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2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

Believers in the extended-range electric vehicle (ER-EV, aka plug-in hybrid) technology utilized in the upcoming Chevrolet Volt like to think that the Voltec powerplant could be adapted for use in all kinds of vehicles. We've heard remarks about how perfect it would be to have a Voltec-powered truck and even ideas of a micro-car with ER-EV setup squeezed inside. Honestly, we like many of the ideas and believe that plug-in hybird (PEHV) technology is a great bridge between the internal combustion engine and battery-powered vehicles, but how many vehicles are suited for and could accommodate General Motors's Voltec powertrain?

GM Vice President of research and development Alan Taub sat down with Autocar to discuss future Voltec-powered products and as it turns out, dreams of an ER-EV this and a Voltec that simply won't be a reality. Taub said:
With battery technology as it currently stands, extended-range vehicles that are larger than the Volt - luxury saloons, trucks and SUVs - aren't really possible; they would simply be too heavy to be efficient. For those types of cars, fuel cells and biofuels are the future. Ironically enough, the ER-EV powertrain won't really package in a much smaller car than the Volt, either. So expect them all to be between four and five metres long.
Despite the just-revealed Volt MPV5 Crossover concept, it looks like Voltec is quite limited in its usefulness. This doesn't rule out the chance that GM could develop another ER-EV powertrain to accommodate other vehicles, but it does mean that we shouldn't expect our dreams of a Voltec-powered Silverado or Aveo to become a reality anytime soon.



[Source: Autocar]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 55 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      meh...

      The world changes.

      It is always fascinating to hear what an engineer thinks is possible and also to hear what isn't possible with what they have now.
      When they start talking about what is not possible period - then beyond perpetual-motion I think they have overstepped themselves.

      Just because this engineer or engineering group only thinks this or that is possible does not mean somebody else, someplace else isn't on the verge of inventing the flux-capacitor as we speak.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Or Mr. Fusion...
      • 4 Years Ago
      This sounds like justification rather than the "can do" engineering which we know this company is capable of! GM will push for as many CAFE credits per manufactured Volt as possible, "printing" just enough copies of the car to spend as that form of currency, until the need ends with the installment of a new administration. Just like the EV-1. Personally, I'm not interested buying any car which company executives snicker at while using it as a regulatory party favor.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The dude goes on to say Hydrogen is the future and probably has a background there - there's a big group in GM especially R&D from that area as the government poured money there for the last decade as the oil industry cheered them on.

      I love the statement about battery technology being too heavy. I read the article on another site and they framed what he said with a picture of the Chevy S-10 EV that GM sold in California more than a decade ago with lead acids (worked fine with those).

      Hmmmnnn, current battery tech is too heavy - NiMH had twice the capacity of the lead acids used in that Chevy S-10 EV (cut the weight for same capacity in 1/2) and Li has twice the capacity of NiMH (cut the weight for same capacity in 1/2 again) and the Li batts available in a few years (according to Nissan and GM) will double the capacity again (cut the weight for the same capacity in 1/2 again). Smart guy...yeah, he knows what he's talking about.

      Its good to know the General has guys like this leading up their R&D department and pointing to where they should be investing for R&D...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yep. And they managed 90 miles range with those still heavy NiMh batteries.

        The performance is much better for the 1998 NiMH, at ~90 miles range and a 0-50 mph of 10.9 seconds at 50% charge.

        * 1998 GM S10 EV lead: 45 kW·h/100 mi city, 41 kW·h/100 mi highway
        * 1998 GM S10 EV NiMh: 94 kW·h/100 mi city, 86 kW·h/100 mi highway
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_S-10_EV

      • 4 Years Ago
      Quantum Technologies has developed a diesel ER-EV drive train for the US military. They call it the CERV (Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle).

      "The Q-Force drivetrain, a variant of Quantum’s Q-DriveTM drivetrain, is optimized for use with an efficient diesel (JP8) engine and configured to achieve 60% grades, can ford up to 30‖ of water, and other unique military requirements. The Q-Force is a series hybrid design which utilizes a 1.4 liter diesel engine mated to a 75kW generator. This is combined with power from a lithium ion battery pack to energize the vehicle’s 100kW permanent magnet drive motor. The diesel hybrid design is unique in U.S. light duty vehicles with nearly all other hybrids operating on gasoline. The Q-Force system takes advantage of the very high efficiency diesel engine to enable a high performance vehicle while achieving excellent fuel economy."

      The "Q-Force" drive train is a variant of the "Q-Drive" the Quantum will be providing for the Fisker Karma; the Q-Drive is itself a variant of the Voltec system, not surprising considering how much engineering work was shared between GM and Quantum.

      The CERV was on display at the 2010 SAE World Congress last week.

      http://www.qtww.com/files/qtww_press/100415%20Quantum%E2%80%99s%20Clandestine%20Extended%20Range%20Vehicle%20(CERV)%20%20on%20Display%20at%202010%20SAE%20World%20Congress%20in%20Detroit.pdf

      (disclosure - I own stock in QTWW)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Motorcycle, or bicycle? :p

        I wish i could get rid of this effin e36. It's fun as hell, but is a financial black hole
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's amazing what you can do when you don't have a car sucking money out of your pocket...

        I love my bike.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Damn, what don't you own stock in!!

        Interesting though.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Engineers could make it work. Sounds to me he's just trying to keep funding/interest in other areas.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just confirms to me that the Volt is just intended as a green halo car. Supporting that is their former statements that production will be low.(making it a good PR sell out. If not, the unsold ones will be secretly crushed).
      Previous statements that justifying the low production is that the tech will be brought to cheaper cars. Now that is reversed. You are just getting the Volt and you will probably have to bid against others to get it.
      Applying the tech to a smaller, cheaper car would undoubtedly require another 6 years of development. In the meantime buy an SUV from us because we are green.
      Despite a crossover version in China they will pretend it does not exist because that is impossible.
      Frankly, at this point, I would not be surprised if GM said that the Volt is just a dream car and that they never said it would go into production.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sounds like cost is the factor, not engineering.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So, what about the Chevrolet Volt MPV5?

        It won't have the same 40 mile range as the Volt, but a rating of 32 miles is excellent for a vehicle of its size & configuration. If sold in the NA market, I think GM will have a formidable product to compare against the Prius, Leaf, etc.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, but ICE is different. With an electric car, you upsize the components for a bigger car and call it a day.

        Seriously - how different are electric motors from each other? I would say they vary mostly in size and cooling needs.

        However the amount of components bolted onto those two different ICEs is mind boggling in comparison. Electric motors don't have cylinders or different valve configuration.

        I can only imagine what doing performance upgrades on EV cars would be like. Return to 60's-era simplicity, but even more so.. for the win :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        If cost were a factor, he wouldn't be mentioning fuel cells.
        • 4 Years Ago
        High power battery packs are substantially larger than high energy battery packs, the problem is not in the battery but in the volt-tech approach.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Cuz a bigger electric motor, generator and more batteries would be more expensive.

        Yahhhh right. Honda's little FCX costs them $500k-$800k a pop to manufacture.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Because a bigger battery, generator etc...isn't the same powertrain.

        Would you say that the 6.2L V8 in the Camaro SS is the same as the 2.0L 4 cylinder in the Cobalt SS...simply because they're both ICE?

        Apples to oranges...
        • 4 Years Ago
        He makes it very clear:

        "...With battery technology as it currently stands, extended-range vehicles that are larger than the Volt - luxury saloons, trucks and SUVs - aren't really possible; they would simply be too heavy to be efficient."

        It's the weight of the battery that is the issue. FCs have a distinct advantage in their high energy density.

        The cost issue is moot, considering we don't really know what FCVs will cost when they hit the market. Introducing them in luxury sedans and SUVs (which are currently what the FCV prototypes are) makes sense if they're going to be in the $50K-$100K range initially.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We have Orion VII series hybrid buses in NYC so series hybrid can scale.

      The problem with Voltec is that it has to have 40 EV initial miles. The vehicle that big would simply become a battery carrier.
      • 4 Years Ago
      As far as smaller cars go, he may mean that improving battery technology will soon allow BEV's to own that space without the need for range extension. As far as larger cars go, I guess it would depend on the amount of integration between the different components in Voltec. Everything is probably carefully integrated with components and software for a specific configuration, and you can't just throw larger stuff at it without thinking about how it impacts the system as a whole.

      That said, it's silly to say the extended range architecture CAN'T work in a larger vehicle and mention hydrogen will "be here soon" again. As people get more and more used to electrified vehicles, that old distraction won't keep working like it has in the past.
      • 4 Years Ago
      GM is not going to talk about future products and take away from the Volt.

      Remember Osbourne Computers back in the 80's when the company started talking about the up coming Osbourne Executive sales for the Original computer dropped to nothing because everyone was waiting for the new model and the company went under.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I sincerely hope that is the case...

        But given GM's track record of underselling themselves so they have a convenient excuse on why they cannot make an EV, they are trying to set up the Voltec to be buried in a few years.

        10,000 units per year is Tesla numbers, not GM. Something is wrong.
      • 4 Years Ago
      He isn't saying they can't make bigger E-REVs, he's just saying they can't transplant the drivetrain directly. Its not that surprising. Would you put a cobalt drivetrain in a big buick? Of course not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That would make sense, but it isn't what he said. He said, "For those types of cars, fuel cells and biofuels are the future."

        If you read the original article, he then goes on to tout hydrogen.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "he then goes on to tout hydrogen"

        Which removes all credibility from any statement he makes.

        How stupid do they think the car buying public is?!? Actually, they think we're very, very stupid. They will learn a little lesson when electric car purchases exceed all projections.
        BipDBo
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't think you are correct. Reread what he is saying.

        He is wrong, though, and the EREV Hummer made by Raser proves him wrong. Applying efficiency to larger vehicles is more expensive because everything gets bigger, but it works & saves more gas not less. The fact that they wouldn't sell Hummer to Raser also says something, don't you think?
        • 4 Years Ago
        You should also notice that his quote above is yet another example of comparing "battery technology as it currently stands" with "fuel cells ... [of] the future."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hehe.. yeah it's like:

        'naw, electric cars aren't that great.. hold out for pixie dust / puppy dogs & ice cream hybrid science fair powertrains'

        Meanwhile, everyone else is making electric happen. WTFGM.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So reading between the lines...he's saying the MPV5 Crossover (which looks production ready) is going to get a new powertrain, and will come out when high gas prices or low battery prices can cover the higher cost for the packs (2014?).
        • 4 Years Ago
        You do realize that the MPV5 is basically a Volt wagon, right?
        • 4 Years Ago
        The MPV5 is within one inch of the Volt's wheelbase, I think it qualifies as Volt-sized.
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