Despite a nearly 10-month decline in U.S. fuel prices – though that’s changed of late – and typically higher sticker prices when compared to their petroleum-powered brethren, automakers are not giving up on all-electric (EV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
In fact, General Motors recently committed $200 million to build take its Chevrolet Bolt EV concept into full production at its Orion Assembly facility near Detroit, MI – a long-range EV that will be sold in all 50 states with an estimated range of 200 miles of range at a target price of around $30,000, the automaker said.
“We are moving quickly because of its potential to completely shake up the status quo for electric vehicles,” said GM North America President Alan Batey recently at the Chicago Auto Show. “It’s an EV aimed at everyday drivers, giving them long-range performance that’s been elusive until now."
He also noted that GM is officially forecasting total U.S. light vehicle sales will range from 16.5 million to 17 million units for 2015 and to capitalize on that demand, the OEM is looking to keep unveiling new models – with electric power as a key component for several of them.
“’Five in ’15’ is our mantra this year, as we’ll introduce five all-new cars in key segments,” Batey explained. “We have already lifted the cover on the first of those five, the next-generation [hybrid electric] Volt, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.”
Introduced in 2010, Batey said that the Chevrolet Volt is “changing habits and energy usage,” with Volt owners who charge regularly typically driving more than 970 miles between fill-ups and visiting fueling stations less than once a month, on average.
“And now, it’s going to get even better,” he added. “When the new Volt arrives later this year, it will have more range — up to 50 miles of clean electric driving — and more comfort and convenience features than ever.”
Helping owners manage the “refueling” process for their EVs is the focus of a research effort started last October that involves Ford Motor Co., seven other global automakers, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), several energy companies and Sumitomo Electric.
That effort is testing technology that will allow two-way communication between utility companies and plug-in EVs via the cloud in order to better manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid.
The system will enable the utilities to send a message directly to the vehicle, asking it to stop charging temporarily as a way of helping a grid that is becoming overloaded, noted Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure.
“This is a critical milestone as we move forward with our collective goal to advance electrification and boost the environmental benefits that come with that,” he said. “Our intent is to add more capability to this technology so that it may be used broadly in the future.”