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Old 08-23-2011, 02:05 PM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default GM’s Apple Moment: Could It Already Be Time To Dump The Volt?




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Some time ago, I made the unpleasant discovery that Oprah Winfrey publishes a magazine devoted entirely to herself. It’s called “O!” and every month there is a photo of Oprah herself on the cover. It’s almost impossible to imagine the kind of people who would buy such a magazine, but the same could be said about a variety of products from Kenneth Cole’s Indonesian garbage shoes to “Four Loko” alcopops.

The Chevrolet Volt is TTAC’s Oprah. Not only is it overweight and despised by most right-thinking people (in a few senses of the phrase), it appears on our front page more than any other car. We’ve reviewed it at least three times, discussed it endlessly, and even attended an owner’s gathering.
We’ve recently heard that GM wants to be like Apple. Here’s the problem: GM already is like Apple. Not the current Apple, mind you, but the divided, contentious, collapsing (Cr)Apple of the early Eighties. That company had a “Volt” of its own. It was called “Lisa”, and I was there on the day it was unveiled.

The story of the Apple Lisa can be found many places on the Internet, including a Wiki page that has been slowly whipped into shape over the past couple of years. Here’s the precis: In the late Seventies, Apple decided to introduce a successor to it’s wildly successful Apple ][. "Feature creep", wild enthusiasm, and a desire to leapfrog the competition rather than merely beat it resulted in the introduction of a $9,999 computer that was difficult to understand, slow to operate, and almost hopelessly proprietary in its hardware and software. By the time of its introduction, the Lisa had already been partially abandoned by its development team. A competing project --- the "Macintosh" --- ended up defining Apple's future, while the Lisa was doomed to become a technological dead end.

I attended the Lisa premiere at Micro Center in Upper Arlington, Ohio, nearly thirty years ago. I was already a proficient AppleBasic programmer and Apple ][ hardware hack, but I was also a big reader of BYTE magazine and I knew that graphical user interfaces were the wave of the future. The fabled Xerox Star had been the first "PC" to offer a GUI, but no nine-year-old kid in America was ever going to get time on one. The Atari "ST" and Commodore "Amiga" were on the way, each featuring a full-color GUI, but neither would beat the Lisa to market. Therefore, the Lisa was a big deal and I made sure my father bullied my way into the front of the group when the sheet was lifted (literally; it was a computer on a cylindrical display platform, under a sheet) and the Midwest was exposed to the Lisa for the first time.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that a $9,995 computer wasn't going to set the world on fire, particularly in an era when a new Oldsmobile Cutlass cost less than that, but Apple had become a navel-gazing maze of slightly insane people who had been isolated from the real world by a tidal wave of cash, success, and public acclaim. The Lisa arrived with a bang but barely sold a whimper's worth of volume.

To begin with, the Lisa didn't deliver what it promised. The display wasn't as big as we'd hoped, the resolution wasn't as good, and performance inside the applications was dog slow. The proprietary floppy disks were hideously expensive and difficult to find. Peripherals were nonexistent. Even if you didn't care about any of the above and possessed a new car's worth of cash to drop on a Lisa, your local Apple dealer might not be able to get you one due to production issues.

Does any of this sound familiar? I bet it does --- to Volt intenders. The Volt has consistently under-delivered on its promises, from the styling to the open-road fuel mileage. It costs more than anyone outside of GM's own insane maze thinks is reasonable . The man on the street doesn't want one and the the Volt true believers couldn't take delivery thanks to restricted production.

Lisa wasn't Apple's only major project of the late Seventies and early Eighties. The Apple ][ was undergoing futher development, first into the Apple //e which had the amazing ability to use lowercase letters and then into the IIgs which was wildly successful in the educational market. The "Macintosh" project was developing a more direct competitor for the standard-priced GUI offerings from Atari and Commodore, and after a rough start (the almost entirely worthless 128kb original Macintosh) it, too, became a success.

At the time, neither of those projects was considered to be quite the "moonshot" that Lisa was, the same way that Ford's Escape and Fusion Hybrids don't offer the same "moonshot" capabilities promised for the Volt. Apple likes its moonshots, whether we are talking about the Lisa or the iPhone. There's something to be said for coming up with the proverbial "paradigm shift".

GM likes its moonshots, too; the X-cars, the Saturn project, and the Volt were all meant to be more than merely competitive. The problem is that moonshots are a privilege, not a right. Apple "earned" the Lisa by creating the Apple ][, perhaps the most important personal computer of the Seventies, and earning the money and goodwill that came along with it. GM hasn't earned much lately.

Another issue with “moonshots”; if you take too long, someone else gets to the moon first. The endless delays associated with the Volt allowed Nissan’s less ambitious Leaf to arrive in the marketplace at the same time and effectively whip its ass; meanwhile, a third generation of Prius offers dramatically better efficiency off the battery than the bulky Volt does.
Worst of all, moonshots tend to grow a bit stale. The Saturn SL, which arrived on the market watered-down past the point of recognition, sat through a long lifecycle and an indifferent refresh before disappearing. Honda released three new Civics during that same time, each an incremental improvement over its predecessor. Constant improvement isn’t as sexy as loading up a spacecraft, but it pays real dividends.

If GM really wants to be like Apple, they will do what Apple did to extricate itself from the Lisa fiasco. First, all resources were diverted to other, less ambitious but more effective projects. In this case, one could argue that a Cruze hatchback hybrid which matches the Prius for efficiency and beats it on price and/or interior appointments would be a good way to start. Next, the difficult decision was taken to fold Lisa in with the successful stuff. Lisa received major price cuts, became “Macintosh XL”, and sold five or six times as much volume as the original Lisa as a result. The Volt may need to be brought back in line with other, more successful hybrids, and the price needs to drop regardless of the consequences.

After the “Macintosh XL” variant was obsolete, Apple simply walked away from Lisa. GM’s pretty good at walking away from nameplates, particularly after the bugs are worked out, (*cough* FIERO *cough) so it’s safe to assume not too much encouragement will be necessary here. Dump the Volt, get a world-class Cruze Hybrid out on the streets, sell the rest of the volume at a discount, and call it an expensive lesson learned at taxpayer expense.

Apple went on to have a pretty good ten years with the Macintosh, although by 1994 or so the bloom was off the fruit, so to speak, and it took a major upheaval in both product and organization to fix the wagon. Ironically, what saved Apple in 1998 — the arrival of Jobs and his crazy ideas — were what almost killed the company fifteen years prior. That’s the scariest lesson GM could learn from Apple: that sometimes you can’t learn anything from history, or competitive comparisons, at all.
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/201...the-volt/lisa/
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:32 PM   #2
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After reading that, in my opinion the writer would be better suited to reviewing computers than cars.

Yes the Volt is a fraction of what was promised, but the major difference here is the Volt is actually selling. GM sells every one they make, and dealer lots are not overloaded with inventory. This article was a forced comparison by an Apple fan, giving him an excuse to reflect on the computing past.
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:38 PM   #3
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What the author doesn't point out is that Apple had to learn from the Lisa in order to make the Macintosh. While Baruth keeps insisting that the Mac would have turned out the same, Folklore.org says that some of the lessons learned from the Lisa perfected the Mac and made it successful.

Nobody thought that the Volt was going to be the panacea for GM or something that would kill the Camry overnight, but a transitional step into delivering a car that used less energy. No matter how much people bag on it, I would still buy one over a Nissan Leaf anytime, which costs almost as much and is useless if I wanted to even drive to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, where I live.

Going farther back, why did Toyota sell the POS Toyopet Crown back in 1958? Why did Subaru think any American would want their crapass little wagons? Now look at them now. Someone had to make the Volt. It could be argued it wasn't the right time for GM or that they should have aimed lower, but if you don't push the envelope, you won't change anything.
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:57 PM   #4
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TTAC. The Retarded Contrarian.
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:11 PM   #5
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There aren't any NEW volts but there are sure a lot of USED volts with 10 miles or less on them.... Wasn't there a scam where the dealerships were selling the cars to each other to get the 7k govt break, and then sell them as USED to people who then CAN'T get the 7k break?
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:15 PM   #6
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^ yep Avanti posted that article..
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Old 08-23-2011, 05:30 PM   #7
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Or a more recent analogy... GM's HP moment.
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Old 08-23-2011, 05:44 PM   #8
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^ yep Avanti posted that article..
No. He posted an article, but it wasn't accurate/representative.
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Old 08-23-2011, 05:53 PM   #9
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No. He posted an article, but it wasn't accurate/representative.
Yup. The used volts were at dealers outside of the launch areas and at a Kia dealership. Neither of which would have been able to have new volts...
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:29 PM   #10
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I am not the hugest fan of the Volt, nor of GM as a whole. But the Volt is a fraction more sane than a Leaf or a Tesla all-electric.

But this crazy business attitude stuff has got to stop.

"Oh, it isn't selling this week, we have to scrap half a decade worth of work that was bailed out by the tax-payers... and do something else that might sell for a week."

The attention span has gotten so razor-sharp and thus razor thin, that if something doesn't go NUTS, it is considered an instant failure, and the baby is thrown out with the bath water over and over again.

Is anything refined, or improved anymore, rather than just scrapped after 10 minutes? or wait to catch on?

Did they not learn anything from their bail-out?

They killed off Pontiac in a whim, and now won't even sell the Caprice to the public, despite the G8 being fairly favorably received, but just at a horrible time in the whole market, the crash of late 2008.

Their heads still aren't screwed on straight, and media coverage like this, exacerbates the mentality.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:27 PM   #11
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The author's got a point though. Moonshot is the right description, and in trying to be everything to everyone, they've created a car that simply doesn't make economic sense. It's nice that it has a complete internal combustion engine on board, but it makes the car less efficient in EV mode, it adds thousands to the price and it takes up space. You can't build a car with a full EV powertrain and a full IC powertrain and then expect it to be price-competitive, and for how much the Volt costs, it simply doesn't do enough.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:22 PM   #12
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Drop a few hundred pounds of battery weight, down to a minimum, and make the ICE generator more thermally efficient, and drive the car with the electric motors getting power from the generator itself.

The batteries are the weak link, not the engine.

An engine weighs somewhere between 300-450lbs depending on the configuration... but batteries, like the Tesla roadster, for instance, weigh 900lbs, and still don't have the energy storage capacity of a 90lb. tank of fuel.

Thermal reclamation to turn the engine's wasted heat into more kinetic energy, to generate more electricity per ounce of fuel is more practical than packing on dozens of more pounds of batteries that are even more of a safety hazard.

Batteries take energy to manufacture, and take energy to re-charge, and recycle when they deplete. They aren't free power.
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Old 08-24-2011, 08:21 AM   #13
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the volt isn't a moon shot, come on. it's a gamble, but no more than the leaf, the original prius/insight tandem, or honda's CNG cars.
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Old 08-24-2011, 09:33 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyeflyistheeye View Post
Someone had to make the Volt.
Somebody did,

Its called the Prius...
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Old 08-24-2011, 09:40 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
Somebody did,

Its called the Prius...
The Prius is an EV? News to me.

Quote:
You can't build a car with a full EV powertrain and a full IC powertrain and then expect it to be price-competitive, and for how much the Volt costs, it simply doesn't do enough.
The same is true of any EV at this point, it's the batteries that are the problem, not the IC powertrain. Until we get capacity and recharging worked out, BEV is purely an enthusiast technology. And given how tough recharging will be to solve, hydrogen is probably a better investment.
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Old 08-24-2011, 10:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rootus
The same is true of any EV at this point, it's the batteries that are the problem, not the IC powertrain. Until we get capacity and recharging worked out, BEV is purely an enthusiast technology. And given how tough recharging will be to solve, hydrogen is probably a better investment.
The Leaf is quite cheap in absolute terms, battery and all. Given that it exists, is for sale, and all US homes are wired for electricity, while we have all of maybe half a dozen hydrogen refueling stations in SoCal that get their precious cargo trucked in, iirc, I'd say that BEVs make much more sense.
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Old 08-24-2011, 11:22 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
Somebody did,

Its called the Prius...
So you're telling me there's no basic difference between a Volt and a Prius except for the company who makes it? OK....
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Old 08-24-2011, 01:57 PM   #18
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aside from the initial charge period, yes, that is what I am telling you. The volt is just hybrid with an ICE and an motor, just like the prius. The only difference is the volts ability to run 30 miles before it goes into crap mileage mode, whereas the prius can always get 50+ mpg.

If anything, the volt is a far worse prius. I wish it no luck at all. They can all sit on lots.
There are far better cars for my money.
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Old 08-24-2011, 02:38 PM   #19
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The Prius is an EV? News to me.

The same is true of any EV at this point, it's the batteries that are the problem, not the IC powertrain. Until we get capacity and recharging worked out, BEV is purely an enthusiast technology. And given how tough recharging will be to solve, hydrogen is probably a better investment.
Sorry, but we already have infrastructure for EVs whereas we have next to nothing for Hydrogen. Just look at how long it's taken for E85 pumps to happen and those are at least slightly similar to Gasoline Pumps and far more vehicles are FFV than can run on Hydrogen in the world!

Hybrids at least can use Gasoline to recharge. EVs can use a standard wall socket for recharging, but it's slower than using a dedicated high voltage line.

Even suggesting Hydrogen in this thread is just ridiculous.

Also this thread reeks of propaganda/smearing. The Volt might not be as popular as expected but what about the Leaf or Prius by comparison? It was know since before release that the Volt was going to be a big compromise by being a Range extended BEV.
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Old 08-24-2011, 03:04 PM   #20
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TTAC rarely has anything nice to say about GM, I take anything I read there with a grain of salt. I can't stand how they and so many others compare the Volt to the Leaf. The Leaf is a silly novelty car that doesn't even have enough range to get me to work and back for one day. The Volt can be driven like a real car when needed. Not everyone is complacent with being a city dweller where commutes are short.
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Old 08-24-2011, 03:35 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by shikataganai View Post
The Leaf is quite cheap in absolute terms, battery and all. Given that it exists, is for sale, and all US homes are wired for electricity, while we have all of maybe half a dozen hydrogen refueling stations in SoCal that get their precious cargo trucked in, iirc, I'd say that BEVs make much more sense.
The Leaf is twice the price it would be if it didn't have a battery. At best it goes a hundred miles, and recharge time is measured in hours. Recharging is the core issue that's difficult to solve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allch Chcar
Sorry, but we already have infrastructure for EVs whereas we have next to nothing for Hydrogen. Just look at how long it's taken for E85 pumps to happen and those are at least slightly similar to Gasoline Pumps and far more vehicles are FFV than can run on Hydrogen in the world!
We have essentially zero infrastructure for EVs unless you count every wall socket that exists, and even then, you're not realistically dealing with the recharge problem. Compared to gasoline, we're starting from scratch either way. Maybe a better plan would be trying to make biogasoline viable .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allch Chcar
EVs can use a standard wall socket for recharging, but it's slower than using a dedicated high voltage line.
And even with a dedicated high voltage line it is unacceptably slow. It becomes a physics problem; how do you propose to make the recharge time acceptable?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allch Chcar
Even suggesting Hydrogen in this thread is just ridiculous.
Hydrogen should be brought up every single time traditional batteries are. Hydrogen is another form of battery, and it looks a lot more promising than what we have now.

Quote:
The Volt might not be as popular as expected but what about the Leaf or Prius by comparison?
The Volt and Leaf are both EVs. The Prius is a gasoline powered hybrid. Combined, Volt and Leaf sales aren't even the faintest blip on the radar screen. Price is prohibitive on both and performance prohibitive on the Leaf.
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Old 08-24-2011, 04:00 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by SCRAPPYDO View Post
aside from the initial charge period, yes, that is what I am telling you. The volt is just hybrid with an ICE and an motor, just like the prius. The only difference is the volts ability to run 30 miles before it goes into crap mileage mode, whereas the prius can always get 50+ mpg.

If anything, the volt is a far worse prius. I wish it no luck at all. They can all sit on lots.
There are far better cars for my money.
Thank you Mr. Scientist, but that's the not the case.

The Prius is an ICE car with battery assist. The Volt is a battery car with plug-in capabilities and ICE assist that charges the batteries but does not propel the car.

Just because you won't buy one doesn't mean the rest of us aren't interested in GM, et al perfecting this technology into something that's affordable, practical and will bring increased efficiency and performance to those who want it.

I'm sure if the Web existed in the early 80's, we'd be having a discussion about Fuel Injection and Catalytic Converters and you'd be insisting how no car equipped with them could beat the 7.0 litre unsmogged V8 whatever from the 60's
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Old 08-24-2011, 04:12 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HipToBeSquare View Post
Drop a few hundred pounds of battery weight, down to a minimum, and make the ICE generator more thermally efficient, and drive the car with the electric motors getting power from the generator itself.

The batteries are the weak link, not the engine.
This is more or less true, what they need to do is use a better battery (which already exists) so they can have a lighter battery and use a higher percentage of the battery. In addition the total usable kWh should be reduced a bit most likely.

So right now they use 16kWh pack and allow 65% or 10.4 kWh to actually be used. Instead if a pack allowed 85% to be used and started with a 10kWh pack you would get 8.5 kWh of usable battery. You would reduce nominal range from 40 to 33 miles. You would saved 25% on battery weight which would give a tad more range. Most people could still drive using the battery and if they exceeded the range you just kick on the ICE. The ICE and motors will achieve better performance since vehicle weighs less, and the pack could be smaller regaining interior room. It might cost the same though since the batteries would likely be more expensive per kWh.
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Old 08-24-2011, 05:36 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyeflyistheeye

Thank you Mr. Scientist, but that's the not the case.

The Prius is an ICE car with battery assist. The Volt is a battery car with plug-in capabilities and ICE assist that charges the batteries but does not propel the car.

Just because you won't buy one doesn't mean the rest of us aren't interested in GM, et al perfecting this technology into something that's affordable, practical and will bring increased efficiency and performance to those who want it.

I'm sure if the Web existed in the early 80's, we'd be having a discussion about Fuel Injection and Catalytic Converters and you'd be insisting how no car equipped with them could beat the 7.0 litre unsmogged V8 whatever from the 60's
The Volt can be driven by its ICE under certain circumstances. It is generally used as a range extender, but that is not categorically the case.

The Volt and Prius are both hybrids. The Volt is slightly further up the spectrum towards electric, but overall is remarkably similar to a Prius. If you think the Volt is doing anything radical that the Prius couldn't, you are mistaken. It would be trivial, from an engineering perspective, to increase the battery capacity of the Prius enough to permit some sustained EV driving range. There would need to be improved software for the engine and transmission to make the most of it, certainly, but Toyota wouldn't be starting from square one.

Toyota doesn't do that because it would make the Prius just as economically unviable as the Volt.

I respect what GM did, but the Volt is overpriced and underperforming for what it is.
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Old 08-24-2011, 05:43 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Omophorus View Post
The Volt can be driven by its ICE under certain circumstances.
What circumstances would those be? Highway cruising? The ICE generates too little output to directly power the electric motors that actually drive the car.

Quote:
The Volt and Prius are both hybrids. The Volt is slightly further up the spectrum towards electric, but overall is remarkably similar to a Prius. If you think the Volt is doing anything radical that the Prius couldn't, you are mistaken. It would be trivial, from an engineering perspective, to increase the battery capacity of the Prius enough to permit some sustained EV driving range.
Except the Prius is directly using the ICE for propulsion. To say that the Volt and Prius are both hybrids is an absurd simplification. The Volt and the Leaf are much more alike than the Volt and Prius.
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