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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Small personal history of my car brands is I swore off ICE American cars back in the 90's and went Japanese which were much more reliable, but I've wanted an EV since I was a kid. Fast forward to 2017 with the announcement of the amazing Bolt, which would do the magic >200 mile range for under $40k (we got a maxed out version for $30k after rebates).

Well now EV's are growing up, and so for our second car (mine) I gave myself the choice of whatever I wanted within reason. After a lot of research, not just into the cars but the technology behind it, the corporations and their strategies I've concluded that GM is the long term winner in the EV market. Since you all have reservations presumably I recommend reading Fins – Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors and the Glory Days of Detroit by William Knoedelseder, probably available from your local library.


I never knew the amazing history of this company, my only experience being the financial crises bankruptcy so I wrote them off and typical old American corp. But yet they made this amazing little EV called the Bolt that is really fun to drive that we bought.

The book details how while Henry Ford kicked off the era of mass produced vehicles, it was GM who owned it. In fact Ford at the time reminds me a lot of Tesla now. GM was a distributed bottoms up organization that Alfred P. Sloan created, compared to Ford which was dictated by the man in charge. Where GM recognized what people wanted and created the first corporate design department ever, to their detriment Henry still thought all people wanted was a black Model T. Ford and Musk have a lot of similarities, and I'm struck by how little design variation you see in Tesla. They have three models or whatever, and they basically all look the same. Cybertruck will never be a big seller, and again looks plain jane to my eye.

Anyhow for design, R&D and vision it looks to me like GM is on top and I think is being underestimated, but they are playing the long game. Regardless you folks might enjoy a great read on the history of how they got here, and the parallels of this 'second great shift' in the automobile industry, and how I at least think now, like back then, GM has the right cards in their hand.

tl/dr here's my back of the envelope history of GM and EV's
  1. 1996 EV1. Revolutionary car ahead of its time. They get knocked for discontinuing it but what to people expect? GM probably lost a ton of money on each one, the time wasn't ready yet for the electric car​
  2. 2000's R&D If you do a search on whitepapers from the GM research arm you see work being done on batteries, motors, cooling and everything having to do with EV's. You also see designs and patents that GM cars have, such as bar magnet wiring for efficiency and power density (Tesla uses stupid magnet wire design), and the revolutionary Ultium with BMC/module with wireless.​
  3. 2010 Volt. After the bankruptcy the company pivots to an EV strategy, and as a bridge to that future release the Volt. Everybody I know who has one loves it.​
  4. 2017 Bolt Another bridge to BEV's. Loss leader, not meant as a long term vehical, but battery technology now is becoming practical​
  5. 2022 Eight announced or released BEV's​
  6. 2035 Their entire line electrified, with the HD trucks coming in last.​
 

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2013 Chevrolet Volt, 1x Silverado EV reservation
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I have owned a gen 1 Volt for 10 years this month. Excellent drivetrain in an okay body. A few software glitches, some not awesome decisions about battery pack physical monolithic construction and "refuse to move" threshold criteria values.

However, GM really messed up by not putting Voltec in a wide variety of chassis styles from say 2015 until now. Spread the R and D costs across more units, get more election fueled miles going for local driving but still allow the use of gasoline on road trips until the public charging infrastructure got going, etc. A double strength AWD Voltec in a Colorado and/or Silverado sized truck would have sold every copy they made. Instead, GM left it to some pretty poorly run 3rd party upfitters to experiment with this with disastrous results (I'm looking at you, Via Motors).

GM engineers can do some great work when they are allowed to, but I'm still not convinced the C and VP level officers aren't botching the / won't further botch the pivot to EVs. Take the Bolt refresh, a very small number of parts charges would have allowed that thing to DC fast charge charge at industry competitive speeds, but to save a few hundred bucks per unit they're having to discount them by thousands. I hope I'm wrong about that and GM figures it out before they get completely obsoleted by Tesla, Rivian, Chinese brands, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
However, GM really messed up by not putting Voltec in a wide variety of chassis styles from say 2015 until now. Spread the R and D costs across more units …GM engineers can do some great work when they are allowed to, but I'm still not convinced the C and VP level officers aren't botching the / won't further botch the pivot to EVs. Take the Bolt refresh, a very small number of parts charges would have allowed that thing to DC fast charge charge at industry competitive speeds, but to save a few hundred bucks per unit they're having to discount them by thousands. I hope I'm wrong about that and GM figures it out before they get completely obsoleted by Tesla, Rivian, Chinese brands, etc.
Right or wrong I understand the Volt was meant as a transition vehicle on the electification roadmap. Everybody I know who owned one loves it and it looks like a great little car, but from what I understand it was meant to give them some more electrification experience and to help customers used to electrification. Same with the Bolt, ground breaking for the time what you could get for the price and they learned a lot - for example OTA. The tried it but with the ‘full flash‘ firmware approach didn’t work out so well, so for Ultifi they now properly have a modular decoupled plugin architecture (by inference), which is the right way to do it.

Anyhow they’re trying to pivot to electrification as quickly as possible, meanwhile the ‘moon shot‘ Hummer team was getting started, so when the Bolt released they booted the Ultium/Ultifi teams in 2018. Long way of saying, if they had extended the life of the Volt it would have robbed their future to support a dead end, which normal R&D in other words. The Bolt would probably be obsolete by now, but I suspect COVID and (I’ve heard) a passionate user base is letting them extend the life further (I own a Bolt). On the DCFC rate of the Bolt I don’t see any need to increase it, we take road trips and the speed isn’t a problem.

On Tesla, well they’ve basically got one car, and the (weirdo to everybody except us on the coasts) maybe eventually Cybertruck. As Harvey Earl showed us people want variety and Tesla won’t give us that. The Chinese brands won’t be allowed to get significant toe hold in the US, the Fed will invoke another Chicken tax or something IMO.

Good discussion …
 

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Overall I have had a really good ownership experience for 96 thousand miles, about 60 percent gas / 40 percent electric miles roughly. 62mpge displayed for it's lifetime. It's been a commuter car, a road tripper, a car camping rig (a "voltebago"), a mobile power station, and even a tow vehicle for ~1500 lb trailer loads many many many times. Only one significant repair which was road hazard damage to one radiator, but the dealer billed it as a warranty repair anyway. Other than that it's been oil changes every 2 years, tires, 12v battery, wiper blades, the usual consumables, etc. No major issues on mine, HVDC battery still well balanced and no weak cells yet. I get upper 8 to low 9 kWh from the battery before it switches to gas (vs 10.5 when new), which gets me 30 to 40 miles depending driving conditions. Software on it has always been glitchy, especially in regards to the infotainment screen, saving my configuration options, etc.

Overall it has put up with my abuse well, and has been the second most reliable car I've ever owned. But I'm lucky. The gm-volt forum is full of a lot of pissed off people due to major parts failures and shortages, battery issues, cost and doubtful longevity of OEM and aftermarket refurb options for battery replacement, etc. I've definitely gotten my money's worth, but I wouldn't be buying one used now, even a later gen 2. The LiMnO2 battery chemistry used in the Volt really is nowhere near state of the art anymore, and has some significant calendar aging issues that we didn't know until very recently. NMC in Ultium 1 should be better, but I'd really prefer L(M)FP chemistry in my next purchase, which hopefully will be used for Ultium 2 and available as a future backport to Ultium 1.

I would consider another GM product, as the Ultium platform's battery modularity, repairability, and especially upgradability is a must have for me. Waiting and watching carefully how Silverado compares to Rivian R1/R2, Cybertruck, Ram, Canoo, Lightning, Maverick, etc.

EDIT: removed my incorrect remembering about the Bolt battery chemistry, it appears to have always been NMC based.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
LiMnO2 battery chemistry used in the Volt (and IIRC Bolt also) ... some significant calendar aging issues
The Bolt chemistry was updated in the 2019 (or around there) model years, and with the battery recall all Bolt's now have it. My battery was replaced and I got a nice range bump as expected with the new battery. On calendar aging I've not heard of anything like that on the Bolt, but I think their architectures are quite different. The Volt - as I understand it, had a sandwiched cooling fin whereas the Bolt has a bottom cooling plate. Intuitively you would think the sandwich would be better but cooling is anisotropic, it's greater longitudinally (along the anodes) rather than along the normal (through the anodes).

L(M)FP chemistry
There's a lot of buzz on that but I'm not convinced there's an 'ultimate' chemistry. It's all a compromise, especially with batteries, with that chemistry I believe energy density is lower.

I would consider another GM product, as the Ultium platform's battery modularity, repairability, and especially upgradability is a must have for me. Waiting and watching carefully how Silverado compares to Rivian R1/R2, Cybertruck, Ram, Canoo, Lightning, Maverick, etc.
Ultium is the bomb, I hope they make chemistry upgrading available. Personally I wouldn't touch a Lightning, they're only now developing their first BEV architecture, well that applies to the rest too IMHO.
 
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