GM Ventures invests in Telogis
SoftBank leading $210M investment in Indian transportation aggregator

GM Warren Transmission Plant to build electric drive unit for second-gen Volt; part of $300M investment in Michigan through end of year

Later today at the Detroit Economic Club, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will confirm that its Warren Transmission Plant will build the new electric drive unit—the GM Voltec 4ET50 Multi-Mode EDU—for the upcoming second-generation Chevrolet Volt. As a result, most major Volt powertrain components—from the battery cells to the new 1.5-liter range-extending engine—will be made in Michigan, establishing the state as the company’s global engineering center of excellence for vehicle electrification. The new Volt will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2015.

The drive unit for the first-generation Volt consists of two motors—a 111 kW main traction and 63 kW (at 4800 rpm) generator motor (55 kW generator output)—as well as three clutches and a planetary gear set tucked in the end of the traction motor that improve overall efficiency by reducing the combined rotational speed of the electric motors as needed. (Earlier post.) GM will subsequently be providing details of the second-generation drive unit.

Barra will also announce capital investments of nearly $300 million in Michigan between now and the end of the year. The Detroit News reported that Warren Transmission will receive $240 million of that. GM has invested approximately $1.82 billion in capital in projects dedicated specifically to vehicle electrification since 2009, including:

  • GM’s Brownstown Township facility is the country’s first high-volume lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing site operated by a major automaker.

  • The Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR are assembled at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

  • GM’s Flint Engine Operations will build the 1.5-liter, four-cylinder range extender for the Volt. The unit is part of an all-new engine family.

  • Warren Transmission will build the GM Voltec 4ET50 Multi-Mode Electric Drive Unit, which allows the Volt to drive in pure electric or extended range electric mode.

Battery cells for the Volt and ELR are produced by LG Chem in Holland, Mich., and the Volt’s vehicle’s electric motors will also be made in the United States. LG Chem will be supplying cells for the second-generation Volt as well.

Within the first year of production, about 70% of the Volt’s parts will be made in the United States or Canada, which GM believes is the most for a plug-in or conventional hybrid.

We must provide the breakthrough technology that our customers want. Our investments in the Chevy Volt and Michigan signify our commitment to lead the industry in technology and innovation.

—Mary Barra

GM has sold 69,092 units of the Volt in the US since launch in late 2010. After a relatively fast ramp-up to 23,461 units in 2012 followed by a slight drop to 23,094 units in 2013, Volt sales have slumped for the first nine months of this year relative to 2013 performance. (By contrast, sales of the Nissan LEAF for the first nine months of this year are outperforming its 2013 results over the same period.)

Top: Annual sales of the Volt and LEAF from their launches in 2010 through the first nine months of 2014. The last pair of bars shows the performance of the first nine months of 2013 as a comparison for current YTD results.

Bottom left: Monthly sales of Volt, 2013 and 2014. Green bars show 2013 results, black line shows 2014. Bottom right: Monthly sales Nissan LEAF, 2013 and 2014. Green bars show 2013 results, black line shows 2014. Data: GM, Nissan sales reports. Click to enlarge.

GM says that since the Volt was launched in 2010, Volt owners driving in pure electric mode have helped reduce gasoline consumption by more than 25 million gallons. Based on a GM study of more than 300 2011-2012 model year Volts in service in California, many owners exceed the EPA-rated label of 35 miles (56 km) of EV range per full charge, with about 15% surpassing 40 miles (64 km) of range.

Volt owners who charge regularly typically drive more than 970 miles (1,561 km) between fill-ups and refuel less than once a month. The 2014 Volt provides owners with EPA-estimated fuel economy of 98 MPGe (electric) and 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway on gasoline power.

Nearly 70 percent of Volt buyers are new to GM. The Toyota Prius is the most frequently traded-in vehicle for a Volt.

And despite the results so far for this year, GM points out that Volt is currently the most successful plug-in electric vehicle in the United States; LEAF’s cumulative sales total 63,944 units.



This second generation drive unit should be lighter and more efficient than the existing unit.

With other improvments, the GM PHEVs will be more competitive.


Hurry up with the batteries so GM can build EVs; all this unnecessary complication is hurting my head and wallet.


My Fusion Energi eked out 4377 miles between the last two fill-ups, averaging over 350 MPG.

Account Deleted

GM will reveal the second generation Volt at the Detroit auto show in January. Elsewhere I read GM focused on better all electric range, efficiency and cost for that 2. gen Volt. All of that makes sense IMO. I think it will be a significant improvement. It also make sense that old automakers make PHEVs as it is a natural extension of their expertise. However, they also need to start making long-range BEVs and not leave that market completely to Tesla. Eventually one day all cars will be BEVs for lots of good reasons. The sooner the old automakers start to make long-range BEVs the less costly it will be for them to make the transition to BEV production. Waiting until you have to because you bleed market share to Tesla is going to be much more costly than starting today when Tesla is still small at least until 2022.


A Volt owner/journalist said he averaged about 200 MPG, but because he took the Volt on trips leaving the Tesla S at home, he averaged 100 MPG during his 3 year lease.


Just read your post Henrik, regarding PHEVs. That GM should be trending to BEVs sooner rather than later. My sentiments also.

The article refers to a driver group who achieve a higher AER than the 35 miles which the EPA predicts. It seems to be the reverse of range anxiety that has these drivers playing a new game of driving conservatively in order to prevent the ICE from starting.

That said, I'm sure there is a similar group out there who would like to experience the pros and cons of living with a two cylinder engine as a range extender also.


"Eventually one day all cars will be BEVs for lots of good reasons."
That is a very strong statement. The problem with BEVs is that you have to size the battery to the longest journey leg, not the average. With a PHEV, you can size the battery to the average (or say average+1 sigma) which is MUCH less (say 30-50 miles) than the maximum.
And it doesn't even matter if you get it wrong - you just drive on gasoline (or diesel) a bit more.

(Or is could be a fuel cell HEV)

We can all see the advantages of electric drive, but to suggest that one day all cars will be BEVs is a bit much.


It does nobody any favors to make claims about mileage of the Volt - and ignore the electricity used. It is not that hard to measure the kWh of a charge with a 120V EVSE.

I hope the gen 2 Volt has (at least) 50 miles of EV range, and that it gets (at least) 50MPG in hybrid mode - and also that it has room in the backseat for tall adults.

And I hope they have an EV (battery only) version, in addition the plugin hybrid version. The EV version should have (at least) 100 miles range. 125 or 150 would put it close to the Tesla Model III.


@mahonj , I have to disagree. Tesla's build out of Supercharger stations is a game changer.

Since we can assume that you should always be leaving home with a "full tank" the only decision is whether you will need to be visiting a Supercharger at all. And for most longer trips that comes down to whether it is convenient to visit the Supercharger shortly before your arrival or shortly after your departure.

Electric saves you never having to visit that special place - the gas station - or every three months that other special place - the oil changer.

At a certain point it will be the gasoline user who will be needing to use a mobile app to find the nearest gas station that is still available. Whereas for an electric vehicle there will continue to be the potential availability of millions of outlets for energy.


With $400 for 12,000 electric miles, electricity is not the major cost. Add another $400 for gasoline per year or $300 for diesel in a hybrid, then you have real affordable transport.

Others have said GM stated the EV in 2016 will be close to 200 mile range and sell for about $35,000. It may not be as flashy as a Tesla 3, but it will be made by a company with 80 years experience mass producing cars.


Why such a big ICE in an "electric" car? BMW uses a 1.5 liter 3-cylinder engine in the Mini Cooper and the 2-Series Active Tourer, and Ford now puts a 1 liter, 3-cylinder engine in the Fiesta and other cars as their sole means of propulsion. GM needs a 1.5 liter, 4-cylinder ICE just to run a generator?! Backward-think.


The new Volt will have a 1L 3 cylinder engine, according to reports.

Roger Pham

Sorry, SJC, the 2016 Volt will have a 4-cylinder 1.5-litre engine, but capable of running Atkinson cycle with variable intake valve timing, with 12.5 compression ratio. I, too, am disappointed with this, and would prefer to see a 1-liter 3-cylinder engine.

My question is whether the rear seat will still be compromised that can only seat 2, and how big will be the trunk space?


The Gen 1 Volt disappointed me on price, electric-only range, gas-only fuel economy, weight, and interior cabin space.

I try to figure out why GM stubbornly sticks to 4-cylinder engines for the generator, and while there may be esoteric torque at optimum RPM curve issues, given all the other ~50Kw gensets, I've got to beleive it's because they want the ICE to matter, to seem complex and valuable, to justify a higher price. I think they've got it backwards. The simpler and leaner the whole drive train is, the more affordable the whole vehicle becomes, and then maybe it will outsell the Leaf or even the Prius if they really hit a grand slam.


Even with it's shortcomings I'm surprised the Volt isn't more popular in markets where it is eligible for the $7500 tax incentive. At a net purchase of about $28,000 and the potential to save at least $8,000 in operating costs over its lifetime I would think it would be very competitive with some of the most popular vehicles in its class like Focus's and corollas and accords etc. As that doesn't seem to be the case I wonder what price is necessary before consumers will choose it.



That is what they decided, I read an article earlier that said 1L, thanks for the info. It might do "mountain mode" better :)

'Previous reports of GM using a three-cylinder engine have proven incorrect."

"In non-hybrid applications, the 1.5-liter is said to make 113 horsepower and 108 lb-ft of torque"

"It will take the place of a 1.4-liter unit that makes 84 horsepower and 93 lb-ft of torque, and requires premium gas for maximum efficiency. The new engine will burn regular-grade fuel."

Roger Pham

Poor sales of the Volt may be due to the compromised back seat and the heavy weight. In the Prius, the rear seat back rests are completely foldable forward, creating a flat and contiguous surface for loading of large object.
Plus, the payback time is too long and the inconvenience of having to plugin daily. I mean, if the price of the Volt is comparable, then, the incentive to plug in is there, but, if the price even after federal subsidy is still $10,000 higher than the Cruz, then no surprise. The sacrifice to buy the Volt vs the Cruz is simply to high for non-environmental enthusiasts.


It sounds like it might get 40 mpg, 40 miles electric range, be a few hundred pounds lighter and maybe a few thousand less expensive. The spy photos show a slightly longer and sleeker style.

Here is a guess sketch, we will know in January.

Account Deleted

@Mahonj I hear you. The only thing that currently prevents widespread adoption of BEVs is the huge cost of making the necessary 85kWh battery packs. With Tesla like Giga factories and decades of evolving battery technology I am convinced you can one day make such a pack for about 6000 USD. It may take 50 years to get there but it will enable you to make cars that cost only a few thousand dollars more than a gasser of any price class and that can outdo the gasser in every important regard. BEVs will save you minimum 10,000 USD in fuel expenses per 150,000 miles driven and that plus the all the benefits of BEVs (like better handling, home refueling, less noise and vibration, more trunk space, better acceleration, etc) will make gassers obsolete.

The more of the old auto makers that start making such long-range BEVs (starting in the low hanging fruit luxury segment) the less time it will take to get to that 6000 USD for a 85kwh pack.

Roger Pham

Sorry, even at $6,000 for an 85 kWh battery pack for long range, it will still cost $70 per kWh. A fuel tank of 6 gallons of gasoline can provide the same range in a PHEV at a retail cost of about $50, or $0.50 per kWh. A PHEV-15kwh can save up to 90% of gasoline cost while sparing about $5,000 of battery cost, with the addition of a fuel tank with only $50 cost.
The saving in electricity cost alone, when used 90% of the time due to the lighter PHEV, will cover for the increase cost of using gasoline 10% of the time, so, virtually no increase in operating cost of a PHEV vs a BEV.

Now, power train cost:
An e-motor + controller generally cost around $70 per hp.
An engine + transmission cost no more than $45/hp, or a $25 / hp cost differential.
For a typical family vehicle of 150 hp, the cost saving of a PHEV having 75 hp of e-motor vs a BEV needing a 200-hp motor due to the heavier weight of the battery, the difference in cost of the power train plus energy storage will be:
PHEV: (75hp x $45)+(75 hp x $70)+$1,000 + $50 = $9675
BEV: (200 hp x $70) + $6,000 = $20,000

Cost difference between PHEV-15kwh AND long-range BEV-85kwh will be over $10,000 at a point far in the future in the next many decades if and when battery cost will ever drop down to $70/kWh!!!

So, if a PHEV will be priced at $20,000 with a healthy profit margin, a BEV will have to be priced above $30,000 to be profitable! How many people are willing to pay much more to get the same result?


The batteries are adequate already. The only thing that needs to be done is for there to increased production so economies of scale can kick-in and so that commodity feedstock production gets invested in. Under the ARRA the feds tried to build some battery capacity but they skewered by the right wing media nuts and pro oil lobby (yes I know that is somewhat redundant). Now Tesla is going to build capacity and that makes sense for an EV producer. Maybe, just maybe this investment by GM suggests that they are finally coming around, but then why wouldn't they do batteries? I guess when you have a giant useless bureaucracy it's difficult to move quickly and rationally.


RP? You do know that $70 per Kilowatt hour is the cost of the battery, not the energy right? Electricity is 13 cents per kilowatt. About one fourth the cost of gasoline.


Oh sorry, I see. You include no cost for an ICE. You make the assumption that a glider without an ICE is the same cost as an ICE car. No, a glider for an EV will be considerably less than a ICE car that can be configured for a PHEV. You see, you have two drive systems instead of one essentially, and the fuel savings for the EV make them the winner. What you say is lost in going to a big battery is not only made up for by the fuel savings, but also from the fact that you don't pay for the ICE and don't have to haul that boat anchor around.

Roger Pham

Power Train Costs of PHEV vs BEV:
(75hpICE x $45)+(75hpElec x $70)+$1,000 + $50 = $9675
BEV: (200 hp Electric x $70) + $6,000 = $20,000

Add $10,000 for the rest of the car for each version:
$9675 + $10,000 = $19,675 for PHEV
$20,000 + $10,000= $30,000 for BEV
I hope that this is more clear to you!


IMO until we get fuel cells with reformers we will use engines in PHEV/EVEVs. I would like to see 50 kW of fuel cell with 12 kWh of batteries, you combined the two with half as much. An Equinox fuel cell car has a 100 kW fuel cell, the LEAF has 24 kWh of batteries.

The comments to this entry are closed.