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AutoBlog: Tuning Chevrolet's Volt, GM engineer says: "We've got the feel of a sports car"

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Filed under: Economy, Hybrids/Alternative, Sedans/Saloons, Tech, Hatchbacks, Chevrolet, GM

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2011 Chevrolet Volt - Click above for high-res gallery

We don't have to tell you how important the Chevrolet Volt is to General Motors. Even if the model isn't likely to turn a profit for many years, the plug-in electric car's success or failure is likely to be seen as a crucial indicator of GM's post-bankruptcy prospects in the eyes of many. This being the case, it's not surprising that automaker is practically throwing everything it's got at the project. According to Chief Engineer Andrew Farah, the Volt team is currently working on getting the sound and feel of the driving experience just right. Speaking to Automotive News, Farah said:

The engine, not being directly connected to the foot, is one of the things we continue to tune. We don't want it to be discomforting to people. There is an expectation of what happens when you put your accelerator to the floor in the way the car sounds and feels. We've got the feel. We've got the feel of a sports car. The sound part and the way the engine plays into that perception is one of the areas we have to work on
.

Clearly, creating a plug-in car with mass-market appeal isn't as simple as bolting an electric motor and a bunch of batteries into an existing chassis. People have come to expect certain things to happen as an automobile is driven, and GM needs to find the right compromise between zero-emissions technology and time-honored driving dynamics. Further complicating the issue is the tremendous weight of the car's T-shaped battery pack. Farah explains:

Here's the thing to remember: When you put the battery in, it actually lowers the center of gravity of the car. There are a thousand reasons why heavy is bad, but a few why it is good. And so we are getting those advantages of the good heavy, and the disadvantages we are managing
.


Gallery: 2011 Chevy Volt

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[source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

Tuning Chevrolet's Volt, GM engineer says: "We've got the feel of a sports car" originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 07 Jul 2009 16:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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No suprise here as many of the GMPD people who are no longer in that division have been assigned to the regular cars including the Volt.

If they can do the same magic they did on the Trailblazer, CTS, Cobalt SS, HHR SS and other cars that wear the GMPD badge they should have a electric car that not only does not look like a science project but also not drive like a AMF Golf cart.

I also know they have been really working with Goodyear on tires that will not only give better mileage but also have some real grip vs the tires on the Prius.

The GMPD people getting broken out was not the end but the begining of GM haveing better car across the the entire company. There was no reason only to make cars with w V or SS that handled good when they all can handle good.

If you have good people let them design the cars not just fix them after the fact. The moving of people from GMPD will show in all the future poducts.

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the green bunch would probably be turned off and offended that a green car would drive and act sporty. my guess is they look to take and slander all over this car because its fun.

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the green bunch would probably be turned off and offended that a green car would drive and act sporty. my guess is they look to take and slander all over this car because its fun.

Not sure about that thought, Tesla is an example of the Greenies liking a sports electric . My thought is that the Volt will be saddled with the post bankruptcy anti GM sentiment. They will sell out the 1st gen but the fight will come as they try to do the volume sales. I hope that the second gen gets here fast so that they don't loose too much traction.

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the green bunch would probably be turned off and offended that a green car would drive and act sporty. my guess is they look to take and slander all over this car because its fun.

Nothing better then having the best of all worlds. Something environmentally friendly, economical, and sporty. Sounds like a good "vision" for Chevrolet.

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Nothing better then having the best of all worlds. Something environmentally friendly, economical, and sporty. Sounds like a good "vision" for Chevrolet.

IF the environmentalists pan it, it will most likely be because it still uses gas.

I have to disagree on your characterization of the Volt.

"economical": It is anything but. It will cost the consumer, it will cost the tax payer, and it will cost GM. The only place it may payback is where it was really intended to do so: GM PR. But even there, with Mitsu and Nissan having full electrics out shortly, GM may look poor in comparison.

"environmentally friendly": It uses many times the number of batteries that are in the non-plug hybrids and saves only marginally more fuel (and for some people may use more fuel). Those batteries would be better used in the non-plug hybrids for a net savings of fuel.

"sporty": This one I would generally agree with... except I don't like the characterization of it being like a 250HP V6. The 0-60 numbers (8.5-9s) are in the 4cyl range. If it does feel like a V6 at lower speeds (probably where it matters most), yet posts 4cyl 0-60, at what point does it start feeling like a 2cyl? When I try to pass on the highway, am I getting 2 cyl performance? I don't think it will be that bad, but "sporty" may be a stretch. For comparison, Edmunds got mid 8's 0-60 for the Camry Hybrid... and they characterized that something to the effect of 'at least no one will make fun of you'. 'Sporty' it ain't!

As for future vision, according to GM-Volt.com, CSM Worldwide and JD Powers are predicting slow adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles through 2016, with only 0.5% of the global marking (2.9 million) being electric and hybrid. By 2020 they predict electric vehicles will outsell plugins and hybrids. I believe GM themselves said they hoped to have sold 500,000 Volts by 2015. That leaves only about 5 years before it starts being surpassed by full electric cars like the ones from Mitsu and Nissan that will be on the road by the time GM has the Volt out.

Lutz has made public that GM's intention was to one up the Prius and the Volt was the compromise that came out of that attempt. It was never intended to be "the right vehicle", so it probably shouldn't be a suprise that it isn't. When the Volt concept came out GM said they needed a battery breakthrough in order for the Volt to make sense... and we know that that breakthrough has not yet come. The true purpose of the Volt can be seen in the TV commercials out in 2007... and by the fact that they settled on the too-big battery size (again, one-upping rather than building "the right vehicle"). Look to Ford as the company that actually set out to produce substance rather than just flash.

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Once the intitial Volt is out the technology will advace quickly.

Then we will see this technology feed into all cars in different ways.

The Volt is the start of this deal not the end result.

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