Volt will be first mass-produced plug-in car; concept's styling to remain
3 April 2008

General Motors has confirmed it plans to start dynamic testing of the Chevrolet Volt later this month, before the new electric car goes into production in 2010. According to the Volt’s project leader Frank Weber, the car has become GM’s number one engineering project and is undergoing a hugely accelerated development programme in a bid to make it the world’s first mass-produced, plug-in electric car, with a price tag of around £20,000. Weber revealed to Autocar that his team are currently trying to meet several key objectives, including a 40-mile battery-only range and a 10-year/150,000-mile life from the lithium-ion battery. The car should also have a 100mph top speed and entertaining road manners. Unlike hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, the Volt does not use a petrol engine for propulsion. It is powered by an electric motor, which uses a petrol or diesel powerplant as a back-up, recharging the battery while the car is on the move.GM sources say the engineering focus at the moment is concentrated solely on launching the car with an engine that can run on either E85 ethanol or conventional petrol. The Volt has been designed primarily for the American market, but diesel versions aimed at Europe will follow several years later. The car has also been designed to be capable of accommodating a hydrogen fuel cell as its power source. GM has reaffirmed its pledge that the Volt will be the world’s first mass-produced plug-in electric car when it goes on sale in 2010. The company’s designers have also confirmed that plenty of styling cues from the 2007 concept car will be carried over to the final production version. “We want to make a fashion statement as well,” chief designer Bob Boniface told Autocar. “The Volt needs to stand out and be a little different from anything else we do.”Boniface also revealed that the final production version would retain plenty of cues from the concept car, crucially the coupé-like hatchback rear end, as well as front and rear styling elements. However, the car’s design has been adapted from that of the concept, for practical reasons. The production version will be a five-door five-seater built on the next-generation Delta platform, like the next Astra. The need to increase aerodynamic efficiency has also influenced the styling and engineers are targeting a best-in-class drag co-efficient, understood to much less than .30. Design sources have also revealed that other Volt body styles are planned. GM has not ruled out bringing a sportier-looking coupé variant to market that would look far closer to the original concept, and possibly an estate version.

Chas Hallett

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4 April 2008

My haven't we moved forward! '40 mile battery-only range'!

How come a GM EV1 Gen II could manage a range of 75-150 miles per charge of its old-school NiMH batteries nearly a decade ago? See http://www.ev1.org/ for further info.

Besides, do people in this country realise that a KWh from the mains in the UK costs an astronomical 15p or so now compared to less than 5p a dozen or so years ago. Petrol/diesel or mains plug-in, no matter - the bastards have got you by the balls!


4 April 2008

That's a good point about how little battery ranges have moved forward in a decade. I suppose the thing to remember though is that those ranges were only ever theoretical in the EV-1. One of its problems was that most normal drivers, driving with the radio on and wipers going etc never got anywhere near the supposed ultimate range. The calendar life of the batteries was also way too short.
GM's 40 mile target for the Volt are for when the battery is at the end of its 10 year/150,000 life and fully loaded with all of the car's electrical systems. In reality most of us would be able to go further just using battery power. Another factoid is that their research shows that 70 per cent of us go less than 40 miles everyday - hence the objective.

4 April 2008

[quote loather]How come a GM EV1 Gen II could manage a range of 75-150 miles per charge of its old-school NiMH batteries nearly a decade ago[/quote]

I suppose GM would argue that the difference is down to the fact that the GM EV1 relied solely on batteries for its power, whereas this car is designed to use batteries for the first 40 miles before switching to an efficient petrol engine to generate power for the electric motors that drive the car. Once you package in a fuel tank and petrol engine it would be difficult to find space for 200 miles worth of batteries on top, and the excess weight may negate the benefit of those batteries to a certain extent. Add to that the cost of lithium ion cells and their idea that "70% of drivers do less than 40 miles a day" and that might explain their decision.

of course this is all conjecture, and I agree they could probably have squeezed at least an 80 mile range out before resorting to the backup generator.

4 April 2008

phenergn, I think this Chevy Volt just serves to highlight the confusion surrounding electric/hybrid/green cars right now. The 1996 EV1 was developed for California's ZEV, zero emission, legislation and apparently a lot of people were miffed when it died, and spied a conspiracy of oil producers against electric vehicles. This Volt vehicle seems a confused concept. Forty mile is neither here nor there and I'll bet in use most owners will have the engine running most of the time. If this happens it'll become in effect a low powered unremarkable vehicle dragging around a couple of hundred pounds of batteries, motor and controls. The zero-emission EV1 made sense, the Volt and the already proven to be naff Toyota prius and its ilk don't. Hybrids enable manufacturers to quote 'on paper' low low CO2 emission figures which lay people, govt. bureaucrats, Hollywood glitterati etc. swoon over, but in practice are pathetic for real world economy and real, real damage to the environment, not harmless carbon dioxide - see damage done by manufacturing of thr Prius's battery pack in Canada - heavy metals in ground water etc., not notional, greenhouse gas CO2. GM should be again making a proper stab at full-time electric propulsion vehicles. I predict the GM Volt will not be a success.

4 April 2008

It's not stated in this report, but even the cost of plugging in and charging the battery pack for a maximum 40 mile range may, given the recent cost surge of mains electricity in Europe and especially Britain, be simply uneconomical compared to a conventional small petrol or diesel powered car. Going on the battery pack figures from the GM EV1, which admittedly had a range at least twice as great, the full charge cost of electricity could easily exceed £5 - which would obviously make 40 miles cheaper by a conventional small to medium sized car. Figures:

GM EV1 Gen II battery pack: 26 13.2-volt nickel-metal hydride batteries which held 95.1 MJ (26.4 kWh) of energy - which is something like 26 80Ah car batteries equivalent - let's hope those Lithium ion batteries are a lot lighter than lead-acid. Anyway, to supply 26KWh of energy would take very roughly about double that stepped down through a plug in domestic transformer from 240V. So, say 50 odd KWh of energy for a full charge at up to 15p a KWh - up to £7.50! for 40 miles - that's madness. Chas if you've got the Volt's battery pack spec. from the Chevy PR blurb post them, and then we can work it out better. But it looks an uneconomic non-starter - at least at current UK electricity prices - to me.


4 April 2008

Sadly GM is not even going to announce its battery supplier until later this year so specs are not forthcoming (even the company doesn't have specifics as I understand it). I guess that it's also worth remembering that the Volt is also principally designed for the US market where domestic energy costs are cheaper. Whether that situation remains when everyone is buying electric cars is another matter.

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