Inside Line kicked up a dust storm yesterday by claiming that the 2011 Chevy Volt could not recharge its batteries while driving using its on-board, range-extending 1.4L gas engine. 40 miles of electric-only drive was it, and then the battery packs become "400 pounds of uselessness" was what IL said. They got this impression from a press release issued when the production Volt was unveiled to the public, which stated that the gas engine could only "sustain" the battery pack's charge and not increase it. GM got its communications crossed and apparently confirmed IL's take, but has thought about it some more and today reconfirmed what we initially thought was true, that the Volt's gas engine can recharge its batteries while underway.
What the Volt's gas engine can't do is completely recharge the battery pack to its full capacity. Rather, when load conditions are light the gas engine will send surplus electrons to the battery pack, which will also be receiving extra charge from regenerative braking, as well. That sounds about right to us, as we've always been told that constantly charging a battery to its maximum will shorten its life, as the optimum charge range is usually between 20 and 80 percent, not completely drained and not completely charged. GM is determining right now just how much it wants to let the gas engine charge the Volt's battery pack, but rest comfortably knowing that your future Volt won't be carrying around 400 lbs. of uselessness when the charge runs out.