GM Unveils the Chevy Volt ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: GM Unveils the Chevy Volt

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GM Unveils the Chevy Volt

As part of the 100 year anniversary, GM has officially unveiled the plug-in Chevy Volt today.  The celebration, videos of the unveiling, online chats, etc... are being held online at

While this is the official unveiling, photos of the Volt were inadvertently leaked last week, and spread quickly on the web.  While many have been disappointed by the new look, others have jumped behind the new streamlined approach.  If you're going to build a car that emphasizes fuel efficiency the way hybrids, especially plug-ins, are supposed to, then you should definitely go for it.

After all, the reason why most people are interested in the Prius is for its fuel efficiency.  Anything else, such as the image it projects and the 'coolness' of the tech, are just added bonuses.

The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid. On a full charge, you should be able to travel 40 miles without the gas engine turning on at all. After 40 miles or so, the small ICE will turn on, but to recharge the batteries. Since the Volt is a series hybrid, only one of the two motors can move the car.  GM decided it was better to use the electric engine, solely, to create movement.  That way, they reasoned, if they can get it to travel on 40 miles on all electric power, most commuters would never have to buy gas.

A parallel hybrid, like the Prius, can be powered by either the gas engine or the electric motor.  But that means you are constantly moving from one power source to the other.  GM is betting consumers, if they can do so, want to move away from using gas.  You can't do that with the Prius.

How Much Will it Cost to Re-Fuel the Chevy Volt?
In order to recharge the battery pack, you can plug in the car into an ordinary home electrical outlet.  The ports for the plug are located just ahead of each of the side mirrors.  GM estimates it will cost less than 2 cents per mile to drive on electric power.  They estimate a normal car costs about 12 cents per mile to travel on gasoline alone.  (See the controversy on how to rate the mpg of the Volt at the EPA).

If you don't believe GM, Google just released the costs associated with fueling their small test fleet of hybrids (including a couple of plug-ins).  Their Toyota Prius plug-in (probably the most comparable vehicle to the Volt) has electric costs of $2.07 to travel 100 miles.  The total costs, including gasoline, is $6.90 per 100 miles.  I would guess the Volt would be similar if you routinely traveled over that 40 mile mark and had to use the gas engine.  To compare, the Toyota Corolla costs $14.68 per 100 miles.

And just to make the point, the founder of Tesla estimates it costs him 2-3 cents per mile to drive around in his Tesla Roadster.  That's an all electric, powerful, sports car.  But, if you go ahead and read the whole post, you'll see your costs can vary widely even in a small region of California.  Although, the range goes from 2-6 cents, so maybe it's not really all that much variation.

Design Makes Room for the Battery, Stays Low-Tech
Because of the large battery pack, the Volt can only fit 4 people. The center position in the back is filled. The battery pack sits where the 'transmission tunnel' in a conventional rear-wheel-drive car would be. Which means you have more room in the trunk for cargo. The front seat has the 'twin-cockpit' look derived from the Corvette.

The front end has been rounded off, while the back has a 'sharp, angular shape, complete with a wing incorporated into the trailing edge of the roof. The sharp angles help smooth the air flow as it trails off the vehicle.

Other techno-gadgets include:
  • Driver-configurable, liquid crystal instrument display 
  • Standard seven-inch touch screen vehicle information display 
  • Touch screen-style climate and infotainment controls 
  • Optional navigation system with onboard hard drive for maps and music storage 
  • Standard Bluetooth for cellular phone and USB/Bluetooth for music streaming

To understand why people are disappointed with the look of the new car, you can see the prototype (left) of which Lutz once said, they would have done better putting it in the wind tunnel backwards and on the right side you can see the production model.  The production vehicle is more rounded and certainly better when it comes to aerodynamics.  But the sharp edges on the production vehicle front end were very exciting.  But I prefer the production car.  But then, I never thought the Prius was ugly, either.

Chevy Volt concept image from flickr by RobertHeese.  Production vehicle image from the leaked images GM provided.

The Chevy Volt is a five door front-wheel drive sedan that seats four..  It is classified as an Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV).  The chassis has indepindependent McPherson struts front, compound crank twist axle rear, four-wheel disc brakes, full regenerative brakes to maximize energy capture, and electric power-assist steering.

The tires are specially developed low rolling-resistance tires on 17-inch forged aluminum wheels.

The Volt has a top speed of 100 mph and has an EV range of 40 miles (based on EPA city cycle).
  • Wheelbase (in / mm): 105.7 / 2685
  • Length (in / mm): 177 / 4404 
  • Width (in / mm): 70.8 / 1798 
  • Height (in / mm): 56.3 / 1430 
  • Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 10.6 / 301 
  • Length (in / mm): 177 / 4404
  • Width (in / mm): 70.8 / 1798
  • Height (in / mm): 56.3 / 1430
  • Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 10.6 / 301
The battery pack is lithium-ion (Li-Ion) with 16 kWh.  The electric drive unit can produce 111 kW / 150hp and torque of 273 lb-ft / 370 Nm.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at

1 comment:

Rodrigo said...

This car was very beautiful!

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