There's a lot of excitement around electric vehicles. But so far sales have not been great.
Michigan Radio’s auto beat reporter Tracy Samilton decided to get some firsthand experience driving two electric vehicles - the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt.
JW: So while we are calling them electric cars there are some fundamental differences in how they work.
TS: The Leaf is a pure electric vehicle it only runs on the battery and when it runs dry you have to recharge the battery to get more out of the car. And the Volt has a battery, and you run on that as an electric car for about 35 miles, and then after that it has a generator that runs on gasoline that provides more electricity so the car can keep running. So Chevy calls it an electric car with extended range.
JW: And after spending that week with the Leaf and the Volt, what did you think?
TS: Well, they’re two totally different cars and I had two totally different experiences as you can imagine. When I got the Volt, that week that they gave it to me I actually have a vacation arranged in Pennsylvania. Well because it has the extended range I could actually take the volt to the camp sight, some 400 and some miles away. And I plugged it into my cabin, which had electricity. You know most of this was done on the gasoline but I was able to get it recharged in my cabin.
When it comes to the Leaf, it’s a different kind of vehicle, I could not have done that.
Michigan Radio’s auto-beat reporter Tracy Samilton spent the day yesterday at General Motors’ Orion assembly plant outside of Pontiac.
Samilton was one of 16 reporters who were invited by GM and the UAW to see just what it takes to build a car.
Joanne Muller was one of the other reporters on the scene. In a blog-post published today on Forbes.com Muller writes, “After spending half a day learning how to put together an automobile, I have this to say: it is not as easy as it looks.”
My job was to use a power tool to attach front and rear “bumpers” on a wooden mock-up of a car as it rolled down the assembly line. Then later, I swapped jobs with a coworker and began installing “headlights” and “tail lights."
I was, in a word, terrible at it.
But, it wasn’t just Muller who couldn’t keep up. Apparently, our very own Tracy Samilton had some troubles of her own. Muller writes:
The other journalists were just as bad, or worse, at their jobs. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton and I were like Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up in the candy factory. She dropped a “bumper” on the floor, meaning the part had to be scrapped and our team would not meet its cost target. Safety was also lacking: the journalists recorded 22 safety “incidents” in 20 minutes — including a worker who was hit four times by a car coming down the line. At the end of our first 20-minute shift, we produced only 13 cars (instead of 18, our target), with a total of 25 defects, which meant we would have to return Saturday for unscheduled overtime to fix the faulty cars and meet our production goals. I learned that’s a very bad thing.
Samilton says the visit to the plant made her realize the pressure and deadlines that today’s factory workers are under, “and I thought it was hard being a reporter,” she noted.