had to comment.

    Please, please don't call it an electric car. Call it a hybrid, call it a plug-in hybrid, call it a plug-in hybrid with a big, big battery but don't buy into and perpetuate the lie, please tell us the truth.

    I've driven several electric cars and love the silent operation, the total lack of engine vibration and the “whoosh” feeling of the off-the-line acceleration, if the suspension is right, it's like riding a flying carpet. I look forward to your report.

  27. Kevin Jackson
    September 21, 2011

    Ms.Daisy:

    If this report was about the electronics supply chain EBM would be tearing one apart to determine what electronic components were used in its construction not driving it around and telling us how comfortable it may be, how it handles, what kind of range it has on its batteries, what mileage it get on the highway, etc.

     

  28. Brian Fuller
    September 21, 2011

    @Kevin thanks for commenting and stay tuned on the teardown. This is coming next spring and is going to be the culimination of the trip. Cheers,

    Brian

  29. Tim Votapka
    September 21, 2011

    Bolaj – Enjoy the road trip. Looking forward to seeing the progress report and tear down later on.

  30. bolaji ojo
    September 21, 2011

    @Kevin, Thanks for the detailed response. I have just taken delivery of the Chevy Volt and your comments as well as initial observations serve as fodder for my next blog.

  31. Nemos
    September 21, 2011

    ahhahaah you can try.Also I am very interest to hear his response. What the Cop will answer if he heard something like that. Maybe he joins you as well , you never know …….

  32. JADEN
    September 22, 2011

    It is very good to see and drive this advanced technology car, something we have not seen in a very long time. GM did it with the EV1 which was a high end demonstration and way ahead of it's time, the VOLT is reality.  This car is a very large step ahead in automotive technology.

  33. Brian Fuller
    September 22, 2011

    Shameless plug that's relevant to this thread: I mused on this issue and the concept of “Peak Oil” on the Drive for Innovation site. I'm a believer in electrics but I'm a realist, too:

    http://www.driveforinnovation.com/the-problem-with-oil

     

  34. Mr. Roques
    September 22, 2011

    I like the Volt. Never seen it but from what I've seen looks great… the problem I have with the commercial is that it uses electricity, no? Just like 50% of all the things they show throwing smoke … how is it different? Am I getting it wrong?

  35. Ms. Daisy
    September 23, 2011

    @Mr. Roques:

    Out of curiosity, I went to test drive the Volt. It is compact and cool with lots of electronic bells and whistle. I was dumbfounded by the almost total silence except for the sound of the tyres while driving. I could not hear the engine even when the car swiched itself to gas. Yes you are right about the false advertisement as electric. The dash board showed the mileage on the electric battery as it dropped to zero and I wandered if it will splutter a little to make the switch but no it did not. It was still quiet on gasoline. I then asked to see the engine just to feed my curiosity. It looks like an engineering marvel. I hope the engineers will look into maximazing the energy generated from the spinning tyres and convert it to electricity just like the windmill. Then we can talk electric!!

  36. mario8a
    September 24, 2011

    Bolaji, enjoy the ride, looking forward to read your comments about it.

    regarding the article, how the automotive indstry will allow an electric car to be succesfull?

  37. Mr. Roques
    October 31, 2011

    I was reading about 100% electric cars and how complicated it is to rechardge your car if you let the battery energy run out. It takes over 12 hours to recharge it.

    And is anyone concerned about electric bills? How much electricity does it consume?

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