By Andrew Liszewski
When the Chevrolet Volt concept was revealed at last year’s NAIAS it not only made headlines in the major automotive publications and websites, but throughout the gadget and technology blogging community as well. Normally you have to stick a 32-inch LCD TV in the trunk of a car for it to be considered ‘gadget-fare’ but the Volt stood on its own as a great piece of technological innovation. And while there’s no doubt we’ll all be driving electric cars like the Volt some day, there are still some big hurdles to overcome before that’s a reality.
As much as I’d like to walk into a dealership right now and buy myself a Volt, it hasn’t officially been announced as a production vehicle just yet. While at the show I had an opportunity to speak to Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s Vehicle Line Director and Denise Gray who’s the Director of Hybrid Energy Storage Systems at GM. They both admitted that the biggest hurdle for the Volt to overcome was the current state of lithium ion batteries. A 20-hour battery life for an MP3 player might be totally acceptable, but if a larger version of that battery can only power a car for 3 miles, consumers just won’t buy it. And besides performance, there’s a long list of other issues that have to be dealt with on a battery designed to power something as large as a car. But GM has apparently been working hard with a handful of other companies to overcome these problems, and they’re confident they’ll be able to bring an affordable production version of the Volt to the masses in just a couple of years. (And by affordable I mean in comparison to expensive high-performance electric cars like the Tesla or Karma.)
But while the Volt and other hybrid vehicles will no doubt be a big step towards reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, there are still millions of vehicles on the road that exclusively rely on gasoline. It would be great if everyone was willing to just trade in their cars for a hybrid or electric model right now, but that’s simply not going to happen. So dealing with those legacy vehicles is probably the biggest obstacle when it comes to weaning the world off of gasoline.