GM (Government Motors) has officially unveiled the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. It’s a combination electric/hybrid vehicle with a traveling range of 40 miles on battery power alone, or around 350 miles using a gasoline-powered hybrid generator to power the vehicle’s electric motors. Overall it’s not a bad looking car, although reviewers have noted a distinct “small car feel”.
The Volt’s leading-edge technology comes at a rather steep price — the official MSRP from GM is $41,000, which as AllahPundit notes, is just a little more than the average US per capita income. The Volt’s only real competition will be the Nissan Leaf, a completely electric, 100% emission-free four passenger sedan that will travel around 100 miles per charge, and has a factory MSRP of $32,780.
Both the Volt and the Leaf qualify for a $7500 federal government subsidy to help offset the cost of the vehicles (you get an additional $1000 from Uncle Sam if you install your own charger at home) but even with this added incentive it is unlikely that President Obama’s goal of 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 will be realized. GM is expecting to only sell around 10,000 – 15,000 Volts per year through 2013. And on average, cars with sticker prices above $40,000 account for only 15% of vehicles sold in the US.
In pretty much every respect the Volt has earned the distinction of being America’s first ObamaMobile — it is manufactured by a government-owned and subsidized automaker; GM will probably lose money on every Volt it sells; the government has to further subsidize the cost of the vehicle to make it attractive for consumers; its first-generation technology is largely theoretical and has yet to be implemented on a mass scale; and other long-term costs (such as disposal of the lithium batteries, or potential HazMat situations involving battery damage in a crash) have yet to be fully understood.
Even on a worldwide scale, we have yet to see a “green” venture that can survive on its own without heavy (and often unsustainable) funding from government. The Volt is going on the market only because our government has propped up its manufacturer with tens of billions of dollars in loans and bailout financing. Only the relatively well-off can afford its sticker price, and billions more government dollars in the form of buyer subsidies will still be required to ensure its “success.”
Although the Volt may be a step in the right direction in terms of its eco-friendliness, its introduction is a textbook example of “other people’s money” mentality. All of us who pay taxes will finance subsidies for a very few privileged drivers. In the midst of our current economic recession, that’s the last thing we need.