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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

    Rick Leeland

    Looks like the confusion of where the battery technology stands is due to too many concurrent progresses.

    Altair NanoTechnology, Toshiba, A123Systems, scientists at MIT and in France are all making exciting progress. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_ion_battery#New_technology )

    There are so many players kicking the goal right now. At least one of them will make the goal.

    As to Volt's production, I think GM is just playing it safe here -- it's just a few inches to the goal now, it doesn't hurt to make some noise, but wait until the battery in production (in about 6-12 month) is proven safe and sound before making final announcement for the production/release schedule of Volt.

    SJC

    If the pack now is 400 lbs. it might be NiMH, just because they can get them. The lithium ions would be more like 200 lbs. but have not been proven in high current draw applications. There is heat generated and cell degradation. Give it some time, they will get there.

    Rick Leeland

    A number of all (battery) electric vehicles (BEV) will be released to the market in the next few years.

    - Phoenix Motorcars - Feb 2007, fleet only (will sell 500 in 2007)
    ( http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/01/phoenix_motorca.html )
    - Nissan – 2010
    ( http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/12/nissan_announce.html )
    - Mitsubishi Motors – 2010
    ( http://www.greencarcongress.com/2005/05/mitsubishi_goes.html )

    Though the SUT/SUV from Phoenix Motorcars is for government fleet only, it is nevertheless a good measure of how the new generation of lithium-ion battery will perform.

    Here is a comparison between the Phoenix Motorcars SUT and the proposed spec of Chevrolet Volt:

    - Phoenix Motorcars sport utility truck (SUT):
    Battery: 35 kWh (Altarirnano, est $17500-$75000 depends on quantity)
    Battery Peak power: 100 KW
    Motor toque: 550 Nm (406 lb-ft)
    Top speed: 95 MPH
    Cruise Range: 130 miles
    Price: $45000 (after aid of ZEV credit from CA government)

    - Chevrolet Volt (spec):
    Battery: 16 kWh (A123Systems, est $5000-$8000 depends on quantity)
    Battery Peak power: 136 KW
    Motor Peak power: 121 kW (161 HP)
    Motor Torque: 320 Nm (236 lb-ft)
    Acceleration: 0 - 60 miles: 8-8.5 seconds
    Top speed: 120 MPH
    Cruise Range: 40 miles (plus the 600 miles range extension)
    Price: 30000 (est)

    wintermane

    The reason the volt is soo important is the battery pack while almost half he size of most others is ALOT less then half the cost. Most likely something in that cost reduction is involved in ita increased weight.

    As for the morot and gen set likely rhey are also cost vs weight related issues. Likely they have gone with cheapdurable items trading some extra weight for the ability to get the thing out much sooner if battery costs drop as expected.

    While other ev cars with ;o,yed range will still be dealing with 20k even 40k packs the ev will likely be down to the pint its only 2-3 k over the copst of a normal car simply because not only is the battery cheap and the genset too but because they got rid of the transmission and saved a ton doing so.

    Rick Leeland

    A corrected version of my previous post based on latest information.

    A number of all (battery) electric vehicles (BEV) will be released to the market in the next few years:

    o Feb 2007 - Phoenix Motorcars sports utility truck (SUT). Target: 500 in 2007, 6000 in 2008. Will be available to all consumers in 2008.
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/01/phoenix_motorca.html

    o End of 2007 - Phoenix Motorcars sports utility vehicle (SUV). Battery: 70 kWh. Cruising Range: 250 miles.

    o Summer 2007 - Tesla Roadster (two-seater).
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/07/tesla_reveals_h.html

    o 2009 - Tesla White Star (sedan). $50,000-$70,000

    o 2009 - Nissan
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/11/nissan_plans_to.html

    o 2010 - Mitsubishi Motors, MIEV/Lancer and/or Concept-CT.
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2005/08/mitsubishi_to_p.html

    o 2012(?) - GM Volt (series hybrid EV).

    The SUT released by Phoenix Motorcars will be a good measure of how the newest generation of lithium-ion battery will perform.

    Comparison among the Tesla Roadster, Phoenix Motorcars SUT and the proposed spec of Chevrolet Volt:

    - Tesla Roadster
    Battery: 56 kWh (Custom made)
    Battery Weight: 450 kg (992 lb)
    Motor Max Power: 185 kW (248 hp)
    Cruising Range: 250 miles
    Acceleration: 0-60 miles in 4 seconds.
    Top Speed: 130 miles
    Curb Weight: 1140kg (2513 lb)
    Price: $100,000

    - Phoenix Motorcars sport utility truck (SUT):
    Battery: 35 kWh (Altairnano, est $12000-$14000 based on latest information), 70kWh by 12/2007.
    Battery Peak Power: 100 kW
    Battery Power Density: 4,000 W/Kg
    Battery 85% charge retention @ 20,000 cycles
    Battery Calendar Life: very long
    Battery operates from -50C to +75C
    Battery Safety - will not explode and no thermal runaway.
    Motor Peak Power: 100kW
    Motor Torque: 550 Nm (406 lb-ft)
    Acceleration: 0-60 miles in less than 10 seconds.
    Top Speed: 95 MPH
    Cruising Range: 130 miles (260miles by 12/2007)
    Price: $45000 (after aid of ZEV credit from CA government that will be expired in 2010)

    - Chevrolet Volt (spec):
    Battery: 16 KWh, $5000 (the price estimated by GM for Volt to be feasible)
    Battery Peak Power: 136 kW
    Motor Peak Power: 121 kW (161 HP)
    Motor Torque: 320 Nm (236 lb-ft)
    Acceleration: 0 - 60 miles in 8-8.5 seconds
    Top Speed: 120 MPH
    Cruising Range: 40+600 miles (with the range extension)
    Price: $22000-$23000 ($17000-$18000 without battery as estimated by GM, plus $5000 battery)

    HHN

    I don't know if this subject has been covered here,Are all you Guys and Gals are willing to drive without Heat or AC ?

    sober

    What is all this talk about a second car?
    When Bernanke and Bush and his Cohorts get done with you,you won't have a second car.
    You will be lucky to have A car.

    Joe

    I would expect a heat-pump system with electrically operated compressor to provide heat and AC in the Volt--GM already developed this a few years back for the EV1.

    Overall I think GM is on the right track here and I would consider purchasing one. If nothing else, this announcement will perhaps nudge Toyota into developing a similar vehicle--also a good thing.

    Sam Mason

    Just remember.... General Motors and Chrysler were two auto companies that sued the state of California and pulled the Saturn EV-1 and crushed each one so people would forget about them.

    What the documentry.."Who killed the Electric Car?" What an inspirational story with such a horrible ending. It was the beginning of the end of dependency on Big OIL.

    Elliot Smith

    I'm really impressed with this vehicle and the knowledge I find in the thread. GM would be wise to be reading this. I find it hard to believe that GM would create something like this on the heels of the Hummer H2 boom, and the Escalade, and all those trucks, but maybe they are just really reactive to certain consumer segments. Maybe there's something more sinister going on between them and the oil companies.

    Regardless, someone at GM has a brain and is not afraid to be different and they were contracted to design this car. I always thought GM was antagonistic toward those characteristics, and I'll continue to feel as such unless this is released to purchase (not lease) and made a hit and the technology spreads to trucks and other vehicles that could use the battery power out in the country where there's no grid. If all they manage to do is give Toyota a kick in the pants and some new ideas that's fine, I have no problem with foreign cars. I just hope they spend the money to get their battery solution taken care of instead of whining about it and releasing 8 mpg huge trucks.

    I've always envisioned a series hybrid, I just didn't know what to call it. I'll call it mine if it gets built, just please make it efficient, stylish and fast. I'd like a series hybrid Solstice, or even a parallel hybrid Corvette (blasphemy, I know). Use the battery weight to get a good weight balance. That could really improve the pulling power and handling of pick ups if placed in or around or under the bed area. Maybe use more than one type of battery and make them upgradeable. I like the Volt, it needs some polish and some elbow grease, but it's a leap in the right direction and it makes me dream. Put Carrol Shelby on the body. Good job GM, just don't BS me or I'll never buy anything from you. I still remember the hydrogen/gasoline Dodge Charger they bragged about and never made back in like 99, and I'll never own a Dodge because of it. I will stop rambling though :)

    Hugh Jorgan

    <> from Shaun

    Shaun, save those nasty words for a different meal. Remember your experience with the Vega and how you, perhaps, felt like a guinea pig who paid for the privilege?

    Well, ponder a Volt rushed to market . . . then pull out your wallet and start grunting those pellets.

    lj

    This car will definitely happen.
    Check out the dedicated enthusiasts site:
    http://www.gm-volt.com

    Michael

    Anyone know how far the generator will recharge the battery before it turns off?

    Just thinking that if the battery is mostly recharged by the generator, then how do we get a benefit from plugging in to recharge?

    Morgan Chemis

    Frankly, I think the Volt and the energy savings it promises make for a revolutionary automobile. I have made a site dedicated to the volt here:

    Chevy Volt

    Sam

    Let's change the trade policies and make them in America. It is important for Americans to have good jobs too.

    Chevy Volt Fan

    The Volt is an amazing prospect and will be giving the Prius and Civic Hybrid a run for their money. I compiled some videos, audio clips, pictures and more, check them out online at http://www.chevy-volt.net

    Chevy Volt Fanatic

    The Chevy Volt E-Flex propulsion System represents a major shift in how American Auto manufacturers go to market. For once they are thinking long-term sustainability and seeing the virtues of a green way of life. Unfortunately, until they roll this technology out to serve the SUV market, Americans will still be paying a premium at the pump due to those who feel the need to drive an Excursion solo 40 miles to and from work. In order to make this technology thrive, there needs to be more options, less trade-offs and a greater level of consumer interest/adoption.

    Chevy Volt Pictures, news, videos, photos and more http://www.chevy-volt.net

    mike

    I have a 1978 Regal with 60,000 milrs and it is #3 off the line runs great and looks great I have photos if you like to see them or call 307-673-5122 or 307-461-0854 ask for mike

    Elliot

    Here's a video on the new volt:

    http://engineeringtv.com/blogs/etv/archive/2007/05/24/episode-41-the-chevy-volt.aspx

    world is getting polluted in a faster rate. desining a clean,silent cas is amut of the future.

    well done

    Michael

    I read news that this technology is available in some Chevrolet models RIGHT NOW!

    Free PS3

    Michael

    I read news that this technology is available in some Chevrolet models RIGHT NOW!

    Free PS3

    Craig Bolon

    A plug-in polluter
    September 27, 2007

    If this vehicle were driven 10,000 miles per year (about 40 miles per workday), powering it from the electrical grid instead of the gasoline pump would save about $200 per year in energy costs but emit about 925 pounds more carbon dioxide. The vehicle is estimated to cost about $5,000 to $10,000 more than a conventional gasoline powered vehicle, so the cost recovery time from using household electricity would be at least 25 years. See details at http://ergament.blogspot.com/2007/09/chevrolet-volt-plug-in-polluter.html

    Powering the Chevrolet Volt from the power grid is mainly burning coal instead of gasoline. The gasoline efficiency estimated for the vehicle is more than a match for the efficiency of electrical power generation, transmission and conversion. The energy cost difference comes mainly from not paying taxes on gasoline and instead burning largely untaxed coal. When powered from the electrical grid, the Chevrolet Volt becomes a small energy cost saver and a net polluter.

    Brian

    Michael,

    Are you paying .50/kwh because that's the only way your cost savings add up. As for net polluter, yes coal is dirty but it's here in this country! We get power from hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, biomass, coal, natural gas, landfills, you name it. If your worried about coal power plants fine work on shutting them down and adding more green power sources but in the meantime we have to get off such dependance on foreign oil. It's a matter of national security.

    Hydrogen and ethanol will never replace gas as our fuel of the future due to their own inefficiencies in production. Cars like the Chevy Volt are the way of the future. In 20 years and after peak oil has come and gone, cars like the Chevy Volt will be the common car. Let's hope GM can figure that out and be a leader.

    The comments to this entry are closed.