GM: EV, or Not To EV?


Seems my blog post last week about GM planning an all-electric version of the Volt caused a bit of a stir. Not surprising, given the way this news came out. So let me recap how it happened, and you can decide for yourself whether you believe it or not.

When GM invited 20 or so Plug In America leaders and former EV1 drivers to test-drive a Chevy Volt in San Francisco, they greeted us by (among other things) asking if we were on Twitter, encouraging us to tweet and video and blog and post all about our experience with the Volt that day. (The video above is by GM of the San Francisco test-drive day.)

Shortly before I left, I was talking with Shad Balch, GM’s Western Region Environment and Energy Policy Communications rep, and asked him when GM might have an EV to complement the Volt. To my surprise, he said: Six months after the Volt. I don’t remember if he said that’s when they’d announce it or that’s when they’d make it available (I don’t think he specified), but doing a quick calendar count in my head, I murmured something about that being around mid-2011. “Wow,” I said.

Without me prompting him, Balch went on (my comments in parentheses): The Volt already has approximately twice as many batteries as it needs to go 40 miles if you fully discharge the batteries (which is typical of EVs, whereas the Volt discharges a narrower range of battery capacity.) So all GM would have to do is add a bit more battery (in order to bump the potential range up from 80 miles to 100 miles or more). And, Balch added, by getting rid of the gas generator, the car will actually end up lighter than the Volt.

I said something along the lines of this being good news, and I’m sure my face registered surprise. Balch said that GM’s CEO had let it slip recently in a media interview, so now they could talk about it.

Or not, as it turns out. When people read my blog post and starting calling GM about it, Balch emailed me and asked that I update the blog with this statement, which others also received when they contacted Balch about the EV Volt:

“It appears there was a misunderstanding,” he wrote. “GM has not officially announced plans to build an all-electric Volt.”

Okay, so a few off-the-cuff remarks about plans for an EV Volt to someone like me (a professional journalist) at a publicity event where GM was encouraging us to broadcast anything and everthing we learned that day doesn’t constitute an official announcement. But it’s a pretty close second.

And I agree that there was a misunderstanding, but it wasn’t between me and Balch. He was very clear, and I was all ears. Seems there was some misunderstanding within GM’s PR team about what should or should not be discussed, though. Looks like they’ve sorted that out now.

And notice, they haven’t denied that there’s an EV Volt coming, just said that no plans have been officially announced. As a commentator on another blog that reported Balch’s backpedaling wrote, “In politics, we’d call that a confirmation.”

–Sherry Boschert


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