Splitting the Atom: Chevy Says Electric/Gas 2011 Volt Not a Hybrid

December 18, 2010/Steve Tackett


Much has been said and written about the Chevrolet Volt, but now the speculation is over. The Volt is here and the news about it is good. So, just what is the Volt?
According to the folks at Chevrolet, the Volt is not a hybrid. GM shuns the term “plug-in hybrid,” saying that the Volt is neither a traditional hybrid nor an electric car, but combines some of the best characteristics of each in a well-engineered vehicle that’s not like anything else on the market.
The heart of the Chevrolet Volt is its Voltec propulsion system, which combines pure electric drive and an efficient, range-extending engine, giving the Volt up to 350 total miles of range.
The Volt’s battery is a 5.5-foot long, 435-pound T-shaped, 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Using only battery energy, the Volt can go between 25 and 50 miles, depending driving conditions.
Because batteries are sensitive to temperature changes, the Volt battery can be warmed or cooled during charging. It’s designed for a temperature range of minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The Volt battery operates within a safe state-of-charge window of 65 percent to ensure long life.
A 111-kW (149-hp) electric drive unit powers the Volt’s wheels. Located next to the engine, it contains a pair of electric motors and a multi-mode, continuously variable transaxle. One of the motors serves a dual function, either to help drive the wheels, or to operate as a generator to keep the battery pack at its minimum buffer. A computer switches from one-motor to two-motor operation to use as little energy as possible while still meeting the driver’s needs.
When battery energy is depleted, the Volt seamlessly transitions to its extended-range mode where a 1.4-liter 63-kW (84-hp) gasoline-powered engine drives a motor/generator that supplies power to the electric drive unit for up to 310 additional miles of range.
Since an electric motor can deliver maximum torque when starting from a stop, it is ideally suited for automotive applications. The electric drive unit’s excellent low speed torque of 273 lb.-ft. takes Volt from 0-to-60 mph in less than 9 seconds and the quarter mile in less than 17 seconds with a top speed of 100 mph.
If you can recharge a cellphone, then you can recharge the Volt. It comes equipped with a 20-foot, 120V charging cord conveniently stowed in the cargo area and a 240V cord is available for use with a 240V charging unit. Owners can coordinate charging time for lower off-peak electric rates.
Recharging can also be controlled remotely using an OnStar MyLink Mobile App for smartphones, such as the iPhone, Droid by Motorola and other android-based phones. Recharging on 240V takes about four hours, and about 10-12 hours with 120V. The regenerative brake system captures energy for transfer back to the battery.
Volt is a five-door, four-passenger car that looks like an upscale, midsize sport sedan. Inside, the Volt offers the space, comfort, convenience and safety features that customers expect in an upscale sedan.
There are two 7-inch, high-resolution full-color screens featured: One is a reconfigurable graphic cluster display and the other, in the center stack, features a touch screen display, touch-control switches and integrated shifter.
The Volt rides on lightweight aluminum wheels that weigh only 17.8 pounds each, compared to 24.2 pounds for typical 17-inch wheels. They’re wrapped in Goodyear Fuel Max all-season, low-rolling resistance tires optimized for electric vehicle range, noise, feel and performance.
Active occupant protection features include eight standard airbags and safety belts with dual pretensioners to help reduce the risk of injury. In addition to the eight-year/100,000-mile limited warranty on the Volt’s lithium-ion battery, Chevrolet will provide: 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage; 5-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation; 5-year/100,000-mile limited gas engine coverage; and 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion protection coverage. Prices for the 2011 Volt start at $40,280. — Dave Van Sickle, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010