For the Volt, How?s Life After 40 ( Miles)? [NY Times]

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For the Volt, How?s Life After 40 (Miles)? http://tinyurl.com/ybk5jjy
Milford, Mich.
SITTING behind the wheel of a 2011 Chevrolet Volt prototype on
Wednesday, I found myself confronting what may be the greatest fear that future owners of electric vehicles will face: a battery-charge indicator showing just a few miles of remaining range.
If I were out on a desolate Interstate in a vehicle powered solely by batteries, I?d be praying to the god of electrons for a place to pull off and plug in a charging cord. But my drive is at General Motors? proving grounds here, and I?m about to experience what the Volt?s vehicle line director (and my passenger), Tony Posawatz, says is the car?s trump card: a gasoline-powered generator under the hood.
Like other reporters, I had already driven Volt prototypes in the battery-powered mode, and they were predictably smooth and silent. But for eventual Volt owners, a crucial ? and so far unanswered ? question is how the car will perform when the battery?s charge is depleted and all electricity is provided by an onboard generator, driven by a gasoline engine, that has no mechanical connection to the wheels.
Will it be a slug? How annoying will the noise of the generator?s engine be in an otherwise mute car?
G.M. engineers say that a fully charged Volt is capable of 40 miles of purely electric driving before the computer calls for the generator, which has an output of 53 kilowatts (about 71 horsepower), to start and sustain the battery?s minimum charge level ? the ?extended range? operating mode.
So what is life after 40 like in the Volt?
It takes a few laps of Milford?s twisty, undulating 3.7-mile road course to deplete the remaining eight miles of battery charge. With the dashboard icon signaling my final mile of range, I point the Volt toward a hill and wait for the sound and feel of the generator engine?s four pistons to chime in.
But I completely miss it; the engine?s initial engagement is inaudible and seamless. I?m impressed. G.M. had not previously made test drives of the Volt in its extended-range mode available to reporters, but I can see that in this development car, at least, the engineers got it right.
I push the accelerator and the engine sound does not change; the ?gas pedal? controls only the flow of battery power to the electric drive motor. The pedal has no connection to the generator, which is programmed to run at constant, preset speeds. This characteristic will take some getting used to by a public accustomed to vroom-vroom feedback.
A few hundred yards later, as we snake through the track?s infield section, the engine r.p.m. rises sharply. The accompanying mechanical roar reminds me of a missed shift in a manual-transmission car. For a moment the sound is disconcerting; without a tachometer, I guess that it peaked around 3,000 r.p.m.
I asked what was going on.
?The system sensed that it?s dipped below its state of charge and is trying to recover quickly,? Mr. Posawatz said. ?The charge-sustaining mode is clearly not where we want it to be yet.?
Immediately the engine sound disappeared, although it was still spinning the generator. A few times later in our test, the generator behaved in similar fashion ? too loud and too unruly for production ? but there is time for the programmers to find solutions. Volt engineers are revising the car?s control software, which will have the effect of ?feathering? the transition from the nearly silent all-electric mode to the charge-sustaining mode, when the generator will be operating.
?We?re designing a software set of rules, which will just require more seat time for the engineers to finish,? Mr. Posawatz said. ?We have nine months to work this out.?
The sound of the generator running at steady highway speeds is something Volt owners, and others who appreciate the flexibility and efficiency of this type of hybrid system, may have to accept.
Unlike many electrics, including the Tesla Roadster, the Volt?s electric drive has no whine. The car feels solid and planted on the road. Clicking the Sport button on the dashboard releases a bit more oomph than when in Normal mode; in terms of efficiency, there isn?t much difference between the two except at peak power.
The Low mode? Chevrolet plans a flashier name for it by next fall ? is unique in the electric-car world, and a useful feature. While coasting, it applies electric motor braking, then smoothly blends in the regular brakes.
Even beyond the regenerative function, Low mode offers one-pedal driving in slow speed, stop-and-go, and downhill environments. The regenerative braking, whether applied through the Volt?s foot pedal or by pulling the shift lever down into Low mode, is both progressive and predictable. This is in stark contrast to the harsh, abrupt regenerative braking delivered by BMW?s all-electric Mini-E, for example.
There is minimal body lean in the tight corners. The low-rolling-resistance Goodyear tires created specifically for the Volt provide excellent grip.
Throughout my test, the prototype behaves admirably. At its current state of development, the Volt is an extremely refined vehicle.
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According to what has been previously published, around 130 miles, on the generator alone, before the voltage would drop. Even then another 50 miles or more is possible if need be.
By the way the generator motor runs at only 2,000 RPMs. not 3,000 RPM as stated in the accompanying article. That is a much lower RPM, by around 1,500 RPM less, than the 4cy engines in currently small cars, to sustain 60 MPH on a level road.

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The Volt chassis is not a hybrid! It is a pure electric. The gas engine can not motivate the car it is only connected to the generator. An electric motor motivates the car with power coming via batteries.
Larger vehicles, that GM plans to be built off that chasses can have bigger motors, or even multiple motors if need be. Somewhat like the diesel electric that pulls a train.

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On 23/11/2009 6:19 PM, Mike Hunter wrote:

Except the diesel electric can fully power the train without batteries. Unlike the Volt, if driven long enough it can't maintain full speed at say 65 mph for 3 hours.
And sounds like even if you stop 1.5 hours into a 3 hour drive, the gas motor does not charge up the batteries. So at some point sith a semi up your arse on an interstate, the speed will drove from $65 or a sustainable 40 mph or somehing.
These might no be safe on the hiways.

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On Mon, 23 Nov 2009 16:08:29 -0800, Jim_Higgins fired up the etcha-a-sketch and scratched out:

I drove a subcompact Prius today. It, too, freaked me out. It would slip in and out of electric mode.
I kept waiting for the engine to not start for some reason, and then be stuck coasting.
I wonder why they make a gas engine. Wouldn't it be far better - and more economical - to make a diesel engine?
--
perfectreign
www.perfectreign.com || www.ecmplace.com
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I agree, the diesel should give better economy. Very few automobile diesels have held onto the market in the USA...a few VWs, a few Mercedes, and rarely anything else. Part of it, I guess, is EPA, part is the perception that diesel stinks.
There are of course some diesel trucks, pickups, but that is, IMO, a different market and application than the one we are looking at.
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hls wrote:

The likely reason is the price. Diesel in NA is a $12,000 option, in Europe for a VW it is a $1,200 option. Go figure.
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Right. I dont really understand it. It may be somewhat more expensive to tool up and manufacturer a real diesel engine, but not THAT much.
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hls wrote:

Yes, not that much. And if they can't get the costs in line, then import them. Part of the problem is they don't have the tech any more. Just produce cheap crap at a high price.
Another problem is if you produce a piece of crap engine, they incure lucrative dealer repairs, premature trade ins and high TCO for the owner. Think tune-ups, diesels just need a fuel filter!
There are some good but inefficient 8 cyl. gas engines, but good diesels at a reasonable price, not in the cards for an industry that designs to have failures for profit.
And Detroit 4 cyl. is a joke. They can't get the compression up for power and economy as the crap will not hold together. And that is if the tranny doesn't die first.
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Once again our friend Canuck57 tells us the sky is falling LOL
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It is for GM.
Mike Hunter wrote:

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Once again our friend Canuck57 is telling us the sky is falling LOL
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Once again our friend Canuck57 is telling us the sky is falling LOL

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Once again our friend Canuck57 tells us the sky is falling LOL

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Once again our friend Canuck57 tells us the sky is falling LOL

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Once again our friend Canuck57 is telling us the sky is falling LOL

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That could change quick if the price gets right and fuel hits 5 or 6 bucks a gallon.
--Vic
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wrote:>>

Maybe. The price as estimated today is too high for a relatively lame horse like this one. If fuel gets up to $5-6, as it is and has been in Europe for a long time, I feel most people will finally moderate their choice of automobiles and buy something that will get them down the turnpike with an acceptable fuel cost.
There are places in Texas that you dont see a service station or electrical outlet for more than 40 miles....lot of them.
Now, if you could buy this little tiger for, say, $40K or so and guarantee a 200 mile range and an overnight recharge off your electrical mains, that might be different.
But you also know that when gasoline gets up to $5-6 per gallon, electricity will also go up accordingly. Sure, coal is cheap and plentiful, but the energy marketers look at world energy prices, not reality.
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On 24/11/2009 2:25 PM, hls wrote:

The Volt is really a glorified expensive golf cart. Bet with A/C or heater on, if it has them, milage plumets like a rock, as does the top speed.
Bet it Texas in July or Canada north in January, these are not going to work. Even in Minnisota or North Dakota, I can envision dead people in January.

Tesla. Tell Obama he cold have given you $60,000 towards a Tesla in 2009 and it would have made more sense than the $60,000 taxpayers forked out in debt for each GM in 2009.

Agreed. And no one is talking how many KWH it takes to charge one. No one is taking how a CA resident might pay 35 cents a KWH and efficiencies in charging batteries are no where near 100%. 1 KWH at the wall outlet isn't 1 KWH of motion.
And that assumes the battery material that deteriorates doesn't go through the roof in cost. The batteries even have a seriously short shelf life.
The Obama Albatros.
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Have to be careful about extrapolating one locality to the widespread. Millions of people right around me here near Chicago that commute and do their shopping in well less than 40 miles. Same in a lot of other areas. If you need more than the car provides, you buy something else. Not saying I have any firm views on this. I'll let the marketplace sort it all out.

Didn't notice my electric rates jumping when we had the last oil price spike. Besides, just like the Prius, the market for electrics will start small. Gear up the nukes!
--Vic
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