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GM Formally Unveils the Production Version of the Volt

The production version of the Volt. Click to enlarge.

General Motors marked its centenary today by unveiling the much-anticipated production version of the Chevrolet Volt extended range electric vehicle. The design of the Chevrolet Volt production car has changed from the original concept that was unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Earlier post.)

Because aerodynamics plays a key role in maximizing driving range, GM designers created a more aerodynamically efficient design for the production vehicle than was represented by the concept. While design cues from the concept vehicle remain in the production Volt, the Volt’s rounded and flush front fascia, tapered corners and grille are functional, enabling air to move easily around the car. In the rear, sharp edges and a carefully designed spoiler allow the air to flow off and away quickly. An aggressive rake on the windshield and back glass help reduce turbulence and drag.

The 2007 Volt concept. Click to enlarge.
The Volt uses electricity to move the wheels at all times and speeds. For trips up to 40 miles (under the EPA city cycle), the Volt is powered only by electricity stored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. GM uses half of the capacity (8 kWh) in its operating strategy for the Volt. When the battery’s energy is depleted, a 1.4-liter, naturally aspirated gasoline/E85-powered engine range extender kicks in.

The Chevrolet Volt can be plugged either into a standard household 120v outlet or use 240v for charging. The vehicle’s intelligent charging technology enables the Volt’s battery to be charged in less than three hours on a 240v outlet or about eight hours on a 120v outlet. Charge times are reduced if the battery has not been fully depleted. GM estimates the cost of a daily 8 kWh recharge to be about $0.80 (10 cents per kWh).

Layout of the Volt powertrain. Click to enlarge.

The Volt’s electric drive unit delivers the equivalent of 150 hp (111 kW), with 370 Nm (273 lb-ft) of instant torque, and a top speed of 100 miles per hour.

GM estimates that the Volt will cost about two cents per mile to drive while under battery power compared to 12 cents per mile using gasoline priced at $3.60 per gallon. For an average driver who drives 40 miles per day (or 15,000 miles per year), this amounts to a cost savings of $1,500 annually. Using peak electric rates, GM estimates that an electrically driven mile in a Chevy Volt will be about one-sixth of the cost of a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle. The cost savings are even greater when charging during off-peak hours, when electric rates are cheaper.

The Chevrolet Volt is expected to be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing facility, subject to GM successfully negotiating satisfactory government incentives. Production is scheduled to begin late 2010 for models in the United States. Pricing has not been announced.



Ben, I think you mean Altair has the big batts.


The Volt is such a cool car. I'm never gonna buy a new car, but when i see these cars on the streets I'm gonna be jealous of the owners.

Interesting excerpt I found on Seattle Times' website:
"The Volt, he said, will know a person's normal route home.

If the driver veers from it, the car will calculate whether it needs to start the gasoline engine and how long the engine needs to run."

GPS, logging, and some type of internal maps to calculate distances? I wonder if this is intelligent enough to get a sum of your routes and determine if you are on route: Grocery store vs route: Commute vs route: Pick up the kids from school [where the computer would only know route 1, 2, or 3]. If it has communications capability it could be the start of GM's "V2V" comm system for vehicular networking to communicate traffic conditions through vehicle nodes making a mass communication system possible. Good way to check on the last portion is investigate any GM applications on the FCC website in the upcoming year or two.

Franklin E. Fraitus

I noticed that there was little mention of the various powerplants the volt can use. Obviously, the small engine for the first generation version has limitations. But replace it with a single speed diesel and the fuel efficiency numbers change radically. Replace that with a fuel cell and the car now becomes ultra efficient.


E-Flex is designed to accept a number of fueling options. The FC was announced earlier this year. I would think that second gen Volts will offer diesel and flex fuel options. Perhaps even a CNG version. Early adopters will be happy with gasoline only - especially if they stay under the 40 mi AER. Later models should accept E85 as GM has been investing in cellulosic technology.

Again for many people who have fixed routes - under 40m AER means ZERO fossil fuel use.

On the computer calc - I suspect that it looks at SOC and distance to "destination." Whether it does this in advance or simply when the SOC approaches charge threshold makes little difference. What would be nice is a navigation guide to the nearest public charge point and current charge rates. This would give the driver an option to use less liquid fuel and extend the AER.


"...the car will calculate whether it needs to start the gasoline engine and how long the engine needs to run."

It makes sense to tell the on board computer your intentions. Is it a short trip or a long trip? Does the route include lots of stops or highway driving? Are their hills involved, how many passengers and how much luggage? These all help to contour the usage profile.


Anyone who thinks lithium batteries are going to save us from dependance on oil should read: ^ "The Trouble With Lithium 2". Meridian International Research (May 28, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-07-07. Available online in the footnotes of the Wikipedia article on Lithium. There is a global shortage of lithium that is growing and clearly not enough of the metal available in the world to supply even 10% of the auto industry. If computer manufactures can't get enough lithium to supply the lap top industry how are they going to find enough for the Volt? This car may be dead before it starts. Don't you think GM knows this?


Henry - long post, many errors. A few:

1. Honda generator and 10 hp single piston engines do not make practical range extenders. You need 50 kW for long freeway grades. That's why Prius and Volt ICEs are 50-60 kW. Anything less is a cripple car - you can only sell a few to lunatic fringies.

2. Hydraulic plug-in hybrid is a silly idea. Energy density is woefully inadequate. High power density and cheap cost offer hope for non-plug hybrids. If bugs can be worked out hydraulic hybrids will first appear on large vehicles such as garbage trucks, not cars.

3. Lead-acid has low upfront cost but need replacement every 18-24 months under PHEV duty cycle. Lifetime cost is actually higher than lithium or NiMH. Hopefully Firefly and others can change this.

4. Zebra battery must stay at 300 deg C 24/7. OK for vehicles in constant use such as city buses but not for normal cars which sit parked 23 hours/day (note: Th!nk's Zebra option is for high usage fleets, they offer two lithium options for individuals). Also, energy density is no better than NIMH so Zebra EV1 range would be 100 miles, not 300. And power density is too low for a PHEV.

5. The Volt will use 150 hp, e.g. during freeway merges. Cutting the electric drivetrain down to 75 hp saves a few hundred bucks but creates a cripple car. EV range would also suffer due to less effective regenerative braking, so it's a false economy.

6. EV1 and oil company conspiracy ravings: Yes, GM screwed up by crushing EV1s. People make mistakes. Let it go.


Creativforce, Meridian's second "Trouble with Lithium" report covers more ground than the first but still misses the point. 100 years ago no one thought oil could ever support a billion cars. The high quality resource was limited and low quality resource could never be cost-effective. Of course as demand grew we found ways to tap the lower quality resource. The same will happen with lithium. Of course it'll take many years for EV/PHEV batteries to even make a dent in the lithium market, by then we may have moved on to better battery chemistries.


Let's keep in mind that unlike hydrocarbons, lithium is fully recyclable - old spend batteries make new ones. Granted the following is from 2000 - but the fundamentals are sound.

"…U.S. government does not stockpile lithium, although the U.S. Department of Energy did have a stock of lithium hydroxide monohydrate. U.S. consumption in 1999 was estimated to be about 2,800 T of contained lithium (USGS 2000). This quantity is equivalent to that required for about 290,000 EVs with Li-ion batteries annually, or about 6 million HEVs. Therefore, significant market penetration by EVs with Li-ion batteries would perturb the market and require expansion of imports or U.S. production. Total world production in 1999 was about 15,000 T of contained lithium (63% in carbonates), and world reserves exceed 12 million T (USGS 2000). Therefore, long-term supply should not be a major concern.”

Using the numbers provided in this report one finds that an average sized EV with a 35kWh battery would require approximately 0.423 kg of lithium total. That would translate to 0.01208 kg/kWh or about 12.1g of lithium per kWh. There should be enough lithium to build about 1.25 Billion EVs or about 25.7 Billion HEVs. "
Argonne National Lab Transportation Technology R&D Center


NRG, I don't follow your lithium calculation. They say 2,800 T is enough for 290,000 EVs, or about 10 kg of metallic lithium per EV.


Right. The report calls it "contained lithium." At a volume of 0.423kg/EV we should see 6,004,444.0 EVs @35kWh, and probably 12-15M HEVs with 16kWh batteries like the Volt.


I still don't follow. The 6 million HEVs aren't like the Volt but 1 kWh batteries like a next-gen Prius. Your 0.423 kg is thus for 1 kWh which comes to 6+ kg for 16 kWh Volt EREV battery and 10-15 kg for a 25-35 kWh EV battery.


Um, is the statement from Argonne not clear?

"Using the numbers provided in this report one finds that an average sized EV with a 35kWh battery would require approximately 0.423 kg of lithium total."

joe padula

I had an EV-1 for a short time since I could not buy one. Lutz is Still saying they could not sell them! They never sold them, not one.
It had the Panasonic batteries. I rented it after they started crushing them, so I knew it was not long for this world. It was great!
I drove a RAV-4 EV with NiMH batteries at work. It was a better car being designed much later even though it was steel and just a conversion of a normal Rav. It was designed a long time after the Impact and they had the better NiMH batteries. They are still on the road not killing people.
Also GM sold the S-10 pickup truck EV with the Same propulsion system as the EV-1. They are come up on ebay every once in a while.
Why not crush them all too if they are so dangerous? So please stop repeating all the GM talking points on this site and save it for the civilians who do not know power from energy.

So despite my Conservative/ right credentials, I too am one of those EV Nuts. This is also the green car Congress not the defend the Three Stooges' mistakes site.
Perhaps it is my Italian heritage, we are loathe to send money ( to buy oil) to people trying to kill us (despite a initial lower capital cost).
Remember a BEV gets cleaner every day as the grid gets cleaner with no upgrade of the car. A BEV can be true ZEV when powered by a dam, windmill or solar PV/Thermal. No other car can. So please do not give me the elsewhere emission BS, I would rather have the engineers at PG&E watching the stack each second with CEM that your every two years Smog test.

I do not understand why so many of you are here. A few retired engineers trying to justify a career with few true advances in car design I can understand. Most of your real advances were forced on you. Seatbelts, airbags, cat converters.
I told Stemple in a meeting once I was ashamed of being an engineer because of the car companies.
SAE Member, ASME Member. Phoenix Motorcars stockholder.


NRG, the Argonne report you linked says 9+ kg of lithium for a 35 kWh EV battery. I can't find any Argonne statement saying 0.423 kg. I did find an erroneous comment to that effect (later corrected) by Wayne Brown in an EV World article comment section.


Our anal friends at Elsevier Education, French National Center for Scientific Research offer this paper in the absence of data on pure Li/cell/mod/pack:

"It is shown that economically recoverable Li world reserves are sufficient to meet the demands of current new passenger car world production and its anticipated growth in the next 50 years. Currently identified world reserves can power 2 billion cars with Li-ion batteries, that is four times the number of cars presently registered in the world."

World reserves estimated at 12M tons.


the volt needs 150 hp for freeway merges? how overweight is this pig? driving a 40 hp VW bug was always a thrill when getting on the freeway, but the 60 hp version had no trouble.


Whether the Volt "needs" 150 hp for freeway merges is a philosophical question, but the simple reality is mainstream buyers will not pay $35k+ for VW Bug-type acceleration.

I like how those who demand that the Volt fail and claim everything about it is configured absolutely wrong come up with the most outlandish specifications that would utterly guarantee failure. I see why none of you are CEO's of any auto manufacturer (or of any major manufacturer in any industry period).


So Joe, as an admittedly astute engineer why did GM refuse to sell the EV1?
Why did they crush them?
Why does Toyota not make more RAV-4 EVs?
Why does Toyota and Honda sell fewer hybrids then GM sells SUVs - today.
Why does toyota sell more Titans than Prius'?
What mistakes are the big three making? (please keep in mind that trucks sales are still 50% of the market – hybrids are 3% and dropping- today, and Toyota and Nissan are newly INTO big trucks).
Some stooges do not realize that Toyota and Honda have been making hybrids for ten years – 10 years- at a pace you can almost match in a 3 car garage. Why? Does GM secretly own the big 2? Did the EV1 smashing send them a message? Paranoia anyone?
Does it matter if the BEV gets cleaner every day until there are some being sold (much less than 3% is none).
Electric power for the automobile is agonizingly slow in coming and we all desperately wish it were not so, but believing it is being stopped by GM is akin to thinking kW and kWHr are the same thing, only worse.
So please don’t bore us with the evil GM BS.
I understand your shame.


And just think how many MORE Titans are sold by Nissan.

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