2012 Cadillac Escalade PlatinumEnlarge Photo
Ex-GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz played an instrumental part in getting Chevrolet's range-extended electric car, the Volt, to market.
So important was his role that he's often considered the "father of the Volt"--but at the Detroit Auto Show, Lutz has said that he'd not have launched the car's technology in that package.
"If I had my time again at GM then I would have started with the Cadillac Escalade for the range-extender technology, and brought the Volt in later," he said.
"The more gas-guzzling the vehicle, the more economic sense of electrifying it."
It perhaps isn't surprising that Lutz's comments come as his current project, Via Motors, launched a range of electric trucks and SUVs at the Detroit Auto Show.
With quoted economy in the 100 mpg region, Via's plug-in trucks--such as the 800-horsepower XTRUX--use a very similar drivetrain concept to that in the Volt, providing 30-40 miles of electric range before a regular gasoline engine kicks in to keep the batteries topped-up.
Lutz sees more sense in improving the vehicles that really need it, before applying the technology to cars which are already relatively efficient.
"Car companies need to get their minds on that: electrifying [a smaller car] that uses virtually no fuel anyway and then lumping a huge premium on it to cover the battery costs is nonsensical. Why bother?"
While Via's trucks are expensive, Lutz says lifetime running costs will more than make up for the difference, since equivalent vehicles are so inefficient to begin with. He believes this makes more sense than with smaller cars, where customers don't really want to pay extra for minor savings.
"Frankly," he says, "unless that customer is philosophically, religiously or economically affiliated to buying an electric vehicle, then they can’t be convinced."
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