GM Charged Up Over Electrics?

January 7, 2007

Who revived the electric car? It might just be General Motors. The giant automaker brought its all-new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid to the 2007 Detroit auto show, a preview of what could be the environmentally-friendly electric propulsion system of the future.

As reveals in a longer preview, the Volt concept vehicle uses GM’s all-new E-Flex powertrain system. Like current hybrid-electric vehicles, Volt recaptures energy lost during braking or coasting, storing it in a highly efficient lithium-ion battery pack. But those oversized batteries can also be charged up from any 110- or 220-volt electric socket, giving the sedan enough power to run for up to 40 miles without firing up its internal combustion engine.


More than half of all U.S. commuters would be able to make their daily drive to work and back on battery power, asserted GM’s product development director, Bob Lutz, which would “decrease our dependence on oil, without decreasing personal independence.”


According to GM planners, the Volt would save the typical motorist about 500 gallons of fuel annually, equal to about $1200. It would use only $300 in electricity, adding up to a total, yearly savings of about $900. That would also work out to about 4.4 metric tons less of the global warming gas carbon dioxide.


The E-Flex system differs sharply from existing hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius and Saturn Vue Green Line, in that it is a serial, rather than parallel hybrid. “No matter how an E-Flex vehicle is configured, it will always be driven electrically,” said GM CEO Rick Wagoner, because its 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine can only be used to charge the batteries. The wheels are turned by the system’s electric motors.


An alternate version of Volt would use a hydrogen fuel cell instead of the three-cylinder engine.


Senior GM officials confirmed they have given preliminary approval to a production E-Flex program. According to Lutz, the project would cost at least $500 million, but he also stressed that before plug-in technology hits the showroom, significant improvements in lithium-ion battery technology are needed. How soon that might happen remains a matter of debate, though some industry observers believe something like the Volt might be ready for prime time before the end of the decade.


Related Articles


2007 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/7/2007)
Lights, cameras, Cobo – action.


2007 Chevrolet Volt Concept by TCC Team (1/7/2007)
GM gets charged up by electric propulsion.


2007 Saab BioPower Concept by Marty Padgett (1/7/2007)
Saab sees an oil-free future with a new ethanol hybrid.


Silverado, Aura Win Truck, Car of the Year by Marty Padgett (1/7/2007)
GM follows Honda's double win with one of its own.

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