Mech engineers not oil ind strangle holding electric cars

Mech engineers not oil ind strangle holding electric cars

I think its the mechanical engineers who dominate the industry that is really choking the electric car development not the oil industry
Thats the only explanation for tesla to b so successful which started out as an electric car company versus the miserable excuse the other car companies that started as ice car companies produce for an electric car if u can even call it one
Just like the old saying u cant teach an old dog new tricks

archvillain | 16. April 2016

No, the Chevy Volt drivetrain is a beautiful elegant piece of engineering, the design of that car is easy to under-appreciate, but ten years ago when they were trying to figure out what an electric car should be like for people to take it seriously, the future wasn't as clear as it is today. They made a number of really good decisions considering the information available back then. They saw that batteries were very costly and heavy, and that for the most part people never even used them (everyone's daily use was under 40 miles), so the ideal car would not have huge batteries for imaginary roadtrips that everyone thinks about but almost never actually does, simply enough battery that people could use it like a normal car every day all day then charge it at night. People had a lot of range anxiety and adding more batteries didn't fix that (because the worries were psychological, not engineering), and there would be no general charging infrastructure for many years, but a small efficient on-board generator could solve all those issues.
When designing the Volt, they carefully avoided the mistakes of earlier green cars which tried to show off that they were different using bizarre faux-futuristic body styling, so the Volt was designed to look and feel like a reliable no-nonsense family car.

They really hit every checkbox and made a very sensible car.
If anything, the problem is that it's too well engineered - it's too sensible to inspire passion the way a Tesla does.

It's easy to say with 20/20 hindsight what a serious electric car looks like, but the engineers didn't have that luxury. I think they did damn impressive work. Tesla made some bets that paid off spectacularly, but that shouldn't be interpreted as the other guys not being capable. Tesla came excruciating close to failure.

Except for Fiat. Fiat isn't trying and doesn't care and is only pretending at doing electric. In the case of Fiat you're right on the mark :)

carlk | 16. April 2016

That's a very good point. Many key people who hold power in those companies earned their marks because they are good at designing the best 7 speed transmission and fuel injected twin turbo charged high rpm high output engines. Those are only things they are good at. You think they like the idea of becoming irrelevent and giving power and visibility to new people who are coders and battary engineers? They might not have a chance of winning but they sure will put up a good fight to not let EV to happen so easily.

carlk | 16. April 2016


You are wrong in saying Tesla made the right bet and it paid off or it's only a 20/20 hindsight now. Tesla made the decision of going long range pure BEV supplemented by superchargers because it knew it's the best way to go. Elon actually considered hybrid or extended range EV briefly in the beginning but decided against it because he thought these do not make sense. On the other hand, like what op and I said, don't you think mechanical engineer establishment contributed in some significant way GM's and other companies' decision of going only hybrid or extended range EV? I kind of think so. The worse thing that could happen to their career is the company goes all electric.

Red Sage ca us | 16. April 2016

archvillain: Except that the VOLT was also designed with a smaller fuel tank capacity than the CRUZE, giving it less range when it should have instead challenged the PRIUS for 'Green' market dominance in range and sales levels. Result? The CRUZE regularly outsold the VOLT by no less than a 10:1 ratio year in and year out. Meanwhile, the PRIUS sold over 100,000 units every year for 11 years straight. And it took five years on the market before VOLT sales neared 90,000 total for the entire production run.

Sure. GM's engineers did a good job working within the box they were trapped inside of... If not for Bob Lutz, the box would have been even smaller. It would have been nice if the walls of the box had been knocked down, allowing them the whole playground instead.

archvillain | 16. April 2016

@ Red Sage, you don't honestly think the Cruze outsold the Volt because it had a bigger gas tank. The Cruze is a low cost regular gas car, half the price of the Volt, of course they sell it in larger numbers. Completely different market segment.

@carik, no, range extenders did make sense, but not in context of the Tesla mission. Ten years ago they made a huge amount of sense to a lot of genuinely clever people as a way to get past significant problems with technology (and psychology) of the day. Their mission was simply to build good cars rather than save the world, and they succeeded. It's absolutely 20/20 hindsight that things moved fast enough that range extenders are going out of fashion before they really caught on.

Bear in mind that Tesla is late to the game here - GM was selling a mainstream affordable full-electric car (that didn't suck) over a year before Tesla had even rolled out a Model S. Now, several years later, Tesla is still years away from selling an affordable electric car, so give GM some credit, or at least cut them some slack :) I think people are forgetting how early GM was and how different things were back then - GM was working with market expectations and unknowns and technology so different from today's that it's absolutely 20/20 hindsight to talk about them being dogs that couldn't learn new tricks. GM's car feels like yesterday's tech because it was actually available yesterday.

Red Sage ca us | 16. April 2016

archvillain: I believe that General Motors purposely GIMPED the VOLT in order to make it less appealing than either the CRUZE or MALIBU. It worked. The hybrid version of CRUZE or MALIBU use the same drivetrain as the VOLT. They just have smaller battery packs and don't include the plug. But they do have larger fuel tanks.

oragne lovre | 16. April 2016

This thread is interesting since current posters are seemingly leaning toward the first-principles thinking.

Iowa92x | 16. April 2016

'Please No, the Chevy Volt drivetrain is a beautiful elegant piece of engineering'

You dumb.

archvillain | 16. April 2016

Iowa92x I just assume from your comment that I know more about it than you. I agree the basic outline isn't sexy and that it doesn't seem clever.

carlk | 17. April 2016


Yeah right range extender makes a lot sense just nobody wants to buy it. When people want to burn gas they'd just buy a cheaper and better ICE. There are plenty of cheaper and better ICE to choose from. It makes no sense at all other than to sell a few compliance car. Elon knew from the beginning he needed to make the best car and the best car has to be a pure BEV. Everyone knows it now but it's only because Tesla demonstrated that. Even with that many still refuse to recognize it then and even now. Bob Lotz actually cited Tesla Roadster to sell EV to the GM board but they still settled for a hybrid. So here goes your genuinely clever people at GM.

jamilworm | 17. April 2016

I don't get why you are blaming the engineers, and not the actual decision makers at those other car companies. You think the CEOs are saying "hey engineers, please build the best car ever. Full electric and beautiful!" and then the mechanical engineers are saying "No, we only want to build ICE cars! Screw you!". That just makes no sense.

And there are still mechanical engineers at Tesla. Someone had to design every piece of hardware in the vehicle.

Maybe it's just because I'm a mechanical engineer that the comment seems offensive. But maybe Gayatrikr meant something other than mechanical engineers, or just doesn't understand their role in business.

Red Sage ca us | 17. April 2016

jamilworm: +1! I agree. Though, I believe it is a matter of internal culture that is at the heart of the OP. At traditional automobile manufacturers, quite a few of the department heads who eventually migrate to positions of general authority in administration are people who came up through the ranks of mechanical engineers. And those guys have spent their entire careers, decades, attempting to perfect and refine the company's motors. It is these engineers that have all the clout within the company. It is their word that is law. They are the ones that guide the course of product development. They wield power over budgets and their decision making processes are counted upon by stockholders, board members, and everyone employed at the company.

And they do so from a perspective that is far removed from the disciplines that rule development of electric vehicles. They understand how to get infinitesimal particles of gasoline to disperse and burn at a precise temperature, control the expansion and expulsion of gases, choose which metallurgy is more apt to resist such repeated explosive action, while maintaining structural rigidity and absorbing the effects of contraction and expansion through heating and cooling cycles.

They do not even want to understand the software and power electronics that govern the magnetic field around a stator and rotor or the flow of voltage through an inverter from a battery pack. Those things are handled by that little team of nerds in the corner who are marginalized, under funded, largely ignored, but at least they help to get CAFE numbers in line. Meanwhile, the REAL MONEY MAKERS at the company can do the hard work of producing vehicles that drive the WORLD.

It is a matter of pride, prejudice, and perspective. Pride in the work they have done so far. Prejudice against electric vehicles. Perspective of someone who has been 'right' for so long, that they cannot possibly conceive of being... wrong. And cannot bear the thought of losing the POWER they have gained as a result.

maxhvargas | 17. April 2016

jamilworm: I agree with you. GM engineers are not to blame. This are head decisions, CEO's and investors.

carlk | 17. April 2016


"I don't get why you are blaming the engineers, and not the actual decision makers at those other car companies. You think the CEOs are saying "hey engineers, please build the best car ever. Full electric and beautiful!" and then the mechanical engineers are saying "No, we only want to build ICE cars! Screw you!". That just makes no sense."

That does make sense to me. CEO's are usually not technical people and could not make good technical judgement without input from engineers. One of the rare exception certainly is Tesla where Elon is technically very capable. That's a big advantage Tesla has over other companies. Any engineers, mechanical, electrical or otherwise are usually biased toward what they are good at for good reasons. That mechanical engineers happen to be holding influential positions in legacy auto companies does make it very hard to make a clean switch to EV in those companies. No CEO, even the most visionary one, would be bold enough to say this is what I want to go even with opposition of my engineering staff. Nothing particularly against mechanical engineer as a profession of course. It is just office politics that happens everywhere in every discipline.

alnrench2 | 17. April 2016

I had a very early VOLT, serial number 313. It was a wonderful car and I drove it for just over 5 years. Fully loaded,smooth and quiet, no rattles, no air noise, no leaks, no major oil change in 5 years, and just some software downloads, a couple recall items and a rear light lens fogging ( free replacement ). I think the reason it didn't sell in higher numbers wasn't the engineering of the car, I think it was the dealers that didn't push the sale because there was more profit to be made in their other models.
I like the S Model so much more, but my Volt ownership gave me nothing to complain about.

nikhil48 | 18. April 2016

Umm, don't know where this conjecture is coming from, but it literally won't matter to current or future Mechanical Engineers if they stop making ICE cars and transmissions altogether in the future. As long as there are physical parts being produced in any kind of industry, a mechanical engineer will have a part to play in that.

Like jamilworm, I may also be a bit biased because I am a mechanical engineer, but having worked at an auto company before, none of what the OP commented makes much sense to me. Apart from the point I mentioned above, one more key reason being if you are the CEO, none of your personal background matters against the main bottom-line on the accounts sheet.

P.S. On a lighter note, us ME's are actually a very proud bunch and a bit snobby too, so the resentment I sense in the OP may not be unfounded if he/she has encountered one.

dtzyt7 | 22. April 2016

I highly doubt that mechanical engineers are purposefully holding back the major automakers. I'm a mechanical engineer. If my boss asked me to help design a compelling electric car that does zero to sixty in under 6 seconds, has a minimum of 215 miles of range, is 5 star safety rated in every category, has the ability to drive itself, and starts at 35K, then I'd be like f$&* yes, sir. I'll do anything you need. I wouldn't be like, no, that's just stupid. I want to work on the super exciting 2018 Chevy Cobalt. Where will we place the cup holders this year? Maybe it's just me, but I love learning new tricks. Old stuff is boring.

Octagondd | 22. April 2016

It is not the mechanical engineers. It is the bean counters. EV1 showed them they would lose an entire branch and arguably the most profitable branch of their business, Service and repair.

JeffreyR | 22. April 2016

Randy Carlson has some interesting analysis on why legacy car-makers feel they need to avoid high-end EVs like the Model S and Model X. You can read about it here:

Tesla’s real Competition Brian H. copied it from [Sinking Anchor] so you don't need to read it there if you do not want to support them.

Here is a graphical preview:

RC's main point is that high-end cars like the M-B S Class, BMW 7-Series, and Audi A8 are not only the halo cars for the auto-makers, but also their highest margin vehicles. And as @Octagondd points out their dealers' main source of revenue and profit is Service & Repair.

Hkinkade | 22. April 2016

I'm a Mech. Engr. I like, dtzyt7 above, would be thrilled to be an engineer on a electric car like Tesla. In reality there's more mechanical engineering going on with the motor then electrical. Heck I'm certain there's more ME's working at Tesla than EE's and the now rare EL. I don't feel threatened and actually drawn to the challenge.

carlk | 23. April 2016

Many probably mistook op's point that it's not mechanical engineers per se but mechanical engineers populated those legacy companies with nothing but ICE and transmission knowledge that are holding the EC progress.

brando | 25. April 2016

Internet search below links




Model S up 43% all others sales down.

jordanrichard | 25. April 2016

I don't know that they are the hold up, but I am sure they are a bit nervous, because in essence, when they are deisgning/building the next ICE, they are designing/building an antique. I mean, if you knew that what you are designing is no longer needed to propel a car, that has to have an affect on one's psyche.

Bill Korea | 25. April 2016

Real engineers wouldn't limit themselves to only the mechanical or the electrical world, and rather than pride, they feel humility. Pride is for fools, for empires in decline, and has always been a deadly sin (for a reason).

Red Sage ca us | 25. April 2016

It is a matter of pride, prejudice, and perspective. Pride in the work they have done so far. Prejudice against electric vehicles. Perspective of someone who has been 'right' for so long, that they cannot possibly conceive of being... wrong. And cannot bear the thought of losing the POWER they have gained as a result.