Since we first told the story of the Chevy Volt concept here on AutoblogGreen, you, the readers have submitted a lot of comments about both the car and GM's intentions in the EV area. While most people have been very positive about the car that was shown, there has been plenty of healthy skepticism about whether it will ever come to fruition. A lot of people who read this site have seen the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? and remain upset at the demise of the EV1 and will probably never trust General Motors again. All I can say is, from the discussions I've had with GM people in the past month, there is a level of enthusiasm that I have never seen before, including during the EV1 development days, and my personal history with GM goes back more than twenty years. Ultimately, only time will tell the fate of E-Flex and the Volt.
This morning I had a chat with GM spokesman Rob Peterson about some of the some of the questions raised by the Volt. Over the coming months GM will be holding a series of events to help people understand the technology behind electric vehicles, where it stands today and where it's going. We'll have a big battery story for you here in mid-February, so I'm going to take a pass on those questions for today. Other topics, though, are wide open and responses to your questions about nomenclature, braking, aerodynamic and more are after the jump.
For now though, one of the most common threads in the comments revolves around the nomenclature. From the beginning GM referred to the Volt as an electric vehicle rather than a series hybrid. The rationale there was that the range of the E-Flex platform was such that seventy-five percent of users would be able to only ever run the car on battery power without running the engine. The actual mechanization of the system is pretty much the same as the HySeries Drive system that Ford has shown in the AirStream concept and the HySeries Edge that debuted at the DC Auto Show last week. The packaging is totally different, but the end result is largely the same. So let's set aside the semantic arguments, call it whatever you want and move on. The name doesn't matter, the functionality is what counts.
As for functionality, the Volt that was shown in Detroit is a concept car. It can move under it's own power enough to move around on an auto show floor. Beyond that, it's mostly intended as a showcase for the new propulsion system and packaging. GM is working on fully functional prototypes that will hit the road this year. Aside from the battery pack, most of the other major components have already been used on the other vehicles. The motor is directly from the fuel cell Equinox that's being prepared for fleet testing right now. The engine comes from existing European market vehicles, and suspension components are from the Delta platform cars like the Astra and Cobalt.
The Volt that exists today doesn't have any regenerative braking system installed although it would seem inevitable that any production variant would definitely want to recapture kinetic energy from deceleration to charge the battery. The fuel cell Equinox does have regenerative braking and a similar system is destined for the prototypes. The primary propulsion comes only from the battery to the motor and the engine/generator only charges the battery under normal conditions. However, in the event of a battery failure, the generator can route juice to the motor in a limp home mode so that you don't get stranded.
Finally on the subject of aerodynamics, the Volt clearly doesn't have the tear drop shape of the EV1 or the Honda Insight. On the other hand, it's not a barn door either. When the orders came down to create the Volt last year, the intent was to create a car that generated excitement about where GM was headed. Obviously it's pretty aerodynamically clean, but Bob Lutz gave Design head Bob Boniface the directive to create a car that demonstrated that a visually exciting car could be created on an advanced highly efficient, environmentally friendly platform. Actual drag numbers aren't available right now, but it obviously isn't in the same league as the EV1. However, a production version will definitely get it's share of wind tunnel time as well as optimization of mechanical drag.