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December 9 Weekly Open Thread, Current Events Edition: Electric Car Sticker Shock

Come in out of the cold, grab some hot chocolate, sit down by the fireplace, and let's talk cars.

Just in time for Christmas, General Motors announced the 2014 Cadillac ELR Saks Fifth Avenue Edition, in a limited production run of just 100 vehicles, with an MSRP of $89,900.


Too rich for your blood? For you petit bourgeoise wannabees who can't afford Saks Fifth Avenue, GM offers the plain old Cadillac ELR for a surprisingly affordable $75,000.

So what the devil is a Cadillac ELR in the first place? According to the official General Motors press release:

The 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury coupe blends dramatic design and industry-leading extended-range technology to deliver a driving experience that is sporty and environmentally friendly. It represents the first application of Extended Range Electric Vehicle technology by a full-line luxury automotive brand....Industry-leading Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) technology provides full driving range exceeding 300 miles (480 km), combining pure electric driving and an efficient, range-extending generator....

"Extended Range Electric Vehicle," eh? Where have I heard that phrase before?....Oh, yeah, now I remember: the Chevy Volt, the $40,000 compact that does everything a Cruze Eco does for twice the price. The ELR isn't blatantly transparent cheapskate badge engineering in the tradition of the Cimarron, but beneath its rather attractive interpretation of the Cadillac "Art and Science" design theme is the powertrain and platform of a Chevy Volt.

The reaction to the plain vanilla ELR in the buff books and the automotive blogosphere ranges from "that's a bit pricey, isn't it?" to "that's crazy," with the bell curve centered somewhere around "you gotta be kidding me." Another $14k for some slightly different paint colors, a "free" charging station that normally sells for three grand, and minor bragging rights just doesn't seem worth it.  If you absolutely must have an exclusive, designer edition car with "green" cred, there are cheaper ways to go about it.

Meow.--Cookie the Dog's Owner


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They're trying to latch on to the Prius eco-style market. The Prius was never a great car and never made much financial sense, but the Greens bought it for its distinctive look that gave them instant Green Cred. You just don't get that with a boring old Chevy or a staid old Caddy, despite the latter's recent engineering successes.

That said, I always thought hybrids would be a great solution, if carried out in the way that GM is doing it now -- with the electric motor being the major motive force with the engine primarily charging batteries -- rather than the electric-assist that the Prius uses. I still hold out some hope that they will.

The market is the fashionably green, who have a lot of money. I'm sure the Electro-Caddies are going to be sold in a few Metropolitan Areas.

Also, with electric motors as the primary motive force, a turbine makes automotive senses. And that high temp exhaust can be used to run an economizer to generate extra power.

The limited edition is little more than a PR move. The entire run will be sold out in a very short it will be either a prestige item or a special for bragging rights. The also-rans will then have to be consoled with the lesser priced (?) model. The ecoweenies will now be embracing GM for introducing it. Little mention of how much the taxpayers lost on the GM bailout.

For that price, it should have gold badges and trim.

Just kidding.

News sources just said the taxpayers lost 10.5 billion on the bailout, btw.

@M. Thompson: I've had similar thoughts. Direct-drive turbines aren't all that well suited as an automotive (or locomotive) prime mover because turbines aren't very efficient with variable loads (starting, stopping, etc.). They are, however, extremely efficient running at a constant speed. So, run the turbine at its most efficient speed, and have it power a generator. You have a battery pack for surge capacity, and the electric motor to turn the wheels.

Yeah it's expensive, but for people at that end of the market it doesn't particularly matter.

Look at it this way, it's a Tesla minus the range anxiety. Given how inexpensive it was for GM to develop, they don't have to sell that many to recoup their minimal investment, and if they don't readily sell, there's plenty of room for discounting.

I kinda admire their chutzpah in pricing it, hopefully it works out for them. I would totally buy one of I wasn't a poor. :D

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