The new Chevrolet Volt, which was unveiled Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is a new type of plug-in hybrid. The four passenger Volt runs exclusively on battery power, but a gas-fueled engine charges the battery which powers the drive motor. The batteries can also be charged by plugging in to a 110 V power source.
"Today's vehicles were designed around mechanical propulsion systems that use petroleum as their primary source of fuel." said Jon Lauckner, GM vice president of Global Program Management. "Tomorrow's vehicles need to be developed around a new propulsion architecture with electricity in mind. The Volt is the first vehicle designed around GM's E-flex System."
The vehicle on display at the auto show is a concept car, but GM intends to develop a production version.
Regarding price and delevery the following two stateents are about all that G revealed:
"By and large, Chevy cars range from $15,000 to $30,000," said Scott Boscard, director of communications in powertrains. “We don’t think people will pay much of a premium to look good in the [car] that Bob built; we know we’re got to get the price down to that of a normal car.”
GM's big caveat about the Volt is that, according to them, a technological breakthrough is required to make this concept a reality, a large lithium-ion battery. They said that some experts predict that such a battery could be production-ready by 2010 to 2012.
"Whether your concern is energy security, global climate change, natural disasters, the high price of gas, the volatile pricing of a barrel of oil and the effect that unpredictability has on Wall Street - all of these issues point to a need for energy diversity," said Larry Burns, GM vice president for research and development and strategic planning. "Today, there are more than 800 million cars and trucks in the world. In 15 years, that will grow to 1.1 billion vehicles. We can't continue to be 98-percent dependent on oil to meet our transportation needs. Something has to give. We think the Chevrolet Volt helps bring about the diversity that is needed. If electricity met only 10 percent of the world's transportation needs, the impact would be huge."
The Volt is a flex-fuel vehicle, being able to burn either gasoline or E85 to power the turbocharged, one liter, 71 hp (53 kW), 3-cylinder generator. Always being propelled by electricity, rather than a combination of electricity and ICE power, reduces costs. The use of a generator instead of a engine, as is used in HEVs, simplifies engineering and eliminates a mechanical transmission. GM calls it an electric car, but it is really a serial plug-in hybrid.
Because the amount of electricity needed will be nearly constant, the generator engine will operate between 1500 and 1800 rpm and will be more efficient than an ICE which revs up or down depending on the power needed.
The Volt's 16 kWh lithium-ion batteries provide an all electric range of 40 miles or more, similar to that of a PHEV. The engine kicks in when the battery runs down, managing the batteries not be discharged to less than 30 percent or charged more than 80 percent, so that they will last the lifetime of the vehicle. The batteries power a 120-kilowatt (160 horsepower) motor driving the 21 inch front wheels of the vehicle. The 21inch wheels help provide room to locate the battery pack in the space normally used by the tunnel of a rear wheel drive car.
The electricity-generation system could easily be modified to be powered by a diesel or fuel cell.
Without starting the gasoline engine, the Volt could go 40 to 45 miles on a full charge -- a distance GM says covers daily commuting for 78% of the American public.
The car will get about 50 mpg when the generator is on and can go 640 miles or more before needing refueling. For a 60-mile round trip, Robert A. Lutz, G.M.’s vice chairman for product development, reasoned that the Volt would get the equivalent of 150 mpg. over all; the first 40 miles in pure-electric mode and the last 20 miles with the gas engine using fuel at a rate of 50 mpg as it charges the battery.
Acceleration is claimed to be 0 to 60 in less than 8.5 seconds and it has a top speed of 120 mph.
"GM worked with GE Plastics to make exterior body panels and the roof out of light weight materials." said Lutz, G.M.’s vice chairman for product development. "those reinforced plastics have allowed designers to come up with shapes that aren't possible with steel."
Resource: Chevrolet Volt - GM's Concept Electric Vehicle - Could Nearly Eliminate Trips To The Gas Station, GM press release, 1/07/07