Preview drives of unfinished pre-production cars are a tricky thing. It's easy to get ahead of oneself in the evaluation process, judging things that are still under development to be final, or misunderstanding an engineer's explanation. And that appears to be what happened with Andrew English at the Telegraph today.
TheCarConnection went straight to the source to sort out the confusion caused by the report that the 2011 Chevrolet Volt might be re-engineered to run on gasoline alone at highway speeds, speaking with GM electric vehicles, batteries, and hybrids communications man Rob Peterson. He gave us the low-down on what's really changing with the Volt.
The answer? Nothing, except for small incremental refinements in the software. Being just five months out from full production with the Volt, there are no mechanical or major software changes in the pipeline. That said, there may be a good surprise or two in store for the public once the Volt gets to production, as Peterson said the Volt's powertrain is a "very innovative solution," and that there is "no rush on our part to tip our hand to our competitors." But one thing you can take to the bank, whether you're a Volt-lover or a skeptic: "We're definitely not making any changes," said Peterson.
As for the Volt's performance, Peterson was frank, saying, "Nobody has challenged us on the vehicle's performance until Andrew English." Peterson also directly refuted English's claims regarding the Volt's high-speed need for the gasoline engine, stating that during the 40-mile electric-only range, there is no circumstance under which the gasoline range extender will turn on--no matter the power draw or speed. Beyond that range, it supples ample power for the electric motors, whatever the driving conditions. Of course we'll have to wait until we can get behind the wheel of the final production car to test that statement, but based on our own John Voelcker's first drive of the car back in January, there's no reason to doubt the high-speed performance claims.
The likely reason for all of this hooplah? English was behind the wheel of what's known as a "65 percent calibration" car within GM. That basically means it's running software that's six to eight months old--essentially the same as the car we tested. Being an electric car, the optimization of the Volt's software plays a key role in performance and perception from behind the wheel. As for the Opel engineer's statements regarding work on direct gasoline drive, we can only take those quotes as off-the-mark after talking with Peterson.
For more information on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, dive into our Bottom Line preview.