2011 Chevy Volt Customer Advisory Board: More Than A Publicity Stunt

Follow Nikki

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

When long-time EV advocate and former GM EV1 salesperson Chelsea Sexton talked to us a few weeks ago and told us she had some exciting news, we knew something fun was about to happen. Did she have news about the up-coming sequel to Chris Payne’s docudrama Who Killed The Electric Car? Was she planning to change her name to Iowna Neavy? Or had she become the latest in a line of EV advocates turning to jobs selling the latest electric cars?

No, no, and no. While she couldn’t tell us what the news was, we found out a few days later when Chevrolet announced its 2011 Chevy Volt Customer Advisory Board, a team of 15 enthusiasts and advocates which GM is going to lend 2011 Volts to for the next three months.

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

Enlarge Photo
Hand-picked by Chevrolet, the board members include celebrity scientist Bill Nye, Former Director of Central Intelligence Jim Woolsey and President of the Electric Drive Transportation Association Brian Wynne, together with influential EV advocates and drivers. 

But this is not just some publicity stunt by GM to put its range-extended EV in the hands of the great and the good of the EV world before consumers get them later this year. This is a genuine final stage of testing before the Volt is released to consumers. 

In a mutually beneficial arrangement, each of the 15 participants have agreed to provide regular feedback via GM’s OnStar on how the Volt is performing, from range per charge to driving experience and handling. In other words, the team will reflect on what life with the 2011 Chevy Volt is like.

To quell conspiracy theorists, GM is clear that no money is exchanging hands in either direction. The participants aren’t paying to drive the Volt, and Chevrolet isn’t paying them. This isn’t a simple publicity stunt. This is real-world testing with a group of people GM believes will provide honest feedback to help them bring the Volt to market. 

At the end of the three months, each Volt will return to Chevrolet, who will use the participant’s feedback to tweak the 2011 Chevrolet Volt prior to vehicles hitting the showrooms this winter. 

What about candor? What about biased opinions? 

We’re not worried. Among the list are several bloggers and EV advocates known for their ability to call a spade a spade. That includes the bad points as well as the good ones. Although there are no specific requirements that participants publicly talk about their experience with the 2011 Volt, there are also no gag-orders, no non-disclosure agreements and no PR department to liase with before publicly speaking about the car. 

Chelsea Sexton

Chelsea Sexton

Enlarge Photo
And while the group includes several confirmed acolytes for the 2011 Volt it also includes those who support the uptake of electric vehicles but who don’t yet count the unhatched chickens of a yet-to-launch vehicle. 

Chelsea Sexton, writing in her blog yesterday, explains the situation in her usual eloquent, no-nonsense way.

“..while I’m definitely excited about the driving, if that were my only motivation, I’d have gone off and gotten a “regular” job years ago and simply bought one when it came available.  I have been doing this work for as long as I have because I want to see millions of EVs on the road, not just one in my driveway.”

Just like the EV test-schemes which went before the Volt from BMW, Mitsubishi and Smart, we hope that the final stage of real-world testing for the Volt helps to finalise a vehicle which will help provide reliable performance and customer experience, eliminating some of the issues with always follow a new car to market. 

[Evchels.wordpress.com] [GM]

Follow Us

Comments (32)
  1. GM has put these people together just to sway electric car enthusiasts into buying their hybrid. I don't consider the Volt an extended range EV, it's a plug-in hybrid. Now putting a higher capacity battery pack into an existing EV to me would be range extending.

  2. exactly. if they really wanted to know what was wrong with their car, they would not need to tell us all about it, and head the panel up with known people.
    no other car company has seen the need to do this. no other car company smashed their evs, to delay the ev industry. no other car company brought out a car that goes 40 miles on electricity, AND THEN BURNS GAS.
    who do they think they are fooling ?

  3. Great article, hit it right on the head.
    @ cdspeed & ev enthusiast
    Both of you guys are ridiculous and give this site a bad name.
    If you can't see the value in the Volt, as many of these long time EV advocates that will be on the new Advisory Board that GM put together, then you're simply drinking your own kool-aid in your own little world.
    The Volt is a fantastic vehicle that can provide the majority of your driving with out any gas being used while still being able to travel cross country at the turn of the hat, no other vehicle out there is capable of doing that. The Volt will bring the EV experience to thousands of people who never would have, much more so than any pure EV. Pure EV's are not mainstream and will not be mainstream until technology advances significantly, until that time vehicles like the Chevy Volt and PHEV Prius will lead the charge.
    The only draw back to the Volt at the moment is the price, which I am very confident they will be able to bring down in the year or two. GM has plenty of time, hybrids make up only 2% of the market.

  4. You two are fools. This car is going to sell in ridiculous numbers. I hope its many years before any one else makes a car like it. You'll be able to compare the sales of the Volt to the sales of the leaf, electric focus, and other pure electrics, as well as the "plug in" prius that will get 5 or 10 electric miles.
    I am a hard core Ford fan and I would really love to get the electric focus, but I won't. I, like most, suffer from range anxiety and don't want to take 2 days to make the 500 km drive that I make every two weeks.
    A Volt will allow almost all drivers to commute on electricity, and make long trips on gas. How dare GM try to develop that product. Minions of Satan if you ask me.

  5. Chris and Khadgars are on GM's payroll.

  6. LOL ewbf,
    those posts just made me chuckle. out of 25+ car companies coming out with evs, only gm was smart enough to have one that goes 40 miles, and then uses gasoline !!!!!!!
    despite their last hurrah at keeping gasoline going, gm will have no choice but to come out with real evs if they want to stay in business.
    i dont think the gasoline volt will even be made for more than 2 years. after that, it will be the chevrolet edsel. LOL.

  7. i have already stated the umpteen different reasons why evs are better than gas cars, so i wont repeat it.
    plus all you guys already know it, anyways.
    and improvements are coming out of everywhere, from car bodies that will be able to store and deliver electrical energy, to solar roadways that will one day become our grid, to batteries that will become much smaller, etc. etc. etc.
    the sky is the limit.

  8. Surprised at the emotion here. The E-Rev technology is a great transition to a BEV future. Relax and enjoy the ride.

  9. "Iowna Neavy" - Love it!

  10. @ Khadgars & Chris your the ridiculous GM employees that are giving this site a bad name. This is a site for electric cars, the Volt is a HYBRID it's only half an EV. And you know I'm right, a car with two power sources, gas and electric is a HYBRID. And don't get me wrong I do think plug-in hybrids will work and I do like some of them but the Volt already looks doomed mostly due to its price.

  11. "doomed mostly due to its price."
    Wow, a discussion of a real issue, very nice.
    If the Volt was the same price as the LEAF, I would buy it because it is more flexible. But with the $8000 price premium for the Volt, I don't think it is worth it.

  12. I'll have to side with EV and CD. I thought we were talking about EV's not hybrids on this sight! John i might expect your opinions to favor the Volt. Aren't you the same John Briggs thats senior engineer at Fraunhofer USA working with G.M.'s battery technology?

  13. hey cd,
    dont let the gm shills get to ya. they only have a limited time left, and we all know it. LOL !!!
    they are once again shooting themselves in the foot, coming out against real evs, with their range anxiety scare tactics, and what have you.
    cuz gm is gonna have to figure out how to take both feet out its mouth, when they start trying to sell evs in this country.
    i can already see it - well now that you americans are familiar with evs, we thought it was time to bring out an ev, cuz we dont think you have range anxiety any longer.
    entities with biased opinions are so easy to predict.
    that just comes from living long enough to hear all the bs that comes from them.

  14. Wow thats an easy way to disregard valid points "you're on the GM pay roll", please I currently own a Ford Focus.
    My points are still valid despite your attempts to believe the boggy man is still out to destroy evs.
    GM designed the Volt based on a lot of factors, one of them the range anxiety you claim doesn't exist when they had the ev1.
    I agree with you the price of the Volt is a bit steep, but this is the very first generation in a brand new technology. GM has plenty of time to perfect the vehicle and bring down the cost.
    Some how you think Nissan will sell 20,000 Leafs every year, here on out. Instead, once the early adapters get their fill, I guarantee you Nissan will have a hard time selling Leafs in 5 years unless they too can reduce their cost. Why? Because EV's are still a novolity, they don't fulfill the role of a normal ICE vehicle with the advancement of huge battery capacity or quick charging stations at every corner. If you don't get that, that the average customer will never consider buying an EV, then like I said you're drinking your own kool-aid. This isn't stuff just made up out of thin air, there are mounds of research thats been done that supports these claims
    This is why the Volt and the PHEV Prius make so much sense.
    But you better check under you bed tonight, you'll probably find a GM executive under there...

  15. time will show your arguments are wrong.
    why is it that every time you hear a previous or current owner of an ev talk about their personal experience, they say they have no range anxiety ?
    your edge on this situation simply is incorrect.
    the ev today fills the need of the overwhelming majority of people. how often do people drive over 100 miles per charge ? not that often for the majority.
    it would make a lot more sense for someone to rent a vehicle to do that, while owning a vehicle that is much less expensive to use.
    many, if not most, of these early purchases will be by households that have second cars that are gas driven.
    you simply dont see, or are not willing to admit, the very near end to the gas car. i have no desire to guess why this is so. it simply is.

  16. we will never have the need for lots of charging stations. the only system that we will need is one along our major trucking stops, so that our trucking industry, and individual "vacationing" can have access to.
    i am not worried about the price, because that will plummet downwards, over time.
    batteries will get better and lighter, etc. etc.
    btw, the kool-aid is tasting wonderfully, with the future giving me hundreds of new flavors.

  17. @ryan, Doing a little research on me? I don't mind. It is one of the reasons that I sign-on with my full name unlike everyone else here.
    Anyway, I do some research in to Li-Ion batteries, but not the LG Chem ones in the Volt. The research reveals that fully charging and the fully discharging Li-Ion batteries shortens the battery life. For BEVs this means not being able to use the full range. For the Volt E-REV, they have already accounted for this and only allow 30% to 80% SOC. Otherwise, the Volt would have an 80 mile range.
    Oh, and in case anyone cares, I have only driven Toyotas for my 30 years of driving.
    Doesn't the whole E-REV versus BEV debate hinge on the electric driving range of the E-REV? Consider three cars,
    1) E-REV with 10 mile electric range
    2) E-REV with 40 mile electric range
    3) E-REV with 1000 mile electric range
    With a 10 mile range, the E-REV does not seem to make much sense. You will burn gasoline every day.
    On the other hand, 1000 mile range is way overkill and you are purchasing a very expensive battery that you don't need. Perhaps 40 is a good compromise.
    In any case, I think how people feel about E-REV should hinge on the electric only driving range. That is, can I drive each day on electric only.
    Can't you see the irony of someone having a BEV (like the LEAF) with their 2nd car a gasoline powered model? This is kind of like an E-REV. The gasoline power model is for extended range.

  18. hi john,
    this is how the ev industry will START. most households already have multiple vehicles.
    the very obvious to just about everyone is that they dont need more than one of those vehicles to be gas driven.
    they are only gonna replace one car at a time, when needed. someone with a brand new gas car is gonna keep it while it still works well - especially now when the ev prices are very high.
    as each year proceeds, more and more people will be getting into the ev market with their first ev purchase.
    each year throughout this migration process, improvements will be made. the range will get a little better each year, the price will drop a little each year - just enough to bring in the next group of buyers.
    car manufacturers know that they cant possibly produce enough evs for the entire public for quite a few years. all they need to do each year is sell the number of cars that they can actually make.
    but after 10 years, the number of people still willing to actually buy a new gas car is gonna be very small. although there will be a lot of people hanging onto their current gas cars, until they dont work well enough any more.

  19. Thank you John for bringing in actual factual information to this conversation, yet it's still marginalized.
    @ev enthusiast, I don't know what to tell you man but to get your information checked or stopping believing in your day dreams. If you think the EV's will be the primary vehicle being sold in 10 years, I got news for you, YOU are in for a rude awakening.
    The sad part about all of this, is I'm 100% behind the ev movement, but I'm not blindly charging ahead saying every ones going to be buying them in 10 years, thats just absolutely retarded and based on nothing but faulty information.

  20. faulty information ? what information are you referring to ?
    i am simply looking at what the current ev vehicles can do. extrapolating outwards a little bit each year, and placing myself at the end of a 10-year cycle.
    the ev already has tons of advantages. 10 years from now, it will only be a much better choice.
    if you truly are an ev advocate, then you simply dont understand either 1)the advantages of evs, or 2)the improvements that will occur, or 3)human nature, or 4)life and how business occurs.
    those are the 4 pieces of "information" that i am using. and i feel 10 years is being conservative.

  21. @ev enthusiast
    You lay out one scenario that reasonable. Keep your gasoline car and buy a LEAF (BEV). Actually, I might do that personally.
    However, this is a rather suburban view of the world, I think, where perhaps parking is plentiful. There are lots of places where you can really only have one car. In that case, the Volt (EREV) is very attractive. Additionally, lots of people don't want to deal with limitations, the EREV solves that.
    Looking down the road 10 years seems very difficult. Examine what happened with Ethanol for example, hot one minute, not so hot the next.
    If the LEAF and Volt do not work really well, I fear for the future of the EV.
    Also worth considering is that 60 MPG plus cars (in development) will significantly undermine EV's advantages. When you want to make a financial case for the EV you would never use a Prius as a benchmark. It makes EVs look pretty bad.
    But most of this will depend on future battery prices, but I would not count out BEV, E-REV, or high efficiency ICE cars yet.
    Just curious what you guys think about the Better Place business model.
    John C. Briggs

  22. There's no turning back now. How ironic it is that the company that 'killed' the electric car has in fact reinvented it and now is on the verge of finally establishing an EV market segment that will endure and grow. I wish GM all the best with the Volt, and envy this small group of handpicked lucky ones who are going to help write history.

  23. Well said John, I appreciate your input on this very much.
    The whole idea of Better Place I think has a niche in small market areas, but I can not see how it would work in say, the greater Los Angeles county area.
    How can this type handle millions of swap out per day, what happens when the battery you received is faulty, in worse shape, or doesn't work compared to the one you gave them? Are people really going to trust swapping out their vital parts to people they don't know.
    In addition, are not all the batteries being swapped the traditional lead or NiMH?
    How would they be able to swap out a 32kw or 24kw Leaf or Volt Li-ion battery?

  24. john , I merely googled your name then googled your company.I'm sure your a brilliant engineer but i find your opinions worthless and extremely bias towards GM's volt! your company is part of a consortium with GM and many other companies that have 25 million in funding to advance technologies for clean energy vehicle and you recieve millions funding from the michigan economic development board ...all your comentary for the VOLT seems like more of a sales pitch!!!

  25. Regarding Better Place - I'd be nervously worried the first time I would take my brand new EV into a BP swap station having to say goodbye to my brand new battery and replace it with one that could as well be near the end of its service life. Maximum range between swaps would likely be variable which could get annoying.
    And then there is the logistical factor - typical gasoline stations have enough pumps to service 8 to 12 vehicles at any given time. I don't think a BP swap station would have even half as many at most. So, scarcity of swap points coupled with a higher frequency of service station visits (due to EV range being a fraction of ICE vehicle range) points to the likelihood of long lines and long waits for one's turn.

  26. since i dont think charging stations will ever be necessary, i dont think better place will be, either.
    100 miles is a tremendously good starting point. the sky is the limit on our battery technology. that is still in its infancy.
    what most of you do not understand or have not yet accepted, is that we already have capabilities way beyond what we seem to have. this is why technology can come out real quickly, when the bigwigs have the desire for it to come out.
    battery technology will continue to get better in just the right increments to sell the cars that can be made.
    car companies will be furiously rearranging their whole way of doing things, during the transfer from gas to electric.

  27. look at where computers were 10 years ago, compared to today. the ev industry will be just as big.
    these batteries wont just be powering our cars. eventually, all our power tools, our lawn equipment, and even possibly our refrigerators and household appliances.
    we will be doing things that none of us have even yet imagined.
    gasoline cars are way dead. the only question is how soon. if they are around 10 years from now in any more than a trickle, i will be surprised.
    i dont think that even the "experts" realize how big this is gonna get.

  28. @Ryan, Interesting how you see me as a Volt advocate here when I have already stated (here) that I will probably by a LEAF. Anyway.
    @Kent Stuart and @Khadgars regarding Better Place. I am not really a fan of this, but I am trying to keep an open mind.
    For Better Place, I think the key is that it is NOT your battery and never was. Better Place owns all the batteries and is responsible for giving you a good one at each swap.
    Also, so far, it only works with the Li-Ion batteries using in the Renault Fluence.
    But the infrastructure is clearly an issue. However, you could charge the Renault Fluence at home most of the time and just use a few battery switch stations on the interstate for long trips. Interesting option that will not be possible with the LEAF.
    So I would say there are three competing technologies
    1) BEV (like the LEAF)
    2) swappable BEV (like the Renault Fluence)
    3) E-REV (like the Volt)
    Cool to have options for a green future.
    John C. Briggs

  29. I have driven the Volt four times. All but one of them were driven as if I were driving at EV2 from the same people that built my beloved EV1. That is, it was an electric car. On the final drive I grabbed a Volt that had been run all the way down and was in Extended Range mode, so the ICE was spinning. It still felt just like an EV, just with an additional hum on top of the (very little) road noise.
    I am hard core EV. My wife has been driving pure electric for over a decade and has 66,000 miles on her Rav4 Electric. I think the Volt could be a great car for us, since I could probably use it every day solely electric, and then once a month it would switch to gas to get us up the coast to Santa Barbara.
    I'll be blogging my experience as a Customer Advisory Board member at http://voltaday.com

  30. Colin,
    Thanks for the input.
    John C. Briggs

  31. John - regarding Better Place owning all the batteries.... for that to happen, they'd have to be an extremely well capitalized business to be able to service even a fraction of the number of EVs expected to be on the road in a few years. The more I look at it, the more impractical it appears to be.

  32. I just want one because Bill Nye is on board!
    ~Allen / MB Motorsports

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.