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Electric cars not dead, says GM’s Reuss

EV defence: GM’s Mark Reuss speaks at the World Automotive Congress where he painted a positive picture for electric vehicles.

Mark Reuss predicts future GM EVs with 480km range and affordable price tag

18 Jan 2013

GENERAL Motors North America president and former GM Holden chairman Mark Reuss has jumped to the defence of electric cars, even though GM currently does not sell a full EV.

“The electric car is not dead,” Mr Reuss told this week’s World Automotive Congress in Detroit where he predicted EVs one day would have a driving range of 480km and pricing to match conventional cars.

“That’s despite what you might hear, and despite what you might read about Americans not being ready for it, or about it being ‘under attack’ by local governments retracting incentives for it.”

Mr Reuss’s robust defence of EVs came after his former boss, retired GM vice chairman Bob Lutz – the man regarded as the father of GM’s range-extender Volt – accused GM of getting it wrong on electric vehicles, saying it should have electrified large gas-guzzlers such as the Cadillac Escalade SUV.

Mr Lutz was speaking in his new role as official spokesman for Utah-based Via Motors – a start-up company that specialises in EV and range-extender conversions for trucks, pick-ups, vans and SUVs.

 center imageFrom top: Former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz Via Motors ERev truck.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and we shouldn’t forget that the Volt and sister car Opel Ampera are the world’s best-selling electric car, but the truth is that even then it’s not meeting sales expectations, and that’s because most customers don’t want to pay out a major expense for the technology to make minor savings,” Mr Lutz was quoted as saying at the Detroit motor show where Via showed some of its vehicles.

“Frankly, unless that customer is philosophically, religiously or economically affiliated to buying an electric vehicle, then they can’t be convinced.

“The first two types of buyer will buy whatever’s built, but the latter is a harder case. The obvious answer is to electrify as big a vehicle as you can, because that’s where the fuel and running cost savings make the most sense.”

General Motors has set a target to have 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2017, many of these being full-electric models such as the light-sized Chevrolet Spark EV and related Chinese-market Springo, both of which will launch this year.

And Mr Reuss fired back at Mr Lutz, saying the time for EVs time would come.

“You hear pundits criticising slow sales of electric vehicles and you might think, ‘See? The electric car is a failure … it’s dead on arrival’,” he said.

“You might think that, but you’d be wrong. We’re talking about a transformation here, and transformation takes time.

“It takes a long time to change an industry, to change habits, and to change a way of life.

“I believe, and we at GM believe, that the public will accept and embrace electric vehicles some people already have.

“And the rest of them will come around when technology advances electric vehicles to the point where they offer comparable performance at comparable prices.

“We’ll get there. We will see the day when we have an affordable electric car that offers 300 miles (480km) of range with all the comfort and utility of a conventional vehicle.”

Mr Reuss said that in the interim, petrol-electric range-extender cars such as the Chevrolet/Holden Volt and its Cadillac and Opel versions, the ELR and Ampera, would fill the gap.

He said Volt owners “continue to be the happiest customers on the planet”.

“We couldn’t be happier with that, or with the Volt itself … with what it means to this company and with what it did last year, despite the unprecedented political beat-down it took,” he said.

“It’s going to sell even more, and the next generation will be even better.”

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