Is the Volt the anti-EV EV?

volt-more-car-than-electriceditors-blog-entry3I’ve never been a big fan of GM — never really trusted it to make quality cars.

In fact, the chances of GM ever snagging me as a customer were exactly zero – until it decided to build the Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle which mixes pure electric car technology with a more traditional gasoline powered engine.

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A Volt, or a similar plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) – it’s also often referred to as an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) – with 40 miles of pure electric range is exactly the type of vehicle we would like to have to complement a pure electric vehicle, which will definitely be the first type of plug-in we buy (because we’ll be able to power a pure EV 100 percent with sunshine!).

Unfortunately, it seems GM is doing everything it can to turn me off to the Volt.


They’re marketing the Volt in direct opposition to plug-in vehicles – especially pure electrics like the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, or, even, a future pure GM EV — rather than in concert with them.

So, the first thing you’re greeted with on GM’s official Volt web site is the following statement (plastered over the top of picture of a GM Volt).


volt-to-rightYes, that’s, right, according to GM, a pure electric car is not a “real” car.

Apparently the only “real” cars are the ones that run on oil and which spew pollutants into everyone’s lungs.

Strange, last time I checked, an automobile is not defined by its power train or fuel type. It’s simply a vehicle with wheels and some type of propelling mechanism that moves people – and things — around.

It’s pretty clear what GM is doing here: It’s trying to appeal to the “average” American male who – at least in GM’s view – can’t think outside the box of automobiles as gasoline vehicles.

Loud gas cars ‘macho’?
You see, gas powered cars are loud (although, of course, the Volt is anything but loud). They have complicated, greasy engines that “real” men love to get dirty under and in. And they pump out toxic pollutants that help “real” men mark their territory and show the world that, yes, they do exist.

Unfortunately, GM’s attempt to tap anti-EV sentiment to drive sales of the Volt doesn’t stop with its ridiculous “IT’S MORE CAR THAN ELECTRIC” mantra.

Pure electric vehicles, on the other hand, are quiet and clean – no one will know when you arrive, when you shift (in fact, you don’t shift), or when you leave. And no more greasy arms, filthy T-shirts, and hours spent with your head in the engine.

Basically, the pure EV (read: the Nissan LEAF) is ‘”feminine”, and the Volt – because it’s still got some of the trappings of a “real” gasoline car – is, well, “da Man!”

Trying to tap a “real” gas — and male — car vs. “un-real” pure electric — and female — contrast might be the way to go with some consumers, but it’s turning me off — in a big way.

volt-big-grayGM’s gas vs. electric pitch a deal breaker
GM’s anti-EV plug-in marketing strategy might not be that big a deal for someone who has a more positive image of GM and GM products – but it could be a deal-breaker for someone like me who’s highly skeptical of GM.

Unfortunately, GM’s attempt to tap anti-EV sentiment to drive sales of the Volt doesn’t stop with its ridiculous “IT’S MORE CAR THAN ELECTRIC” mantra (yes, GM prints this in all CAPS on its web site).

There’s also GM’s push to trademark “range anxiety”. For EV newbies, range anxiety is the fear that one is going to run out of electric juice in an electric car and be stranded somewhere with no ability to re-fuel the car.

Putting aside the fact that it’s just not right to try and trademark a term as general as range anxiety, why in the world would GM want to trademark this term?

The most logical answer is because it wants to use it as a weapon against pure electric vehicles in its attempt to set the Volt apart from them.

GM brass anti-EV?
Finally, there’s the anti-EV rhetoric coming from some of the GM brass. For instance, Joel Ewanick, GM’s vice president for North America marketing declared this past summer that, “[The Volt] is designed for the majority of Americans. This is a car that the average person can drive on a daily basis. It’s not something that’s a unique little niche vehicle.”

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In case you’re wondering, that “little niche vehicle” is the Nissan LEAF.

Maybe I’m being too kumbaya, but wouldn’t it be great to see plug-in vehicle makers and fans realize that the best way to go is not to attack one another, but to promote the idea of plugging in more generally – as a group?

After all, there are going to be more than a few folks with one pure EV and one PHEV/EREV in their driveway. In fact, I know a couple of people who are going to have a LEAF and a Volt parked in their driveway very soon – and who will be fueling both with solar!

I had thought for awhile that might be us. However, if GM continues to market the Volt as an anti-EV electric vehicle, it’s becoming more and more unlikely the PHEV parked in our EV + PHEV + home solar driveway will be a Volt.

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