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Chevy Volt: Traveling Public Roads and Hitting Its Mark

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Chevy Volt: Traveling Public Roads and Hitting Its Mark

May 14, 2008

By Michelle Krebs

WARREN, Michigan -- General Motors inched closer to making the Chevrolet Volt a reality in November 2010 as the vehicle's innovative gas-electric powertrain is being test-driven for the first time on public roads and is hitting its target of 40 miles on pure electric power.

"Today is a big day," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told Edmunds' AutoObserver in an exclusive interview Tuesday. "Today is the first day it is running on the street on battery power."

Lutz said the Volt's powertrain, comprised of an advanced lithium-ion battery and a small gasoline engine, was installed into a mule vehicle and is being driven on public roads around the automaker's proving grounds in Milford, Michigan. More important, Lutz said, the battery is hitting GM's goal of 40 miles on pure electric power.

"It is reliably meeting its objectives," Lutz confirmed. "Even with a rough calibration, even with the wrong drive unit, the wrong body, etc. etc., it has been hitting its 40 miles on electric power."

Tuesday's road test comes after last week's testing of the Volt powertrain on a dynamometer that simulated real-world conditions, such as varying road surfaces and changing ambient temperatures.

Proving Lithium-Ion Batteries

The successful test of the lithium-ion battery is a giant step in making the Volt a reality. Many critics insisted lithium-ion batteries were a huge risk. However, since GM announced its plans to use a lithium-ion battery in the Volt and signed development contracts with battery makers, others have followed suit.

Only this week, Renault and Nissan announced plans for an all-electric vehicle to go on sale in 2010 using a lithium-ion battery. Mitsubishi already has a fully electric vehicle in Japan running on lithium-ion batteries. Germany's Audi plans to use the batteries in its upcoming hybrid. At the same time, Toyota has said its next-generation Prius hybrid, reportedly debuting at the Detroit auto show in January and going on sale in 2009, will stick with nickel-metal hydride batteries instead of lithium-ion though the Japanese automaker is known to be working on the more advanced battery.

"The reason we point this out (others using lithium-ion) shows the fallibility of Toyota and the American press, which is totally enamored with Toyota," said the always outspoken and opinionated Lutz. "When we say lithium-ion is good and Toyota says they don't trust them and they are unproven, people say we're taking a huge risk."

An assumed risk of lithium-ion batteries is its thermal properties. Frank Weber (FAY-ber), imported from GM's European operations to be global vehicle line executive and chief engineer for of E-Flex Systems Development Team (E-Flex is the GM word for the Volt's gas-electric powertrain), told AutoObserver last August that the biggest challenge is to manage the thermal dynamics of the batteries so that the batteries are the same temperature.

And Lutz insists the lithium-ion battery on the road has passed that test. Lutz, meantime, won't confirm which supplier's battery is in the mule being tested. GM has development contracts with multiple battery makers. Lutz confirmed that in GM's dynamometer tests last week of the Volt's lithium-ion batteries, engineers raised ambient temperatures and shut off the cooling system. The result was what GM had hoped: The battery showed only a slight rise in temperature and the heat was consistent across all of the battery cells with no pockets of intense heat.

Challenges Other Than the Battery Remain

"I can almost say the battery is the least of our problems," Lutz told AutoObserver.

That's not to say GM doesn't face huge challenges in making the Volt work. The challenge now, Lutz said, is the smooth integration of the battery with the gasoline engine that, unlike traditional hybrids that use a gas engine to power the vehicle, kicks in to generate electricity to feed the battery.

GM engineers are grappling with such questions as: When does the gas engine cut in? How long does it stay on? Is it better to run at lesser power and charge the battery slowly or run at peak power and charge the battery fast? How does it deal with extreme cold days in Alaska or North Dakota, which require the gasoline engine to start the car and warm the battery? If the car's GPS or OnStar tells the car it is close to home, is there a way for it to tell the engine to charge the engine just enough to get home and plug in versus charging the whole battery using gasoline in the last 15 minutes? How does it handle wide variations in temperatures with accessories on?

"All of that requires reams and reams and reams of software," Lutz said. "Our task would be simplified if we didn't have the range-extending gasoline engine and the only question would be how fast can we productionize it. Then we could devote all of our time to optimizing the battery. But then we wouldn't have an extended-range vehicle.

"And then," he added, "you'd be back to the thing that has limited the acceptance of electric vehicles: It only gets 80, 100 or 120 miles of range and buyers worry 'what happens if I run out and I can't walk to the nearest gas station to get a 5-gallon can of electricity?'."

Target: November 2010

Lutz said the successful dynamometer and road tests increase GM's confidence that the Chevrolet Volt will debut in November 2010.

"Three months ago if you asked Frank Weber 'November 2010?' he'd get flustered and say he wouldn't answer until he knew more," said Lutz. "Now if you ask him the same question, he's calm and relaxed and says unless we encounter some completely unforeseen obstacle - November 2010 looks good."

Intense Interest at the Highest Levels

Indeed, Lutz said, that's the answer Weber gave GM Chairman Rick Wagoner in his monthly update on Volt only Tuesday morning - November 2010 looked good.

"I'm pleased to say there's no other project Rick spends as much time on than Volt," said Lutz. "He gets a monthly two-hour update from the Volt team. He's as close to Volt as I am. In fact, I have to run hard to stay ahead of Rick in my knowledge level so that I can still answer questions."

Indeed, Volt could be a game-changer -- and the vehicle that defines the legacy of both Bob Lutz and Rick Wagoner.

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We are going to need a whole truckload of crow for certain folks. :AH-HA_wink:

C&G hunting expedition?

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Great news, of course.

Please serve crow with a decent side dish. I'll be happy to have been wrong.

Summer Crow Kabobs

Ingredients

16 pieces of crow breast meat (no bones) (8 crows)

16 pieces of green pepper

16 cherry tomatoes

8 button mushrooms

8 ears of sweet corn

1 1/2 cups of Teriyaki sauce

1/2 cup melted butter

8 kabob skewers

Preparation

Cut each piece of crow in half and place in a covered bowl with the Teriyaki sauce over night. Clean and cut each ear of corn into 3 pieces. Cook in boiling salt water for 10 minutes. Alternately put corn (3 pieces), green peppers (3 pieces) and cherry tomatoes (3) along with 4 pieces of crow meat on each skewer. Use 1 mushroom to top each skewer. Brush with melted butter and place on preheated grill for about 4 minutes. Flip, butter again and place back on grill for another 4 minutes. Repeat one last time for a total of 12 minutes or until they appear done. Serves four adults.

Country "C" Medallions

Ingredients

24 pieces of crow breast meat (no bones) (12 crows)

2 medium onions (chopped)

6 tblsp of oil

5 slices of bacon (chopped)

1 big or 2 small turnips (peeled & chopped)

1/3 of celery root (peeled & chopped) - note: substitute with celery

3 tblsp wet mustard

1 tblsp lemon juice

salt, pepper to taste

dash of paprika

2 bay leaves

2 juniper berries - note: substitute with allspice

1 tblsp Majorjam (crushed)

1 heaping tblsp of mayonnaise

water

Preparation

Sauté onions and bacon in oil until golden. Add meat, spices and sauté some more. Add vegetables and the rest of the ingredients except mayonnaise. Add enough water to keep the meat almost covered. Simmer slowly, adding water as it evaporates. In about 3 hours you will see that the meat is soft enough to cut with a fork. Take the meat out and place on heated platter or dish to keep warm. Remove the bay leaf and put all the gravy (about 2 cups) in a blender and blend. When thoroughly blended, add mayonnaise and blend shortly.

Add gravy to meat and serve over rice with a winter salad. Serves four adults.

Pan Fried Crow

Ingredients

2 eggs

seasoned bread crumbs or flour

oil or bacon grease

Preparation

Remove breast meat from as many crows as desired. Beat with meat mallet (for tenderizing). Dip pieces in beaten egg and then in bread crumbs or flour. Fry in oil in hot skillet. Bacon grease can be substituted by can smoke. Leave inside a tad pink.

Crow In A Blanket

Ingredients

4 pieces of crow breast meat (no bones) per person

wild rice

bacon strips

butter

salt and black pepper

Preparation

Rub each crow breast piece with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece with a strip of bacon and place 2 wrapped pieces in aluminum foil. Cook at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Serve hot with steamed wild rice, generously buttered.

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I really want to see how this thing turns out... I'd consider buying one, so I can enjoy my Impala and whatever other Mid-Late 90s GM I pick up guilt free.

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Great news, of course.

Please serve crow with a decent side dish. I'll be happy to have been wrong.

I almost wish they'd stop talking about the Volt.....

It's like Camaro all over again.....Talk about something so much before it's introduced.....by the time it gets here, people are all like "whatEVER."

(Okay some sarcasm in that.....but I HATE how GM over-PR's everything......)

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I almost wish they'd stop talking about the Volt.....

It's like Camaro all over again.....Talk about something so much before it's introduced.....by the time it gets here, people are all like "whatEVER."

(Okay some sarcasm in that.....but I HATE how GM over-PR's everything......)

Me too.

GM's PR is still stuck in a timewarp...I'm hoping they can get the darn thing to work. CAR mag had a huge write-up on the Flextreme which had very similar talking points--

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I almost wish they'd stop talking about the Volt.....

It's like Camaro all over again.....Talk about something so much before it's introduced.....by the time it gets here, people are all like "whatEVER."

(Okay some sarcasm in that.....but I HATE how GM over-PR's everything......)

I think that given the public perception that "GM=producer of gas guzzling SUVs" and,"Prius=even better than sliced bread", over-PRing the Volt, as ridiculous and tiring as it can sometimes be, is probably their only recourse.

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I think that given the public perception that "GM=producer of gas guzzling SUVs" and,"Prius=even better than sliced bread", over-PRing the Volt, as ridiculous and tiring as it can sometimes be, is probably their only recourse.

The problem with the Volt=Greenwash approach is the inevitable sour press if you don't meet the timeline, mileage claims, et al...

I could see your point, but as the line-up of Hybrids is fleshed out, GM should be able to make a compelling case for themselves without everything riding on the Volt. The other issue is whether or not you're saying to people that they should hold off on a vehicle purchase until the Volt comes out--or simply reinforcing peoples preconceived notions that GM's vehicles are currently gas-hogs or uncompetitive.

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This is very good news. being produced the same time frame as the camaro convertible!

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The general consumer body doesn't get nearly the saturation level we as enthusiasts do- so seemingly overdoing it is necc. IMO to spread the word.

BTW- it wasn't that long ago (a few years) that all I ever read was 'why doesn't GM promote car X- what are they waiting for??' Seems like the perfect PR could balance on the point of a pin for some.

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The problem with the Volt=Greenwash approach is the inevitable sour press if you don't meet the timeline, mileage claims, et al...

I could see your point, but as the line-up of Hybrids is fleshed out, GM should be able to make a compelling case for themselves without everything riding on the Volt. The other issue is whether or not you're saying to people that they should hold off on a vehicle purchase until the Volt comes out--or simply reinforcing peoples preconceived notions that GM's vehicles are currently gas-hogs or uncompetitive.

Another thing GM is going to have to overcome is inertia and the Prius...the 3rd gen is due next year, and they have sold over here over the last 8 years and is the market leader and default choice in a hybrid,and by the time the Volt arrives, it will have been in the US for 10 years! That is going to be difficult to overcome.

Edited by moltar
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This is what has bugged me about GM for years. The Volt, as a technological leap, is understandable, but many other GM vehicles (Aura, camaro, etc) have been hyped, shown as concepts, then a year later shown as "production models" then 9 months later its on lots, thats almost 3 years between initial viewing and on-sale date, totally unnecessary.

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If GM is already getting 40 miles per charge, they should be shooting for 50 in a couple months, then somewhere around 60 eventually. They still have a long time to develop the vehicle, why not overachieve? No reason to stop at your goal with so much time left to improve the vehicle.

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Another thing GM is going to have to overcome is inertia and the Prius...the 3rd gen is due next year, and they have sold over here over the last 8 years and is the market leader, the default choice in a hybrid..that is going to be difficult to overcome.

and technically, it'll be the 4th gen (1st gen was Japan only).

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and technically, it'll be the 4th gen (1st gen was Japan only).

Well, the '01-03 US model looks pretty much the same as the '97-00 Japan model, so the '09 will be the 3rd design.

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Well, the '01-03 US model looks pretty much the same as the '97-00 Japan model, so the '09 will be the 3rd design.

from what I've read, there are notable technological differences between the 1st Japanese model & the 1st US gen. I don't know that for sure, though. At any rate, the Volt is based on a different paradigm that will hopefully make it notably better than the Prius anyway. :)

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from what I've read, there are notable technological differences between the 1st Japanese model & the 1st US gen. I don't know that for sure, though. At any rate, the Volt is based on a different paradigm that will hopefully make it notably better than the Prius anyway. :)

We will see... it will be uphill battle for mindshare and marketshare for the Volt.

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We will see... it will be uphill battle for mindshare and marketshare for the Volt.

True - it could be the better product and still fail if the market doesn't buy in. Good marketing will be vital.

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True - it could be the better product and still fail if the market doesn't buy in. Good marketing will be vital.

The marketing will be critical...one thing that worries me is how are they going to price it? I'm assuming it may have to be sold at a loss for a few years to get it off the ground...

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The marketing will be critical...one thing that worries me is how are they going to price it? I'm assuming it may have to be sold at a loss for a few years to get it off the ground...

yeah, and how the look to make further use of the e-flex platform could determine how they dilute the investment costs across each sale, too. An electric version, an Opel version, etc could help spread the costs & bring the price tag down (or the amount of the loss, or how quickly they are no longer taking a loss), but they have to be careful that one model doesn't cannibalize another too much too.

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yeah, and how the look to make further use of the e-flex platform could determine how they dilute the investment costs across each sale, too. An electric version, an Opel version, etc could help spread the costs & bring the price tag down (or the amount of the loss, or how quickly they are no longer taking a loss), but they have to be careful that one model doesn't cannibalize another too much too.

I would think they will eventually spread the technology and platform to other US market brands as well... maybe a crossover for Saturn (call it the Ohm to play on the electricity-theme names, or a Buick Electra (on) sedan :)

Edited by moltar
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