3rd paragraph: "A 1.4-liter engine running on premium gasoline...". $40K
plus and it has to run on $premium$ ?
G.M. ‘Officially’ Introduces 2011 Chevrolet Volt Amid Controversy
General Motors began its official press introduction of the 2011
Chevrolet Volt on Sunday. Yes, that would be the same vehicle G.M. has
been introducing with a barrage of auto show appearances and news
releases since 2007.
G.M.’s press materials call the Volt “an electric vehicle with extended
range,” though the company has acknowledged all along that this electric
vehicle would have a gasoline engine under the hood. And while G.M. has
provided more product information than was available in the past, its
continued characterization of the car as “purely electrically driven”
glosses over operational details that suggest otherwise.
What G.M. has told the press is that the Volt can cover 25 to 50 miles
on electric power alone, depending on the terrain, driving techniques
and temperature. A 1.4-liter engine running on premium gasoline turns a
generator that can power the electric drive motor and extend the range
up to an additional 310 miles before needing to refuel the 9.3-gallon
gas tank. The Volt’s electric motor produces 149 horsepower and can
accelerate the four-passenger sedan to 60 miles an hour in less than
nine seconds. G.M. claims a top speed of 100 miles an hour.
Extensive wind tunnel work has reportedly made Volt the most aerodynamic
car Chevrolet has ever produced, with a drag coefficient of 0.28. The
vehicle platform is typical of today’s automobiles with a unitized body
and frame riding on a MacPherson strut suspension.
So what product feature has G.M. neglected to mention? Simply that when
driving in extended range mode at high speeds — when the battery has run
down and the gas engine is powering the generator — the engine provides
some assist by means of a planetary gear set that couples it (G.M says
“indirectly”) to the powertrain.
In terms of vehicle dynamics and performance, that may well be an
advantage. In terms of electric-vehicle categorization, it clouds the
picture, making the Volt’s engineering layout more like a Toyota Prius,
which is a parallel hybrid, than G.M had led journalists to believe.
G.M.’s stance, at least in the materials distributed to the press, is
that the Volt’s design is singular: “The Chevrolet Volt is not a hybrid.
It is a one-of-a-kind, all-electrically driven vehicle designed and
engineered to operate in all climates.”
That depends on how one defines a hybrid. Logically, any vehicle
equipped with both a combustion engine and an electric motor is a
hybrid. In keeping with the electric powertrain terminology common to
diesel-electric locomotives, the Volt would best be described as a
G.M.’s insistence that the car is fully electric is hard to understand
in light of the fact that the gas engine provides motive power under
A G.M. spokesman, Tom Wilkinson, said, “There is some mechanical drive
force at high speed. The engineers wanted to maximize the overall
performance and eliminate any potential flat spots in the acceleration
When asked why G.M. didn’t mention this high-speed gas-engine assist
previously, Doug Parks, a global electric vehicle executive for G.M.,
said that the automaker chose not to publicize this feature to protect
the technology during the process of obtaining patents.
In the end, how the vehicle performs in the real world will be much more
important than any terminology. But it may be a while before that
information is available. Numerous publications are anxious to conduct
long-term tests, and some have complained publicly because they’ve been
unable to secure cars.
“We simply don’t have enough cars at this time to satisfy the demand,”
Mr. Wilkinson said. A two-week press event is under way, and almost
every available Volt is being used at that event. What’s more, all of
the Volts available for testing are preproduction cars. Production-line
vehicles are not yet available.
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