What does General Motors have against electric cars? The brand new "Anthem" TV spot for the Chevrolet Volt that debuts during the World Series tonight (watch it here) contains the line, "This is America, man. Home of the highway, last-minute detours and spontaneous acts of freedom" and makes the emotional case against worrying about range. The ad doesn't attack the Nissan Leaf directly, but it most certainly wants to set the Volt apart from that electric vehicle (EV).
During the recent press launch for the Volt, Micky Bly, General Motors' executive director for hybrid electric vehicles and batteries, dismissed EVs by saying that it would take 28 days to drive from Detroit to Florida in an electric car. Even if he was joking, his message is quite serious. It's also wrong. Heck, if you can pedal your bike 50 miles a day, it would take you just 21 days to get from the Motor City to Jacksonville. If you have an EV with a 100-mile range and can't find a fast-charger anywhere along the way, it would take you 10 days. In a Tesla Roadster, which has an official range of 245 miles, it would take you four or five days. Some intrepid plug-in vehicle fans have already gone from Detroit to Washington, D.C. on an electric Brammo Enertia in two weeks.
No one is arguing that electric cars don't have range limitations, but they have many benefits over gas-powered vehicles and GM is wrong to minimize them. There's nothing wrong with explaining why your own product is better than your opponent's, but GM's continued anti-EV rhetoric is getting annoying. It's also very shortsighted, as we've told GM directly. Read on after the jump to find out why.
First, the pro-EV arguments we've all heard before: electric cars don't send oil money overseas and they don't emit any pollutants from the tailpipe. It's also much cheaper to drive on electrons than gasoline. Okay, that's all old news. The most important reason GM should not denigrate EVs – which the Volt's "It's More Car Than Electric" tagline most certainly does – is that GM itself is working on electric cars. Yes, right now. There are two small EV test fleets that we know of, the Cruzes in Korea and the Opel Merivas in Germany, and who knows what else is happening behind closed doors. GM will have to play in this segment at some point, so the less it bashes EVs now, the easier it'll be for them to sell one later.
GM's marketing department may win the current public relations battle against Nissan and the Leaf by attacking EVs in 2010, but it is totally shooting the GM of 2020 – or whenever GM actually tries to sell a real electric car – in the foot. In effect, GM will eventually be calling out its own technology for being inadequate. A more positive message – something that explains how amazing this Volt is (and it really is an amazing vehicle) and hard GM has worked to make it – would work so much better down the road. After all, down the road is where we all want to see plug-in vehicles, right?