Excuses Starting to Flow: GM says 2010 no sure thing for Volt
Wagoner says automaker wants production as soon as possible; battery
development is key.
Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News
General Motors Corp. still hopes to have the Chevrolet Volt -- the
automaker's ambitious attempt at a plug-in hybrid -- on the road by
2010, CEO Rick Wagoner said on Thursday. But he cautioned that the
timeline isn't a sure thing as the automaker works to develop the
technology required to produce a battery-powered car for the masses.
"We continue to put massive resources into production as soon as
possible," Wagoner said, responding in writing during an online chat
session to kick off the automaker's 100th anniversary.
"2010 would be great, but (we) can't guarantee that at this time. We'll
keep you posted regularly on our progress."
Wagoner fielded questions from automotive journalists and bloggers
during the 50-minute question-and-answer session, on topics ranging from
the automaker's overseas ventures to potential new products.
Whether the Volt becomes reality hinges on GM's ability to develop a
lithium-ion battery capable of powering a mass-market car. A battery
would drive the Volt's powertrain, and an onboard fueling system would
recharge the battery while on the road. GM is working on a fueling
system, which would be called E-Flex, that could run on gasoline, diesel
fuel and hydrogen fuel cells.
It's been almost a year since GM went public with plans to develop and
build the Volt. The high-profile effort is being hailed by many in the
industry as a savvy and daring move. Others have dismissed the Volt as a
publicity ploy by a company desperate to compete with Toyota Motor Co.'s
well-nurtured reputation as the greenest automaker.
GM has said it is in the midst of designing a production-ready version
of the Volt. At the same time, the automaker is testing battery packs
for factors such as durability and longevity.
Wagoner fielded a few candid questions, including one from a participant
who wanted to know if he felt the automaker was caught "napping" because
Toyota had hybrid vehicles on the road nearly 10 years before GM.
"Toyota has done a fine job with the Prius," Wagoner said. "But, we are
moving fast with technologies like E-85 (ethanol), all-electric, fuel
cells and a wide range of hybrid offers. GM is very much in the race in
all of these technologies, including leading in several already."
GM mum on Volt details
The Volt was a popular topic during several chats that GM organized
throughout the day Thursday. A number of participants tried to pry
information out of GM on everything from what the vehicle would look
like to whether GM is prepared to deal with potential price gouging.
For the most part, the automaker's executives kept mum and tried to
highlight GM's across-the-board efforts to improve fuel economy and
develop vehicles that run on alternative fuels.
"The Chevy Volt and the E-Flex system are really important for GM's, and
I think the whole industry's, future," Wagoner said.
"With the growing demand for oil, we need to diversify the sources of
power for autos, away from our traditional 98 percent reliance on oil."