GE Employees Get Chevy Volt Electric Cars, All-Gas Use OKed Sometimes

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2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

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Sixteen months ago, General Electric announced it would place the "largest order in history" for electric cars, to be used by its employees who are issued company cars.

Now, those cars are starting to arrive and be placed with employees.

And where changes are made, personnel policies are sure to follow.

A person inside GE recently forwarded a memo to us that covers some of the nuts and bolts of using the 2012 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car. It's from the fleet operations manager for GE Healthcare.

Among the interesting points:

  • "All sedans ordered in 2012 will be the Chevrolet Volt"
  • Crossovers and minivans will be replaced by electric-vehicle sedans, i.e. the Volt
  • Field engineers (who presumably have to carry equipment and spare parts) are the exception to the Volt-only rule
  • Home assessments for installation of a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station will be provided to all Volt drivers
  • If it's not possible to install a Level 2 station, employees should use standard 110-Volt charging
  • If no electric power is available, driving the Volt using only its gasoline range extender is permitted
  • Employees should expense both public charging-station costs and the Volt-recharging portion of their monthly electric bills
  • If new GE drivers opt out of the fleet-vehicle program and choose to use a personal car, GE will not reimburse those expenses
  • Existing drivers will not be reimbursed for personal-vehicle use after January 1, 2013

Stand by for shrieking from certain segments of the media about how "GE Forces Employees Into Electric Cars!"

But, more seriously, why is GE pushing the Volt so hard?

First, its fleet managers have likely calculated that over the multi-year lifetime of the Volt, the company will save money on operating costs.

GE WattStation Electric Car Charging Station

GE WattStation Electric Car Charging Station

Enlarge Photo

Fleet managers are notoriously hard-nosed spreadsheet jockeys, and are willing to spend more upfront on a car (the 2012 Volt starts at $39,995 before the $7,500 Federal tax credit) if the running costs end up saving money over the total mileage it covers.

The cost of a mile driven on electricity is generally one-third to one-fifth that of a mile driven on gasoline (depending on gasoline and electricity prices and the gas mileage of the comparison vehicle).

So GE likely figures that paying recharging costs will end up saving it money on gasoline over several years.

Second, GE makes electric-car charging stations, and its WattStation ads have been heavily publicized.

For the company, championing electric cars is a good way for employees to get familiar with plug-in vehicles that need to be recharged. In Silicon Valley, they call that "eating your own dogfood."

The GE order could add many thousands of vehicles to Volt sales in 2012, and we suspect that most GE drivers will warm quickly to the smooth, quiet experience of electric propulsion.

GE WattStation Publicity Shot

GE WattStation Publicity Shot

Enlarge Photo

One note of concern: The electric-car advocate who sent us the memo was deeply disturbed that all-gasoline running was allowed.

We're not quite so worried about that, since its ability to run on gasoline once the battery pack is depleted is the heart of the Volt's flexibility--no range anxiety.

Since most GE Healthcare employees will use their company cars on fairly predictable daily travels, many of them less than 40 miles, their Volts are likely to spend the vast majority of their miles running on battery power.

After all, Level 2 charging or not, everyone's got a 110-Volt socket somewhere.

For all we know, GE may have a deal with GM's Onstar to get access to the detailed usage data for its Volts--which would allow the company to learn exactly how its employees drive its Volts.

A year hence, we may see a GE press release touting all the gasoline it has displaced by running on grid power. We hope so, anyhow.

We've reproduced the entire text of the memo, addressed to GE Healthcare's "Americas Team," on the next page.

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Comments (55)
  1. Bold and quite brilliant; my next refrigerator will be a GE unit, no option.

  2. If the Volt is a good as their refrigerators then good luck with that.

  3. Sorry to inform Jeff at GE, but the Volt is a hybrid, not an EV. The gas engine can drive the wheels under certain conditions even if battery power is available.

  4. Yeah, GE has not bought a bunch of EV's, they bought a bunch of hybrids. Which is fine, but let's use the proper terms.

  5. @Garry, @JRP3: Here at GCR, an "electric car" is any vehicle whose wheels are turned *primarily* by the electric traction motor(s).

    As I'm sure you know, the torque that is occasionally provided by the Volt engine through the motor to the wheels is less than the torque of the e-motor itself.

    This gives us a dividing line between a "range-extended electric car" or "series hybrid" (e.g. Volt, Karma) and a "plug-in hybrid" that has a larger, wall-chargeable battery pack but still gets most of its total torque from the engine (e.g. Toyota and Ford PHEVs).

    We do so to make clear to readers that the Prius Plug-In & the Volt operate very differently & feel different behind the wheel. [cont]

  6. John, you are as bad as GM in understanding what is an electric car and what is not an electric car. The Volt is a hybrid, plain and simple and it is not an electric vehicle. An electric vehicle does not have, nor does it need an ICE engine of any kind. The Leaf is a EV. So if a vehicle does not have an ICE engine of any kind and runs only on electricity that you get from a grid of some kind, then it is an EV. If it has an ICE, then it is a hybrid. GM is not a good influence on you; they distort and corrupt your thinking.

  7. And also, since the Volt gets more millage on the ICE than it does on the EV, that makes it an extended range ICE, not an extended range EV. Stop twisting the words and it will become clearer to you what is an EV and what is not and what is a hybrid and what is not.

  8. @James, When I test drove the LEAF it had been charged from an ICE diesel generator. Does that make it a hybrid too?

  9. @ john Briggs,
    Really? Is a LEAF charged from an NG generating plant make it a hybrid? Or a fuel oil plant? Obviously there is a difference with an on board generator, and that makes it a hybrid.

  10. There are more comments in this thread
  11. [cont] We recognize that you may not agree with our logic, but we've been consistent in that definition.

    In the end, we feel it's important to highlight the differences for buyers in e-range, driving experience, and efficiency in different modes between series hybrids and plug-in power-split hybrids. Hope this helps.

  12. So if a larger electric motor is put into the plug-in Prius it magically becomes an E-REV despite its very short e-range?

    Also, what if Chevy drops the Volt range to 10 miles all electric, does it then become a plug-in hybrid?

    Does the Karma change from an E-REV to a plug-in hybrid when you put it in "Sport mode"? After-all, it is then getting more "torque" from the gasoline engine.

    Seems like you are making a distinction without a difference. There is a continuum of modes of operation here.

    To me, I think it makes more sense to draw the line based on solely on the e-range and not consider whether or not the gas engine kicks in to get you up to highway speed.

  13. To me it makes more sense to call hybrids hybrids, not EV's. I'm sorry but calling a plug in hybrid an EV only confuses the issue, as has been repeatedly proven by people calling the Volt a $40K "EV" with only a 40 mile range, and claiming it "ran out of juice in the Lincoln tunnel after only 19 miles" as Fox recently did. Calling the Volt an EV makes EV's look bad, and it makes the Volt look like a bad EV. It's all bad.

  14. So what limits do you propose should be set on what is permitted to be called an "electric car"?

    And a related Q: Do you agree with the absolutist position often used to complain about our practice that if it has ANYTHING else beside a battery pack and a traction motor (e.g. a range extender--or perhaps a hydrogen fuel cell), then "it's not an electric car"?

  15. The term "electric vehicle" really should be reserved for BEV's. Alternatively it could also be clearly stated that something is a Battery Electric Vehicle, although cumbersome, it may be worth the added clarity.

    Related to that, something like the GEM is an EV or BEV, but I don't suspect we would ever want to end a sentence without more qualifications. We would always say NEV so that no one mistakes for a serious vehicle.

    We already at pains to explain hybrids as "start-stop" or "mild" or "full" because there is such a significant difference in performance.

  16. There are more comments in this thread
  17. So, since you have been consistent in your definition, does that mean that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks? The Volt is a hybrid; just tell the benefits the Volt hybrid has over the Leaf EV. The Leaf is a EV, so just tell the benefits the Leaf EV has over the Volt hybrid. Keep it simple and don't confuse the two with 20 or 30 different names to try and make the Volt sound better or make the Leaf sound better. We can make our own decision if you just give us the facts and only the facts.

  18. Consistently calling an elephant a giraffe does not make it so.

  19. There are more comments in this thread
  20. With a program called “Growth and Government” that started in the late 1990s and was more formalized around 2003, the company moved government policy experts into its largest business units to school GE executives on how to align GE goals with national goals. - Wall Street Journal Nov 2009

    Governmental consumption in action...

  21. GE = governmental consumption huh...Sure GE buying EV's or PHEV's must be some socialist plot. It must be what else would a company like GE have to have to gain from buying EV's. GE must stand for Government Entity...nooooo; General Electric, what an odd coincidence. Haters gotta hate!

  22. GE is also a major wind turbine manufacturer.

    EVs will greatly aid wind power. The wind tends to blow more at night when demand is low which leads to lower profits. Bringing a lot of EVs to the grid and charging them at night will increase wind farm profits. Higher profits means more turbines installed.

  23. Whew...Voltees really digging deep for any reason to justify their beloved product. Wind blows more at night? Where?

  24. In the Midwest. In the Texas Panhandle.

    The wind tends to pick up in late afternoon in Wyoming which makes it a perfect partner for SoCal solar power, it's why transmission lines are being built to tie Wyoming wind to the Pacific and Intermountain Interies (HVDC transmission lines).

    The availability of wind at night often drives the wholesale cost of electricity close to $0.00/kWh.

  25. Volt is a plugin series hybrid. It has some parallel element but dominantly series.

  26. They should save a ton of money, gas should be over $4 everywhere by April.. I've driven 4,600 miles in my Volt using 7.7 gallons...


  27. One thing is for will not hear of any negative public feedback from GE employees on the Volt. GE has way to much invested in its success and way too much collusion with GM / Obama in its success. In fact any positive reviews, then, should be taken with a grain of salt.

  28. Yes, Shape, and all the Volt owners outside GM who like their Volts, you know the ones who made the Volt get the highese rating in consumer satisfaction, they all must be corrupted by that evil Obama/GE socialist plot, right? No, GE employees are terrified because the President will personally have every person with a negative comment fired, right?

    Haters have to hate and lovers of conspiracies love to fine depper meaning that is really there. hate it, if you want, but don't call others like of the vehicle dishonest, that's just a paranoid attack on others.

  29. Wow what a stupid idea. If I got this I would use the gas option all the time in protest. It would be cheaper to buy a Chevy Cruz then to waste money on this lemon.

  30. That would be in interesting protest, using more expensive gasoline, sending money to foreign countries, instead of using cheaper electricity keeping the money here in the US. That protest would certainly prove something....

  31. Thank you, JRP3. JL doesn't get the math at all and few do:

    $40k-$42k purchase price, $7.5 tax credit->let's use $33.5 in the middle. At 15k miles/year and 80/20 EV use, compared to a vehicle with 25 MPG overall, it saves 514 gallons a year. 600 versus 86. Even at $4 gas that will only increase, that's $2,056/yr. in fuel savings. Even paying for electricity adds only $60/month (I'm using my local nightime rates in MI), so -$720/yr., so still a savings of $1,316 year. In five years, savings=$6,580.

    So $33.5-$6,580, or less than $27k. Not insignificantly, about the average cost of a Prius.

    Yes, EVs are horrible and foreign oil is much better. I mean, eventually, we'll win a war in the Middle East that doesn't cost more than a trillion.

  32. What is the Volt worth when you drive it off the lot? I doubt you could sell it. Also, after five years, you will need to replace the batteries at several thousand dollars. Toyota has also sold well over 1M vehicles; the Volt is at 10,000. The car is not going to survive.

  33. The battery is warrantied for 8 years and Prius batteries have been shown to be reliable for at least 250,000 miles, i.e. the life of the car.

  34. @Kevin: Please cite a source for your claim that the Volt battery will need to be replaced after five years (which is, as John Briggs points out here, under warranty). Links to data on Volt battery life would be best. Please provide.

  35. Sounds like you don't care about our soldiers dying overseas to protect the oil flows for you...

  36. Somehow I think this will backfire on them. If this were any other car production would have ceased. And the fact is, GE can only buy so many and the American public doesn't want this hybrid. They failed to learn from Toyota.

  37. Actually the Volt is selling better in its first year than the Prius did in its first sales.

  38. Oh my god the insanity is stifling! Can’t you see the 1800 pound gorilla in the room? This is an obvious and blatant attempt by GE to prop up Obama. It’s cronyism 101! Most if not all of O-so-corrupt’s green jobs initiatives are money laundering schemes use to siphon OUR tax dollars to his supporters. The money GE spends on these horrid cars should be counted as a DNC campaign contribution.

  39. John,
    Using your definition "an "electric car" is any vehicle whose wheels are turned *primarily* by the electric traction motor(s)." would make every Diesel/Electric Locomotive an "Electric Train".

  40. I don't have any objection to calling the Volt an electric car because it is one. However, it is more precisely a Plug-in Series Hybrid Electric Car.

    "Electric Car with extended range" is GM Marketing pitching one of the advantages of a hybrid electric vs. a pure electric car. Toyota could market the Prius as an "Electric Car with extended range and performance" if it wanted to. You can drive it as all electric until the battery runs down or you want to go faster then 10mph. Then it switches to the "extended" mode by starting the gasoline engine to charge the batteries and drive the wheels.

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