Many people are eco-conscious and would like to extend the same conscientiousness to their vehicles. So why is that so hard to achieve? Truthfully, there are so many ways when learning about sustainability that individuals as well as society actually saves and even earns money by going green, yet the reality of automotive green trends taking off is still being conceptualized. Hybrids and electric cars have existed for quite some time now, and we all like to pat ourselves on the back for the few that we see in our culture, but sadly there is yet so much more to be done. Learn about the newest in the trend about to be released in the USA next month– the Chevy Volt. What makes this hybrid different and special, and what can we expect from it in the most optimistic senses?
Decisions made now will be the decisions we live and die by in the future, assured Thomas Stewart (chief marketing officer of Booz & Company) at the Carnegie Council’s Sustainable Societies conference recently. Joan Krevlin (there with her architect expertise, speaking mainly about building sustainability but also applicable to the cars and vehicles in their discussion) at that same conference went on to point out how making energy information very public and marketable in such a way that affects decisions of people and what to buy is key to making change for how we do things. Larry Burns (engineering professor, former VP of R&D at GM, major voice for innovation in the automobile industry, introduced the electric car the Chevrolet Volt to GM) added that nothing even needs to be invented to see changes happen now, in terms of sustainable mobility. In other words, the technology and the will are there– it’s just a matter of moving forward and implementing it. But when it comes to transportation, Tom Stewart continues, how do we reconcile the convenience of modern automobiles with the efficiency and sustainability of greener vehicles– which tend to be less luxurious, more compact, and often more inconvenient for a novice to get used to? We go for the immediately obvious, “easy” solution in this instant gratification, me-first society– but in reality, the most sustainable choices are the smartest ones, Krevlin maintains. We know that, but are just lazy. She implores us to not get distracted by the high tech and luxurious, which often have a high cost to go with it– when the smarter, more sustainable solutions are in fact less of a cost to us.
Having cars which are all electric are not a recent innovation, but getting them to stick has been challenging for our society. An example of one is the GM EV1 (learn more about the electric car here at its Wikipedia site) from the ’90s– as seen in the great documentary film, Who Killed the Electric Car?. The Chevy Volt is being launched next month as a 2011 model, but is still just a hybrid. Built in Detroit and being heralded as the car of the future, it has a lithium-ion battery that can be charged with a cord, plugging into a residential electrical outlet (as reported on their Wikipedia site). GM was urged to develop the Volt in light of rapid battery advancements, as well as the sports car Tesla Roadster, by Vice Chairman Robert Lutz (who Newsweek called “the man who revived the electric car”). The model was drawn up a couple of years ago and has since changed a lot from the original concept. As far back as 2008, the chief engineer said they were perfectly on track for their upcoming 2010 release, with nothing getting in their way to stop it. Last year the Volt received the Green Car Vision Award (awarded by the Green Car Journal) for bringing a bold and far-reaching vehicle to the market at a “reasonable price”. They are later awarding the 2011 Green Car of the Year, for which the Volt is one of five finalists– the Nissan Leaf is another.
Last year the car’s running and transitioning were reviewed as smooth– “inaudible and seamless”. The Volt will also feature OnStar services which will allow the owners to access info without being in or near the car. You’ll be able to lock and unlock doors and remotely start the vehicle. Another innovation you’ll see in the Volt is a warning sound when operating at low speeds, designed to alert pedestrians and others of the vehicle’s presence– and don’t expect ringtones, The Times remarks. As many as 80 Volts had already been created as of last year, for use in testing a variety of conditions. GM, collaborating with ABB, is also running a project to test the ability to reuse spent batteries. In July, GM did announce that the battery would have an eight-year guarantee. Perhaps not noticeable to average automobile consumers, the plug specifications have actually changed for the Volt and are being proposed as the new standard for all electric or hybrid vehicles.
These are some of the good selling points for the new Chevrolet Volt. In November 2010, you may have the chance to be one of the first owners. If going green is your thing and you like the trendiness, innovation, and changes available which the Volt can provide, all of this is probably very good news to you. Stay informed with my next article in this series which dives much deeper into this trend, specific to the Volt. In Part 2 I discuss more controversial topics, claims and counter-claims, which may also influence your decisions regarding these green cars.
Sartaz Ahmed, Larry Burns, Joan Krevlin, Thomas Stewart, TRANSCRIPT: Sustainable Societies, Policy Innovations
General Motors EV1, Wikipedia
Who Killed The Electric Car?
Chevrolet Volt, Wikipedia
Keith Naughton, Bob Lutz: The Man Who Revived the Electric Car, Newsweek