Dec 072011

Highest fuel efficiency in America

China is set to become the latest market for Chevrolet’s Volt, currently the compact car with the highest fuel efficiency in America. Part of General Motor’s ‘Drive to Green’ effort, which will see the US automaker launch a series of electrics and hybrids in China by the year 2015, this marks a milestone for the Volt. So far, it has not been widely distributed outside of the US market since it was first launched there a year ago.

China largest car market

This announcement by Chevrolet also has some important repercussions for green cars in general. China is now among the largest car markets in the world. It has taken to electric vehicles much more enthusiastically than most, much due to electric bikes being a mainstay in the country for years and large government subsidises for Chinese-made electric vehicles. That makes them incredibly cheap in a country where the automobile remains a potent status symbol separating rich and poor.

Volt Purchase Price (China)

For foreign manufacturers such as General Motors this creates a complex demand dynamic. A growing appetite for green cars in China prompted by subsidies from the government is clearly a good thing for the car industry and the environmental movement overall. However, it also creates a barrier to foreign hybrid and electric car manufacturers as they struggle to compete on price. The Chevrolet Volt, for example, will sell at a steep $78,000 (£50,000 approx) when it goes on sale in eight major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the border city with Hong Kong.

Chevrolet Volt - Electric Car

Chevrolet Volt - Electric Car

Volt Purchase Price (America)

In America the Chevrolet Volt sells for about half the price, (£25,000 approx). By Chinese standards – and indeed in most markets – this is hugely expensive but then Chinese have an affinity for foreign brands as they have traditionally seen them as being of a higher quality. Still, for a large segment of the population this is a price tag that will be prohibitive. What many manufacturers are now considering to overcome this hurdle is joining forces with Chinese companies to take advantage of tax breaks and subsidies by producing green cars in China.

USA reduced price

However, the second installment of the Volt, which has just been released, looks to have come too soon to be part of a possible future General Motors joint venture experiment in China. Changes on the 2011 edition are minor. The centre stack is less confusing than it was on last year’s edition, while it is now possible to turn off the traction control. In the US the price has just been reduced by about $1000 meaning it has gone below that all-important $40,000 mark, (less than £25,000 approx).

35 Miles Per Charge

Other features of the Chevrolet Volt remain exactly the same, and thankfully those are the same specs that made it such a winner in the first place. The vehicle still does about 35 miles for every charge and 220 miles for each tank of gas, which makes it an incredibly efficient vehicle, one that despite its high price tag affords huge savings on fuel over the period of its lifetime. In China it remains to be seen whether the high initial investment will lure buyers. And elsewhere, will GM launch the Chevrolet Volt to a wider audience?

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