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As so often happens when the first spy shots of a new car surfaces, we jump all over them trying to get them on-line and then we stop and take a closer look at what we have. Then questions start to arise. Is this really what we think it is? If not, what is it? Well, when it comes to one of the most eagerly anticipated new cars to come out Detroit in recent years, the late night availability of the first photos causes us to jump first and look where we're going later. In this case, it was the first spy shots of Chevy Volt mules that turned up late last night. We already knew that GM has been testing various bits and pieces destined for the Volt in previous model year Malibu body shells, but now, we had pics.

As it turns out the gray car that we posted on last night is only a ride and handling mule. It has various suspension components destined for the extended range EV, but the powertrain is bog standard Malibu. The red Malibu you pictured above, however, is one of the powertrain mules. Notice the big lump in front of the driver? That's to provide clearance for the prototype power electronics module that goes along with the electric drive motor and engine/generator set. Tying all of this together is a standard nickel metal hydride hybrid battery that acts as a power buffer. These cars are being used to validate powertrain hardware (aside from the lithium batteries of course) and start development of control software. Sometime in the next few weeks these mules should start going back on the hoist to have the new lithium battery packs installed and then the real fun starts.

[Sources: General Motors, AutoblogGreen]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      It is interesting that there is a lot of hype regarding the GM hybrids, especially the Tahoe hybrid which gives more MPG than a toyota camry.


      The link has statistics for the no of vehicles sold during January-March 2008. GM is not on the list!
        • 7 Years Ago
        All the same, the fact that a vehicle of that size is getting comparable gas mileage to a Toyota Camry is pretty impressive.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "...especially the Tahoe hybrid which gives more MPG than a toyota camry"

        Huh? How do you figure? Which Camry does the Tahoe Hybrid beat in MPG?

        Check the EPA ratings:

        Camry 4-cyl Auto: 21 City / 31 Highway
        Camry 6-cyl Auto: 19 City / 28 Highway
        Camry Hybrid: 33 City / 34 Highway

        Tahoe Hybrid 2WD: 21 City / 22 Highway
        Tahoe Hybrid 4WD: 20 City / 20 Highway

        • 7 Years Ago
        Jonathan fell victim to GM's carefully-worded ad on the topic. They only claim that the Yukon Hybrid bests the V6 Camry in city mileage, and don't point out that the Yukon's highway mileage is essentially the same as its city mileage.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "All the same, the fact that a vehicle of that size is getting comparable gas mileage to a Toyota Camry is pretty impressive."

        Hahahaha! Are you really thick enought to believe what you just typed? This is a classic case of apples and oranges and situational facts.

        Let's see now, how can we make your statement true?

        "If a $25,000 V6 Camry, a darn fast car (even if not sporty), is driven aggressively ONLY in a stop and go city environment, it's possible that a $50,000 Hybrid Tahoe, a slow SUV, can get better mileage if driven with a light foot."

        That's as close your statement will ever get to being true. Heck, it's possible for a Ferrari to get better mileage than a Mini Cooper if you really skew the results.

        In the real world, ANY Camry will get *significantly* better mileage than a Tahoe Hybrid when driven the same in a real world mixed enviornment of city and highway driving.


      • 7 Years Ago

      Are they serious about that price? If that is the case, it's going to be a niche auto. And Toyota and Honda will continue to eat everyones Hybrid lunch.
        • 7 Years Ago

        And you base this knowledge on what? Because you are an auto engineer or just smarter than the hundreds of engineers at GM working on this thing?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Seoul, I was making a comparison to the only other real electric vehicle out there. $35,000 is a lot easier to swallow than $100,000.

        Now given it won't be able to touch the Tesla's performance, but it still is a competitor in a sense.
        • 7 Years Ago
        tank, the IC engine in the Volt never powers the wheels. Only the electric motor is connected to the wheels, and when the battery gets low, the gas engine starts and runs a generator which charges the batteries.

        And you drive more than 40 miles round trip to work? that sucks, dude.

        And seminole, no one of reasonable intelligence is cross-shopping the Volt with the Tesla roadster. $35k absolutely kills this car.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It's a serial hybrid and there's a reason it hasn't been done before in a car, it's a bad idea. There is no way in hell the Volt is going to get anywhere near Prius milage when the gas motor is both powering the car and charging the batteries unless the car is seriously limited in performance while in this mode. Net result, overall milage will be the same as a Prius unless you are one of these people who only drives 20 miles each way to work, have $48k and are too lazy to ride a bicycle.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Except the Volt is not really hybrid in the sense of what we think of one as, but rather mostly electric vehicle. It has a small IC engine, but just to extended highway range. It's expected to be able to operate at 40 miles on batteries alone, and up to 400 with the small gas engine. The Prius can only go about maybe a few miles on pure electric, and the Civic is not capable of electric only driving. So this makes it a completely different car than what the Civic and Prius are. Rather this would more directly compete with the Tesla, and undercuts it by about $65,000 if the $35,000 price point is correct.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think this is a good platform to use as transition technology to fuel cells...which I think is ultimately be the General's goal with this vehicle. Because of its series design, I can easily see replacing the ICE/generator unit and gas tank with a hydrogen storage system and a fuel cell. I don't see that flexibility for future design capacity in the current form Toyota's or Honda's hybrid products. I am sure regardless of pricing, GM will lose money on the product, but the knowledge gained from real world feedback, producing, servicing, and expanding the capability of this platform (let alone the positivie green image perception GM needs from this) will pay dividends when they transition to fuel cells.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The Cadillac Provoq concept is based on the Volt's e-flex platform with a fuel cell range extender.
        I agree that what makes the e-flex drivetrain superior to contemporary hybrids is that it can be used with a number of different options for the range extender, or even no range extender at all.

        I think the Volt is a transitional stage not towards fuel cells, but fully electric vehicles. I think when the e-flex architecture has matured, we will see less expensive, fully electric base models with improved storage capacity for your average urban or suburban commuter, and the range-extended models as an option that trades some electric range for the capability of operating even in remote areas or extreme distances.

        The fundamental problem fuel cells have that precludes them from ever becoming a viable alternative is that they use hydrogen. A substance that's problematic to store and transport, needs an expensive infrastructure that doesn't even exist and which doesn't occur naturally. So you need electricity to make it, but the same electricity can be used to drive an electric car from a battery with much less hassle.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It can accommodate fuel cells.

        But here in New England, we'll stick with an ICE range extender so we can have heat/defrost.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I bet 50 down hill.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I guess some folks out there expect a bleeding-edge technology-laden auto to be priced along with your run-of-the-mill Corolla or Civic. Get a clue people; $35,000 is only $5,000 more than the current average car transaction. In three years that gap will close some more. While it won't be a bargain (and who says it should be?) if, in 2012, they can price this thing at $35,000, they will sell every one they make easily.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I never really noticed how the last (albeit, facelifted) Malibu looked like a Magentis until now.

      Yesterday's pic felt odd because my mom owns the pre-facelift 'bu in the same color (and they're not exactly that easy to find where I live, so I never get used to seeing one that isn't my mother's).
      • 7 Years Ago
      Finally, they found a good use for all of those unsold prior-model Malibus!
      • 7 Years Ago
      An existing GM product with some stuff taped to it, stop the presses!
        • 7 Years Ago
        Prove it. Or are you really that stupid to be fooled twice?
        • 7 Years Ago
        It's a test mule for the drivetrain. Are you really THAT stupid?
      • 7 Years Ago
      So the Volt is going to be RWD right? I mean, theres no drivetrain loss from moving electrical power from the front generator to a rear-mounted motor, so why the hell not? I would love to see this car come out as less of a hippie-mobile and more of a practical Tesla.
      • 7 Years Ago
      With all the wires running down the sides, it kinda looks like there should be a flux capacitor in there somewhere...

      I bet the speedo only goes to 88mph.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I bet the car only goes to 55mph.
      • 7 Years Ago
      With the dollar slide, $35K might be a bargain in two years, then again its way too early to talk about price on the Volt. Just ignore all the BS about prices and you might be pleasantly surprised.
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