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Click above for high-res image gallery of the 2011 Chevy Volt

Time to get out the popcorn and sit back for a good argument. Remember Carnegie Mellon's recent study on the merits of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt? According to the University, a PHEV with a 3kWh battery pack would provide the best compromise between price, performance and environmental benefits by allowing for an electric-only range of around 7 miles. The Volt will use a 16kWh lithium ion battery pack and be able to travel 40 miles on electricity before its gas engine kicks in to keep the party moving. If General Motors' calculations are correct, nearly 80% of all American drivers could drive the Volt to work and back without ever using a drop of gasoline, recharging every night using off-peak electricity from the grid.

In response to CMU's report, Jon Lauckner, GM's Vice President Global Program Management, has published a post on GM's Fastlane Blog offering a few good reasons why CMU's data may be skewed. For starters, GM says the cost of its battery pack is quite a bit less than CMU is estimating. Plus, the Volt will be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit due to its high energy storage capacity that the study fails to recognize.

According to Lauckner, GM is not about to make the mistake of delaying the introduction of plug-in hybrid vehicles after missing the boat on conventional hybrids a few years back, and we agree that they should definitely move ahead with the car's introduction. The idea of offering smaller capacity packs for drivers who don't often drive 40 miles in a day, though, could have merit. We'll see how it all plays out in late 2010 when the Volt is scheduled to go on sale.


  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman
  • Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman
  • The Chevrolet Volt "Freedom Drive" across the country concludes at Pier 92 during the annual Macy's Independence Day fireworks display over the Hudson River in New York, Sunday, July 4, 2010. The "Freedom Drive" began four days and 1.776 miles ago in Austin, Texas where Chevrolet announced New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas would join Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. as launch sites for the Volt later this year. (Photo by Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt "Freedom Drive" across the country concludes at Pier 92 during the annual Macy's Independence Day fireworks display over the Hudson River in New York, Sunday, July 4, 2010. The "Freedom Drive" began four days and 1.776 miles ago in Austin, Texas where Chevrolet announced New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas would join Michigan, California and Washington, D.C. as launch sites for the Volt later this year. (Photo by Emile Wamsteker for Chevrolet)
  • Chevrolet announces Thursday, July 1, 2010 it is adding Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the launch markets for the Volt electric vehicle. The retail launch in Texas and New York will begin with Austin and New York City in late 2010. The balance of Texas and New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, are scheduled to begin receiving Volts in early 2011. The Chevrolet Volt (pictured here) in front of the Texas State Capital in Austiin, Texas Wednesday, June 30, 2010. (Photo by Steven Noreyko for Chevrolet)
  • Chevrolet announces Thursday, July 1, 2010 it is adding Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to the launch markets for the Volt electric vehicle. The retail launch in Texas and New York will begin with Austin and New York City in late 2010. The balance of Texas and New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, are scheduled to begin receiving Volts in early 2011. The Chevrolet Volt (pictured here) in front of the Texas State Capital in Austiin, Texas Wednesday, June 30, 2010. (Photo by Steven Noreyko for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt passes a trolley while navigating the steep climbs of the San Francisco Bay area while on an engineering development drive Saturday, April 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt drives near the Golden Gate Bridge while on an engineering development drive in San Francisco, California Saturday, April 25, 2010. The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt navigates the steep climbs of the San Francisco Bay area while on an engineering development drive Saturday, April 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California The Volt will be available in California during the last quarter of 2010. (Photo by Martin Klimek for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range on display at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range drives through campus at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The new Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range drives through campus at Columbia University on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2010 in New York, NY. (Photo by Todd Plitt for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt �Freedom Drive� across the country continues in Fairfax, Virginia Saturday, July 3, 2010 as the Volt participates in the annual Independence Day Parade. The Volt, an electric vehicle with extended range. will finish its four-day, 1,776 mile route in New York City on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt �Freedom Drive� across the country continues in Fairfax, Virginia Saturday, July 3, 2010 as the Volt participates in the annual Independence Day Parade. The Volt, an electric vehicle with extended range. will finish its four-day, 1,776 mile route in New York City on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for Chevrolet)
  • The Chevrolet Volt �Freedom Drive� across the country continues in Fairfax, Virginia Saturday, July 3, 2010 as the Volt participates in the annual Independence Day Parade. The Volt, an electric vehicle with extended range. will finish its four-day, 1,776 mile route in New York City on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt for Chevrolet)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range travels around Pier 92 during a media test drive in New York, NY on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet) (3/29/2010)
  • A pre-production Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range travels around Pier 92 during a media test drive in New York, NY on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet) (3/29/2010)
  • The first pre-production Chevrolet Volt rolls off the line at the Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant Wednesday, March 31, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The pre-production versions of the Volt will not be sold at dealerships, but will be used to assure all steps in the production system will meet the quality targets set by the Volt engineering team. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet) (04/01/2010)
  • A Chevrolet Volt battery at the General Motors Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, Michigan Wednesday, June 30, 2010. The Chevrolet Volt will offer customers an unprecedented standard 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on its lithium-ion battery. GM engineers have completed more than 1 million miles and 4 million hours of validation battery testing since 2007. Each Volt battery pack has nine modules and 288 cells. GM designed and engineered 99 percent of the 155 components in each battery. (Photo by John F. Martin for Chevrolet)

[Source: GM Fastlane]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 29 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      You know, while I don't doubt that their study is entirely correct, NO ONE would buy it on the merits of a 7 mile electric-only range.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @500: Carnegie Mellon actually has a joint lab with GM on campus... http://gm.web.cmu.edu/
      • 5 Years Ago
      Now how about the 2-mode hybrids that aren't trucks/suv's that you've been promising, GM? Probably ran out of money to launch them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If GM builds the Volt to run electrically for only 7 miles, then Toyota/Honda/etc. release their quasi-electric car to run for 20 miles, guess who sells more.

      Then the comments come back: "GM, why doesn't the Volt have the electric range of the Japanese manufacturers?"

      CMU is idiots.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Completely agree, this was a stupid study. Best business decisions (as in what people actually buy and want) don't always coincide with these so called studies.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I say go gitrdun GM. You've invested time, money, and face on this project. The naysayers will move on to something else within a few weeks anyway.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ill stick to working at home and my Hummer. Have a nice commute!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Didn't GM say a while ago that they were already exploring a lower cost option for the volt which would have a smaller battery? That's also a good point you raise there Chris.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't think they're going to make it to 2010.
      • 5 Years Ago
      One thing that has made me curious is that I'm under the impression that engines must be run to be kept in good shape and lubricated. So if you really do drive all electric, will the engine just start once a month anyway, or what's the deal? Does anyone know how GM is going to approach this issue?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Modern Gas seems pretty stable, I stored a car for 18month while in Iraq with only the battery disconnected and it started right up when I returned. I left very little gas in the tank when stored so I was able to gently drive to the nearest station about 7 miles away to top off.
        As for oil changes, many newer cars look at a variety of factor when calculating engine oil change intervals on the onboard computers. The simplest solution would be to simply monitor engine operating hours like generators do.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As has been mentioned, GM uses an oil life monitor to determine when oil changes are needed. Customers will need to become familiar with using sta-bil if they rarely run the engine.

        Reality Check, the guy commenting on the auto stop-start feature is clueless. While oil pressure does drop to zero during engine off periods, the oil doesn't instantly drain off all of the metal components in the engine. If you've ever run an engine, and taken the valve cover off immediately after doing so, you'll find a substantial quantity of oil "stuck" to the camshafts, rocker arms, lifters, etc. Warm starts are substantially less stressful on an engine than cold ones, where the oil has had the time to drain off to the pan.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As for oil changes, the General already has the technology to "monitor" the oil as in an "Oil Life Monitor". I'm not sure how many of their vehicles use it, but I know for certain all the C6 Corvettes come with an oil life monitor in the on board computer display. I would assume most of the Caddy line probably has this too.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just to chime in on this...I remember hearing something similar to this while in my short stint of selling Chevrolets...Our product guy who shall remain nameless, told us about problems they were having with the Tahoe hybrid...being a 2 mode, it switches between all gas, all electric, and a mixture of both. He said the issue was, that when going from all electric to all gas, the engine wasn't primed with oil by the pump ahead of time, so essentially every time the switch was made it was the equivelent of doing a dry start with no oil in the car. Never did hear anything in regards to the merit of this or if it was ever fixed if it truly was an issue.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not only that, but you don't want 2,3,4 months worth of old gas sitting in your tank either. And how do you track oil changes, since car miles aren't even close to engine miles?

        Not insurmountable issues, but these are questions that need to be addressed by the time the car is released.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm curious if they've considered 4kw modular battery packs; something akin to memory on a computer - 4kw, 8kw, 12kw, or 16kw to be specified by the consumer/dealer. Better yet if it was simple enough to be a dealer installed option. This would streamline production and provide dealer revenue. I think what we can learn from this study is that not everyone needs the exact same battery spec.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @cdwrx...

        Nice idea! Also would be nice for buyer to spec diesel, gas, E85/gas flex, CNG, or some other engines as the range extender. Perhaps if GM survives, this will be a thought for VOLT II.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Great job cdwrx!

        You found the good in an otherwise worthless study IMO. Glad to see there are still people who can dig through the BS and find the diamond in the rough.

        Next time I fell embittered by people's narrow minded self serving antics, I'll try to remember your success and try to consider that innovation should be my goal not just complaining about the obvious short comings.

        Thanks!
        (In case there was any sincerity was lost in my wording, I am impressed, inspired and grateful, nothing less!)
      • 5 Years Ago
      40 miles and then you need gas? What a joke.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Call it a joke all you want. If you want a pure EV, then you're stuck with something to the tune of a 100 mile range - except the Tesla of course, but it's north of six figures, and you get to wait for an eternity to get one. The Volt will be a mass market car that MOST people will be able to afford, and will still be able to fill the duty as an only vehicle. I have a 100 mile round trip commute. I'll gladly cut my fuel consumption by approximately 80%, compared to the Impala that I now drive.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Whoa. 16KWh pack? I thought it was 8. That could cost over $10,000, although still not as much as CMU said.
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