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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.



Hey, I'm new around here and can't help but read a lot of negativity about this announcement. Do people here not like the idea of PHEVs?


John, my BMW motorcycle get's 80 mpg, holds as many people as your Insight, is faster, and costs less.

You get the point. Apples to apples. It's nice to see that GM is building a mass-market car instead of a tiny 2 seater that the US market doesn't want.


I have read some of the posts here, and I am shaking my head, a lot of these people just don't get it. This isn't about saluting the proper green positions, it is about building a car that people will buy that can make a huge difference. I read:

'Only way GM will be #1 (as if!) is if they come out with an all electric vehicle with a range of 150 miles + with a top speed of 85 mph.'

If people drive 30-40 miles a day 90% of the time, why make them pay for a battery they will only use once a month? 150 mile range will be used rarely, but an EREV will work perfectly when you need that sort of range, as opposed to EV1, which forced you to pull to the side of the road or to plug in to a slow charging outlet, rather than use a built in ICE to keep you going.

'Now, ten years later, Chevy offers the Volt, price not disclosed, which gets 40 mpg.'

The Volt is a four seat sedan, not a two seater, and it will actually be sold, as opposed to the EV1 which was too expensive to actually find a reasonable amount of buyers, and was leased for that reason, and then the poster above actually expects us to believe that the Volt will get 40 mpg! ARGHHH! A 16 kWH battery, a 40 mile AER and they are talking about 40 mpg? The Volt won't use any gasoline at all for many drivers most of the time, so I can just as accurately say that the Volt will get 1000 mpg because it will take me where I want to go for a month, 1000 miles, and if I don't take a road trip, the ICE will only kick in on a very busy day.
The old Honda Insight was a failure, noone wanted to buy it. How many Insights were sold in the last few years? Exactly!
But I do believe that the new one will be more popular. There is plenty of room for EREV's, and Prius plug ins, and Insights in the next few years. Bring it on, show us cars that let us use domestic electricity instead of foreign oil. Let me plug my car in, and I will be happy to buy it.

joseph padula

The car looks fine. I knew it would not look like the concept car. I posted about that somewhere when it first came out...
The target market would not buy a car that ugly and I know no focus group of adults ever saw it. That car was in a back room somewhere when they dusted it off and pulled it out in a hurry. In the SAE magazine a few months ago they told how they had to tweak the design due to wind tunnel tests, right.
GM could not afford the license payments to the 15 year old boy who
the concept Volt during his detention. He was a Chrysler fan...

Henry Gibson

Even if this is a good car and even if it fulfills on all of its promises, it should not be either produced by GM or bought by any customers. GM could have had a thousand Plug-In-Hybrid cars running on the road for ten years now if it had not destroyed nearly all of them in crushers. An optimised Honda portable generator or more could have been installed in the boot (trunk) or elsewhere of an EV1.

Lead-acid battery technology is perfectly usable in a Plug-In-Hybrid as demonstrated by TZERO and CALCARS. No new battery chemistry is needed; It can be used but it is not needed.

It is likely that hydraulic hybrids are both less costly to build and more efficient. A simple cheap method of converting them to plug-in operation is left as an exercise to the reader.

There should be no government incentives or rebates given to either GM or the purchasers of this car because GM fraudulently destroyed both the EV1 and its technology that had been partially supported by taxpayers. You can better believe that GM used its real and self-induced losses of the EV1 development program to reduce its taxes. And it benefited directly and indirectly from various Federal research programs.

They could have accepted the bid of over a million dollars for the remaining cars and reduced their losses, but they did not want the public to know what crap their other products were in comparison. They could have sold all of the original remaining cars for $100,000 each with no waranty.

They could have had some Chinese manufacturer make a stripped down version of a Honda 5-horsepower portable inverter generator and made a car that went an average of 30 mph on city streets and brief 70 mph stretches on freeways for hundreds of miles or thousands with 10 gallon gas fillups every 400 miles or so.

It is not surprising that a car and truck maker and the oil companies do not want you to know that a single piston 10 HP engine connected with a battery can get you anywhere you need to go at legal speeds if tied to a large battery. An experimental larger EV1 was tested with a 40 KW turbine that could have been made to burn any fuel to charge the batteries when they got below 30% charge. It is not likely that they would want you to know that even only 40KW can power a hybrid vehicle at its fastest speeds most of the time.

The actual horse power needed on the average can be calculated almost directly from the advertised MPG if the assumed efficiency of the engine is about 20-25 percent. Engine efficiency is often much lower than that. But 50 miles per gallon in a Prius at an average speed of 70 miles per hour means that 1.4 gallons of gasoline are used in an hour. This is nearly 50 kilowatt-hours of gasoline energy every hour or 10 kilowatts at the wheels at 20% efficiency or about 13 average horsepower; most of which is lost in wind resistance. Large engines in SUVs are less efficient at low horsepower, and the higher wind resistance demands more horse power. Manufacturers should be required by law to post the energy consumption figures of their vehicles at various speeds.

The ZEBRA battery, now used in the TH!NK, was available when the EV1 was produced and had already been well tested in automobiles by then. If the same volume of ZEBRA batteries had been used, the EV1 could have gone over 300 miles on a single charge. That figure could frighten a lot of oil companies.

Batteries will always be too heavy or too expensive for long range electric cars. Most cars are not used for long range and not used often. Plug-In-Hybrids are a very good solution, but HIDDEN-HUMMERS (Tesla, Volt, TZERO) are not the answer to high fuel costs; the cars cost too much. How about a TATA nano VOLT. There is no chance that 150 horsepower will ever be delivered in the course of an average days driving. There will be high torque at start up but that is not horse power. The 150 horse power would drain the full 16 kwh of the battery in about ten minutes.

When it comes to horsepower, car manufacturers, large laser builders and manufacturers of ultra capacitors do not know the facts, do not want to know the facts and intend to mislead with high numbers. A locomotive builder would be sued for claiming similar horse power ratings. ..HG..


Henry, if the lead-acid batteries were capable of supporting a decent car, why haven't the Chinese or anyone else built one? They haven't built them because the cars that rely on them have short range, long recharge times and cost more than ICE cars.
'Fraudulently destroyed the EV!', that just sums it up. If you believe that a car that had a range that only worked 98% of the time, leaving the owner hoping for a charging point and plenty of time to use it, well maybe the two seater EV1 makes sense. It has the two seater capability of the Tesla, but was slower and had a shorter range. Plus, it was ugly and over priced.

David Isaacs

The development of Hybrids after the demise of the EV-1 was an effort to discourage the development of Battery Electric Vehicles. Hybrids with their 40 mile range continue to lag BEV with their 140 mpg equivalent. The EV-1 was a fine automobile. I drove it home from Torrance over thirty times when I was with GM with no problems whatsoever over 50 miles without recharging.

General Motors used many advanced technologies in developing the EV-1. These included:
• Aluminium frame
• Dent resistant side panels
• Anti-lock brakes & Traction control
• Heat pump (Heater/AC)
• Keyless entry and keyless ignition
• Special one-way thermal glass to allow for
better heat rejection
• Regenerative braking
• Very low drag coefficient
• Super light magnesium alloy wheels and
• Self-sealing & low rolling resistance tires
(developed by Michelin)
• Automated tire pressure loss warning system
• Time programmable HVAC (cabin heating or cooling) settings

Most of these technologies were included to improve the overall efficiency of the EV-1.

The first generation EV-1s used lead-acid batteries in 1996 (as model year 1997) and a second generation batch was with Delco improved lead acid batteries. A third improvement was with nickel metal hydride batteries in 1999. Some of the Gen 1 EV-Is were refurbished and upgraded to Panasonic lead-acid batteries.
The Gen 1 cars got 55 to 75 miles per charge with the Delco-manufactured lead-acid batteries, 75 to 100 miles with the Gen 2 Panasonic lead-acid batteries, and 75 to 150 miles per charge with Gen 2 Ovonic nickel-metal hydride batteries. Recharging took as much as eight hours for a full charge (although one could get an 80% charge in two to three hours). The battery pack consisted of 26 12-volt lead-acid batteries holding 67.4 MJ (18.7 kWh) of energy or 26 13.2-volt nickel-metal hydride batteries which held 95.1 MJ (26.4 kWh) of energy.

That was a beautifully and practically styled auto - badly marketed!


They should change the name to Re-Volting.


I am underwhelmed, but then I did expect GM to screw it up. The concept car looked great but not practical, so I expected some changes, but not copying a Civic.The $40k price will hold true, and dont count on $7k discount,any discount will be killed by dealer markup until sales slow down ( just like Prius, typical $5k dealer ripoff). They really backed off on the battery use excessively ( someone will make a bundle reprogramming it). The limp home engine is much larger than needed and should be multifuel, but it remains to be seen how they screwed up when it goes on. The idea is good, but typical GM bad execution. they should be able to sell 10,000 the first year but need wholesale changes if they expect it to sell the second year. Otherwise its just overpriced and low tech( I didnt see a weight, did they make it over 3400 lbs to cause the low range and mileage? it should have been 2600 lbs and go a minimum of 100 miles electric based on the components).


I think that the EV1 was a great first step, but I can remember seeing one at a charging station in the early 1990s and thinking how small it was. It needed to be small and light to get the range. The first Honda Insight was small and light and got great mileage. It showed what could be done and now they are trying to build something that millions of people want and are willing to buy.


@ HG,

Your repeated claims that Tesla roadster and Volt are HIDDEN-HUMMERS are baseless.
They are neither energy inefficient nor heavy/big vehicles.
Some of them may be expensive (Tesla), but it is a fact of life that many rich people want to spend money on expensive luxury cars (and other luxury goods).
It's much better that the rich finance the development of electric car technologies, than that they spend that money on gas guzzlers like Ferraris etc. It will just speed up car electrification, and bring battery (and e-motor) prices down sooner. At the same time Tesla and Volt have been getting a lot of media attention, which increases public awareness, and makes oil loby's sabotaging more difficult.

One thing that you may not be aware of is that high power electric motors (like in Tesla or in some other new models) are very energy efficient at low energy output (cruising or slow acceleration).
On the contrary almost all current high power ICEs in high performance cars are gas guzzlers in almost any driving mode.


@ 4real and ziv and others.
I wish you would not write such stuff critical of the EV1 and Insight. I had just about managed to block out the EV1 weirdoes.
We are not dealing with rational people. They are completely immune to logic when you question their belief that the EV1 and Insight were resounding successes; cars that everyone wanted and wants. They assume that big oil conspired with GM to kill the EV1 and I guess they also conspired with Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Suzuki, Kia, Fiat, VW, Saab, Volvo, etc, etc. I don't know how they rationalize the demise of the Insight. But they are not rational.

Dan Browne

The point is people, it's not solely about the cost of gas, it's about the ability to drive WITHOUT using gas.
Right now, as some of you are no doubt aware, there have been sporadic spot shortages here and there in the US (Dakota, Texas etc) due to supplies being tight and refineries being shut in.
In the event of any major disruptions lasting more than a couple of days, a volt will be perfect.

Dan Browne

Oh yeah, the old "Imported Arab Oil exchanged for imported Chinese Batteries".

So what?

Batteries can be MANUFACTURED. Oil can't.
Once it's gone it's gone.

The Empty Vessel

How many car companies reveal production versions of the their vehicles more than 2 years before their launch?? Whilst the car looks promising at the present time it's still essentially a spoiler trying to draw attention away from other manufactures with hybrids and plug ins already on the market.


"So, we exchange Arab oil for Chinese batteries"

A123 and Compact Power are both American companies.

The choice between these two suppliers will be made by GM later this year.


Fred, regarding your "copying a Civic" comment, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have not seen other pictures of the Volt, such as the following collection:

Other than the fact that both models have 4 wheels, there is actually very little that is similar.


@Henry Gibson:

Batteries will always be too heavy or too expensive for long range electric cars.

That reminds me of the 'vision' of a certain IT billionaire, when he proclaimed: "640k ought to be enough for anybody"


ToppaTom, you are probably right, it is better to let a sleeping dog lie.


These GM notices get consistent huge comment numbers...

Anne refers to 640k units of random access memory of course. All in all, old axe grinding aside, there is not much criticism here.

They've done a credible job of building the world's first mass market EREV, a plug-in electric car designed to appeal to 80% of the consumer base. This entry has forced nearly every other major manufacturer (Honda?)to set EV/PHEV plans in motion. Government is ready to help subsidize its adoption and battery/powertrain components are a new green jobs sector. Seems to us, after discounting GM haters, they have accomplished some of what green car congress set out to do - build an environmentally responsible vehicle. Good job.


Inquiring minds want to know. All the "EV1 weirdos" would shut up today. Hell, we would have shut up 10 years ago. If GM and Chevron had handled the EV1 like a normal failed experiment. Has there ever been another product in history that was vacuumed up so completely and hidden from public view? It's as weird as Roswell. I have no experience with the EV1. However, I have read the accounts of hundreds of owners who thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. There has been nothing but silence from the manufacturers. Corporate cover ups are weird. Cover ups usually point to embarassing or illegal activities. If the EV1 was so bad that it was embarassing to the manufacturer, why would hundreds of users be begging to have their cars back? Why did they crush the car instead of selling on the used car market? Surely it couldn't have been as bad for their reputation as the Vega!


Most of the conspiracy talk has been put to bed by the claim that GM owned the EV1 and leased it to customers. If they sold the vehicles regardless of waivers and disclaims - they were still exposed to liability. The first guy to get fried recharging his EV1 would have a thousand legal barracudas suing the pants off GM. So, they killed the sucker and made a better one - Volt.


Several hundred RAV4 EVs (sold in CA at the same time as the EV1) used the same NIMH battery technology, and they are still on the road. No one has fried to crisp yet or sued Toyota. Owners rave about them (from the posts I have read-I don't know.). Toyota had to stop production because Cobasys (Chevron owns controlling interest) wouldn't let them have any more batteries. So Toyota found a work around--the Prius. The success of the Prius is changing the world. But it would be a less expensive car with a Cobasys NIMH battery. Follow the money! The Japanese understand that electric cars can ruin their margins and kill their dealership service departments, but they are oil consumers, not exporters. Although the US is not an oil exporter the companies that import it control our government (Remember that little disturbance known as the War in Iraq.)


RAV4 EVs are loved by their owners and so are the are the EV Ranger pickups that Ford made. The ZEV program got them to give it a try and people are saying that these have uses. However, paying more for a vehicle with less utility is an uphill climb. A range of 40-140 miles and 8-10 hour charging a few places still provides less utility than 300-400 mile range and 5 minute fill ups almost everywhere for lower initial cost.


The problem with long range EVs can be solved once rapid charging can be implementing, this means a charging station that can put out 50-150kW and batteries that can handle be charged up in 10 minutes or less (A123 already has such batteries).

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