Tag Archives: Chevy Volt

Pre-Production Chevy Volt Test Drive

This is a neat video of a pre-production Volt in action. You actually get a first-hand perspective of what it is like to ride in this range extended plug-in electric vehicle. The car is basically complete, with a working LCD screen in the dash. The passengers note that the car does have a good amount of pep; the 100% torque of the electric engine should provide competitive acceleration. The car is also whisper quiet of course. See and hear for yourself:

GM’s 230 MPG Volt Campaign

GM Volt 230

I watch YouTube more than I care to admit. Last week I noticed a mystifying advertisement before many of the videos: A green screen with a large number 230, with the 0 depicted as a winking standard electrical wall outlet, and a smaller date 8-11 underneath. Since I had no idea what the numbers meant, I Googled them to no avail. Eventually, I discovered that this was a GM marketing campaign for the Volt. But how did the number 230 come into play? Does is stand for 230 volt outlet required? The number of days before GM declares bankruptcy again?

Finally, GM revealed on August 11th, 2009, that 230 was the official MPG rating given by the EPA. The advertisements now link to Chevy’s Official Volt page. While I was disappointed in the general lack of content on the actual page, the bottom corner provided a real gem of a link: Chevy Volt’s Facebook page. Those who do not know much about Facebook should know that people, places, events, and even inanimate objects such as the Chevy Volt can have their own Facebook pages now. The Chevy Volt Facebook Wall actually has a death of information on the Volt. People are free to voice their concerns and a Chevy spokesman tries his darndest to answer them all. Here is the spokesperson’s explanation of where they got the number 230.

It’s based on draft EPA fuel economy methodology, which takes into account thousands of drive patterns over an extended period of time. For example, some people will never use a drop of gasoline as they will always stay within the 40 mile pure electric range, while others will use a combination of pure electricity and engine-generated electricity when driving, and still others may stay within the 40 miles and just drive innefficiently. The assumption is most Volt owners will plug-in daily, so there has to be some common ground to compare vehicles between nothing and infinity. To rationalize all these scenarios and situations, the EPA’s draft methodology calculates this via mpg and our estimates based on that methodology are at least 230 mpg in city driving. Just as important, we are expecting the Volt to get more than 100 mpg combined (city/hwy). Also, we have not announced the charge sustaining mode mpg yet because we’re still testing and validating that mode of operation. -Phil

Originally, I was very disappointed in this ad campaign. All this build up around an arbitrary number and it all leads to a very plain, uninspiring website with a bunch of arbitrary numbers being crunched to explain where 230 MPG comes from.

It is crucial to convey what exactly the car does, and how the car is capable of your daily commute without needing a single drop of gas. I’ve witnessed first hand that the general public does not fully understand how plug-in hybrids work. One of my colleagues at work, an educated twenty something year-old, said he wasn’t a fan of the Chevy Volt because he thought it just died after 40 miles of electric driving. This was disconcerting, especially because we worked for an environmental activism group. I would have expected him to know how a breakthrough hybrid vehicle such as the Volt switches on an electric generator, when the battery is low. But not everybody has researched this. Therefore, simplifying this plug-in hybrid system to an arbitrary number, 230 MPG, might actually be the best way to communicate to the masses how such an unfamiliar vehicle operates.

So my final summation on the campaign is that Chevy did a good job simplifying and minimizing the dangers of bringing something unfamiliar to the market. Next, I would suggest some good old fashioned car advertising. Show it driving up a hill or blasting past a Mazda.

Electric Car spokesman knows nothing about Electric Cars

Check out this video, and statements in question start at 1:20:

According to Phil Lebow, auto industry journalist for CNBC, the Dodge EV is a Range Extended Electric Vehicle that gets 40 miles all electric, and then switches on a gasoline generator, just like the Chevy Volt.  Wrong.  The Dodge EV is a pure electric vehicle that gets 150-200 miles per charge.  You think the guy would have looked under the hood to see if there was a gasoline engine generator before he went on network TV. He also claims the Tesla Roadster is “extremely limited” hinting to the range. A 220 mile range is phenomenal for a sports car of that caliber, whereas in a combustion engine supercar, you can burn through 30 gallons in 7 minutes. And honestly, who has the back to drive a supercar for over 220 miles in one sitting. C’mon you’re better than that.  CNBC, if you need a guy to cover electric vehicles, call me up.

[edit: Ok maybe he was referring to the Tesla Roadster as limited in quantity.  Still, unless Chrysler is secretly changing its plans, the Dodge EV will not employ a gasoline powered range extender.]

Here’s a better review of the Dodge EV from MotorTrend.

Production Chevy Volt Revealed

Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt
Pictures courtesy of Autobloggreen.com

Featuring snazzily dressed Chevy executives.  But I must say, they are right on the money with this design.  Chevy did away with the sharp corners and the awkward plastic moldings around the windows; and they are obviously targeting the Toyota Prius market as a gas saving, compact family sedan.  They could have gone the other way with this, as an edgy electric sports car, but it would have been a bit ego heavy, and not broadly appealing. Another major carmaker, Honda, is following this strategy as their upcoming 2010 hybrid is even more of a knockoff of the successful Prius. The Chevy Volt is tentatively scheduled to release in 2011

What is a hybrid electric vehicle?

I’m in Los Angeles this week and I was astounded at the number of Prius hybrid electric cars on the road. It is easily the most popular model in California and it is officially Toyota’s top seller in the United States. While this site is mainly dedicated to fully electric powered vehicles, I thought I’d dedicate a section to the hybrid movement we are seeing on the American roads today. I don’t think they are the end all solution to the energy crisis, but you have to walk before you can run, and America is walking finally. Some people might be confused about how, exactly, these cars work and I thought I’d clarify them a little.

Parallel Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)

Toyota Prius

HEVs, such as the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius have become hugely popular in the United States for their fuel economy and unlimited range. These cars are technically known as parallel electric hybrids because they utilize two sources of power at the same time, and electric motor and internal combustion engine.  This means both power sources can be utilized at the same time to give the car easier, faster acceleration, like the K1 Attack, which goes 0-60 in 3 seconds when utilizing both power sources. OR as parallel hybrids are more conventionally used in the Prius, the electric motor is utilized while the combustion engine is completely off at speeds 0-40 mph because it provides more responsive torque and no gas whatsoever. In an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, most gas is consumed from 0-40 during acceleration, so parallel hybrids get better gas mileage in the city. The internal combustion engine is used at speeds above 40 mph because it provides a higher top speed, and requires less gas than normal because it doesn’t need as much torque or gas at consistent highway speeds. The internal combustion engine can also drive the car at low speeds when the battery is low. This doesn’t happen often, because when the vehicle brakes, the kinetic energy is captured by letting the wheels turn the alternator which powers the battery, this is known as regenerative braking.

Serial Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

Chevy Volt

As of now, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not yet produced. The Chevy Volt concept is a serial hybrid electric vehicle. These cars rely purely on an electric motor to power the wheels. The Volt will potentially get 40 miles on a charge (hence, PHEV-40), then for any driving after that, a combustion engine will kick in, not to power the wheels, but to act as a generator that recharges the battery. The Volt likely has such a low ev range because GM did not want to sacrifice performance for electric power. PHEV’s can utilize regenerative braking just like HEV’s. Thus, you get the near unlimited driving range from the established gasoline infrastructure for long trips, but you can potentially go weeks without ever having to utilize the combustion engine for your daily commute.

Electric cars are potentially superior to all of these because they do not utilize antiquated internal combustion engines at all. The parts and fluids used to manage an internal combustion engine is staggering compared to the lightweight, energy efficient electric motor. The criticism of the electric car is the idea that batteries have not yet developed enough. But because of their wide range of applications, battery technologies are advancing at a swift pace; while ICE technology has been at a relative standstill for decades. And when companies such as GM say the technology is not there, you need to keep in mind that exact same company came out with a completely viable electric car in the late 90’s, the EV1, using lead acid batteries, before lithium-ion, before the potential revolutionary EEstor. But hey, thanks to the popularity of hybrids we are now walking in the right direction.