During a live webchat the other day, Jon Lauckner, General Motors VP for Global Program Management, said that pricing for the Chevrolet Volt would not be finalized until mid to late 2010. Although cars are generally developed to a target price point, Lauckner responded to a pricing query saying, "We typically do not lock in on pricing until about 3-6 months prior to start of production. The reason is primarily so we have an opportunity to take a look at the market, competitors and other factors. So stay tuned."
As for alternative versions of the Voltec, such as a lower cost non-plug-in version, Lauckner ruled that out as defeating the whole point of the Volt. Without the benefits of running on grid power, the Volt's architecture would likely be less efficient than a current parallel hybrid because of the losses in constantly going from mechanical to electrical and back to mechanical energy.
What does seem likely to eventually change is the configuration of the range extender. Lauckner ruled out the possibility of using a Wankel rotary – an engine design that offers high power density compared to a piston engine but isn't very fuel efficient. One alternative that was highlighted as an alternative that does have promise for increased efficiency was HCCI. In any case, none of these alternatives are likely to appear before the second-gen Volt at the earliest. The first-gen Volt will be e85 capable at launch just as announced when the original concept appeared. More after the jump.
[Source: General Motors]
Lauckner declined to give a specific timeline for the debut of the Gen II Volt. However, GM engineers are already working on the followup model and as the cost of major components like the battery, power electronics and motor are reduced, GM will be integrating them as quickly as possible.
In response to a question about charging at 220V, Lauckner confirmed that the Volt's charging system and cable will be UL approved and ready to go at launch, unlike another recent EV that hit the streets.
Since the Volt is not totally dependent on the plug for propulsion, GM has no plans to support fast battery swapping for the Volt. Just filling the gas tank will keep it going indefinitely. As for the life of that battery, Lauckner says it will be warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles. GM will guarantee the original performance of the Volt pack for that amount of time – in other words it will still have a nominal 40-mile range after 150,000 miles. If it doesn't live up to that spec, the pack will be replaced free of charge.
Why doesn't GM just dump the range extender and use a larger battery for a pure EV? That question has been asked repeatedly since the debut of the Volt. Lauckner explained that the Volt is intended to operate in all climate conditions throughout North America and he expressed concerns that pure EVs from other automakers will have range problems in hot climates like Arizona and cold climates like Michigan or Minnesota. While Lauckner did not address the cost issue, it seems likely at this point that a Volt with twice the amount of batteries would be even more expensive than the ER-EV version. You can read the entire transcript with all the questions here.
Interestingly, in an interview with GM-Volt.com, Chevrolet Brand Manager Ed Peper suggested the automaker may try selling new Volts on eBay. Speaking specifically of the electric vehicle, Peper said, "We actually have been thinking about that same application to be able to do that, it's something that's definitely crossed our mind... You could even have an auction on the vehicles. We use this already with certified used vehicles and its actually worked out very well. Dealers use it a lot."