GM will be revealing the new concept vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) capable of a starting fuel economy of 50 mpg. If you plug in the car overnight (six hours to fully charge the lithium-ion batteries), your fuel economy is only going to improve.
The Volt was designed as a series plug-in hybrid, in which the electric motor powers the wheels. If fully charged, the electric motor is capable of 40 miles of gas-free driving. After that, a small 1.0-liter three cylinder gas engine kicks in to recharge the batteries.
“If you lived within 30 miles from work (60 miles round trip) and charged your vehicle every night when you came home or during the day at work, you would get 150 miles per gallon,” Lutz said. “More than half of all Americans live within 20 miles of where they work (40 miles round trip). In that case, you might never burn a drop of gas during the life of the car.”
If you didn't plug the car in, the Chevy Volt would get 50 mpg. The Volt (as is) is also capable of running off of E85. But GM is also touting their new E-flex System. This system allows them to switch the 'other' power source from gas to hydrogen-powered fuel cell or even ethanol.
The Chevy Volt PHEV is built on the next-generation Delta platform on which the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 are built. It also has a chief engineer and a vehicle line director. And in a recent press conference, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said the Volt is being developed as a "production intent" vehicle.
In other words, GM seems intent on bringing the Chevy Volt (or something very much like it) to market. But it all depends on the battery.
Lithium-ion batteries are not ready for the mass market in cars. Promises are being made by battery makers that they will be ready by 2010 or 2012. GM recently awarded to two different suppliers** to develop and produce these batteries for the Saturn Vue plug-in. But, they also made it clear that this in no way would bind them to those two suppliers in the future.
* For comparison, the Toyota Prius is a parallel hybrid, in which either the gas powered motor or the electric motor are capable of driving the wheels.
** GM awarded the contract to two different suppliers.
- A joint venture formed by Johnson Controls Inc. and French battery maker Saft and
- Cobasys, a joint venture formed by Energy Conversion Devices and Chevron Technology Ventures LLC in Texas.
Sources: GM Press Release