General Motors CEO Dan Akerson recently claimed that his company plans “to compete head-to-head” with Tesla Motors on plug-in electric vehicles. Given the current lineup of products offered by both companies, that’s a little hard to envision. Tesla makes high-end, electric-only performance vehicles, while GM has so far released a comparatively low-priced plug-in hybrid (the Chevy Volt) and a small, low-end electric (the Chevy Spark).
The first opportunity for GM to compete will take the form of the Cadillac ELR, a luxury-oriented spin-off of the Chevy Volt. Built around the Volt’s extended-range electric vehicle architecture, the ELR is powered by the same lithium ion battery back and small gasoline engine found in the Volt. The car will be tuned differently—to provide more total horsepower and torque—but all-electric range and total fuel economy are expected to be the same. That’s 35 miles without using a drop of gasoline, and a combined city/highway E.P.A. rating of 98 MPGe.
The main differences between the two vehicles will be in styling, amenities and price. The ELR sports an upscale interior that liberally employs leather and wood materials to give the car a look and feel to match the legendary Cadillac brand. The car will also offer increased control over the driving experience via paddle-controlled regenerative breaking adjustments—a strategy for maximizing range—as well as high-tech automatic safety alerts. Temperature-controlled cup holders and a few other bells and whistles round out a strong list of features found only in luxury models.
Just how much will consumers be willing to pay for a Volt transformed into Caddy? GM is betting quite a bit. Despite falling prices for plug-ins over the last year—including a $5,000 drop in the MSRP of Volt—Cadillac said it has no plans to lower the planned price for the car, rumored to start in the $60,000 range. That’s a $20,000 bump from the starting price of the Volt.
For GM, the ELR won’t have to sell anywhere close to as many units as the Volt to be considered a success. The car will be a low-production model with sales projected to barely crack 2,000 units per year. For some consumers though, the ELR will offer a new class of plug-in hybrid that isn’t tethered to the cost-cutting logic associated with mass-market releases—and no compromises on luxury options.
The car may not have much in common with Tesla’s Model S other than the tax bracket of its buyers, but as GM’s third plug-in release since 2010, it represents a step forward for the carmaker’s electric vehicle program.
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.