The Speculist: The Race to Plug-In


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The Race to Plug-In

Saturn has announced that it will sell a plug-in version of the Saturn Vue in late 2009. Toyota will sell a plug-in Prius in 2010. The Chevy Volt will also have a plug-in version in 2010.


Plug-ins will be compared to each other on how far they will be able to travel as electric vehicles per charge. The Saturn plug-in will run 10 miles on electric per charge. The Prius will only go 7 miles. The Volt (pictured above) will go 40 miles per charge.

That 30 mile advantage for the Volt over the other plug-ins will make a huge difference at the pump. Running as an EV is the equivalent of paying $.75 cents per gallon for gasoline. And being able to go 40 miles per charge means that many people won't have to burn gas at all during their daily commutes. I wouldn't. But I would burn some gas with the Saturn and Prius plug-ins.

Of course I'm burning gas with my current vehicle. Plug-ins, even ones with modest EV ranges, will be a huge step forward.

UPDATE: GM is calling the Volt their "Moon shot." And, just in case you're not convinced that this is a race...

There's nothing magic about the technology. Two or three years after the Volt is introduced, everybody will have something like it. We'd just like to be first for once.
-GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz


It would be interesting to see how much driving people do, on average, within certain defined radii of their homes: 2 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, 50 miles, etc. Setting aside the serious commuters who don't use (or have the option of) public transportation, my guess is that most individual, non-commercial driving takes place within that 10-mile radius. But whatever the percentages are, plug-in hybrids will help to eliminate a good deal of city driving -- which is the least fuel-efficient kind.


Its not the distance from home that matters here, but how far you've driven (on average) before you get home.

It's possible that you could drive 150 miles all within 10 miles of your house. In the alternative, your work could be 25 miles from your house but you drive only 50 miles everyday. Straight to work...straight home.

Let's say that as I pull into the driveway in the evening I've driven, on average, 50 miles. If I was driving a Volt I might have burned gas for only 10 miles that day.

Right. I think we're making the same point.

Plug-ins will need a somewhat better electrical range than the current generation we're seeing if they are to cover most of the "normal" (non-long-distance) driving that a driver will do in the typical day.

Anyway, I shouldn't have said that the plug-ins will eliminate city driving, but rather that they will eliminate a lot of gas-burning for city driving.

How cumbersome are the batteries for these vehicles? If the recharge time is 8 hours, I could do that while I'm at work - but not as a layover on a 100 miles drive. However, if I could approach the car battery the same way I do the camera battery (with an interchangeable set) - then I can leave my depleted battery at the "station" (for them to recharge) and drive away on a fresh set. Of course this requires a standard format battery and an infrastructure to support it (but at some early point we didn't have widespread infrastructure for gasoline either) If the power station can extract 'dead' batteries and install a fresh set while I'm getting my coffee or a sandwich, they wouldn't be any more inconvenient than my own stomach often is.

Maybe this guy is lying- but I think GM is aiming too low.

The claim is a Saturn VUE Plug in hybrid, can go 40 miles in all electric mode- top speed 87 mph. Approx $8700 more than std VUE.

MikeD- the idea is all electric from the overnight (at work) charge- interanl combustion after. Cross country would be mostly internal combustion.

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