In the event someone actually buys a Volt...
Answering Your Questions About the Chevy Volt
Answering Your Questions About the Chevy Volt
By LINDSAY BROOKE
Last Friday, we solicited you for questions on the Chevrolet Volt, which
is scheduled to be released late next year. We forwarded some of your
questions to Lindsay Brooke, who recently drove a preproduction Volt and
wrote about his impressions for the Automobiles section last Sunday.
Mr. Brooke is a journalist with three decades of experience and is the
author of “Triumph Motorcycles in America” (Motorbooks, 1993) and “Ford
Model T: The Car That Put the World on Wheels” (Motorbooks, 2008). He
has written extensively on hybrid and electric cars for The Times and
other publications. His answers to a selection of your Volt questions
How will the batteries react to really cold weather? When it is 20
degrees below zero my iPod only functions for about one-sixth of its
normal time between charges.
— Patrick, Minneapolis
General Motors recently began an intensive cold-weather testing program
for Volt at a dedicated site in northern Canada, so there are no
definitive answers yet. Stay tuned for more information on this program
in the Automobiles section.
What Mr. Brooke did not include in his article were any comments on
acceleration performance once the Volt switched over to using the
generator. Was the vehicle more sluggish or was the generator able to
provide sufficient power to the battery so that the driver could not
tell the difference between a fully charged battery and a depleted
battery? If the test had been on a long uphill climb, would the
generator have been able to continuously provide enough power to
maintain speed? What will the expected miles per gallon be if making a
long trip in gas-only mode? Regards.
— Mark, Rochester
My test of the Volt prototype included numerous and varied elevation
changes on the G.M. proving ground in Milford, Mich., including climbing
a long 16 percent grade used for trailer-towing tests. The generator
proved capable of propelling the car more than adequately in all driving
situations. When in extended-range mode, the Volt’s acceleration felt
similar to when the car was deriving its power exclusively from the
battery. Fuel economy in the charge-maintaining mode is an unknown at
How much time does the Volt need to be recharged fully using the
gasoline engine? G.M. says the Volt needs about six hours to be charged
fully using a wall plug. Can the gasoline engine recharge the battery
much faster than a wall plug?
The onboard generator will not charge the Volt’s battery. Its function
is to maintain the battery charge at a predetermined level so that the
car can keep moving after the battery has run down at about 40 miles.
This is a deliberate choice on G.M.’s part — charging from a plug-in
connection is far less expensive.
Although I did not test-charge a Volt using the plug-in method, the G.M.
engineers did show me the compact standard 110-volt charging set that is
packaged very neatly under the rear cargo compartment and accessed
easily via a flip-up panel. There will also be an optional 240-volt kit
with many of the same pieces in the 110-volt kit, and it will be
configured for wall- or pole-mounting as the owner chooses.
The 240-volt kit is a faster charge, averaging less than three hours per
charge. The 110-volt charge time from minimum state of charge is
accomplished in approximately six hours in a moderate ambient
temperature, to up to nine hours, depending on how much battery
conditioning (warming) is done and needed. G.M. engineers said customers
can expect an eight-hour charge during overnight off-peak hours. Both of
the Volt charging sets will be capable of conditioning the battery while
Why does it start recharging at 30 percent capacity? I was always under
the impression that batteries should be completed before recharging to
extend their life.
Is it true that the engine is not fully optimized for running the
generator? That a second generation engine will get even higher
efficiency? Why is G.M. the only company building this kind hybrid car?
What do other car companies think about it? It seems genius to me!
G.M. decided on the 30 percent minimum state of charge to ensure battery
durability and performance over a 10-year/150,000 minimum lifespan of
the vehicle. G.M. is not the only car company pursuing series-type
About that 30 percent — will the Volt have an “emergency” switch to tap
into the battery another, say, 10 percent just to get a few extra miles,
perhaps with an alert to OnStar?
Yes, the Volt’s propulsion system is set up with a bit of additional
range built in. G.M. is planning some very interesting ways to use
OnStar with the Volt — that’s all I know.
Is there a firm retail release date, and if so, what is the true price
— M Dickerson
No details yet on the exact start of production, only that it’s later
next year. Nor is G.M. yet talking about pricing details.
So, Lindsay, why don’t you answer your own question? Was it a slug after
the generator kicked in? And the article left out answering the most
obvious question: How many more miles after the first 40 did the
generator allow you to go?
Let’s tackle these questions one at a time. First of all, the words
“Volt” and “slug” are incompatible, based on my drive of the prototype.
The car proved to be quite sprightly around the Milford course (which
would make a fine road-racing circuit). It was genuinely fun to drive in
both battery-only and extended-range modes.
Secondly, my test drive covered 27 total miles on the proving ground,
including eight miles depleting the battery before the generator kicked
in (of course, the generator will continue to provide power to drive the
car until the gas tank runs dry). The purpose of my time in the car was
not to prove total range, but rather to evaluate the generator’s
engagement and related performance and noise, vibration and harshness.
What if you run on electricity most of the time, say for many months,
and only rarely use the gasoline? Gasoline gets old, as you know if you
have a snow blower and try to use the gas from a previous year. Is it
possible that the gas could become so old that the engine could not
recharge the Volt battery?
— LM Collins
The Volt’s control software will include a periodic starting regimen to
address the very real issue of the generator engine never being called
upon to engage because the 40-mile electric range covers the owner’s
typical driving cycle.
Do you envision the extended-range hybrid as a long-term product or
merely a bridge to an all-electric future for passenger cars?
I’ve been writing about automotive technology for major publications for
nearly 30 years, and I’ve become a believer in the progress made by the
auto industry in general regarding vehicle electrification. Yes, I think
extended-range (also known as series-type) hybrids are an important,
viable solution for the short- and midterm, until an extensive charging
network from the grid is established.