Ok, I’ve been dithering through two posts to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that:
- The Chevy Volt sucks so bad that even the craptacular Edsel (formerly considered the wheeled definition of unmitigated total automotive/financial disaster) was a resounding success by comparison.
- At least one guy thinks the Volt is totally awesome and we’re all missing out by rejecting what he perceives as the best car going.
I felt pretty smug that I, Curmudgeon extraordinare, would never hold an opinion that simply wouldn’t budge given real world experience. I pride myself on putting mind over wishful thinking.
Then one recent day the news reported that the DOW had cranked out a record high to close at 14,673. “Holy shit” quoth the Curmudgeon, “I smell inflation afoot!” It’s true, I was mightily displeased with that report.
I don’t see the DOW hitting nosebleed numbers as a necessarily good thing. With a federal debt of $16,806,987,247,849.34 and the Fed printing money literally faster than any physical printing press could muster… I see gains in the DOW as losses in the green paper I keep (when I can) in my wallet. It’s like when your get a brutal stomach virus for a week and wind up standing on the scales marveling that you’ve lost 5 pounds. Yeah, it’s cool to lose weight but the bathroom scale is missing the part about you running a 101 fever and vomiting. Such is my paranoia about the economy.
But wait! If I, Curmudgeon that I am, think a rising DOW is a bad thing wouldn’t I be pleased with a sinking DOW? Actually I wasn’t. Back in 2008 when everyone lost their shit and pushed the DOW to 7,552.29 (November 20, 2008) I was livid. “Are they insane?” I ranted in that fateful year, “Every building, factory, bulldozer, and forklift what was around last week is still here.” I interpreted a DOW at 7,500 as proof positive that everyone had taken leave of their senses and we’re valuing stocks based on whatever the hell floated into their empty heads.
Which brings me to my conundrum. When the DOW went down I interpreted it as a bad thing; a disconnect between the true value of assets and the securities we use to trade them. When the DOW went up I interpreted it as a bad thing; a disconnect between the value of assets and the green slips of paper we use to monetize them.
There’s the rub. I think were screwed when the DOW goes up and when the DOW goes down. Thus my opinion is not affected by a metric that I observe everyday. In effect, I’m just like the guy who thinks a Volt is just groovy despite ample evidence to the contrary. He thinks his Volt is groovy. I think were screwed. Neither of us are responding to outside information. (Or at least I am unwilling to accept the DOW as a rational valuation.)
Now is the time when I’m supposed to wrap it all up with some pithy comment that proves I’m intelligent and Hippie Mc.Volt is a moron. I can’t do it. He and I both have opinions that are resistant to outside information. I haven’t figured out a clever way to either get with the rainbow people and love our new Obamaconomy or think my way past hating rising and falling stock prices simultaneously.
Ah well, perhaps a conundrum of human existence is being aware you’re thinking foolishly yet doing it anyway.
P.S. Regardless of the DOW, I’m definitely certain that the Volt is horse shit. I’m bitter about that. I’ve been waiting for a real electric car since the Carter administration and apparently it’s not coming. (Side note, the armed flying drones of science fiction are now real and blowing people away right now. How could a decent electric car and predictions of housekeeping robots have been eclipsed by the Terminator?)
I think the mistake is in thinking that the DOW has anything at all to do with reality. The HFT Algos are the vast majority of the trading now, funded at least in part by the unlimited Quantitative Easing – and those algos are programmed to respond to the market as if humans were participating – but they are not. Real people began leaving the market in 2008 and many have never returned, I agree the drop was stupid and undervalued the companies, but increasingly since then there has been a disconnect between actual value and the stock prices.
After 2008-early 2009 the volume was increasingly being made up with Machines trading with each other — in a quasi fictional universe that has very little to do with company value or production. Hence the metric you look at every day is largely bogus and has been for years. Stocks are going up a ridiculous amount when every other economic indicator says they should be loosing or static. Dividends are down ( with a lot of them pushed up in last year to avoid the tax rise) , production is down, orders are down , etc Reality care nothing for the stock price anymore.
I think – I hope – that the Chevy Volt (and most of its generation of electric cars) is an example of pre-mass-adoption tech. I remember being vastly under-impressed by $1000 CD players, for example. The biggest problem with the Chevy volt is the subsidy, because without it the people who think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread would just be typical early-adopters.
I think that, Lefty propaganda aside, electric cars are on the verge of practicality, as long as the people who buy them think about their limitations realistically. I know a lot of people who only do long range drives a couple of times every few years. otherwise they just putter around their little patch, where (presumably) they would know every place they could plug their car in.
I’ve read some things about research into batteries that looks really promising, too. Of course we’ll have to build a bunch of electrical generation capacity, which will outrage the greenies……
So, in general, I agree with you that the Volt is crap. So were early TVs, early automobiles (“Get a horse!”), and early a lot of other things. And, yes, there were electric cars as really as the 1890’s. Lots of tech started a lot earlier than modern people think, and lay fallow a long time until it got widely adopted.
So, government subsidies of the volt are an insult to the Taxpayer, and the Volt isn’t ready to replace modern cars, or even the Ford Model A. But I’m not ready to condemn electric cars entirely.
Aside; Like you, sir, there are plenty of issues I’m completely irrational about.
Thank you for all that you do.
I read your blog every single time it is updated and am always educated and entertained.
If you’ve been waiting for an electric car since Carter you should love the Volt. It’s a big step in the right direction and as they (and other plug-in hybrids) sell the batteries will just get better and better and the cars will get cheaper and cheaper. The main drawback of the Volt (other than that it costs twice what it should) is that it requires 91 octane. My next commuter car will be a plug in that will run on 87; coupled with a spare battery and solar panels on the roof, it’ll be a solar powered car. I figure it’ll also come in hand when the electricity goes out, which happens around here any time it rains.
The biggest drawback of all electric cars (as opposed to all-electric cars, which are another discussion) is that the electricity has to come from somewhere, and the same people who are pushing the cars are (usually) opposed to building any more generation capacity.
No, Wind Farms don’t count.
I would be delighted to see electric power replace gasoline for a lot of transportation, because we have other uses for those hydrocarbon compounds (Plastic!), but if any significant switch takes place wee are going to have to hold a lot of politicians’ feet to the fire and get some generators built, asap.
In my physical science class I have the kids do a back-of-the-envelope calculation on how much more electric infrastructure we would need if most small cars (that is, commuter cars) were primarily electric. It works out to about 200 new nuke plants or a few hundred watts of solar panel on everyone’s garage. Let’s get started on both!
But you’ll have to pry my gas-powered full-sized pickup out of my cold dead hands. Which, given the way I drive, may be sooner than later.
The bit about “being useful when the power goes out” is also relevant to generation load. The utility must have capacity for peak load, both in generation and in distribution. Most of the time much of this capacity is idle. The charging of electric vehicles should happen largely overnight when the extra capacity is available.
From the utilities perspective it really gets good if you have a smart network of storage batteries, provided by your customers at their own expense, dispersed widely on your grid. You can charge up during off-peak but then draw from during peak. As long as that car is fully charged again by the time its innocent owner leaves the premises, who will be the wiser? And you then get to deliberately undersize your grid, because the storage is geographically close to the peak load need.
Bob Lutz had it right on the money when he said the Volt wasn’t an ‘environmental’ solution, it was a ‘National Security’ solution. The development of the electric car is in it’s infancy, but it doesn’t have to be anywhere near as expensive as it is, either to buy, or to run. It very much is the 1st Gen iPod of the electric car industry. The subsidies, frankly, are just corporate welfare, padding the ability to make obscene profits off a newly developed product. Just another example of the Fascism we call ‘Public/Private Partnerships’.
But the car itself, and the concept of an electric car that can be used like a ‘regular’ car is an idea that is long past time. Diesel/Electrics have been in use for a LOOONG time (as in, every locomotive you see uses a diesel generator, to power the electric motors that actually move the train, bobcats are also diesel/electric, etc.), and the application to cars is long past.
Usually, people bitch that the Volt isn’t ‘pure’ electric, and therefore it sucks. Other people say it’s heavy and expensive, and no real bargain…therefore it sucks.
I think of it as another EV-1. A long range, wide application test bed. And like the EV-1, the Volt has attracted a lot of detractors that really have no idea WHY the car exists, and base their criticisms off of personal bugbears they feel such a product should address. Bob Lutz made it perfectly clear at it’s introduction, yet like so many other ‘News stories’, it’s been eclipsed by the narratives journalists prefer.
Bob Lutz stated very clearly, that the Volt was the first step in removing America from dependance on foreign oil – that the goal was to reduce the consumption of oil in the US, that it became a net exporter instead. He quite rightly said that energy is much cheaper to produce centrally, than locally, and pointed out the real problems were in local storage (batteries), which also happened to be a technology area AMerica had better master, since it was going to be pivotal to the future.
Every civilization that learns to extract and utilize energy more effectively than it’s neighbors, wins. Be it used to produce an easier life, more efficient society, more destructive capability…it doesn’t matter…that society with easier energy availability ALWAYS wins. And frankly, Nuclear energy powering a grid that powers all the nations cars would accomplish a couple things TPTB would love:
Independence from a need to protect foreign oil interests (blood for oil).
Centralized control and ownership of the lifeblood of that civilization.
I don’t see your opinion as being resistant to outside information, but being driven by outside information. The stack market is behaving irrationally by not setting it’s value by the profit level etc of the company, but by “momentum” (I think that’s what the business people call lemming stampede behavior).
The Chevy Volt is indeed the future, because batteries work through very well understood chemical reactions, and unless someone comes up with some new elements the chemists have already worked out the reactions which provide the most electrical energy. All that is left is some optimization of the processes; i.e. there ain’t no magic battery to be developed that will allow electric cars to get a decent range working off of batteries alone. So, like a Chevy Volt, if you want decent range with an electric vehicle you will need to have a generator on board. You can optimize a diesel engine to get about 50% efficiency driving a constant speed generator. Sterling engines can also get about 50% efficiency, and using one to drive an electrical generator bypasses its biggest fault – very slow starting, in the range of 15 minutes or more, and no real way to speed up the process. This has prevented anyone even considering using a Sterling engine for just about anything. So unless there is a big breakthrough in fuel cells, which is looking less and less likely; the electric vehicle of the future will have a smallish battery pack allowing about 30-50 miles of travel, and a highly efficient diesel or sterling engine driving a generator on-board to allow travel past the battery powered range. Of course Chevy Volts really suck to drive, but when the choice is paying 20$ a gallon for gasoline (thank your local, lying environmentalists that don’t know science from a hole in the ground) or a Chevy Volt, the Volt will look a lot better.
Also, it’s been a month since we’ve heard anything about the cat.
Given your feelings on the Edsel and Volt, this article should be a real beam of sunshine.
SIGNS OF STRUGGLE?Report: White House Had Advance Warning on Fisker, http://fxn.ws/11juRq8 – Sent via the FOX News Android App.