There are no official announcements of when the GM Volt will actually hit the showrooms in production quantities, but the year 2010 continues to hold up as the unofficial date. Last week in the Detroit Free Press, in a report by Katie Merx entitled “A New Era Dawns for GM,” Vice Chairman Bob Lutz stated he “wants to make up to 100,000 fuel-efficient Chevrolet Volts in the first year of production.” This got our attention.
|The GM Volt – The World’s First Production Series Hybrid?
(GM Volt Image Gallery)
Yesterday I asked GM spokesman Rob Peterson about the quantity of cars planned and the launch year 2010. Peterson could not make an official comment on the year but confirmed that everything is still moving forward on schedule, and that “GM’s internal target is 2010.” That means cars in showrooms in just over two years.
In a significant step forward, last week LG Chem delivered the first lithium ion battery to GM for testing. As Peterson noted “this is being tested not at the cell level but is a full pack that meets all of our power and energy needs.” As we reported in August in our post “GM’s Volt to use A123 Battery,” GM selected two manufacturers out of 31 respondants to their RFP for an automotive lithium ion battery, A123 and LG Chem. It looks like LG Chem has won this round, but Peterson noted “A123 should have their battery here before the end of this year.”
We’re going to say it again: The GM Volt, and its European counterpart, the GM “Flextreme” which has an onboard diesel, is a series hybrid, very distinct from current hybrid designs, and it is a long overdue breakthrough. It is misleading for mainstream journalists to refer to the Volt as a “plug-in hybrid” and leave it at that – it grossly misrepresents the significance of this innovation. As the diagram below indicates, a series hybrid’s gasoline (or diesel) engine is not connected to the drivetrain, only to an onboard generator. Electricity from the generator, along with stored (and recovered) electricity from a battery pack, are what powers an all electric drivetrain.
|The Series Hybrid:
Onboard ICE powers generator powers electric motor.
The series hybrid design is simpler, requires less maintenance, and delivers outstanding performance. The only thing it was waiting for was the energy density of a usable lithium ion battery. The mystery is why all major automakers haven’t announced series hybrids – for a variety of political or business reasons they still have not, and GM is going to acquire a huge lead in this technology.
Here’s the specs on the Volt: The range on battery-only (using plug-in electricity) is 40 miles – which will fulfill nearly 80% of the normal daily driving cycles in the USA. The range on gasoline-only, if the battery is completely drained, is 600 miles, at 50 miles per gallon. Because the 12 kWh (usable AC) lithium ion battery pack only weighs 400 pounds, it is not a significant drag on the vehicle. We love this car, and up to 100,000 of them are still on track to hit the road in just over two years.