In the past couple weeks you may have noticed a number of stories on Electric Vehicles (EVs) and how they intend to compete in the market. You may have also noticed a fair amount of coverage on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt as the last month was full of media updates, ride and drives, clarification on the “extended range” mode and the number of miles the Volt will go on a single tank of fuel. So now, with our passion for small cars, we must ask: Will the 2011 Chevrolet Volt Win With Consumers?

Some may say that this is a loaded question and they may be right. The truth is that the 2011 Chevrolet Volt has been exciting to watch, especially since it is originating from one of the old “Big 3.” GM needs a success besides the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro and it needs one in a growing market, like say the EV market. The thing about the Volt that is a little disappointing is total package. What do we mean by that? Keep reading as we explore why only a limited number of consumers will choose to purchase what could only be described in marketing terms as an “early adopter’s” product.

first pre production chevrolet volt prototype 004

first pre production chevrolet volt prototype 004

In separate pieces the Volt looks good on paper; up to 40 miles on pure electric power, charging in 8 hours on a 110-volt current, a small gas four-cylinder (small is debatable) that doesn’t actually drive the wheels, but keeps the battery at a minimum charge while operating on extended range mode and styling that is right inline with the Toyota Prius. The part of this that makes the Volt fall on the disappointing side is the extended operating mode. The recent disclosure from GM is that the Volt should achieve 38 mpg while driving in extended operating mode (more here). That number is supposed to represent city driving, but even at highway consumption the Volt doesn’t make itself compete very well against the likes of the Toyota Prius which can do 50 mpg combined.

first pre production chevrolet volt prototype 002

first pre production chevrolet volt prototype 002

You can see the problem, if you drive more than 40 miles a day, then the Volt isn’t going to be as environmentally friendly as the Prius. Then the question becomes: Will this impact whether people will buy the car when the Volt is estimated to start around the $40K mark?

It is a hard one for me to swallow, even though I am in my twenties and love cars and breathing air. It isn’t the price tag; it is the value proposition. If I drive more than 40 miles (and that is only if it gets 40 miles) then the $22K Prius looks a lot better. That extra $18K buys a lot of gas in an economy that is still depressed. That and no one can tell us how much charging a Volt for 8 hours is going to be. So even if you only drive 20 miles everyday, that doesn’t mean that the cost of the electricity won’t add up. It certainly can’t save you $18K because you will still use the generator in the Volt, which still requires gas.

This leaves us, at the moment, with the impression that only the wealthy and over-enthusiastically green will spend money on the Volt compared to the other options. We haven’t given up hope on the Volt and we APPLAUD the R&D work because without it there wouldn’t be advancements. However, the huge Volt sales are probably not going to be the bread and butter of the ever-evolving GM.