• Apr 13th 2010 at 11:39AM
  • 54
2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

General Motors has provided another of its regular updates on the development of the Chevrolet Volt, focusing on its battery and powertrain. With a little over six months to go until the first production model rolls off the line, GM says it is making rapid progress on getting the Volt ready for final validation and certification. Over the past several months, the engineers have been accumulating test miles on the 80 pre-production IVER cars that were built last summer. The fleet has now accumulated over 500,000 miles, with some of the cars having run upwards of 20,000 miles while completing the durability tests.

The durability test cycle is an accelerated test that replicates the wear and tear that typically happens to a car over its lifecycle. According to chief engineer Andrew Farah, the Volt prototypes have met all their goals in both durability and performance. Farah told the attendees that the Volts are regularly hitting the 40-mile electric range target during normal driving, even at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Read more about the Volt's status after the jump.

  • 11/29/09 7:17:39 -- Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A Vehicle Chief Engineer Andrew Farah and the new Chevy Volt during the Dodger Stadium ride and drive.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

One of the big questions that people have had since well before GM made an announcement last year that the Volt would get 230 miles-per-gallon on a proposed EPA test cycle is what kind of mileage they can expect once the battery is depleted. While Farah declined to get specific about that number, he did tell us that the engineering team still had the same target of over 50 mpg that has been in place since the beginning of the program.

Farah opened his presentation by emphasizing that the Volt was designed from the beginning as a car that could be built as an affordable, large volume solution. A big part of that affordability equation is that the Volt is likely to be a customer's only car – because of its extended range capability, it is not permanently tethered to the electrical grid. This mention was obviously a knock on some of the other pure battery electric vehicles coming in the next two years from competitors, including the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric. The lack of extended range capabilities means that those vehicles will not be practical for those that have to drive longer distances. In those cases drivers, will likely need access to a second vehicle.

In the ongoing march to production, the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant has now produced six more pre-production cars in the past two weeks as part of the manufacturing verification process. Over the next two months, a total of about 40 cars will be built at Hamtramck. Starting in June, the assembly plant will build about 300 cars that will be part of GM's captured fleet test. This is a standard part of every new vehicle program. These cars will be used by GM engineers and managers on a daily basis look for any other problems that haven't been found during the engineering development process.

Besides durability testing, the other main effort that has taken place over the winter test sessions in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Raco, Michigan, and Summit County, Colorado is development and calibration of the software and control systems. According to Bly, in cold weather, it takes as much energy to heat a human body in the car as it does to propel it. Since the main source of energy is the battery, optimizing the efficiency of the climate control system has been one of the team's primary efforts. That includes finalizing the systems that pre-heat the cabin and the battery. GM's engineers have also spent time on cold weather startup behavior in Kapuskasing to minimize when the engine starts and make it as seamless as possible.

Mickey Bly, GM's executive director of electrical systems, hybrid systems and batteries, discussed the battery testing and manufacturing process that has been ongoing. Working out the supply chain has been a big part of the effort – although protocols have been established for air shipment of lithium ion cells, the primary method used for production will be surface containers. Cells will be shipped from LG Chem's facilities in South Korea to Michigan by sea and land in order to keep costs down. Special containers have been developed for shipping said cells.

Earlier in the day, GM announced that it plans to expand its battery test lab in Warren, MI. The lab will be more than doubled in size in the coming months, taking up space previously occupied by engine test facilities. Those facilities have been relocated to GM's new powertrain development center in Pontiac, MI. The new battery test area will include equipment for cycling many more cells and packs so that additional designs from other suppliers can be evaluated. The lab will also include manufacturing and tear-down test areas. This will allow GM to experiment with the building and recycling of battery packs, something that will become increasingly important in the coming years as more battery powered cars hit the street.

Looking further down the road, Bly said that second-generation Volt specifications would be finalized toward the end of this year. Traditional vehicles have had a four-to-five year development lifecycle, but because of the rapid pace of development on electric drive and battery technology, that is being cut to two to four years for early generations of cars like the Volt. The third-generation Volt will likely be finalized within the next two years, and GM is targeting a 50 percent reduction in battery cost. That will come in part through an expected increase in energy density which will allow the use of a smaller battery without sacrificing electric range.

Overall, the Volt seems to be well on track to meet its production target. The big unknowns at this point remain the car's manufacturing cost and retail price. Nissan has set a very aggressive bar with the pricing of the Leaf, and GM probably won't hit the $25,000 mark (after federal tax credits) that Nissan did, but will no doubt still be aiming for a price under $30,000.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Comparing cars to population is irrelevant, because it includes people who can't drive or will never buy a car.

      Of U.S. households that have a car:
      34% have 1 car
      31% have 2 cars
      35% have 3+ cars

      Even if the Leaf was limited to households with 2+ cars, it could still find itself parked in the driveways of 2/3rds of *potential* car-buying households!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looking over all this "new" information about the Chevy Volt, and still considering which car to buy in 2010, I stll think my 1st choice is going to remain a Prius II (entry level), @ $22,800 MSRP, and get all the range I want with 50 mpg guaranteed and proven.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Awesome, that's why competition is such a good thing. You get what you want and others get what they want.

        What if the Volt were your only choice, what would you do then?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Great job GM, I foresee yet another home run and a complete game changer. Excellent GM products and a failing Toyota = perfect storm!
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Leaf is great if you plan on renting another car each time you travel outside a metropolitan area. The Volt is going to have more appeal to those with a longer commute or who routinely travel.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought this was going to be out in May. I thought Lutz was going to retire about the time the Volt was to be released. Hmmm...
      I kind of wondered about the statement about how the Volt regularly hit the 40 mile range at temps as low as 40 degrees. Whoopty-do, now how about temps that the majority of the country actually sees in winter?
        • 5 Years Ago

        Why would they do that when no one else does?

        Let's cover this one more time. ALL vehicles suffer from decreased economy at lower temperatures, ICE, hybrids, and BEV's. That said, I've never seen one manufacturer tell the consumers what mileage decreases they should expect at differering temps. Why do you feel that GM needs to be the one to do this and not everyone or? Or why even do it at all?

        As I stated previously as well, even if you don't get the full 40mi.(which is also dependent on driving style, mind you), you still have the ICE engine there to keep you going which a BEV doesn't have the luxury of.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I get all that. The point was that THEY made the comment. And I think a lot of people beside me, noticed it. Also, the idea that the Volt has such a limited range (on battery), gives rise to the question of what the expected range might be in a "real-world" environment.
        • 5 Years Ago
        They never once said the car would come out in May. Even when it was first revealed back in 2007 it was stated that they wanted it to be released "as early as 2010". No month was ever given and since then, they have been saying late 2010 pretty much all the time.

        Regarding the range at 40F. I think you are misreading it, not surprising considering your comments here. Batteries lose power at lower temps, we all know that. Even at 40F they lose power. GM is saying that they are seeing the full 40mi battery range they quoted even to temps that low. Below that, range apparently will begin to be affected. They've said nothing more than that.

        Secondly, that's pretty much a non-issue since all vehicles have similar issues in colder temps. It takes more gasoline to heat up an ice-cold ICE as well, not to mention the additional energy needed to heat the cabin. This is largely a non-issue because the Volt has an ICE engine as well. So, maybe on that cold 5F morning you don't get 40mi of battery range on your way to work, so what? You have the ICE there to back you up and provide power, it's not like you're going to be stranded.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No kidding, do it in -40 and see what happens.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It has a limited range for two reasons.

        One, it's a range that was determined to cover the daily needs of the vast majority of the public. I forget the exact figure, but I think it was about 80% of drivers do not drive more than 40mi/day. So, that 40mi was chosen such that 80% of buyers could feasibly(not guaranteed) drive most days without using any fuel at all.

        Two, there's an ICE engine there to keep the battery charged. You don't have to worry about stopping for 4-8hrs to charge up when your battery is drained, the Volt will keep going until you run out of gas, then you can fil it up and do it all over again, same as your typical ICE-only vehicle as was exactly GM's goal. So, for that reason, as I mentioned above, the electric-only range isn't a big deal, you're not going to be stranded after that electric range is used up. You just may have used a 1/4 gal. of gas instead of all electric power, so what? You get home, plug in the car and do it all again the next day.

        I'm interested in seeing what electric range the PHEV Prius claims. The story posted on AB today says the range is about 13-14mi. Are you going to jump all over Toyota for claiming a 14mi electric range when in the depths of winter you might get half that?

        The Leaf is another example. Nissan states 100mi/charge, but it will be affected just as much as the Volt(and every other vehicle) by cold weather and that will affect the range. Nissan has not given an estimate on the range at -25F, or even 40F for that matter, they just give a flat 100mi figure. What about the Tesla? Same deal there. These also have ranges that were given by their manufacturers, just like GM gave the Volt a range, but you seem eerily silent about those vehicles.

        I just honestly don't see what is different about the Volt that doesn't count for all other vehicles on the road, but especially other hybrids and BEV vehicles. They will not always achieve the range(or mileage) that their stickers are plastered with or the manufacturers' claim. Such is life.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ montoym:
        No reason to be such an a$$ about it. I can't say for sure about where the May release for the Volt came from but my guess would be that since it was common knowledge that Lutz wanted to hang around until the car's release, it's an easy mistake to make. As far as the range issue, while I agree that many tech-savy consumers are aware that ambient temps will affect the range, it's FAR from "common knowledge", and therefore, I think it's kind of useless for GM to state that the car regularly hits the 40 mile range in 40 degree temps. Would be far more useful to give a temp "range" that illustrates just how the range will be affected by ambient temps.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good for GM, this car is going to be the future of the auto business!
        • 5 Years Ago
        We'll see that happen naturally without a tax ngiotta, as the demand for oil continues to grow and our USD moves further toward the equality of Angel Soft.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I hope not.
      • 5 Years Ago
      GM should be showing how low the charge retention is when extreme cold is met (like -25F), since much of the US will see temps below 40F for many, many months. And it's better to explain that now than to let some angry customers up there grumble to the media about it.

      Hopefully GM can get the gen2 batteries ready for the 2nd or 3rd year. Their prototype packs are doubling the battery range for the same size.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So, they should focus on the performance of the battery at -25F because most buyers will see temps below 40F?? Color me confused.

        What does a 65 degree difference in ambient air temperature have to do with the customer if the majority of those customers won't ever see temps that low?

        I live in a part of the country that gets pretty cold at times and it's happened maybe 2 or 3 times in my life that the ambient air temperatre has been near -25F. The wind chill has gotten that low, but not the ambient temp.

        I'm just not really sure where you are going with that train of thought.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think you are way overanalyzing it.

        Once again, all vehicles have similar economy issues in cold weather and not one manufacturer adjusts their mileage claims to compensate.

        Prius owners have stated numerous times that they get much worse mileage in the winter months than in warmer temps, but Toyota has not, does not, and will not change their mileage claims to show that. Pure ICE vehicles also get lower mileage in colder weather but I've never seen one manufactuer come out and say that you will get 30mpg at 70F and 25mpg at 30F and 15mpg at 0F or whatever it may be, and why would they?

        Finally, it's not going to matter because the ICE engine is probably going to run a lot more if the weather is that cold due to the cabin heat requirements. So, the initial battery range will not matter since the ICE will be running more often as the temps drop farther.

        I think the Prius does similar. If the temps are below a certain level, the ICE continues running and will not shut down at stops and you will not get the electric-only acceleration that you can get otherwise. That's part of the reason for the decreased economy in cold weather, but again, Toyota does not inform their customers of that. Why would that be any different than the Volt's claims?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Last year, the upper Midwest saw those temps, more than once. When I lived up there, I saw -25 more than once. And 40F is rarely seen in the winter up there. That is a heat wave to them. Even in Dallas this year, we had days that were completely below that (like mid/upper 20s). Since it snows in NYC (a very large city where this would be a practical car), the temps get below 40F

        Now, if GM advertises that 40 miles OC (On Charge) is what they got ALL THE WAY down to 40F, and Joe Frostki from Minneapolis got only 10 miles on a charge in the winter, Joe may just gripe to the media - who are more than happy to post bad news. Or if the charge last only 20-25 miles at 30F then all those sales to NYC would have unhappy people as well.

        BUT, if GM informed the potential customers that the Volt got 30mpc @ freezing and 20mpc at a common extreme (like -25F), then they can decide to buy or not. More than anything else, it is the lack of information (and inferred cover-up) that irks people the most. One need only look at the ire Toyota is drawing for the perceived safety coverup for proof of that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You're not going to see much added passenger space in a half inch of extra wheelbase or added storage space in being two inches longer. Some of the height difference looks to be in ground clearance. It could be an optical illusion in the pictures I've seen, but the Leaf looks to sit up higher.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Apart from the very serious range limitations, the Leaf doesn't seem to be that well-designed vehicle anyway. The Volt has a heat management system to help extend the life of the battery. Does the Leaf have one? I haven't heard/read anything about it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Volt is only a few months from production and it only has 500,000 miles of real world testing! The Chevy Cruze, which has a conventional powertrain already has 4,0000,000 miles and the Li-Ion plug-in Prius already had over 6,000,000 miles of real world testing as of Dec 2009, and that is just an upgrade of the existing Prius. This does not give me a lot of confidence in the validation process of the Volt. It sounds like GM is going to make the customer the guinea pig.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Cruze has 4,000,000 miles of real world testing because it's already on sale in other parts of the world. The Volt isn't. How do you know the plug in Prius has 6,000,000 miles of testing? That seems high considering, as far as I know they aren't evne for sale to the masses yet anywhere, and have more miles than the Cruze that is?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It only has 500,000 miles on these particular prototypes. Other mules also have been driven before this.
      • 5 Years Ago

      Statistics are all about what you make of them. Taking the median number of cars would probably give you a much more accurate representation of America because it would help round out collector like Jay Leno (who owns over 200 cars now). As it stands, there are 765 cars per 1000 Americans. That's less than 1 car per person.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wait its still in development?!
        • 5 Years Ago
        As opposed to selling unreliable cars like Toyota?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It does sound like they're kind working down to the wire on this launch..."some" models having 20,000 miles doesn't really sound like particularly long durability testing but I guess we'll know how real long term reliability is in a couple of years.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Having bought from both GM and Toyota, I can personally say that Toyota is more reliable, and of a higher quality. Industry compiled data also leads to this conclusion. End of discussion.

        While GM advertises future product years before it is sold...Toyota has sold hundreds of thousands of hybrid models...

        The elderly drivers be damned! Toyotas are still great cars! It's just going to take 2-3 years for the IIHS, NASA, and whomever else to bring this to a scientific conclusion.
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