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Given that the Nissan Leaf was named European Car of the Year at the 81st annual Geneva Motor Show in 2011 and the buzz surrounding electric vehicles shows no signs of abating, it probably wasn’t surprising that in 2012, the Chevy Volt and Opel/Vauxhall Ampera (it’s European market derivative), garnered the annual ECOTY award this time around..
The accolade comes as GM continues to aggressively push the Chevrolet nameplate into Europe, while Opel, the company’s established brand in the region, continues to struggle against volume competitors like Volkswagen and Ford, largely due to higher labor costs and limited access to markets outside heavily saturated Europe.
Although the Ampera is little more than a badge engineered version of the Volt, raising Opel’s profile should at least help the brand in the short term. As to the future of GM’s extended range electric car overall, in the US, sales have so far failed to meet expectations, not helped by negative publicity involving battery fire and leakage investigations last year.
Considering that both the Volt and Ampera are virtually identical and both are also targeted at European buyers, albeit through different dealer networks, it will be interesting to see how GM’s extended range electric car fares on the continent and if sales under one nameplate end up cannibalizing the other.
Last year, we spoke with some key GM executives in Detroit who said that the plan is to move both cars in different directions in terms of styling and features, so it’s clear there’s at least some kind of plan in place for the future of this car and also EV technology under each brand.
Along with the Nissan LEAF it’s the most hyped car of recent times, yet for all the hoopla and publicity surrounding the Chevy Volt it appears that interest in GM’s extended range electric car is starting to wane.
According CNW Market Research, recent statistics bear this out. In March, more than 21 percent of so-called ‘early adopters,’ said they were likely to consider the vehicle. By July that number had dropped to just 14.6 percent. It’s a similar story with ‘electric vehicle enthusiasts.’ In March, around 25 percent considered buying the Volt, now the total is down to just 17 percent.
And in fact, according to CNW; in just about every category, new car buyers today are less likely to consider the Volt than at any time during it’s history. The big reason? The car’s rather steep MSRP. It seems most people whether enthusiasts or not just aren’t willing to fork out 40 grand for a Volt, even with incentives.
With findings like this, could it be a sign that the electric vehicle craze is running its course? Right now, it’s too early to tell, but there are indications that EVs may not be the solution some automakers originally thought they would be.
[Source: USA Today]
Following on from a demonstration back in February, at the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego, General Motors, in conjunction with OnStar, is in the process of launching a real world Smart Grid program for electric vehicles, beginning with a pilot project, set to debut later this year.
The project will see numerous utility employees driving leased Chevrolet Volts as every day vehicles, with the objective of accurately monitoring (and managing) the actual amount of energy consumed by each vehicle a utility operates, via OnStar’s Advanced Telematics Operations Management System (ATOMS).
From the data gathered, utilities will then be able to decide on the optimum times for charging EVs on the grid, the idea being, that charging them is done during off-peak periods.
Essentially, it works like this. The Smart Grid system actually incorporates two elements, the first of which records the current charging level of each car, as well as its charging history, via time and location information.
The second allows the utility in question to actively manage vehicle charging, by providing discounts or other incentives to motorists in an effort to encourage them to charge their vehicles during off peak times, such as the early morning hours, reducing the amount of strain on the grid and thus with it, the chance of brownouts and other supply issues.
“OnStar is the only telematics provider that can create a wireless bridge between electric vehicles and the grid, building on our learning from the Chevrolet Volts on the road today,” said Nick Pudar, the company’s vice president of planning and business development in a recent statement.
It’ll be interesting to see how this new Smart Grid system fares during the trial period and whether from the results gathered, it can truly provide a worthy solution to one of the biggest on-going problems concerning EVs.