• Jul 7, 2009
2011 Chevrolet Volt - Click above for high-res gallery

We don't have to tell you how important the Chevrolet Volt is to General Motors. Even if the model isn't likely to turn a profit for many years, the plug-in electric car's success or failure is likely to be seen as a crucial indicator of GM's post-bankruptcy prospects in the eyes of many. This being the case, it's not surprising that automaker is practically throwing everything it's got at the project. According to Chief Engineer Andrew Farah, the Volt team is currently working on getting the sound and feel of the driving experience just right. Speaking to Automotive News, Farah said:
The engine, not being directly connected to the foot, is one of the things we continue to tune. We don't want it to be discomforting to people. There is an expectation of what happens when you put your accelerator to the floor in the way the car sounds and feels. We've got the feel. We've got the feel of a sports car. The sound part and the way the engine plays into that perception is one of the areas we have to work on.
Clearly, creating a plug-in car with mass-market appeal isn't as simple as bolting an electric motor and a bunch of batteries into an existing chassis. People have come to expect certain things to happen as an automobile is driven, and GM needs to find the right compromise between zero-emissions technology and time-honored driving dynamics. Further complicating the issue is the tremendous weight of the car's T-shaped battery pack. Farah explains:
Here's the thing to remember: When you put the battery in, it actually lowers the center of gravity of the car. There are a thousand reasons why heavy is bad, but a few why it is good. And so we are getting those advantages of the good heavy, and the disadvantages we are managing.


[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 58 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I just hope that this "sports car" feel for the Volt isn't akin to the old Eurosport package.
      • 5 Years Ago
      GM designer says: "Too bad we didn't design it to look like a sports car!"
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Converj does.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Who woulda thunk it! a sporty 4 door hatch! Now all we need is a 2 door sport-coupe and 2 door hatch Volt!
      • 5 Years Ago
      The imaginary feel of a sports car, the sound of a hairdryer, the performance of an economy car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You could, it would just talk slightly longer than travelling the Oregon Trail took our ancestors many years ago ;-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not bad for a car that can conceivably not use any gasoline for the majority of the driving it will be subjected to.

        As a commuter car, I can't think of many that would be better. I wouldn't prefer to drive one cross-country, but I wouldn't want to do that in a Smart or a Tesla either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You COULDN'T travel cross country in a Tesla.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would think the acceleration would feel very sporty due to the fact that an electric like this will always have max torque available, no matter what the speed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well it will be more sporty than a Prius I guess.
      • 5 Years Ago
      How about the anemic performance of the gas engine slogging around all that "good heavy" when you get to Mile 41, beyond the range of the batteries?

      Volt buyers won't care much about sound or feel, since they won't care that they spent $40k on an economy car. They'll be too busy showing it to their other Hollywood friends.

      On the other hand, GM had better get the sound right for the snow belt crowd, since the batteries won't even function in the cold weather.

      As for that sports car feel, I doubt that skinny low rolling resistance 21" tires are helping with that. The Volt team should ask their amigos on the Corvette team about that claim.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That pretty much backs up everything I said, montoym. I never said the engine won't charge the battery. Of course it will. The question is how will the system anticipate demand? Say I drive 40 miles on smooth highway, then I reach a demanding hilly stretch that discharges the battery faster than the motor can charge it. What happens? There is a lot to get right in the software, and it will be interesting to see some extended tests.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So what happens during power demand when the battery is low? Does it throw "buffering" on a dash display? "Please wait for sufficient charge?" I think it's a valid concern.

        Chances are the system will anticipate demand long before it hits, meaning you won't get much into the charge on the battery before the engine starts. We'll see if people really get 40 miles w/o the engine starting.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The baterries are large enough to supply more than 40miles of battery-only driving methinks. The batteries are not meant to draw down to 0% and then be charged from that point on. I beleive that they are meant to be kept above 20% capacity in order to help the batteries last as long as possible.

        In other words, it's not as though you'll be crawling to a stop as if you ran out of gas and then the gas engine suddenly wakes up and starts charging the car allowing you to continue your drive. It will be imperceptible and there should be absolutely no change in performance from the driver's seat. Provided that you aren't driving "pedal to the metal" all the time as no electric vehicle or hybrid is really meant for that kind of treatment. You can, mind you, but don't expect anywhere close to the expected 40mi electric range just as you can't expect 29mpg from a Camaro V6 driven hard either(or 40mpg form a Prius for that matter).

        Please do some research on the car before posting comments that are 100% inaccurate and misleading.

        Here's the best story from AB I could find explaining what I mean, http://www.autoblog.com/2008/09/26/settle-down-volt-batteries-can-recharge-while-driving

        quote - "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" -
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am less interested in the sport sedan feeling than it giving me a proper, decent and quiet ride, not worse than a Camry or Malibu while being able to buy for less than the price of almost 2 Toyota Priuses.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Not bad for a car that can conceivably not use any gasoline for the majority of the driving it will be subjected to.

      As a commuter car, I can't think of many that would be better. I wouldn't prefer to drive one cross-country, but I wouldn't want to do that in a Smart or a Tesla either.
        • 5 Years Ago
        reply error, disregard.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So many people spout off without knowing anything...

      Torque on an electric motor is max at 0 rpm and decreases linearly with rpm.

      Also, to people who say things like gslippy, the gas engine never drives the wheels directly. The electric motor does. So, based on the above point about torque, this thing will accelerate quickly.

      As for the batteries providing a lower center of gravity, yes, more weight is not good for performance, but putting the batteries lower rather than higher can help with the handling and feel. I noticed this in the first generation Prius. It felt more grounded around turns than it should have even though it had small wheels and skinny tires.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Having driven a couple of Priuses, I'd say they drive like a washing machine.
      • 5 Years Ago
      *there is never good heavy
        • 5 Years Ago
        While there isn't a good heavy in comparison to light. If you HAVE to have weight, like most cars these days do if they want to sell in any reasonable number, or for the sake of an electric car, there are good things to having weight. Mainly that it's placement can alter the handling of the car. Placing it low improves the center of gravity.

        While it doesn't aide the car like not having the weight does, the engineer is simply noting that it isn't an entire loose-loose scenario.

        Regarding Cali's blackouts, That is almost entirely attributable to Enron's energy fiasco, and not their spikes in energy use.
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