The Chevrolet Volt electric car from GM invariably is mentioned in my economics classes whenever the discussion turns to alternative energies. It is often held up as the “car of the future” and a paragon of the green economy transforming the United States. While I would be delighted to see the Volt reach these aspirations, I question whether those who have pinned high hopes on this vehicle have actually considered the data.
Readers of Above All Earthly Powers are encouraged to research the data rather than be swayed by headlines and soundbites.
GM expects sales to fall short of 45,000 Volts this year. This likely will prove true, given that only 7,600 were sold last year. In other words, of the 12.8 million vehicls sold in the United States last year, 99.95% of them were not Chevy Volts. It is also safe to assume that essentially 100% of the 18.5 million automobiles sold in China last year were not Chevy Volts.
What could account for this failure to revolutionize the auto industry by this innovative green product? One contributor could be the $41,000 price tag on a vehicle smaller than the Ford Fusion (2011 record sales: 240,000 vehicles). Of course this steep price is partially offset by a $7,500 government rebate which is coerced from non-green taxpayers who otherwise might not donate to save the planet. This sales incentive seems reasonable in light of the fact that the federal government still owns 26% of General Motors outstanding common stock.
Another contributor to low sales might be concerns about having batteries of the Volt spark or burst into flame several weeks after being involved in a collision. Though this happened to three vehicles that were tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM “took unprecedented steps to reassure Volt owners and the public that it was taking the matter seriously.” Based on engineering fixes, the NHTSA closed its investigation saying it “found no reason to believe the car poses an unusual risk of fire.”
Gentle reader, we should care about the environment. For this reason, future posts will address how to care for the creation with ideas that keep individuals safe from fires, are cost-effective in light of poverty, and produce actual change rather than “green washed” corporate public relations.