Jan 7, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Here's a sampling of early coverage, from the non-technical to the technical. The Los Angeles Times contains hints of a similar serial hybrid from Ford, but to start only with hydrogen as the range extender, and of a next-generation Prius with much higher MPG. We'll find out more tomorrow!
GM unveils electric car
London, The Sunday Times - Business January 07, 2007
GENERAL MOTORS, criticised by environmentalists and accused of conspiring with American oil companies when it abandoned the EV1 electric car in the 1990s, plans to introduce a new generation of electric vehicles.
At lunchtime today at the preview of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM will unveil the Chevrolet Volt, a prototype for a new electric car that should be on sale at the end of the decade.
The Volt is a family hatchback built on the platform to be used for the next Vauxhall Astra. It is technically a hybrid, because it has a one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine as well as an electric motor. But unlike the Toyota Prius and other hybrid production cars, the petrol engine does not drive the vehicle; it is there simply to recharge the batteries.
This, GM claims, eliminates the disadvantages of the EV1, which had a limited range because of the capacity of its batteries, which also took a long time to recharge.
The Volt, which has a top speed of 120mph and accelerates from 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds, can run for 40 miles on electric power. Thereafter the petrol engine is started automatically and runs at a constant speed to recharge the batteries.
For a 60-mile trip, fully charged after being plugged in overnight, GM estimates the fuel consumption at 180mpg - although that does not include the cost of the electricity. As most car journeys are short, GM expects "most people will use little or no petrol".
The Volt will be cheaper to make than the EV1 - which was a hand-built, lightweight two-seater coupé. It is intended as a forerunner of a series of new electric vehicles. Its E-Flex propulsion system can be adapted to use bioethanol fuel or have a diesel engine or a hydrogen fuel cell as the generator of electricity.
Rick Wagoner, GM chairman and chief executive, said recently: "We believe that tomorrow's automobiles must be flexible enough to accommodate many different energy sources, and a key part of that flexibility will be enabled by the development of electrically-driven cars."
The scrapping of the EV1, the brainchild of Roger Smith, one of Wagoner's predecessors, led to the 2006 documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? which alleged that pressure from American oil companies and other industry interests had forced GM to stop the programme.
Detroit News Online Volt takes full-electric car concept to next level http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070106/UPDATE/701060441 January 6, 2007 [includes large photo] David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. will show off a concept plug-in hybrid today called the Chevrolet Volt that can travel 40 miles on battery power alone.
The unveiling will take place at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center, marking a dramatic return to the company's belief in the viability of an electric car.
But before the Volt -- essentially a modified Chevy Cobalt with a powerful battery -- will arrive in showrooms, there must be significant improvements in battery technology, which is not likely until 2010 or 2012.
The concept car is part of the automaker's commitment to the "electrification of the car." GM wants to develop vehicles that can be powered by electricity developed from a variety of renewable energy sources, allowing drivers to move away from gasoline-dependence. Energy Department officials will be on hand today for the unveiling.
The Volt is also a bid to get away from the image of selling gas-guzzling SUVs -- such as the Hummer -- that have turned off many potential buyers.
Plug-in hybrids are gas-electric vehicles that can recharge their batteries with an extension cord and a normal wall outlet.
Like conventional gas-electric hybrids, which have two drivetrains, a plug-in hybrid also can recharge its batteries through a regenerative brake system while on the road. The range on plug-in cars has typically been no more than 20-30 miles on battery alone. The Volt would have a range of 40 miles.
GM has been behind in the hybrid game. U.S. hybrid sales were around 200,000 in 2006 and are expected to hit 300,000 in 2007. GM just introduced its first hybrid, the Saturn Vue Green Line, while Ford Motor Co. is using Toyota technology in its hybrids. DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group has not yet unveiled a hybrid.
Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, an automotive research firm in Oregon, said that if the battery technology can be developed, a fully electric car makes more sense than the more complex gas-electric hybrids now on the market.
"If (GM) can pull it off, every hybrid on the road right now becomes obsolete," said Spinella.
The Volt would get 50 miles per gallon on gasoline alone and with battery power could get as much as 150 mpg. It can be fully recharged by plugging it into a 110-volt outlet for six hours and will have a one-liter, three-cylinder gasoline engine that can generate electricity to power the vehicle and replenish the battery, or for trips longer than 40 miles.
Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research, said there are more than 800 million cars and trucks in the world, which is expected to jump to 1.1 billion by 2020.
"We can't continue to be 98-percent dependent on oil to meet our transportation needs. Something has to give," Burns said. "The DNA of the automobile has not changed in more than 100 years."
GM spent $1 billion on its EV1 program in the 1990s that ended when the company demanded the return of its leased vehicles, a move heavily criticized by environmental groups and EV1 drivers. GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner has said his greatest mistake was killing the EV1 program.
"The EV1 was the benchmark in battery technology and was a tremendous achievement," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said. "Even so, electric vehicles, in general, had limitations. They had limited range, limited room for passengers or luggage, couldn't climb a hill or run the air conditioning."
GM officials said the Volt's electric-only mode would be beneficial for many drivers, citing research that found 78 percent of daily work commuters travel 40 miles or less. About half of U.S. households travel under 30 miles per day.
The Detroit News reported in November that GM would show off its prototype plug-in in Detroit. In a speech later that month at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Wagoner said electricity was the key to "energy security."
"Electricity offers outstanding benefits beginning with the opportunity to diversify fuel sources," Wagoner said. "The electricity that is used to drive the vehicle can be made from the best local fuel sources -- natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, hydroelectric, and so on. So, before you even start your vehicle, you're working toward energy diversity."
Such vehicles are also emission free and have "extraordinary acceleration, instant torque, improved driving dynamics, and so on," Wagoner said.
GM has quietly been making significant investments in battery technology, working with its suppliers and battery manufacturers.
Last week, it awarded contracts to two suppliers to develop a lithium-ion battery for its upcoming Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid. The lithium-ion battery is expected to replace the nickel-metal hydride battery, allowing the vehicle to rely more heavily on electric power than on gasoline-based energy.
Lutz has said it will take three to four years "to convert from 'power' lithium batteries to 'energy storage' lithium cells," which would allow vehicles to travel farther distances.
Ultimately, GM sees hydrogen fuel cells as the likely solution to ending the country's reliance on oil.
GM has made strides in hydrogen technology. It hopes to have 1,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road by 2010, including 100 Chevy Equinox fuel cell SUVs next year. Its most advanced hydrogen vehicle, the concept Chevy Sequel, can travel 300 miles before refueling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662 - 8735 or dshepardson@....
The New York Times January 7, 2007[
NOTE: this story mis-identifies us as Calcars.com; we hope for a correction]
Detroit Auto Show
All the Technology Needed for 100 M.P.G. (Batteries Not Included)
By LINDSAY BROOKE
WHEN General Motors unwraps the Chevrolet Volt for the press today at the North American International Auto Show, it will be revealing much more than the latest fantasy from its styling studios.
Beyond its striking coupelike lines, the Volt is also a declaration of G.M.'s intent to mass-produce a new type of hybrid-electric vehicle, one that can drive up to 40 miles on batteries alone and recharge itself with an onboard generator - or by plugging into a standard 110-volt household outlet.
The Volt is also less than it appears. The batteries to make it roadworthy do not yet exist, a shortcoming G.M. acknowledges.
This squat four-seat hybrid sedan previews a new family of plug-in electric drive systems that G.M. calls E-Flex. The system, which the company plans to begin installing globally when the battery technology is mature, will be capable of delivering the equivalent of 100 miles a gallon or more in urban driving, G.M. officials said. The Volt's total range is 640 miles using the combined capacity of fully charged batteries and a built-in gasoline-powered generator.
Plug-in hybrids have drawn a great deal of attention recently, and several automakers have built prototypes to test their feasibility. G.M. announced last fall that it was developing a plug-in version of the Saturn Vue hybrid and last week awarded contracts for advanced lithium-ion batteries.
But the E-Flex design goes further, and it differs from any gasoline-electric hybrid in showrooms. While hybrids like the Toyota Prius can drive short distances on battery power and make longer trips using a thrifty gasoline engine - and if needed, draw on both power sources - the Volt's gas engine is not connected to the wheels. It turns only a generator to charge the battery pack, a design typically called a series hybrid, and operates in a narrow r.p.m range for maximum efficiency.
In the Volt, the E-Flex drive system consists of a small three-cylinder gas engine, a 53-kilowatt generator and a long lithium-ion battery pack that forms a spine down the center of the car's floor. The battery supplies electricity for the 120-kilowatt (160 horsepower) motor that drives the car's front wheels.
To maximize battery life, the engine that drives the generator automatically kicks in when the battery's charge falls below 30 percent of capacity and shuts off when the battery charge reaches 80 percent of maximum; at that point E-Flex reverts to pure electric mode.
"We've dubbed this feature a 'range extender,' " said Robert A. Lutz, G.M.'s vice chairman for product development. "It also provides a steady flow of electricity to get the vehicle home or to the nearest charging plug," he said, as long as there is fuel in the Volt's twin six-gallon tanks.
Mr. Lutz added that for the 78 percent of commuters in the United States whose daily round trip to work is 40 miles or less, according to the Department of Transportation, a Volt-size vehicle with E-Flex would make the commute using only the battery, "without burning a drop of petroleum." Some type of fuel will be consumed to generate the electricity, of course.
For a 60-mile round trip, Mr. Lutz reasoned that the Volt would get the equivalent of 150 m.p.g. over all; the first 40 miles in pure-electric mode and the last 20 miles with the gas engine sipping fuel at a rate of 50 m.p.g. as it charges the battery.
G.M. engineers, who estimated the Volt's performance using computer simulations, said charging the battery from a 30 percent level would take about a half-hour while under way and up to 6.5 hours when plugged into a standard 15-amp household outlet.
Similar overall ratings of more than 100 m.p.g. are claimed by advocates of plug-in hybrids. According to Calcars.com, the Web site of the California Cars Initiative and an independent advocate of plug-ins, 30 miles of battery-only driving at the average cost of 9 cents a kilowatt-hour in the United States would cost 81 cents, compared with the average $2.40 gallon of regular gasoline required to propel a relatively miserly conventional car the same distance.
The Volt's estimated annual fuel savings of about 500 gallons, compared with a similar size 30-m.p.g. vehicle driving 15,000 miles a year, equate to $900, even considering the cost of the electricity, said Tony Posawatz, an engineering manager in the Volt program.
He added that while switching the United States to plug-in hybrids over time would increase overall electricity use and that rates would increase, the price of powering vehicles from the grid during off-peak hours would be roughly one-third the equivalent price of gasoline.
G.M. is planning to offer E-Flex power systems in all major world markets, according to Jonathan J. Lauckner, vice president for global vehicle programs. He said the company's next-generation compact-car platform, due in 2009, had been designed to accept an E-Flex battery pack, generator and related hardware.
For some applications, E-Flex would not require any range-extending engine. Instead, it could be a pure-electric vehicle used for local deliveries and charged directly from the power grid. G.M. is also developing a hydrogen version, with a small fuel-cell stack replacing the combustion engine for electricity generation.
While development of the new electric drive system has already begun, the company cannot set a production schedule until the proper batteries are ready, said Nick Zielinski, the Volt's chief engineer.
"We believe lithium-ion will begin replacing today's nickel-metal hydride as the battery chemistry for hybrid use around 2010," he explained. Lithium-ion offers two to three times the energy storage and power density of nickel-metal hydride, said Martin Klein, engineering director of Compact Power, a division of LG Chemical of South Korea that is developing lithium-ion batteries.
He said achieving the Volt's goal of 40 miles of pure-electric operation was feasible. But Mr. Klein said he believed the challenge would be in developing small, light batteries that still met the target for driving distance between charges.
Battery weight, the Achilles' heel of hybrids, hurts vehicle performance, so G.M. is keen to trim some of Volt's hefty 3,200 pounds. Mr. Zielinski winced as he noted that early projections for Volt included a 400-pound battery pack, though that is still less than half the weight of the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in G.M.'s EV1. G.M.'s cancellation of its EV1 electric car stirred up environmentalists, but Mr. Lutz said the project's results were paying off.
"The EV1 was a great engineering achievement, but it was severely limited in operating range by its battery," he said. "We learned that customers did not want to plan their lives around the next battery charge."
Battery development and production costs are likely to add thousands to the price of the early E-Flex vehicles, G.M. admitted. But the company was optimistic that incentives offered by local governments and electric utilities would help drive sales.
Skeptics include John German, environmental analysis manager for Honda in the United States. In Congressional testimony last year, he said that a business case for plug-in hybrids would not exist unless fuel prices were above $3 a gallon, shortages had occurred, technology was subsidized or a breakthrough in energy storage emerged.
None of that deters Mr. Lauckner, the G.M. vice president. "This program is not a public relations ploy," he said. "We are dead serious about taking this technology into high-volume production."
Los Angeles Times Business News
Return trip for electric vehicles
Carmakers are set to unveil plans this week. A GM
model owes much to the pioneering EV1.
By John O'Dell, Times Staff Writer john.odell@...
January 7, 2007
The electric car, derided as impractical by automakers since General Motors Corp. pulled the plug on its revolutionary EV1, is staging a comeback amid lofty fuel prices and persistent worries about the nation's dependence on imported oil.
GM, the chief villain in the recent documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" intends to announce plans for a new family of electric vehicles as the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit begins a four-day media preview today.
In addition, Ford Motor Co. will unveil a hydrogen-powered electric car concept of its own and Toyota Motor Corp. is ready to announce major improvements in the batteries used in its popular Prius gasoline-electric hybrid. The enhancements could extend the five-seat sedan's all-electric range and boost overall fuel economy to as much as 90 miles per gallon.
Toyota won't comment on its plans, but GM executives said last month that they believed electric power - from onboard generators, hydrogen fuel cells and even household current - would drive most vehicles of the future.
"The world has changed" since the EV1 project was killed in 2002, said Beth Lowery, GM's vice president for energy and environmental issues.
GM's plan "is very aggressive, and if they really go forward it gives them the potential to leapfrog the competition," said Roland Hwang, senior auto technology analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Ford's concept is similar to the vehicle GM will unveil, an electric car that powers its drive system with a generator.
But Ford has started with an advanced emission-free system. It produces power by converting hydrogen and oxygen into electricity in a small fuel cell mounted under the passenger compartment. GM's system, though it can be adapted to run on fuel cells, uses a gasoline-burning internal combustion engine to generate energy for the electric drive.
Production of the cars for the retail market depends on advances in battery technology to increase the amount of energy they can store. And, in Ford's case, further work in fuel cells as well as the development of a nationwide hydrogen fuel distribution system would be needed. A Ford insider said its fuel cell could be replaced with a gasoline or diesel generator to get to market earlier.
On Thursday GM announced a battery development deal with Johnson Controls Inc. and Chevron Corp. The companies hope to produce advanced batteries capable of storing enough energy to allow a gasoline-electric hybrid to be recharged from a residential power outlet and run at highway speeds in all-electric mode for 30 miles or more.
Rick Wagoner, GM's chief executive, said in late November that the automaker was committed to producing a so-called plug-in hybrid version of its Saturn Vue sport utility vehicle when battery technology permitted.
GM executives said they expected the first of their electric cars to be brought to market as early as 2010. GM will show that car, the Chevrolet Volt, at the Detroit show as a concept vehicle that would use a small, 1-liter gasoline engine to generate power for the electric drive system.
The five-seat car would be able to travel as fast as 120 mph, and run at 70 mph for up to 640 miles while consuming only 12.8 gallons of gas to fuel the generator, said Jon Lauckner, vice president of global programs for GM. That's 50 miles per gallon, with the gasoline-powered generator running about half the time, he said. On shorter trips at lower speeds, its fuel economy would be even better.
The car's batteries initially would be recharged overnight at an owner's home, and the generator would not start operating until the storage batteries had been depleted. For a driver with a 20-mile round-trip commute, the car might use gasoline only on longer weekend and vacation trips.
Although still a prototype, the Volt "is in serious engineering development," said Tony Posawatz, head of GM's new variable, or flexible, electric power source project, known as E-flex.
He said the Volt wouldn't be an expensive car but instead was intended to be a "competitively priced, high-volume Chevrolet model."
It would be the first of a family of electric-powered cars and trucks that would use onboard generators fueled with diesel, pure ethanol or bio-diesel produced from vegetable matter, he said. Ultimately, such a vehicle would use a fuel cell that converts hydrogen and oxygen to electricity.
The cars' electric drive system is a "direct descendant" of the system developed for the EV1, said Nick Zielinski, chief engineer for the E-flex project.
Toyota, considered the industry leader in hybrid technology, has kept mum about plans for the Prius but will show a hybrid sports car concept in Detroit today. That vehicle, called the FT-HS, uses a V-6 gasoline engine and a powerful battery-powered electric motor to achieve the equivalent of 400 horsepower.
Toyota's concept is called parallel hybrid because it uses two types of drive motors that can operate separately or in tandem. The electric vehicle concepts shown by Ford and GM are known as series hybrids and use one type of motor or generator to produce power for the electric drive that propels the vehicle.
The scant details from GM and Toyota "have us very excited about the prospects of a return to batteries" said Paul Scott, co-founder of Santa Monica-based Plug In America. Scott's group supports and lobbies for hybrids and other alternative-fuel vehicles that would use rechargeable batteries to power their electric drive systems.
The organization wants to see automakers improve today's hybrids by enlarging battery systems to extend the vehicles' all-electric range and adding home-recharging capabilities - thus the term "plug-in."
Hybrids today generate their own electric power from braking energy and some of the gasoline engine's output but can't be charged from the commercial power grid.
GM launched the first modern electric car offered by a major company in 1996 in response to a California mandate, since modified, for automakers to produce zero-emission vehicles.
The company's initial EV1 was a futuristic two-seat roadster that used a heavy pack of lead-acid batteries. It took eight hours to charge and provided less than 80 miles of travel in most circumstances. Later models used more advanced batteries and many drivers boasted of driving 120 to 150 miles on a single charge.
Other automakers, including Ford, Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., followed suit with limited numbers of their own electric vehicles.
The vehicles gained a wide following among environmentalists and early adopters of advanced technology. Despite proponents' claims that the world was ready for EVs, automakers complained that short ranges and long recharging times made the vehicles impractical.
That, combined with the industry's reluctance to consider the electric vehicle anything more than experimental, kept production low. Eventually the carmakers concluded that they couldn't profitably sell battery-powered electrics that would compete with standard passenger vehicles.
In the meantime, Japan's Toyota and Honda developed hybrids that used electric motors with relatively small battery systems to augment gasoline engines. Honda's two-seat Insight came to the U.S. in late 1999 and Toyota's five-passenger Prius arrived in 2000, both rated at upward of 60 miles a gallon in city driving. As more models were introduced and gasoline prices climbed, they caught on with buyers seeking greater fuel efficiency.
For many, the gas-electric hybrid wiped out the idea of all-electric power.
With the Volt project, said GM's Posawatz, "we hope to change that."
Autopia Topic: Electric Vehicles [blog: you can comment!]
by John Gartner
Saturday, 6 January 2007
Chevy Volt Redefines EV
On Sunday GM will introduce the Chevrolet Volt, an "electric" passenger vehicle that uses a gasoline-powered generator to increase the range of the vehicle. An article detailing this concept car that is destined for future production will be available on Wired Sunday.
Chevy_volt I spent a looong time on the phone with GM getting the advance skinny on the Volt, and got way too much information for one article, so here is my analysis, along with more info from GM, analyst Dan Edmunds, and actor Ed Begley, Jr.
Think of this as the "bonus DVD" to accompany the article.
GM's new direction:
Per GM's PR:
The Chevy Volt concept electric vehicle is the first variant off GM's E-flex system, a family of electric vehicle propulsion systems built into a common chassis to create electricity and extend the range of the vehicle.
I'm not one for hyperbole, but if done right in parallel with the plug-in hybrid and standard hybrid platform, GM's sliding fortunes could be reversed. GM could quickly churn out a variety of flex fuel, diesel and gasoline models that are compatible with this battery system. GM execs repeatedly told me "there is no single bullet," to reducing petroleum use, so watch out for as made vehicle types as Baskin Robbins has flavors. It was odd hearing GM people saying 100 years of running vehicles on petroleum is too long, we need change now." Have pod people taken over GM?
Toyota and Honda, watch out, you can't take beating GM for granted any more.
Comparing the Volt to the EV1
"The EV1 'died' because it had limited range, limited room for passengers or luggage, couldn't climb a hill or run the air conditioning without depleting the battery and no device to get you home when your battery charge ran low," -- GM's Bob Lutz.
While the Volt is bigger than the EV1, the fact that you can still only get 40 miles on a charge is a sad reflection of how little battery technology has improved in more than a decade. EV purists will jump all over this factoid.
Lithium ion batteries
The lithium ion batteries are managed to not be charged more than 80 percent or less than 30 percent so that they will last the lifetime of the vehicle, according to GM's Tony Posawatz.
Lithium ion is the better bet than nickel metal hydride to provide more range, according to Dan Edmunds, of automotive website Edmunds.com. If only they could be managed to go closer to 100 percent utilization while retaining their lifetime, we'd see a car that would get an effective efficiency of 200 mpg. Edmunds agrees that on hybrids and EVs, it all starts and ends with the battery.
GM would consider adding more battery packs if customers desire a vehicle that can run on batteries only for greater distances. Pickups or SUVS are good bet here.
GM has development deals with battery makers Cobasys/A123Systems and Johnson Controls/Saft, but Posawatz said that one of the reasons they are making a big splash in Detroit is to get other battery makers excited, and that they would welcome more lithium ion competitors. They want the battery cost to get down to $2,000-$3,000, compared to $10,000 today.
ICE versus generator
The turbocharged 3-cylinder engine on the Volt hasn't been tested for emissions, and Posawatz thinks the EPA might have to develop new testing mechanism for this new technology. The EPA tests hybrids in battery saving mode, but the Volt's system tries to burn the battery as much as possible to limit fuel use. Will it pollute more than an equivalent plug-in hybrid? That probably depends on the battery/gasoline usage mix.
The engine on this generator will generally operate between 1500 and 1800 rpms because the amount of electricity needed will be constant, and will be more efficient than an ICE which revs way up or down depending on the power needed.
GM's pull GM is using a common battery platform (lithium ion) for both its plug-in hybrid Saturn Vue Green Line, and Edmunds says the company will broaden the audience for vehicles that can run on battery or petrol power. "GM's involvement (in hybrid cars) will attract a subset of car buying public who would prefer to buy domestics. It will bring in another layer of people to that market," according to Edmunds.
Toyota may have to watch out for a GM comeback fueled by its hybrid/electric vehicles. "GM is a huge company with resources, and if (CEO) Mr.Wagoner decides to turn some people lose on (plug-in hybrids), they could do it."
So thanks to GM, the "electric vehicle" category
will soon include fuel cell vehicles,
battery-only, and battery plus
fossil-fuel-powered electric generator. As it was
explained to me the two technologies make sense
in addressing different types of drivers, but it
is still way too confusing for most people.
I can't wait to see GM's marketing campaign in differentiating the Volt from its plug-in hybrids. "Well yes, they both get power from batteries that plug-in as well as liquid fuels, but one is for the city, and one is for the highway." What a marketing nightmare.
Ed Begley Jr., EV1 owner
I also spoke with actor/environmentalist and former EV1 owner Ed Begley, Jr. about the prospect of GM re-entering the electric car market.
He drives an electric Toyota RAV4, but he'd be happy to buy from GM again. "I'd love to be able to buy a domestic car!" He said he loved his EV1, but turned it in early because he had an infant daughter at the time and needed a back seat to tote her around.
There will be many folks who would prefer to buy from GM than Toyota or Honda, so if GM gets it right, they could substantially broaden the EV and hybrid audience.
Green Car Congress 7 January 2007 http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/01/gm_introduces_e.html GM Introduces E-Flex Electric Vehicle System; Chevrolet Volt the First Application
GM has introduced a new family of electric vehicle propulsion systems-the E-Flex Systems-and is showing the first concept application of E-Flex at the North American International Auto Show: the Chevrolet Volt, a 40-mile all-electric range (AER) plug-in hybrid.
E-Flex initially uses a plug-in capable, battery-dominant series hybrid architecture. The E-Flex vehicles are all electrically-driven, feature common drivetrain components, and will be able to create electricity on board (either through a genset or a fuel cell). Regenerative braking will also contribute to the on-board electricity generation. ("E" stands for electric drive and "Flex" for the different sources of electricity.)
We are focused on reducing our dependence on petroleum-today we are 98% dependent [and] we don't think that is a good business strategy at all. -Beth Lowery, GM VP Energy and Environment
There has been some speculation in the press that perhaps this is a publicity stunt on our part. This is not a publicity stunt, nor is it a science fair project. This is something that we have been working on for close to a year. -Jon Lauckner, GM VP Global Program Management
GM is developing the E-Flex System in parallel to its mechanical hybrid efforts-including the development of the Saturn VUE Green Line two-mode plug-in hybrid (earlier post), for which GM just awarded lithium-ion battery contracts (earlier post)-as well as its ongoing fuel-cell vehicle development efforts.
In its evolving taxonomy of offerings, GM refers to its existing portfolio of hybrids as "mechanical hybrids"-i.e., the engine provides mechanical drive power in addition to the electric drive power.
There is tremendous synergy between the fuel cell vehicle program and the E-Flex program-Nick Zielinski is the chief engineer for the fuel cell program and the Volt Concept, as one example.
Furthermore, GM leveraged its experience with the EV1 in the design of both the E-Flex System and the Volt. The use of the range extender in the Volt design, for example, originated with feedback from EV1 customers about not wanting to have to plan their lives around the next charge, according to Tony Posawatz, GM Vehicle Line Director.
GM envisions a range of genset options for the E-Flex vehicles, including engines optimized to run on E85 or E100 and biodiesel.
The Chevy Volt. GM chose its Global Compact vehicle architecture (Cobalt-sized) for its first E-Flex application, the Chevrolet Volt.
The Volt uses the same electric motor as used in the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle in its electric powertrain: a 120 kW peak machine that develops 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque.
The Volt will use a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers 136 kW of peak power. Plug-in charging is designed for the home (110V, 15 amps) and will take between 6 to 6.5 hours.
The Volt can support all-electric mode from 0 to its top speed of 100 mph (with bursts to 120 mph). Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes 8 to 8.5 seconds. The basic operating strategy is to run the vehicle in all-electric mode until the state-of-charge (SOC) of the battery reaches 30%-that strategy delivers approximately a 40-mile range.
The 53 kW motor generator set (genset) allows the on-the-fly recharging of the battery. The genset in the current Volt concept uses a 1-liter, 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine.
You can drive at a continuous 70 mph, and the generator will not be on continuously. At 100 mph,the genset can maintain the charge in the battery and the speed of the vehicle. There are no compromises for the customers in the vehicle. -Nick Zielinski, chief engineer
The Volt concept configuration features a 12-gallon fuel capacity, giving the vehicle a total driving range of around 640 miles-which works out to a nominal gasoline fuel efficiency of about 50 miles per gallon. (Presumably range would increase with a diesel variant.)
The less one drives before plugging in to recharge, however, the higher the experienced fuel efficiency. A daily drive of 60 miles, combined with a nightly recharge to support the first 40 all-electric miles, would yield an effective 150 mpg according to GM's calculations, for example.
For comparable performance with a fuel-cell version of the Volt, GM anticipates needing 4 kg of hydrogen on-board.
The Volt also features some advanced materials contributions from GE Automotive Plastics, including weight reductions of up to 50% on the hood and doors through the use of high-performance composites.
Actual production of the vehicle is dependent on further battery development, and GM made no announcements about partners involved in the development of the battery pack for the Volt. The profile for the battery in the Volt is different than that of the pack being developed for the VUE plug-in.
GM would like to minimize the different battery packs within the E-Flex family of vehicles. One notable exception to this would in a fuel-cell configuration. In that case, the battery would be smaller, and more focused as power battery first and energy battery second (due to the ability of the fuel cell to produce the electricity on-board.)
However, GM is also clear that it wants to use common systems and controls wherever possible across applications. To that end, elements such as the charging systems will likely be common across mechanical-hybrid plug-ins and E-Flex plug-ins.