• Oct 12, 2010
2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

After yesterday's media inferno surrounding whether or not the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is a true electric vehicle, General Motors is out to set the record straight. The company has released a statement on its Chevrolet Voltage blog that goes deeper into the Hows and Whys of the vehicle's drivetrain. According to The General's latest statement, the car's Voltec drivetrain cannot operate without power to the electric motors. Furthermore, the 1.4-liter four-cylinder range-extending engine can't move the Volt by its lonesome.

That sounds good and all, but what about the reports that arose yesterday that indicated that the gasoline engine could, in fact, drive the Volt's wheels? GM says that notion is somewhat misguided. In its statement, GM states that there isn't a fixed gear ratio between the engine and the drive wheels. Instead, the four-cylinder generates power that is then fed through the drive unit during extended range driving. That power is then "balanced by the generator and traction motor."

That still reads a little murky to us, but we're going to reserve final judgment until we can manage to drive the production vehicle for ourselves. As for why it took so long for GM to come out and reveal the details of the Volt drivetrain, the company says that until just recently, its patents on the Voltec system were still pending. Now that they've been secured, GM is less worried about another manufacturer swiping ideas from its system. You can read the full statement here, including a laundry list of complimentary quotes about the Volt from various media outlets.



[Source: Chevrolet Voltage]


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  • 89 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      It appears that GM didn't want the hype to be disturbed by the fact that their system is basically like the Toyota system. Without the fine details, their "clarification" sounds exactly like the operation of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system. In other words, the Volt is not a series hybrid, or a range extended electric vehicle, it's simply an advanced plug-in hybrid. But that wouldn't have been as exciting, would it?
        • 4 Years Ago
        The term "plug in hybrid" unfortunately doesn't mean a plug-in vehicle that can run on electricity only. It was co-opted by companies that make vehicles (Prius conversions) which simply plug-in capability to further reduce gas usage in the first X miles of your trip.

        If you want to indicate your vehicle can be driven on trips with no gas at all, you need to explain yourself more. Hence the EREV term and all of what GM has said.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The posts on this site (and Jalopnik) regarding the Volt yesterday reeked of an effort to create hysteria, garner high hits and blow up comments sections instead of real journalism. Maybe that's why blogs are looked at the way they are outside of the internet.

      I must say though that there were commenters on both sites that were quite informed and didn't jump on the bandwagon who tried to clear the air. There are some impressively knowledgable people reading these sites. Too bad the same people aren't posting articles or editing these sites.
      • 4 Years Ago
      GM lied, the electric car died.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Thank you all, I've changed my mind - the Volt is awesome because it's exactly what people (and the country) need and want - a super-efficient electric (short-range) commuter car with an unlimited (albeit less efficient) range. All other hybrid cars are powered by GASOLINE 100%. Prius, Fusion, all of them run entirely on fossil fuels.

      Your Mileage Will Vary. My commute is about 26mi round trip, so I could buy a Volt and STOP USING GASOLINE 6 days a week. AND I could still visit my parents and in-laws on weekends, take road trips or drive across the country on short notice with Jack Bauer to spoil a terrorist plot. It has all the capabilities of my 7-year-old Hyundai and more, instead of noticeably fewer (ahem, Leaf).

      What mileage does it get after 30mi? 40mpg? 35mpg? Jack Bauer doesn't care, neither do I. Where does the electricity come from? Probably not OPEC, for starters. Beyond that, many of us choose. I picked wind energy credits from my power provider. Isn't that wonderful? Is the ICE mechanically connected to the wheels or not? The details don't matter - the results are 30mi electric, unlimited range gasoline. Sell it already.
      • 4 Years Ago
      They did say that it would reach up to *40 mpg's without a single drop of gas.
      I shouldn't have to worry that if I go too fast the car might be using gas without me knowing.
      But, I do think that this might be an offshoot of the problem that they were having with gas staying stagnant in the gas tank for too long. This might have been one of their remedies to getting rid of some of the gas slowly, while at the same time pleasing the customers by offering more gas savings.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm sold!
        Montoym should be GM's new marketing spokesperson, cause GM's marketing sucks right now, what bad press they are getting about this snaffu!
        Thanks Montoym for shedding some light on the Volt!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't get the problem. I'm not a huge fan of the Volt, but it's a good looking car and gets great MPG. That's all buyers will care about, and that's really all that matters.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why must autoblog split this hair? Does it really matter in the end? I swear autoblog is just playing a giant game of 'Gotcha' with GM. Get over yourselves.
        • 4 Years Ago
        seriously. so the engine *helps* push the car under very heavy loads. so what?

        does it still get 40 miles on a single charge? yes. thats what people care about, not the fact that on a steep grade the engine helps propel the car a little.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ emperorkoku:

        Also from Motor Trend: http://blogs.motortrend.com/6719595/green/127-mpg-this-volt-story-must-be-told/index.html

        Apparently Motor Trend (who "broke" the issue of motor-driving-wheels in the first place) just posted in their blog how two trips with the Volt - one over relatively flat So Cal, the other over the mountains - netted 126.7 mpg and 74.6 mpg respectively. All in 100-degree heat with the A/C on.
        • 4 Years Ago
        well yes it does matter some. the car will perform the same though but it matters that GM has been evasive/misleading/dishonest. and it matters for those of us who want more in depth understanding of car engineering than just 'it works'.

        as for Turian and others who are still in denial, GM has admitted that the ICE can run the wheels and will do so in RE mode at high speed. it's not a terrible engineering decision though and wont change how the car outwardly works. but the ICE can run the wheels.
        the simple way to understand the Volt is to think of it as a battery electric car foremost and then can switch to a prius like drivetrain if you want to go further than the battery range. there are more nuances to it but if you can grasp that then that's quite close to the truth.
        and in case you don't know how the prius works, that's basically an ICE car with an electric motor controlled planet gear CVT (continuously variable transmission)

        as for perspective, this Volt drivetrain is fairly rational in that it will operate most of its time as a pure electric vehicle and when it uses the range extender then this type of transmission is fairly efficient. a true series hybrid drivetrain would perform much the same but has some advantages in elegance, freedom of placement of the ICE and simplicity. ultimately I'm quite sure they will all be series hybrid. or should be because it's superior.

        in other words, this news is not really a setback for the car. it's mainly just GM PR stupidity in that they chose to be dishonest and deceptive.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The whole thing is clear as mud.

        Someone please get a Volt drivetrain up on a hoist so everybody can see *exactly* how it works. Then the purists can decide whether this is the car for them, the engineers can see where the development dollars went, and the rest of us can get on with life.

        In the mean time, let's see how the thing actually works in real life. That's what I'm curious about.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It is clear as a bell.

        There is no mechanical connection from the engine to the wheels. The 4 cyl can send electricity to the batteries and/or to the electric motor. Its an EV.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What GM is saying is actually very clear and has been clear from the beginning.

        In pure electric mode only the electric motor is driving the car, even at highway speeds, with the obvious decrease in range as the speed goes up.

        In range extending mode and highway speeds the gasoline engine generator works continuously and therefore it is more efficient to bypass the battery and directly power the electric motor. In city driving the gasoline engine generator does not need to work continuously, therefore it is more efficient to store the surplus energy in the battery pack.

        Volt has no mechanical drive from the gasoline engine to the wheels, period.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Agh - weird double-post...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Even if you don't understand it, this is actually a big deal. GM is gonna have a much harder time explaining how this powertrain works if they can't simply say the engine is a generator that only generates electricity when the battery is low. It's also a big deal because over the years, the Volt has become the token series hybrid vehicle, and we've just found out that its not a series hybrid at all.
        • 4 Years Ago
        James Sonne said:
        'From what I read, the wording is that there is no "permanent" mechanical link between the engine and the wheels. That's true of any engine with a transmission (i.e. clutch or fluid coupling torque converter.'


        GM explicitly says there is NO mechanical connection between the gasoline engine and the wheels, at any time. What is so hard to understand here?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually, I think GM is playing a "gotcha" game on all of us, and autoblog is only helping. In that Motor Trend article, the REAL news was NOT that the engine gives a slight push at over 70mph, but RATHER that the car only gets high 30's to low 40's mpg in "extended range mode" - worse than a Prius. How did that happen?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @dondonel_

        The C&D first drive article shows a hypothetical EPA sticker, with 38mpg being the figure for range-extended mode. http://bit.ly/d9rrke

        @Julius:

        Yeah, the first ~40 miles being on electric energy only. I'm talking about mileage in RANGE EXTENDED MODE. Motor Trend even says: "Without any plugging in, such a trip should return fuel economy in the high 30s to low 40s."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly and you can see the media outlets that want this product to fail....they ran stories as soon as they could that they thought would bash this car. Fact is the engine doesn't run the wheels but even if it did over 70 MPH if it helps efficiency who cares. What it seems it does is help the electric drive train over 70MPH provide adequate power while they system is in charge mode. Sounds great to me and a break though so no wonder they did not want to spill the beans too soon.
        • 4 Years Ago
        GM has already issued a press release explaining this, and what it boils down to is that there is no direct mechanical connection between the engine and the drive wheels. Insideline and Autoblog are just running a smear campaign against GM and have lost a whole bunch of credibility.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Guys, stop with the logic. People on these here internets fear and dislike logic.

        Looks like GM is going to have to initiate some How-To-Volt classes for the lowest common denominator...
        • 4 Years Ago
        From what I read, the wording is that there is no "permanent" mechanical link between the engine and the wheels. That's true of any engine with a transmission (i.e. clutch or fluid coupling torque converter).

        It seems this statement by GM has not changed or cleared up anything. The most I can tell is that there is no "transmission" but there is a planetary gear "coupler" that can link up either or both motors depending upon the situation.

        Big deal, so the vehicle is MORE versatile than before. The only issue is people that want an entirely electric vehicle will have to go with Nissan's Leaf (and for range extension, Nissan is now offering free rentals of gasoline cars to Leaf owners).
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with all of you, GM could have been more clear in its design from the get go, but it doesn't really matter. If the thing works, it works. If it can drive 40 miles on a charge then it works. If can then extend its range indefinitely by use of a convention gasoline motor where its primary job it to provide electric power to the batteries and still get 80+ MPG then it works.

        There is a real media conspiracy to degrade this car before it is actually produced or driven. Lets see what the market place has to say because in the end that is all that really matters.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Volt is clearly a hybrid.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What a media circus this has become.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ enbadesign
        Are you also as angry about the tests of the Plug-In Prius that show upwards of 70-80mpg as well?

        Fact is, for plug-ins, the only way to effectively show to the public the fuel savings that they can provide, is to calculate it this way. You went X miles on Y amount of gasoline, therefore you achieved Z MPG. Yes, there is an electrical component of that, but electricity is much cheaper to use than gasoline so there is a savings no matter how you look at it.

        If you try to place a single mpg figure on a plug-in, you do not account for the electrical range it has which you will be using much of the time. Again, while the Volt might achieve 40mpg(or less) in CS mode, that mode is not used often and therefore it doesn't contribute as heavily into the mpg calculation. If you take longer trips, it will weigh heavier, but long trips are not common for most people and if they are for you, then a Volt isn't your best option.

        If you take occasional long trips and use the Volt for your daily commute, triple digit mileage overall from the ICE is fairly easy to attain. It's not rocket science, you're doing 95% of your driving on battery power.
        • 4 Years Ago
        enbaddesign

        Good job ignoring the rest of the article and only plucking out the parts that "complete" your argument. Good job indeed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Screw all the GM loyalist fangirls on this site for downgrading the most TRUE and FACTUAL comments on this page.

        GM LIED.

        And now YOU, the taxpayer, will see where your $$$$$ has gone to: a $42,000+ "Next Generation" Hybrid that gets 37.5 MPG.

        And you still are ignorant enough to dismiss public doubt on the company that blew over $ 2 Billion a month just on crap PR programs?

        GM FANS = IGNORANTS.
        • 4 Years Ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks for the analysis.

        I understand that mileage may vary. But even your lowest number of 50 MPG in the worst case is still a great starting point. Most Volt owners will get much better.
      • 4 Years Ago
      get over it already... how about we focus on the big picture here?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @hellen keller - Exactly. To me, that is like their "mission accomplished" moment. Even though that figure was shot down long before the car even came out, it seems even more asinine now that some range and MPG numbers have been recorded by third parties.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And what's the big picture?
        • 4 Years Ago
        When I look at the big picture, all I see is my tax money going towards a car that:

        - Still uses foreign oil
        - Drives 35 miles on coal power
        - Gets 35mpg after that
        - Costs more than a mercedes
        - and overall, doesn't deliver on a single promise GM made

        It's modestly energy efficient. So what. Is that worth $7500, so some yuppies can spread their smug around the city?
        • 4 Years Ago
        My guess would be the 230 MPG rating this thing was supposed to have.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Whoops, that was a response to laser. Oh well.

      Anyway, I think GM still failed to get the message out. If they want to clear the air, they blew it.

      There are sites like slashdot that say that the Volt will drive the wheels from the gas engine when the car goes over 70 miles per hour OR when the battery goes flat. If this is (were?) true, then this would be a big change in what the Volt can do. GM should be getting out the word that nothing has changed here, that you still can plug-in the vehicle then drive it on electricity only and not use any gas, the gas engine will not kick on in the first 40ish (35-ish?) miles.

      This is the advantage the Volt has had over other hybrids and over parallel plug-ins all along. Those (at least so far) do not have a large enough usable electricity-only range to let you use little or no gas. So if you want to use little gas (no gas most days!) and you have a lot of money to throw around, this is the car for you.

      GM, that would be clearing the air. Why did you miss this chance to do so?

      Instead, you spend your words splitting hairs, saying there is no fixed ratio between the engine speed and the wheels. This isn't true of any car on the road, they all have multi-speed transmissions! Instead of backpedaling and trying to explain why your words weren't lies (hairsplits aside, IMHO, they were anyway), emphasize your message.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I glad to see that most here do not see the Volt as the devil like I saw on another web site.
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