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GM Introduces E-Flex Electric Vehicle System; Chevrolet Volt the First Application

Volt1
Powertrain of the Chevy Volt E-Flex Concept. Click to enlarge.

GM has introduced a new family of electric vehicle propulsion systems—the E-Flex Systems—and is showing the first concept application of E-Flex at the North American International Auto Show: the Chevrolet Volt, a 40-mile all-electric range (AER) plug-in hybrid.

E-Flex initially uses a plug-in capable, battery-dominant series hybrid architecture. The E-Flex vehicles are all electrically-driven, feature common drivetrain components, and will be able to create electricity on board (either through a genset or a fuel cell). Regenerative braking will also contribute to the on-board electricity generation. (“E” stands for electric drive and “Flex” for the different sources of electricity.)

We are focused on reducing our dependence on petroleum—today we are 98% dependent [and] we don’t think that is a good business strategy at all.

—Beth Lowery, GM VP Energy and Environment

There has been some speculation in the press that perhaps this is a publicity stunt on our part. This is not a publicity stunt, nor is it a science fair project. This is something that we have been working on for close to a year.

—Jon Lauckner, GM VP Global Program Management

GM is developing the E-Flex System in parallel to its mechanical hybrid efforts—including the development of the Saturn VUE Green Line two-mode plug-in hybrid (earlier post), for which GM just awarded lithium-ion battery contracts (earlier post)—as well as its ongoing fuel-cell vehicle development efforts.

In its evolving taxonomy of offerings, GM refers to its existing portfolio of hybrids as “mechanical hybrids”—i.e., the engine provides mechanical drive power in addition to the electric drive power.

There is tremendous synergy between the fuel cell vehicle program and the E-Flex program—Nick Zielinski is the chief engineer for the fuel cell program and the Volt Concept, as one example.

Furthermore, GM leveraged its experience with the EV1 in the design of both the E-Flex System and the Volt. The use of the range extender in the Volt design, for example, originated with feedback from EV1 customers about not wanting to have to plan their lives around the next charge, according to Tony Posawatz, GM Vehicle Line Director.

GM envisions a range of genset options for the E-Flex vehicles, including engines optimized to run on E85 or E100 and biodiesel.

Volt
The Chevrolet Volt.

The Chevrolet Volt. GM chose its Global Compact vehicle architecture (Cobalt-sized) for its first E-Flex application, the Chevrolet Volt.

The Volt uses the same electric motor as used in the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle in its electric powertrain: a 120 kW peak machine that develops 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque.

The Volt will use a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers 136 kW of peak power. Plug-in charging is designed for the home (110V, 15 amps) and will take between 6 to 6.5 hours.

The Volt can support all-electric mode from 0 to its top speed of 100 mph (with bursts to 120 mph). Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes 8 to 8.5 seconds. The basic operating strategy is to run the vehicle in all-electric mode until the state-of-charge (SOC) of the battery reaches 30%—that strategy delivers approximately a 40-mile range.

The 53 kW motor generator set (genset) allows the on-the-fly recharging of the battery. The genset in the current Volt concept uses a 1-liter, 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine.

You can drive at a continuous 70 mph, and the generator will not be on continuously. At 100 mph,the genset can maintain the charge in the battery and the speed of the vehicle. There are no compromises for the customers in the vehicle.

—Nick Zielinski, chief engineer

The Volt concept configuration features a 12-gallon fuel capacity, giving the vehicle a total driving range of around 640 miles—which works out to a nominal gasoline fuel efficiency of about 50 miles per gallon. (Presumably range would increase with a diesel variant.)

The less one drives before plugging in to recharge, however, the higher the experienced fuel efficiency. A daily drive of 60 miles, combined with a nightly recharge to support the first 40 all-electric miles, would yield an effective 150 mpg according to GM’s calculations, for example.

For comparable performance with a fuel-cell version of the Volt, GM anticipates needing 4 kg of hydrogen on-board.

The Volt also features a number of advanced materials from GE Automotive Plastics, including:

  • Roof, rear deck lid and fixed side glazing made with Lexan GLX resins and Exatec coating technology;

  • Doors and hood made with Xenoy iQ high performance thermoplastic composites (HPPC). Xenoy iQ resins are created with polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)-based polymers derived from 85% post-consumer plastic waste, consuming less energy and yielding less carbon dioxide (CO2) in their manufacturing than traditional resins.

  • Global energy absorber and hybrid rear energy absorbers with Xenoy iQ resins;

  • Steering wheel and instrument panel with integrated airbag chute made with Lexan EXL resins;

  • Front fenders made with Noryl GTX resins; and

  • Wire coating made with Flexible Noryl resins.

The use of the materials delivers part weight reductions of up to 50%.

Actual production of the vehicle is dependent on further battery development, and GM made no announcements about partners involved in the development of the battery pack for the Volt. The profile for the battery in the Volt is different than that of the pack being developed for the VUE plug-in.

GM would like to minimize the different battery packs within the E-Flex family of vehicles. One notable exception to this would in a fuel-cell configuration. In that case, the battery would be smaller, and more focused as power battery first and energy battery second (due to the ability of the fuel cell to produce the electricity on-board.)

However, GM is also clear that it wants to use common systems and controls wherever possible across applications. To that end, elements such as the charging systems will likely be common across mechanical-hybrid plug-ins and E-Flex plug-ins.

    Comments

    SJC

    Here is an electric assisted Equinox done for the Challenge X program, where several University teams designed.

    http://www.team-fate.net/design.htm

    Combine that with the fuel cell Equinox, where GM is testing 100 units and you can see that GM is in the game.

    Brent

    It seems to me that this motor/battery combination will allow for efficient capturing almost all the braking energy without the need for any ultracaps. Any thoughts on this? One of the few drawbacks with the Prius is mountain driving. All the juice is gone in the first mile up the hill and it gets totally filled up on the first mile or two on the way down so the rest of the energy is wasted. This vehicle would be perfect for the thousands of commuters who live 10 or 20 miles up in the Colorado Rockies who commute down to the plains. They wouldn’t even need to plug it in at night as they would get a full charge every morning on the way down to work for their return trip in the evening.

    gr

    So many curmudgeons here for GM! It's great news - get real, doomers. Freddy, GM's announce makes clear they have not decided on what batteries to use. There's a good chance they'll buy into Altair which has actually delivered product to Phoenix.

    Look, this car can be built today and sell for $25k. With GM financing and some fed tax credits for near zero emissions - the out of pocket to buy one could be the same as a Corolla. I for one applaud GM for fast response to what is becoming a very competitive market in transport.

    If all you gloomers who think this is vaporware would stop by your local GM dealer and ask if you can place an order on a Volt - watch how fast it'll show up in the show room! Good story.

    James White

    I agree with the marketing comments made by Adam above, but I disagree with the need to have more than a 40 mile all-electric range in a series hybrid. Anything more than 40 miles means paying a lot more for extra batteries that the vehicle has to lug around doing nothing 90% of the time.


    I also take exception to Shaun Mann's comment that two drive trains are too expensive and unproven. Most locomotives in use today use an electric generator to drive an electric motor. Thomas Edison developed the first experimental electrical locomotive in 1880.

    hampden wireless

    If GM made this car for 2009 they would need to charge about $30k to $40k to make money. Now car companies do sell some cars at or even below cost such as the Honda Insight or the first generation Prius.

    This car would be perfect for me. Perfect size, Perfect range for my 30 mile commute. I would be in line to buy at under $35000

    See also :
    http://news.windingroad.com/alternative-fuel/chevrolet-to-unveil-volt-concept-on-sunday/

    Majeasy

    James White,
    "Most locomotives in use today use an electric generator to drive an electric motor."

    perhaps it should read:
    Most locomotives in use today use a diesel generator to drive an electric motor.

    hampden wireless

    See also:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/automobiles/07VOLT.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

    SJC

    The uphill test is the big one. Imagine climbing from sea level to 5000 feet in an hour on an interstate highway. After a while the car starts performing like a 40hp VW Beetle. If people can handle that, then this car is for them.

    Majeasy

    SJC,
    i've never climbed from sea level to 5000 feet in an hour.
    do you do that often?

    hampden wireless

    I have climbed those hills, and seen VW vans with rolling up them too, at 55mph. So they are at full throttle and cannot go faster... I climb hills like that on average once a year. On those same hills some semi's are going 40mph or less.

    On the way down your battery will be fully recharged!

    Abraham

    PERFECT!! This is exactly what we need. 40mi electric range. Here are some options that they should add.

    A switch that lets the user disable the engine, say you are 10mi from home and the batts go to 30%, you could overide the system and go all the way home.

    Let the user decide on the battery range. Buy it with a 20mi range and upgrade later. Why not!

    So many posibilities. I love it.

    JamesEE

    Just drive from Sacramento, CA to Reno on Interstate 80. You go from 400 ft at Roseville to 7800 ft at Donner Summit in about an hour (at 70 MPH). There are many 5000 ft climbs in the western states, many much faster than one hour.

    Adam Galas

    I aaplaud GM for this concept. However, as many have mentioned it is only a concept.

    The Plug in Prius is coming within 2 years and may also have a 40 mile range.

    Perhaps that is why GM is has created this concept, but until they announce a production date they will remain behind the curve.

    eric

    I have a VW Jetta diesel, and it can scamper up hills without a problem. Perhaps you are thinking of the much older bugs from the 1960's with the small 40 hp engines.

    mds

    I used to be a GM loyalist. Now I own a Prius. If GM can get this to the market I'll buy one. If they can't then I'll take my business elsewhere, again. It's impressive that they've fast tracked this to a concept demonstration, but we've seen plenty of "concept cars" from GM. Production is what counts. EV1 leasers were willing to pay more. Tesla sold out the first 100 all-electric roadsters in three weeks and they're not cheap. There are some very busy companies selling $10k PHEV modifications to the Prius. The premium price market may not be huge, but there is one.
    GM START LIMITED PRODUCTION NOW!!!

    Andrey
    I disagree. Series Hybrid will be the long-term winning design, unless we go to straight EVs (same thing without the generator). Simpler, cheaper mechanics and all-electric at freeway performance provides greater fuel savings. Series Hybrid technology is here now. See comments by Adam.

    James White
    I agree they should sell a lower cost option with 10 or 20 mile all-electric range. I like the 40 mile range for myself and would really like to see 60.

    Earl
    Please tell your sons: THANK YOU! I do not have sons in the armed services, but would also pay a premium for a car like this, more than a $10k premium. I'm not happy that our people are killing and dieing for oil when the technology is available to change this. 75% of the nation's driving is 40 miles per day or less. Close to 50% of USA oil use is for light trucks and cars. If every light truck and car had 40 mile all-electric range it would elliminate 3/8 of the nation's oil use. This is a step in the right direction, if they produce it. I would gladly pay more to get us going in this direction.

    GM - NICE CONCEPT!!! PLEASE FAST-TRACK TO MARKET!!!

    SJC

    James,

    That is the route I was thinking of. You do not do it everyday, but when you do in a car like this, be prepared to slow down.
    I have liked the concept of a series hybrid with a 1L turbo for quite some time. It has its limitations, but I could live with them. I am just wondering if the buying public at large could as well.

    TheGiant

    Adam Galas:
    "The Plug in Prius is coming within 2 years and may also have a 40 mile range."

    Where is this claim substantiated?

    DS

    50 MPG from a series hybrid! Oh wow, I'm sure Toyota engineers are shaking in their lab-coats. This the classic Vaporware gambit: distract the public from the glaring fact that they have nothing to sell right NOW.

    Lou Grinzo

    I have never been a GM fan, in any way, shape, or form. But I think they've hit this one dead solid perfect. (And yes, I'm quite aware that this is "just" a concept car.)

    Series hybrids are a perfect path forward, and the 40 mile/charge battery range is enough to make many people happy. A lot of people, especially in a household with more than one car, would be able to buy one of these and almost never fire up the ICE.

    The also begins to reshape the competitive landscape. Ford, Chrysler, and even Honda and Toyota are being dragged out of their comfort zones. I've speculated on my own site many times about how desperate car companies would have to get before they take a leap and embrace highly disruptive technologies. It looks like GM read the handwriting on the wall, certainly before Ford did, resulting in the Volt (which REALLY needs a new name).


    jim

    This is great news. This design can actually reduce the number of parts (transmission, power brake, power steering accessories) as driving by wire is possible. If they use standards parts, they can build this cheaply except for the batteries.

    I am commuting 36 miles each day. Given a car like this, I may never need a single drop of gas. I can't wait to buy the car. I hope it will hit production in the shortest possible time.

    Majeasy

    thanks to everyone that has contributed to this thread.

    one of my favorite comments suggests that we all go to our GM dealership and ask when or if we can place an order for a volt now.

    Ron Fischer

    Couple points:

    - GM, we knew you had it in you. But will you deliver?

    - Tesla now has 250 orders in hand for the Roadster, 150 more than their original goal.

    - Serial hybrids only suffer efficiency at highway cruise. Perhaps there should be a Volt delivery van variant?

    - EV-1 Gen II NiMH had 21 kw/h battery storage & 120 mile range vs 16 kw/h and 40 miles for volt. Not a fair comparison, but it shows how the engineering balance is being played.

    - Note GM dissing parallel/serial hybrids like Prius as "mechanical hybrids." Agitprop begins here...

    The true advantages of real serial hybrid are cost and (as pointed out before on GCC) that engine can be efficiency optimized without any concern for throttle response, startup time, partial-load behavior, etc. Miller-cycle is only the start. This puts HCCI within reach.

    SJC

    If you want to see another picture of the car and some business writeup, NBC has some.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16503845/

    storky

    As many have suggested, I have placed "orders" for several EV's in the past with similar results. In 1998 I was placed on the "waiting list" for the Saturn EV1. Unfortunately, the EV1 was only leased to those who fulfilled the narrow criterion of living in California or Arizona and having the EV! serve ONLY as a secondary vehicle. Living in Chicago made me wholly unqualified for the initial program and the subsequent program of expanding availability nationwide never materilaized. Such was the case in also 1999 with regard to the Honda EV-Plus. Though I was permitted to apply for a place on the waiting list for Toyota's RAV4-EV, a year later they informed me the that the program was discontinued.

    Demand for EV's has always been there. In the past decade, it has been the manufacturers who fail to meet consumer demand, NOT the consumer's lack of interest in available electric vehicles.

    Adam Galas

    http://greencar.us/2006/04/10/next-gen-94mpg-toyota-prius-by-2008/

    here is the article about the next gen prius, with plug in option and kick ass mileage.

    Good to see competition giving consumers great options.

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