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Apartment-Dwelling Volt Intenders May be SOL

GM is First Automaker to Reveal New Charging Equipment

Early adopters will be key to a successful launch of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and many of those considering a Volt are urbanites who live in apartments or condos with no access to a plug for nighttime recharging. How will these fretting Volt-o-philes be able to tap their home’s power source and thus benefit from the Volt’s claimed 40-mile electric-only range on a daily basis? They don’t know - and GM doesn’t know either.

As an Angeleno, I’m asked this question more and more by friends and family as the Volt’s November 2010 launch approacheth, so I brought it up during a recent one-on-one interview here in Hollywood with GM’s vice chairman/product guru, Bob Lutz. Lutz said that GM is working actively with mayors’ offices in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles to come up with ways to charge the Volt (and any other EREVs or plug-ins that follow) in places like municipal parking lots and designated metered street spots. But other than that, there’s really not a whole lot that GM - or any carmaker - can do at this point to help condo  and apartment dwellers (such as myself) to put the volts in their Volts. “Get a really long extension cord,” he joked. Seriously, though: GM will highly discourage people from using anything other than the 20′ cord included with the Volt to charge the car.

Now, the whole point of having the Volt’s range-extending motor is to take us where we need to go between charging opportunities, wherever they may be. Sure, Lutz said, but “at some point, we do want people to charge up at home,” at night and during off-peak hours when it’s cheapest and easiest on the power grid, thus maximizing the benefits of having an EREV. And ultimately, Lutz has no easy solution to the problem.

Nor should he. While this is an undeniable challenge and one that will prove a deal-killer for some urban types that might otherwise be willing to shell out the estimated $40-45K that Chevrolet plans to ask for the Volt, this is not a matter that GM should have to solve on its own. While cities such as San Francisco and New York have a majority of residents in multiple-family homes, there remain plenty of single-family-home owners that can and will buy the Volt and charge it in their garages at night. And I even think there will be a few condo dwellers that will simply get creative about finding ways to get their charge on every night. But without an understanding landlord and building inspector (or the government stepping in with some sort of charging-station mandate for multi-unit dwellings), the reality is this: until condo owners and developers start seeing measurable value in adding car-charging facilities to their structures - something that won’t happen until PHEVs and EREVs become commonplace - charging a Volt is bound to remain easier for some owners than others.

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Apartment-Dwelling Volt Intenders May be SOL
Apartment-Dwelling Volt Intenders May be SOL

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