Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Genuine or Greenwashing: GM's Chevy Volt

General Motors has been relentlessly flogging its Chevrolet Volt "concept car," recently hosting a lavish event at DC's ritzy Georgetown waterfront to promote it.

There's only one problem. The Volt isn't much of a step forward from the EV1 of Who Killed the Electric Car? fame.

And GM's own research and development chief admitted as much, while simultaneously making a vague Giambi-esque admission that GM was, in fact, responsible for the EV1's murder:

According to the March 13, 2007 issue of Newsweek, "GM R&D chief Larry Burns ... now wishes GM hadn't killed the plug-in hybrid EV1 prototype his engineers had on the road a decade ago: 'If we could turn back the hands of time,' says Burns, 'we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.
So why resurrect it now? From last week's Detroit News:

Plug-in hybrids will be on center stage in Washington today as the Chevy Volt makes an appearance on Capitol Hill as part of General Motors Corp.'s effort to convince Congress to pass a more palatable fuel efficiency increase.

GM's No. 3 official, Troy Clarke -- head of North American operations -- is returning to the Hill today to meet with a about a dozen mostly undecided lawmakers. He also will show off a GM concept car, the Chevy Volt, in trying to explain why the company believes the long-term answer to energy independence is through biofuels and the electrification of the automobile, rather than spending tens of billions of dollars to meet 4 percent annual corporate average fuel efficiency. (emphasis added)

And there you have it.

A Democratic Congress is rapidly accelerating towards tightening fuel economy standards for the first time in 17 years, and this is GM's way of trying to divert attention. We know we've ignored fuel economy for 17 years, giving you SUVs, ever-larger pickups, and the Hummer along the way. But we don't need regulation! See this Volt? It's proof we've learned the error of our ways!

Don't buy it. The argument, not the car. (You can't buy the car -- it's just a concept that won't be on the market until at least 2010).) GM foolishly passed on the chance to be a pioneer in the electric car sector, with the
explicit endorsement of President Bush:

"As soon as George Bush got elected, the U.S. car companies walked away from the partnership and didn't continue developing hybrids," [Clinton administration Energy Dept. official Joseph] Romm said. "And the Japanese did. As a result, they ended up the leaders."

Now they're trying to suppress tough fuel economy standards by greenwashing themselves with the Volt. But what happens if a Republican president is elected in '08 and the Senate swings a vote or two back to the GOP column?

Who's to say GM wouldn't kill yet another electric car?

(cross-posted from RaisingKaine.com)


media concepts said...

Thanks for your post, and for your very informative blog. I have begun focusing on green issues both professionally and personally (although I have not blogged about it yet), and your blog, with it links, is a great resource. I attended a writers' symposium recently where one of the panelists was a woman who had worked on the GM EV1 program and who was interviewed in "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It was fascinating, and I am glad to see that this film is gaining in popularity a year after it was released. I am linking to your blog today, and I hope you will reciprocate.

Mosquito said...

I know one thing...EVERYONE should insist on BUYING not LEASING the car...so that can't take the car back like they did once before.

I won't even consider buying the car unless it has ALL the advantages of the first electric car....no hybrid (i.e. no oil changes) and no need to "replace" the brakes....

But if it has all of this...and a "reasonable" price tag....then I could see buying one...


Anonymous said...

hah... judging by its sleek appearance, it probably won't come with a "reasonable" price tag. That is, if it ever even makes it to market.

Great post, Miles!

Anonymous said...

I thought her symposium was interesting also.

Anonymous said...

Much more appealing than the cheese-wedge Prius!