Farewell to the Chevy Volt: stories and legends about a charged hybrid

Original author: Alex Davies
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Ten years ago, the Chevrolet Volt, a rechargeable hybrid car, told the United States and the world that, although General Motors ran out of money, she still had ideas and talented

Chevrolet Volt engineers who died quietly. It happened in early December, amid news that General Motors was cutting 14,000 jobs, closing three assembly plants and stopping production of such models as the Chevy Cruze and Impala, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac CT6. This could be understood: sales slowed down, Americans did not buy minicars or sedans, and GM was rebuilt for the future, in which larger cars and much more electrics appeared.

Ten years ago, the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable hybrid car told the United States and the world that although General Motors ran out of money, she still had ideas and talented engineers. But in the end, it was overshadowed by the successful launch of the Bolt EV model - a fully electric car worth $ 37,500, ahead of the Tesla Model 3 market entry.

The idea to make a Volt came to GM's big shot, Robert Lutz , in 2006. He is tired of the praises of the Toyota Prius hybrid and talk of some up-and-coming company Tesla, which is run by a dude with a funny name. He wanted to prove that GM could be innovative, despite the shame that the company had killed the beloved model of many EV1, an all-electric two-seater, developed in the mid-90s. Volt has become a compact four-seater machine, capable of traveling about 65 km on a full charge, and then start the gasoline generator and drive on.

To better understand the history and heritage of the Volt, we talked to people close to her friends: this is Tony Posavats, one of the directors of GM, transferred from the department of pick-ups in order to look after the embodiment of the Volt idea; Chelsea Sexton, who worked on the program EV1, and then made a career, agitating for the introduction of electric cars; John Walker, a journalist who at the time managed the Green Car Reports ; Jeff U'Ren, owner of four copies of Volt, and organizer of the club of their owners on Facebook.

A new beginning

Tony posavac: I was GM's planning director in the full-size pickup department, and then this business was probably on the Fortune 25 list: we had seven assembly plants in North America with a capacity of 1.7 million units. I had experience working with hybrids. At that time, GM was very serious conversations about what you need to speak, and show all that we are able from a technical point of view, in spite of the Toyota Prius. The Volt worked because it was a product architecture that had lithium-ion batteries in the middle, an electric generator in the front and extra space for fuel in the back, whether it's a gas tank or a tank for compressed hydrogen. We understood that for different markets one would have to do more or less battery capacity, remove or leave the function of increasing mileage, depending on the needs and desires of customers.

Chelsea Sexton: I worked on the EV1 program, and then I quit when I was offered only an alternative like “work on the next Buick model” or something like that. I worked on the first Automotive X Prize competition, helped found Plug In America, and worked on documentaries about EV1. The film “Who killed an electric car” appeared at the Sundance Festival in 2006, and then we went on a press tour that spring. The director, Chris Payne, and I stood on a street corner in Minneapolis, when a reporter called me and asked, "What do you think about the idea that GM is going to do another electric car?" Chris and I said, "We will believe when we see" . And then GM invited us to Detroit. And in December 2006, about a month before Detroit and the auto show, we sat in a hookah room in a separate office, and we were shown the concept of the Volt on a laptop.

Having killed the beloved EV1, the company needed to convince fans of electric vehicles that it seriously intends to return the batteries.

John walker: I saw the concept at the Detroit auto show in 2007, and quickly realized that it was conceived not out of the goodness of my heart, not because of the desire to "save the Earth" or concern about carbon emissions, and all that. It was Bob Lutz, as it were, saying: “Toyota unfairly received recognition because of the Prius and“ green technologies. ” They are actively working to sell the entire range of models, including the same full-size pickups, like ours. But at the same time, we turn out to be bad, having killed EV1. ” The question was in Lutz's male pride. His approach was: “We have more experience in creating electric cars than anyone else. We will figure out how to make a car that will be better than the Prius. " The idea was to make a car for commuting to and from work - and the people of Michigan are well acquainted with this topic. On electricity, you can drive X kilometers, therefore, most regular travel can be done relying on the power grid. But if you suddenly woke up one day and decided to drive to Kansas City, you will have a gasoline engine for this. And thanks to the engine in the winter it will be possible not to freeze. It was a good engineering solution.

Ghost ev1

Jeff U'Ren : I grew up loving cars. I had a 1965 GTO in college, an awesome muscle car. And one of the colleagues had one of the first EV1. I ride on it, and it was cool. It was a rocket. She really rebuilt my brain, changing the concept of what real power is. So I went to the seller, and Chelsea Sexton leased my EV1 to me on June 14, 1997. I drove it for three years, drove 50,000 km. And then they took her back, and I was upset.

Volcker : When I launched the Green Car Reports project in 2009, they mostly blamed GM. And Toyota was a role model, like Tesla. Do not count those readers who wrote “I will never buy a car from GM or even sponsor them at all. They killed EV1, so they walk in the forest. ”

Sexton: Tony Posavats said: “Oh, Chelsea will like this car.” And I: "You can not fool me a second time." We were skeptical of the GM initiative. After that there was an interesting period when they tried their best to convince everyone, so the press even began to make fun of them: Wow, yes, they advertise the newest door knob.


Posavats : We did everything for the most part from scratch. To ensure the operation of the charging system, the charging cable. Nobody did this, the chargers were just for golf cars. We have done a lot of things from scratch. The team considered this project a kind of supreme goal. We worked within GM almost as a startup, and our buffer was Bob Lutz. We did not have to wade through the usual supervision from the managers and the bureaucracy.

Sexton : They could call me and say: “We have two Volt on Long Beach. Gather a dozen friends, bring them there and we will do a test drive in the parking lot. ” I brought a bunch of former owners of EV1, including Bill Nye . And inevitably most of them got out of the car and said: “Oh my goodness, GM did not kill my car, it made it.”

U'ren: I went there and drove through the parking lot. I put down the pedal, I turned the steering wheel, I circled the cones. I tried to work with the brake. It was awesome! I returned to the Prius, and he seemed like a toy to me. I thought, “Ffu, it's terrible!” As a result, I got the same car that Jay Leno recently bought , a 2011 gray Volt. Then his wife wanted the same, and we bought a white 2012. And then the lease term for the 2011 model came out, and I bought a gray 2014 Volt. My wife’s car went through a lot, because now my son also drove her, from work and to work. Therefore, we bought another car in 2014. I launched the Chevy Volt owners page on Facebook because people wanted to discuss them, share stories. The best owners were those who changed their BMW or Mercedes or a pick-up truck to the Volt.

«Думаю, Volt дошёл до естественного завершения, — говорит фанат модели Джефф У’Рен. — Мы обожаем наш Volt 2018 года»

Волкер: People who bought Volt adored this model. In fact. I think that the problem of GM is that she could not figure out how to explain the concept of a charged hybrid to people who are not fans. They did not need a large market, they had to sell enough to meet the requirements of regulators. But I think they had plans to sell more future models. In 2011, people began to understand what a hybrid car is: you can use it like a gasoline car, but the magic hamsters under the hood just drink less gasoline. People understood what an electric car is. You connect it like a smartphone, then come back, and you already have a full tank, and you use it. But it is very difficult in one sentence to explain what a rechargeable hybrid is. This is an excellent engineering solution, but the advantages have to be explained. And it is very difficult to do

Posavats : I heard scary stories about how people came to the store, and the dealer told them: “You want a Volt, that is, you are interested in fuel economy. I have 35 Chevy Cruze in stock, let me try to sell them. ” Or the buyer knew more about the car than the seller. And you could never underestimate this looming threat: our company is unpopular, we are called Government Motors [government vehicles]. Many people who could have been among the first users found it difficult to drag them to the Chevy store.

Sexton: I think GM sold as much Volt as it wanted. They wanted to sell enough to be leaders. The initial market was not that insincere, it was strange, and they could hardly cope with it. “How can we tell about this thing?” They had these strange commercials with aliens. They brought the car to the level of the refrigerator. And who will lyrically relate to household appliances?

Legacy Volt

Volcker : I think the model returned to GM confidence that it could create a car that people would like.

Sexton : What is sad about leaving a Volt is that this car was better than it was thought. Many of us adored the Volt, and treated it better than most people in the company.

Posavats: I would like us to aggressively break through to the position of leader. Now there are a lot of competing trends and all this dynamics, carsharing, new forms of travel using different types of transport, this new antagonism for cities, “non-cities”, various legal problems. I think the ultimate goal of GM is known. It is difficult to achieve it. Therefore, it always seemed to me that Volt had a vital role in this. It was not just a bridge, although the creation of infrastructure for charging electric vehicles will take more than a dozen years.

U'Ren : I think the Volt has come to a natural end. We adore our 2018 Volt.

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