• Jun 6th 2008 at 2:38PM
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GM's product development chief Bob Lutz is one of only a handful of people to have driven the first Chevy Volt development mules with the full lithium ion battery pack in place. The mules have now been dubbed Mali-Volts alluding to the Malibu body shells that contain the E-Flex. A post went up yesterday on the GM Fastlane blog about the drive, and shortly afterward I got to have a longer one-on-one chat with the Vice-Chairman. Lutz was in a particularly good mood and he described himself as "thrilled" when he finished his first 20 mile drive at the Milford Proving Ground.

It took 14 months to go from a non-functional concept to a driveable vehicle with an all-new powertrain. Right now, one of the two battery suppliers is in the lead and all the running vehicles are equipped with packs from that company. Packs from both companies are still being bench tested however. Both Lutz's drive and the 40 mile electric drive that happened around the same time occurred on the proving ground roads, although Lutz acknowledged that since everyone knows what the cars look like they can head out on public roads too. Check out the full story at GFF and the video after the jump.

[Source: Green Fuels Forecast]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why cant they just do like they do with airplanes and slap a big experimental sticker on it and let the market decide? this fixation with pleasing everybody from day one is a real buzz kill, why not just produce some and let us decide, and I know Ron it's impossible, well I disagree, GM needs to be more nimble, this would be a great start, heck they already did it with that EV they crushed, they make Brownies FEMA look efficient.
      • 7 Years Ago
      you might be right about EMI, but I wouldn't be surprised if the FCC required them to meet EMI regulations even on a nule vehicle.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I seriously doubt Lutz (or anyone else) can get truly excited about driving a last gen Malibu.

      Adding ~500 lbs of copper wound motors and batteries is likely to make it worse. The engineers are unlikely to have spent time modifying the chassis (which won't be the real Volt chassis) to properly handle the extra weight.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Backyard mechanics don't need to worry about EMI, don't need to reduce costs as much as possible for production, don't need to meet all the safety standards, don't need to make the system as efficient as possible, etc.

      There would be no point in GM just throwing in a motor and battery pack. They would learn nothing from that (the battery pack can be tested just as well in the lab). I'm not sure you understand what a mule is - the whole point is to test an entire powertrain system that is intended for production.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Backyard mechanics do the same to their own cars on tiny budgets and in shorter time frames. Converting a car to electric operation is not rocket science.

      The batteries are the issue and have been for the last hundred years.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Based on his body language, it seems that Maximum Bob is not being entirely truthful:
      - This is probably not the first time he's driven an eFlex mule. He seemed to indicate that this wasn't really his "first impression."
      - The car probably doesn't behave like a normal car. Or at least that's what El Jefe body language seemed to indicate. That doesn't mean it's bad, just not "much like a normal car."
      - The car probably doesn't "go very well" (of course, with Max Bob being in charge of the company he's in charge of, he's probably had some really wild rides in Corvettes and other excitingly overpowered vehicles so his opinion of normal everyday cars might be a little lacking).

      After the "goes very well" comment with the associated "this isn't true" body language, everything else seemed to be accompanied by body language that indicated that he was on the up and up.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No need to get insulting ron. I work in telecom R&D and have an engineering background, and I know what a mule is for.

      I am just saying it is not that impressive that they picked a battery and and picked an drive train and added it to a Malibu.

      They can do a bit of data gathering and have something real world to do some preliminary integration of the software/hardware in a rolling testbed, but this is LONG way from production.

      It is doubtful any kind of work is being done on cost reduction/emi with the Mule. The are likely mainly tuning software and testing the drivetrain in the real world. A drivetrain which is likely a bunch of off the shelf components they are integrating. Any cost reduction will largely be achieved by negotiating with suppliers.

      Bottom line. They better have a running test mule by now or they are toast making 2010. I am still a bit dubious of them making it.

      This isn't rocket science. Two factors have always held this back: Cost and Battery life. A123 might give them the battery life, but the cost will likely be a significant issue. Replacement cost of the battery will be stroke inducing, so warranty on that will be one of the more interesting details I will be watching.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well in any event i think that the progress is good , i can tell form his body language as others have posted that that is not his first drive . If that was his first drive he woudl have been more excited and energetic despite his age . More like a kids first time on a crazy wild roller coaster
      • 7 Years Ago
      "You just need to put batteries/electric motors in a malibu."

      HAHAHA, thanks for the laugh. Why do non-engineers feel the need to comment on things they obviously have no idea about?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Having a running test mule hardly seems that big a deal. You just need to but batteries/electric motors in a malibu. This is still a long way from a production car.

      One bit of news that is new to me, is that they picked one battery supplier. My money is on A123. They seem to have the leading lithium battery chemistry. I would only think cost would drive them elsewhere.

      Batteries remain the Big hurdle for any electric. GM isn't doing any R&D here, they are just get a pack from a supplier and counting on them to deliver. It will be interesting to see the warranty on these packs. Will they be forced to give them 8 years like the Prius?
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