Chevy Volt
GM is already brainstorming on the second generation Volt

The Chevrolet Volt has been the talk of the town for quite some time in automotive circles. First shown as a radical concept over three years ago in Detroit, the vehicle is now just months away from hitting U.S. streets as a fully-fledged regular production vehicle.

Unsurprisingly, even though the Volt won't launch until later this year, GM's top brass is already thinking of ways to improve the vehicle with the second generation model. One of the main points of focus will be on the Volt's internal combustion engine according to Edmunds Inside Line.

The upcoming Volt makes use of a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine developing just 71 hp. Quite frankly, using this relatively large engine that is only serving to recharge the batteries is overkill. "Right now, the propulsion system is too expensive, even with using an existing engine," said Karl Stracke, GM's VP of global product engineering.

New options on the table for the second generation Volt include a smaller, two-cylinder gasoline that would produce between 20 to 24 horsepower.

Another option would be small rotary engine (with just one rotor). Probably the most recognizable vehicle on the market today with a rotary engine is the Mazda RX-8. That vehicle's rotary engine is extremely compact and weighs just 245 pounds with all accessories attached. A rotary engine for the next generation Volt wouldn't need to be nearly as powerful as the RX-8's 13B-MSP Renesis, so it could be even lighter and more compact.

The only downside to using a rotary engine would be the relatively high fuel consumption, but that should be more than offset by the compact dimensions and weight savings.

A final option would be the use of a diesel engine. "The cost of the engine would be higher for the manufacturer, but the fuel costs would be cheaper for customers," said Stracke.

While cutting costs on the internal combustion engine is important for the second generation Volt -- and part of broader effort to cut costs throughout the project -- cutting costs for the battery pack will have to be even more drastic. The current battery pack in the Volt costs GM around $10,000 each. GM hopes to bring that cost down to roughly $5,000 for the second generation Volt.

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