back to article GM's cheaper-than-Tesla 'leccy car tested at batt-powered data centre

General Motors has started testing its new Chevy electric prototype at its Milford Proving Ground – where its data centre is powered by the firm's own vehicles' recycled batteries. It seems GM is well ahead of Tesla in rolling out its distance-driving electric car. The upcoming Chevy Bolt is due to go on sale during 2017, and …

  1. xj25vm

    Use batteries in their data centre?

    Hmm - how many of these prototype cars do they have in testing, and how many sets of batteries in them have had to be replaced already to make any significant difference in powering up their data centre?

    1. Jonathon Green

      Re: Use batteries in their data centre?

      I'll take a wild guess that the batteries powering the data centers came from the Bolts range extender assisted cousin the Volt (Vauxhall Ampera over here) which has been around for quite a while and sold in quite significant numbers...

      1. 100113.1537

        Re: Use batteries in their data centre?

        Not significant enough - canned in April with only 70,000 sold in 5 years.

        http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-09/another-electric-car-bites-dust-chevy-volt-go-way-aztek

        Should have been a good idea, but the price was ridiculous - even including the big govt. kickbak they were 40-50% more than comparable sized cars. Same with the prices quoted here $30k for a small sedan is not going to get many takers beyond those who want a status symbol and they can already buy a Tesla....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    80% left?

    Does this mean that GM charges 80% less for replacement batteries?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: 80% left?

      Hahahahahaha..... you missed the joke icon... <chortle><choke>

  3. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    What a horrible paint job

    It looks designed to ensure that there are no customers

    1. Jeff Clarke

      Re: What a horrible paint job

      That paint job is a standard issue for most prototype cars (it's used in one form or other by BMW, JLR, etc) - I understand it's designed to make it difficult to perceive the actual outline of the car, thereby providing some sort of protection for the outside design/appearance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a horrible paint job

        Looks like a bit of tar that has had a bunch of limpets removed, theft deterent obviously.

        As these things are very quiet and hard to hear coming, maybe the driver should roll the window down and shout loudly "I'm coming! I'm coming"

        1. Bodhi

          Re: What a horrible paint job

          Not really needed, you may not be able to hear the car, but you can hear the owners droning on and on about how their electric car is not as awful as previously suspected, and they managed a whole 80 miles before needing more juice.

          1. phil8192

            Re: What a horrible paint job

            A range of 80 miles would be less than a round-trip to and from the office for many people in places like Texas and the southwestern United States. Unless equipped with an internal combustion engine range extender, it would be a non-starter for many potential customers, just like its predecessor, the Chevrolet Volt. The word on the street is that General Motors subsidised the sale of every Volt they shipped; it was a huge money-loser.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What a horrible paint job

              Range is 200 miles. The article told me so.

        2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: What a horrible paint job

          As these things are very quiet and hard to hear coming, maybe the driver should roll the window down and shout loudly "I'm coming! I'm coming"

          I thought that was more the mantra of the back seat than the drivers seat...

          1. Chicken Marengo
            Gimp

            Re: What a horrible paint job

            >>I thought that was more the mantra of the back seat than the drivers seat...

            Not sure there's enough room in the back of that thing for those sort of antics

        3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: What a horrible paint job

          shout loudly "I'm coming! I'm coming"

          Immediately followed by "You bastard, you were supposed to pull out" ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            S.M.I.D.S.Y

            "Loud pipes save lives"

            Bikers have been saying that for years. Looks like cars drivers will be too.

      2. John H Woods

        Re: What a horrible paint job

        "That paint job is a standard issue for most prototype cars (it's used in one form or other by BMW, JLR, etc) - I understand it's designed to make it difficult to perceive the actual outline of the car" -- Jeff Clarke

        Confirmed --- I live just down the road from Gaydon and there are plenty of Jags, Aston Martins, and Range rovers to be seen with these striking line-disrupting paint jobs. Most of them go past so fast that you wonder whether the camo is strictly necessary....

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a horrible paint job

        "That paint job is a standard issue for most prototype cars (it's used in one form or other by BMW, JLR, etc) - I understand it's designed to make it difficult to perceive the actual outline of the car, thereby providing some sort of protection for the outside design/appearance."

        Well then it fails miserably and they should try an alternate plan. I can quite easily discern everything from the character crease between the bonnet edge and the forward bumper, to the character line of the side panels.

        If that was their best attempt, why bother?

        Otherwise it is a typically modern, rather stubby package with a bit of Fiat 500 in it, character crease below the bonnet notwithstanding; I think most would give a yawn at its unadventurous design. At least its not a Prius, though.

      4. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: What a horrible paint job

        ... but it's a Corsa (to use the Vauxhall/GM name for it).

        .. and JLR's cars either look lile X'F's, XE's, X-Types, F-Types, XK's, Freelanders, Discoveries, Discovery Sports, Evoke's or Range Rovers with their freaky paintwork on them.

    2. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: What a horrible paint job

      It looks like that because motoring papparazi

      Why?:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage

      Much has been said of the need to install a sound maker in Electric cars.

      My vote goes to the sound of George Jetson's flying saucer.

    3. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: What a horrible paint job

      I don't know, I rather like it. It has some nice benefits like hiding the occasional nick or dent and when it appears to be a solid color you know it's time for a wash. I've only one question, do you think they'll have it in black and orange for Halloween?

    4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: What a horrible paint job

      It's so the U-Boats have a more difficult time identifying their target.

  4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    I'm sure you'll be glad to know

    Not directly relevant, but still an arresting statistic: Britain has twice as many taxpayer-funded electric car charging points as it actually has electric cars.

    From the same article:

    “If you were to charge a car in 12 minutes for a range of 500 km, for example, you're probably using up electricity required to power 1,000 houses," Yoshikazu Tanaka, a top Toyota engineer, told the Reuters news agency in April. “That totally goes against the need to stabilise electricity use on the grid."

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: I'm sure you'll be glad to know

      That sounds like a selling point to me.

    2. Pete Dixon

      Re: I'm sure you'll be glad to know

      Tesla is using batteries at its Supercharger stations to mitigate that problem.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't believe it

    To sell these cars at $30K every other GM car sold must subsidize the selling price of the poorly named Bolt. In theory the Li-ion batteries are suppose to have a useful life in the vehicle of 10-12 years. If they already have a supply of used batteries, did they fail before 10-12 years? Powering a data center with old Li-ion batteries is a means to delay the inevitable recycling of these toxic batteries for a couple years. Even at 80% capacity these batteries are only going to last a few more years in service.

    A 200 mile recharging range will make these vehicles suitable for around town use but hardly practical for a holiday or other travel. Trying to find a recharging station on your travel route can be a real challenge as well as sitting for 30+ minutes if you find a quick recharging system which only typically pops the batteries up to 80% meaning the next stop is well short of 200 miles. There really is no logic in buying any of the current model battery powered EVs. Hydrogen fuel cells will replace all battery powered EVs in the next few years and offer 300+ mile range. The petrol stations will need to offer hydrogen refueling however but this is quite viable for most and less of a problem than fast battery recharging stations. Even so surveys have shown that about 96% of drivers really have no interest in EVs so it will be an uphill battle to sell something few people desire and make a profit doing it.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Don't believe it

      Go to places like plugshare.com and chargepoint.com to look for charging stations.

      I have an electric motorcycle with about 120 miles range, and I have little problem getting places, even in the hick backwater low-tech American South.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Don't believe it

      EVs can work very nicely, depending on the way you use your private transport.

      For zipping around town or a trip to the next town, it's ideal. I barely do 200 miles in 2 weeks.

      For going on holiday? Rent a petrol car.

      Those charging points are not just a 30 minute wait btw. If they are in use when you arrive you have to wait for someone to finish before your 30 starts. If there's a queue.......

      Use them all day, stick them on charge overnight. Like a phone.

      1. David Kelly 2

        Re: Don't believe it

        Unlike an ICE you do not want to routinely fully cycle an EV battery. The battery wear is greatest at the extremes, discharged and charged. Tesla recommends no more than 90% of their full range charge for daily use, and no less than 50%.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't believe it

      your argument makes sense except for one seriously critical oversight:

      massive government subsidies.

      with cash infusion to the companies at hand, even the crappiest electric car with no available infrastructure becomes "viable" for as long as the subsidies continue. Which in the case of Tesla has been a decade of State and Fed, with State still a cash cow providing free "EV Credits" to sell as well as other "alternative vehicle" programs that fill the trough. And that's before the tax breaks and infrastructure benefits provided, and before State and Federal subsidies of the product purchases themselves that technically go to the purchaser, but in fact simply enable more profit thru more sales that would not have occurred without the taxpayer largesse.

      Executives, shareholders, and some employees make a lot of money no matter how unsuccessful the vehicle turns out to be in the long run. And that "metric" is how "success" is defined.

      1. David Kelly 2

        Re: Don't believe it

        your argument makes sense except for one seriously critical oversight:

        massive government subsidies.

        with cash infusion to the companies at hand, even the crappiest electric car with no available infrastructure becomes "viable" for as long as the subsidies continue. Which in the case of Tesla has been a decade of State and Fed, with State still a cash cow providing free "EV Credits" to sell as well as other "alternative vehicle" programs that fill the trough.

        Not true at all. Government provides no "EV Credits" at all. There are control-freak states such as Kalifornia who mandate quotas for production of low- and so called zero-emission vehicles. Some manufacturers have surplus and are allowed to sell this credit on the open market to manufacturers who do not. For instance Tesla has no need of these emission credits so by selling to other manufacturers Tesla is enabling the continued supply of supposedly evil petroleum burners. So without Tesla there would be FEWER hydrocarbon burners on the roads in these states.

        As for the $7500 Federal Tax Credit, this does nothing for the actual promotion of EVs and everything for politicians buying votes from those who would be voting for them anyway.

    4. CunConLi

      Re: Don't believe it

      It doesn't mean Chevy can make 200 mile range and they can compare it with Tesla. I rather squeeze another $5k for Tesla, a company has been proven the king of EV.

    5. Weapon

      Re: Don't believe it

      You are wrong on a few counts.

      1) Lithium Ion batteries lifespan varies by chemistry. Some chemistry can go over 50 years lifespan. In this case the chemistry used has over 15 years lifespan.

      2) There will always be spare capacity batteries, especially from cars that ended up totaled.

      3) Lithium Ion batteries are non-toxic. Don't confuse them for Lead Acid batteries.

      4) Based on studies, even in places which have lots of travel like the US, 250 miles includes 99.8% of travel, yes even during holidays. Above 500 miles, most travel is by airplane.

      5) You would only need about 1,500 fast chargers to cover the entire US or EU every 50 miles.

      6) Hydrogen fuel cells are a joke. Not only do they offer lower range than EVs due to poor volumetric density. And not only will it cost TRILLIONS to build a fuel cell infrastructure. They are inferior to EVs in almost every single way. Do some research.

      7) Based on latest studies, interest in EVs is about 20-25%. That said, the majority of the population is still not aware of EVs, as they become aware that will change. For one, EVs have the highest consumer satisfaction so far among cars.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Don't believe it

        5) You would only need about 1,500 fast chargers to cover the entire US or EU every 50 miles.

        That's a spurious figure. The USA has just under 4m square miles of area, so that's 1 fast charger per 2500 sq miles. That equates to one charger per 50x50 mile square, which is not at all the same as one charger every 50 miles. Lies, damned lies, and statistics...

        1. noominy.noom

          Re: Don't believe it

          I think they are right. One charger in the dead center of every 50x50 square would be a charger within 50 mile of you everywhere.

          1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Don't believe it

            No, one charger in the centre of every 50 x 50 square would always be 50 miles from the next charger. The nearest would be no more than 25 miles from a traveller on a road grid, or 25 x root 2 diagonally.

            1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

              Re: Don't believe it

              In deepest Nebraska recently, a bridge was washed out on a short but vital link road. IF I was in my EV and needed the charging station that was located on the other side of the washed out bridge I'd be well and truly stuffed. The diversion was a cool 118 miles. The road closed was 12 miles long.

              So how does your grand plan work then?

              Imagine that I'm on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. 50 miles away is the South Rim where my nearest charging point it. Does my leccy car suddenly sprout wings?

              Go on, tell us. I'm sure you can become an overnight trillionaire with your grand plan for leccy chargers everywhere (I think not)

              1. Claverhouse Silver badge

                Re: Don't believe it

                "In deepest Nebraska recently, a bridge was washed out on a short but vital link road. IF I was in my EV and needed the charging station that was located on the other side of the washed out bridge I'd be well and truly stuffed. The diversion was a cool 118 miles. The road closed was 12 miles long."

                I'm gonna guess the same as if you were in a petrol automobile and the garage was over the bridge also.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Believe it

                In deepest England recently, a petrol station was closed on a short but vital link road. IF I was in my car and needed the petrol station that was located on the other side of the closed road I'd be well and truly stuffed. The diversion was a cool 1.8 miles. The road closed was 0.2 miles long.

                So how does your grand plan work then?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Believe it

                  If you've waited until you only have 0.2 miles left in your tank, you really need to re-think your driving...

                  I get 600ish miles from a full tank, I refill when convenient, and I rarely have less than 50 miles in the tank..

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Don't believe it

            One charger in the dead center of every 50x50 square would be a charger within 50 mile of you everywhere.

            It's technically true, but meaningless. 50 miles as the crow flies doesn't help if it's 100 miles by road to get there, nor does it help if there are 500 vehicles all wanting a charge within that 50-mile-a-side square.

            It's like the mobile phone networks that cover "98% of the population". Great if you're in the home counties, useless if you're in deepest Scotland.

            It's just a propaganda figure.

        2. phil8192

          Re: Don't believe it

          Those 4 million square miles aren't all pavement. There are huge areas of the United States west of the Mississippi River where the roads and population are relatively sparse, so the density of recharging stations in those areas could be lower. However, with much higher demand for charging stations in urban areas, a figure of 1,500 stations for the entire United States is ridiculously low, unless you want to get an appointment and wait in line four or five days in Los Angeles to charge your vehicle.

        3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Don't believe it

          There are 168,000 gas stations in the USA.

          Filling a gas tank takes only a few minutes, battery much longer.

          A gas tank can take you about twice as far as a battery.

          Claim about "1500" is therefore irrational nonsense. But that's about par for the course with the nonsense spewing e-car fan boys.

          That out of the way, all they really need to do is make the batteries about twice as good in every parameter.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't believe it

        "...EVs have the highest consumer satisfaction so far among cars."

        Elon Musk could extrude a turd and sell it as dinner. He'd still get high marks from his loyal fan base.

    6. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Don't believe it

      In theory the Li-ion batteries are suppose to have a useful life in the vehicle of 10-12 years. If they already have a supply of used batteries, did they fail before 10-12 years?

      A lot of people don't keep vehicles more than 5 or 6 years even if there's no real need to replace them yet. That's particularly true of trend chasers, some of whom were no doubt among the first group of people to buy Volts.

    7. phil8192
      Meh

      Re: Don't believe it

      Hydrogen power has been "the coming thing" since the mid-1980s since Roger Billings demonstrated a real, working hydrogen-powered car and the "hydrogen homestead", which would have allowed people to make their own hydrogen fuel to power their vehicles and provide lighting, heating and hot water for their homes, completely independent of the grid. Thirty years later it still hasn't arrived and there's no hydrogen distribution infrastructure. In North America, where there is an abundant supply of natural gas and an existing pipeline network to distribute it, cars and trucks running on compressed natural gas (CNG) are far more likely to catch on.

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Oh and FYI, I didn't get the electric motorcycle for the "save the planet" hippie crap... I got it because it HAULS ASS and handles really well. That little paint-can size motor has more torque than a Suzuki Hayabusa across the entire power band, the low C-of-G with the battery placement makes it handle, and it's got so much torque it doesn't even use a transmission.

    The fact it does 99.5% of what I need to do (and my FJR-1300 does the long distance) is icing. I have not bought gas in 64 days now.

    1. Rick Brasche

      what bike are you riding?

      I've test ridden the Zero S a couple months ago. I owned and daily commuted a Gen II FJR for 6 years. While I like the new Zero it comes nowhere close to out-pulling a 'Busa, or even the Feej with a much lower power/weight ratio.

      Having the Zero loaded with the options I want puts it also $4K over the cost of a new FJR. I sadly sold mine because I could afford to only park and maintain one vehicke-no charging ports in apartment parking lots anywhere I can afford to live either.

      Fun toy, but definitely not in the 'busa class. More like the Triumph Speed Triple. Which is a third the price last I checked. Can buy a LOT of fuel for the extra $10K.

      Course that's also because for some reason, Zero doesn't get the government largesse Tesla does, or the entire Zero line would be actually affordable and I'd have one right now. Zero must not have enough politicians in the payroll yet.

    2. David Kelly 2

      Oh and FYI, I didn't get the electric motorcycle for the "save the planet" hippie crap... I got it because it HAULS ASS and handles really well.

      Thats why I bought a Tesla Model S 85. After a test drive it was clearly the vehicle I wanted to drive every day. Initial purchase price was much greater than a new Prius plus lifetime supply of gasoline, but so what? I like it.

      1. R Callan
        Megaphone

        If we extend your logic, if everyone buys an electric car then no-one pays for the fuel taxes so no-one pays for the roads that are needed to drive all these overweight electric vehicles on. How long do you think your being subsidised by everyone else is going to last? Electric vehicles need to have a milage tax applied to pay for their being on the roads at all, and the tax should take into account the excess weight of the vehicles making them more expensive to fuel than ICE vehicles.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          If we extend your logic, if everyone buys an electric car then no-one pays for the fuel taxes so no-one pays for the roads that are needed to drive all these overweight electric vehicles on.

          I don't know about the UK but up here in Australia, fuel excise goes straight into consolidated revenue. It's not a road funding system.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Fuel tax

            I don't know about the UK but up here in Australia, fuel excise goes straight into consolidated revenue. It's not a road funding system.

            Same in the UK. Few taxes are hypothecated, anywhere.

            But a "reliable" source tells us, "government revenue from fuel duty in 2009 was £25.894 billion, with a further £3.884 billion being raised from the VAT on the duty contributing some 4 per cent to the total UK tax revenues." That's about £30bn that's going to have to be found somewhere. Either direct taxes go up, or, more likely, electricity gets a two-tier tax system rather like the current system for diesel.

            I wonder how the economics of an EV would look if it paid £1200/year in fuel tax?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > up to 80 per cent

    Which is marketing speak for we haven't a clue.

    Clearly the converse of this is that the best you can possibly expect is 80% and could be anything lesser all the way down to 0.

  8. CunConLi

    Ugly Car

    When Tesla Model 3 is released, it'll make this Bolt look like garbage. Tesla is 5 years ahead anyone in this field and there's nothing they can do to change that in the next 5 years.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Ugly Car

      Apparently Tesla is at least a year *behind* GM in the econo-e-car segment.

      Remember that the Tesla econobox e-car was supposed to have been next. But Musk had to switch plans to the SUV due to financial issues.. He was quoted explaining all this about a year ago. But some fan boys have selectively forgotten this switch-a-roo.

      In any case, they can fiddle the cars all they want. It's the batteries that need some 'magic happens here' inserted into the master project plan.

  9. Weapon

    A lot of errors.

    There is a lot of errors in this article.

    1) The Tesla Model 3 has NOT been delayed. It is a confusion in interpretation when Tesla mentioned mass production of the Model 3 will be in 2018, but actual production will start in 2017. For reference, when Tesla means mass production they are talking about over 5X the production rate the Bolt is expected to run at.

    2) The Bolt is actually more expensive, it costs 37,500$, not 30,000$. The misunderstanding is that the Bolt will be 30K AFTER the 7.5k tax credit. In comparison, the Tesla Model 3 will be 35k BEFORE any tax credit.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Nolveys Silver badge
    Trollface

    Way Ahead Of Tesla

    The power saving features of GM electric vehicles are far more developed than those of their Tesla counterparts. For instance, energy savings of up to 100% can be achieved by automatically terminating all power while merging onto a busy highway.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Way Ahead Of Tesla

      BA DUMP BA!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused...You didn't use the word "boffin" anywhere in the article. How will I know it's a genuine Register article without the word "boffin"?

  13. SFC

    I really, really hope they improve those body lines. The prius is ugly, stop trying to copy it...

  14. Kev99

    But the Tesla is bigger and probably more comfortable to boot. Give GM 2 - 3 years and they'll say 'leccy cars are a bust, just like their last one.

  15. tomcincinnatus

    Why they named it the Bolt

    Because it'll take a "nut" to buy one.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chevrolet?

    They lost me right there. Chevy has a terrible reputation for reliability. Given the simplicity of the electrical drivetrain, the Bolt might be a bit more reliable than the ICE equivalent, but I'm sure Chevy can screw it up.

  17. Barry Rueger

    Say what?

    "Electric vehicle batteries are still capable of holding a lot of their capacity when drivers choose to replace them in order to maintain their vehicle's range capabilities."

    Am I alone in reading that sentence three times before even guessing extactly what it said?

    Somehow from a fine British publication I expect reasonable grammar.

  18. lindarichards

    It will be a good change, we can get quality cars with low fuel consumption in affordable price.

    -John K Perkins

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChqfKMgRrZPCsihpccZMl5A

    1. John McCallum

      That only lead to a dead site on you tube

  19. Hoosier Newman

    Except for the fact that it's ugly. It might be a winner. One of the major reasons people are buying Tesla's is for it's stylish appearance. Otherwise GM is only making another ugly Prius.

  20. Luiz Abdala

    What's the point of the paint job?

    They are upgrading the god damn freaking powertrain in the car, not the paint job or bodywork. Might as well leave the car painted in drab white that nobody would even notice.

    And it the mule is an Opel Corsa, I sure as hell want to know how to convert gas Corsas into leccy ones.

  21. grthinker

    Unmentioned option & Tesla will still have greater range...I think

    The options for for older batteries seem to stop at using them for less energy intensive tasks. The best FINAL option, and the one best for Land Fills, is the complete RECYCLING of the battery.

    As for the Volt's range in comparison to a Model 3. I would expect the Model 3 to use existing Tesla batteries which would give it about 250 mile range.

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