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GM plans to build a more affordable Chevy Volt

The Volt has won nearly every major award offered and stirred up tons of interest, but one criticism persists: The price is way too high.

Chevy cars — including the Volt — have always been intended for a mainstream market, but at $41,000, it seems GM is asking buyers to pay as they might for a Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

The next-generation Volt will almost certainly cost less, GM spokesman Rob Peterson said. And the same changes that make it cheaper should make it better, too.

So what’s the sweet spot for the Volt, price wise? A $7,500 federal tax credit takes the cost down to around $30,000. That seems like a more viable price, but tax credits wont last forever.

“The ideal price point for un-subsidized large-volume sales would probably be no more than $30,000,” said John O’Dell, editor of the Web site

Fortunately, even when subsidies disappear, today’s high prices for electric cars will ease as the technology improves and gains wider appeal.
0:00 /2:11GM CEO on plans for Volt technology

Battery: The Volt’s battery pack is estimated to cost about $10,000. Besides making it more cheaply, GM might simply want to shrink it.

The battery is probably more powerful than it really needs to be, said Oliver Hazimeh, head of the electric vehicle practice at consulting firm PRTM.

“Offering customers a little of different capacity may be an option, so you can provide customers with a choice,” Hazimeh said.

For a significant cost savings, some customers may be willing to give-up some battery power.

Bulk up production: Another way to reduce battery costs is to sell more Volts, or more vehicles based on Volt technology, Hazimeh said.

“It’s hard to look at this technology and make a business case out of it with one vehicle,” Hazimeh said.

GM is reportedly considering a version of the Volt to be sold under the Cadillac brand and has shown a concept version of the Volt with a tall wagon body.

Selling more Volt batteries will spread out some of the production costs, making each one cost less

Better battery tech: The impact of volume on cost savings would be minimal, though, said Jon Lauckner president of GM Ventures, a GM subsidiary that finds and invests in companies that have promising technology the automaker could use. Real savings will come through technology improvements, he said.

“You do extensive amounts of research and development and you get the same functionality or better with fewer cells,” he said, “and you take a whole lot of cost out of the vehicle.”

For example, GM Ventures recently invested in California-based Envia Systems, a company that makes a new type of battery material that promises to hold more energy in less space and that’s also less expensive than the stuff batteries are currently made from.

Electric motors: Even though electric motors have been around about as long as gasoline engines, there’s room for improvement.

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