• Apr 27, 2008
The hopes and dreams of electric car aficionados for a purely battery powered successor to the late, lamented EV1 may soon be satisfied. Or not. It all depends on ... you guessed it, the battery. However, the latest utterings from Maximum Bob have people buzzing again. Mr. Lutz spoke to EV site PetroZero the other day and intimated that a purely battery-powered variant of the upcoming Volt is a possibility, leaving the range extender on the cutting room floor. This is actually not a new idea and dates back to the earliest dates of the Volt program. During a media briefing back in December 2006 several weeks before the Volt's public release, the Volt team showed us images like the one above that included several different powertrain configurations. The premise was to demonstrate the flexibility part of E-Flex. This included a variant with a larger battery and no engine to charge it. This pure EV was described as something that could be built if and when the range and more importantly the cost of the battery reaches a point where it could be successful in the market. Ditching the battery. on the other hand, won't happen because the inefficiencies inherent in transforming from mechanical to electrical to mechanical power without a battery to store regen energy and grid power just wouldn't make sense.

Finally, the PetroZero article indicates that Lutz will be driving the first Volt prototype within the next week. Lutz's use of the word prototype rather than mule led the author to believe this was an actual car with Volt bodywork. We checked with GM's Rob Peterson, who confirmed that such actual prototypes are still many months away and Lutz would actually be driving the Malibu-bodied mule that is now running with a lithium ion pack installed.

[Source: PetroZero via AutoblogGreen]


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  • 29 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      A little OT, while I am not a fan of hybrids (give me a diesel Benz with a stick!!!), I get the impression GM knows a storm is coming, and this car (not the one in the article, but the 'normal' gas/electric Volt) may save the company, and to that extent, the American Auto Industry (if this works, you can bet Ford and Chrysler will be on board with their own, no matter the cost).

      The Big Three dream of having a car that sells for MSRP (or above), that is produced in quantity, and meets/exceeds the CAFE and other requirements.

      I think GM is too deep into this program to walk away, and to that extent, they cannot walk away if they want to survive. The Aveo is not going to save GM, a revolutionary, desirable, profitable product that sells millions, is.
      • 6 Years Ago
      First off, in regards to the term "test mule" and "prototype", I don't think the industry or the public consider there to be much of a differentiation. Anything other than a production model could somewhat accurately be labeled as either.

      As for dumping the gas engine, that would be a mistake. It would simply be too inconvenient to be unable to recharge in a self sufficient matter if/when the batteries drained at an inconvenient location. Likewise, it would theoretically half the range if you planned a day trip at the far reaches of the electrical range and wanted to rely on the internal engine to recharge the batteries at the destination. Not to mention, places like here in Texas where air conditioning is a necessity would drain the batteries quite rapidly. But with the small gas engine, that could produce enough power to run the accessories such as a/c while charging the batteries simultaneously.

      Since gas engines are a known quantity and pose no technical hurdle to the program, there is simply no reason to dump it other than to save a few bucks (other than political demand for pure EV). But when talking that small of an engine, those bucks are simply better spent including the engine in the overall package. The added assurance of being able to charge the batteries at a remote location is an excellent low cost bonus.


      • 6 Years Ago
      Mah... for me electric car is a marvellous utopia: no possible. Future is hybrid. We need an electric motor for hybrid only:
      http://mondoauto.blogosfere.it/2008/04/auto-elettrica-una-dolce-utopia.html
        Jon Russell
        • 6 Years Ago
        at das..


        nice haha
        • 6 Years Ago
        Really. Just like that ridiculous idea of a personal computer. There are even crazy nutjobs that think that one day, there may be a version that people can take around with them. Laughable! The batteries to power such a thing would weigh tons! And nobody has yet managed to fabricate vacuum tubes small enough! The craziest, most out there lunatics have even proposed to use them for a sort of world-wide communication network, where it is clear that such a thing could never be realized, just look at the cost of a telegraph from London to New York!
        Or those portable telephone things. Utopia, I say. Even if they manage to build such a thing, it would be much too expensive for the common man, and much too heavy to carry around!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I want an electric car with solar panels integrated into the roof and other body parts. Then I could get an extra mile or two out of the car! :)

      I know this has nothing to do with the article but...
      Wouldn't solar panels on electric cars help a lot? You drive 30 miles to work (range of 40) and then you park in the sun for 8 hours. Couldn't you make it home without plugging it in?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm sure eventually that is a possibility, but it's not going to happen for a long time. There is a company that makes solar panels using printing machines that news papers use. If that company struck a deal with an auto maker then we could see solar panels on cars in about 10 years..i hope.
        • 6 Years Ago
        And on days when it's cloudy, just work a double shift, wheeeeeeeeeeeee!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Shawn,

        Don't apply for any jobs that require facts or math - you are obviously ill-equipped and under-qualified.

        First let's cover the cost: PV panels are pretty durable and even if you ignore that, a high efficiency 60x30" panel is $800. That would be about $2.5K to cover the hood, roof and trunk of a Volt. Any idea how much the replacement cost of the hood, roof and trunk on a $35K car?

        On onto the A/C crack: Even with todays modest performing 210w panels and figuring about 2800-3000 square inches of space on hood, roof and trunk the Volt, you COULD manage over 5Kw of free PV power for an 8 hour sit in the sun. That would be good for just over 13 miles of range recovery.

        Now for the pay for itself part: $2400 over even a 5 year life span is about $1.25/day. Feel free to divide further for more realistic life spans of 10, 15 or 20 years.
        A 30mpg car at $4/gallon uses about $.12 of gas per mile. 13 miles of PV range/day puts payback at 3.8 years. Seeing a trend here?

        With panels moving upwards in efficiency, that will only get better and cheaper. Never mind that the sun shines for longer than 8 hours some days - silly details.

        Do I need to continue? I am not saying it would not be cheap or totally reliable but um yeah, based on the facts, saying you are wrong is quite an understatement.

        Given I wouldn't try to get these numbers in Seattle or western NY/PA and the installed costs could be higher but either way it is very much possible.

        Thanks for playing, here’s your sign.
        • 6 Years Ago
        • 6 Years Ago
        30 miles on solar panels on your car with 8 hours charge time? Not even close. It won't be able to even power your A/C for your drive home. Solar doesn't make sense for cars because it is too expensive, it will never be able to pay for itself in the life of a car, and any damage to it would cost a lot to repair. However, it makes a lot of sense for your home if you live in a sunny area.
        • 6 Years Ago
        LaughingTooHard, real world is a lot different than a theory, but don’t let that stop you.

        Do you drive a big flat car that automatically tilts itself towards the sun for 8 hours? Since you’re the expert, I guess you also calculated the energy loss between collection and storage. I mean, seriously? 8 hours of direct sunlight? You also forget to calculate how much a/c will burn on full blast on a hot day, the stop and go traffic (with the a/c still running), and your stereo system blasting REM’s It's The End of the World As We Know it because you had a long day at work and just want to chill.

        As for the cost, each model of the car would need custom set of solar panels to achieve the 3000 sq in coverage that you stated. Since you are a solar panel expert, you probably already know all solar panels, even thin film solar cell, come in premade flat rectangles. (Yeah even thin film still needs to be customed). The complex shapes of the car would make the cost of your 3000 sq in the most expensive solar panels ever made.

        It isn't just because you're so smart and the rest of us are so stupid...There are reasons why production cars don't have 3000 sq in of solar panels.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think it is so funny that there are those who still say the Volt will never be. The E-Flex mule or prototype is on the road as the article suggests. When it comes to production it will be a game changer...and you can thank GM for being the car company that has all others chasing the dream of BEV's or PHEV's. I think they too know that when it debuts, the Volt will change the playing field. I for one am waiting for the plug to buy a new car and hope its the Volt!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Speaking of EV-1's, I saw one a few weeks back in SF (driving). I thought they had all been destroyed?

      Hopefully some of the other auto makers follow in GM's foot steps are start serious research on an all electric car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Really. Just like that ridiculous idea of a personal computer. There are even crazy nutjobs that think that one day, there may be a version that people can take around with them. Laughable! The batteries to power such a thing would weigh tons!......."


      Das Boese: that was hilarious! Thank you for that, I'm still laughing after reading all of it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      By the time Clueless Motors gets around to doing it as opposed to talking about it both the conventional Volt and the all electric one will be lost in a sea of comparable vehicles from just about everyone. If this new Volt's development goes like the present (non-existant) one, it will cost $60,000 plus battery lease. No worries, GM will be bankrupt long before then.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Basically it appears that a Volt would not be a car to take on a long trip. If the conversion efficiency is so bad I wonder what its mileage is without any starting battery power
        • 6 Years Ago
        I know this is an old posting but I can't let the idea that auto gearing is efficient go by. As a rule of thumb the ICE is about 20-35% efficient, meaning that of the potential energy in a gallon of gasoline only about .3 of the gasoline is used in working; the .7 that's left is lost as wasted heat or exhaust toxins. An additional 15 % of the energy is lost in the drive line, including the third member. So if you start out with 100 hp at the crank you end up with 85 hp at the read wheels...and the thing that's really sad about all this is we have been running ineffecient ICE cars for 100 plus years. Any time you add gearing to an energy source, you introduce an additional loss. That's why the best of the new EVs will minimize the use of gearing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It is supposedly 50MPG after the battery is depleted... I don't think it's THAT inefficient to convert mechanical->electric->mechanical when you're otherwise comparing to an all mechanical system that uses lots of gears and shafts (transmission, differential, drive shaft, axles) that has plenty of friction and rotating mass. When the combustion engine can run at peak efficient revs at all times, I bet the efficiency is very close to the same, if not better. The advantage of the lack of friction and rotating mass gets even bigger with 4WD.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Let's get this clear. The premise of getting 50 mpg is based having a battery in place. The battery supplies power to the motor to drive the vehicle including transient bursts of power to accelerate. The battery is never, ever completely depleted. It only goes down to about 35% charge before the engine starts. When the battery level drops, the engine runs at constant speed to charge the battery. Regardless of the driver's acceleration demand the engine still runs at constant speed.

        If the battery were removed, the engine would have to speed up to provide extra power on demand for acceleration. In that case the fuel economy would be greatly reduced. The engine is designed run at optimum load and maximum efficiency.

        Mechanical gears are actually very efficient. Modern helical gears are upwards of 95% efficient at transmitting power. A motor/generator is at best 85-90% efficient. Like an engine it has an optimum operating range. At the extremes the efficiency drops off. With a constant speed engine/generator combination, the charging efficiency for the battery is also maximized.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Lad, those driveline losses primarily come from items like tires, wheel and output shaft bearings, CV joints, differentials and torque converters. Aside from the torque converter all of those exist in both ICE and electric drive vehicles and those losses would be present in an electric drive system. In a manual transmission vehicle the torque converter drops away too. The gearing itself loses very little in a modern transmission.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Lutz's use of the word prototype rather than mule led the author to believe this was an actual car with Volt bodywork. We checked with GM's Rob Peterson, who confirmed that such actual prototypes are still many months away and Lutz would actually be driving the Malibu-bodied mule that is now running with a lithium ion pack installed. "

      TTAC calls that a "Lutzie".
      • 6 Years Ago
      and the saga of 2015 Chevy Volt continues...
      • 6 Years Ago
      It really makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Right now, battery tech just isn't far enough ahead, but with all the development on this sector lately, the second generation or mid-cycle update of the volt will probably include an all-electric model, ideal to be sold as a cheap entry model for mostly urban driving/commuting while the range-extended version is for those that want or need more range, for example in remote rural areas.

      Stick an onboard quick charge module in it and you probably won't even have a problem with the range/charge time, provided you can find an industrial three-phase outlet. Shouldn't be too hard, seeing as most gas stations/workshops have one anyway, so it's a simple matter of installing a socket outside and hooking up an energy meter, something that can be done in a single afternoon and costs a couple hundred bucks at most.
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