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The Volt's gasoline capacity is being cut back

The Chevy Volt plug-in electric car from GM is one of the most desired new cars coming to the market.  Everyone is talking about the car's stylish design and relatively affordable price tag of around $40,000; not bad compared to past electric cars totaling over $100,000 like the Tesla Roadster.  With sales planned to commence in 2010 and with a production model possibly being unveiled later this year, the buzz surrounding the new vehicle is intense.

One fact many people didn't know is that while the Volt is an electric car, relying first on charge, it also sports hybrid capabilities.  It features a 12 gallon gas tank, which will only kick in after the lithium-ion battery charge is depleted.  This could take the car 600 miles, thanks to an impressive 50 MPG projected fuel economy.

However, recent reports have revealed that GM, in a surprising development, has decided to cut down the fuel tank for the Volt.  They won't say what the new capacity will be, with the source only saying, "We're working on that." 

The original goal for the Volt was to equip it to drive 40 miles on a charge, without using any gas.  This goal remains, and appears to be within GM's reach.  Additionally, since 40 miles isn't long enough for road trips or longer business travels, GM planned on adding the gas tank.  The gas does not power a traditional engine, but rather a generator, which provides enough charge to keep going, and actually performs more efficiently than most gas-engines.

GM has revised the target range to 360 miles, which would seem to indicate a fuel tank of 7.2 gallons.  The reasoning behind the cut is research that cars, on average, travel less than 40 miles a day.  While GM wants to provide a comfortable extension to this range, it decided that 600 miles was a bit excessive.  Many older sedans don't get much more than 300 miles on a 12 gallon tank, so the new range seems relatively reasonable.

Jim Hossack, vice president of AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting firm states, "Most cars today have a range of more than 300 miles and less than 400 miles before refueling.  GM didn't need a longer range because most bladders can't go 600 miles.  By going with a smaller tank it means GM can take weight and price out and make Volt a little lighter and a little cheaper, and that's what you call making an improvement."

While GM's move should help it cut costs and cut down slightly on the weight of the vehicle, it may come as a disappointment for fans of ultra-long treks across the country.  Still, it is dubious that such minor gripes will be able to do anything to quell the PR frenzy surrounding the Volt.

At its price tag, even with possible subsidies, the Volt will likely fall into the luxury car class.  However, with its wild popularity and sleek looks, it seems likely to thrive in this class, or whatever class it may enter as prices drop.

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RE: 40 Miles a day?
By KazenoKoe on 7/9/2008 10:45:21 AM , Rating: 2
I'd imagine that the electric engine would turn off whenever the vehicle was stopped, so 40miles should still be roughly 40miles depending on how you're using other power draining devices such as AC.

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By Sulphademus on 7/9/2008 11:12:28 AM , Rating: 1
Probly be alot less after Im done getting in 2x 1500 watt amps to power the 4x 15" subs Im throwing in the trunk.

(No, I wouldnt really do that but you see my point.)

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By Hoser McMoose on 7/10/2008 12:13:19 AM , Rating: 2
Well for comparison the motor is 120kW, so those 3kW worth of amps will have an impact, but possibly less of an impact than one might think.

The Volt should also be better in this regard than a conventional ICE vehicle, because in the Volt the electricity would be coming directly from very efficient batteries while in a conventional gasoline engine the electricity for your amps is coming from gasoline, being burned in the engine and then converted to electricity through your alternator.

Air conditioning is a similar story. Using air conditioning burns gasoline in a ICE car or it takes battery power from the Volt. Either way you're using energy. On the other hand heat is "free" in a ICE car because there is so much excess heat produced as wasted energy from the inefficient engine. On the Volt there will be much less wasted heat, likely not enough to provide adequate heating for winter environments without using extra electricity specifically for that purpose.

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By skiboysteve on 7/9/2008 11:23:20 AM , Rating: 3
no such thing as an electric engine (afaik) i think you mean the electric motor. which draws no current when its not being used.

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By theapparition on 7/9/2008 11:27:24 AM , Rating: 2
Unlike current cars which get best mileage on the highway and worst in the city, an electric car should get relatively the same in the city.

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By Ramshambo on 7/9/2008 11:49:18 AM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it still be pretty much the same? The electric motor would still have to start up and push the car from a dead stop each time. Wouldn't that take more energy then scooting along on the highway?

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By MozeeToby on 7/9/2008 12:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
Starting from a stop does take more energy but like other hybrids the Volt is able to recharge the batteries during braking converting some of that energy back into electricity.

Unlike other hybrids, the Volt has a much larger battery which allows more energy to be stored as well as a higher power motor which should more energy to be recovered, especially during hard braking.

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By jRaskell on 7/9/2008 1:04:34 PM , Rating: 3
The size of the battery has zero impact on the gains available from regenerative braking. The limitations aren't in the total power capacity of the battery, but in it's relatively slow recharging capabilities. Batteries are only able to get around 10-15% of the available potential energy out of regenerative braking because they can't store the charge as fast as it's being generated.

We either need a completely new battery design capable of rapid charging (highly unlikely), or a capacitor based system that by it's very nature has a very high charge rate. The current downside to capacitors though is they have a relatively low total power capacity compared to batteries. Some form of hybrid capacitor/battery system would be the best of both worlds though.

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By MozeeToby on 7/9/2008 2:29:08 PM , Rating: 2
I would assuming that for the larger battery GM would be using several battery packs in parralel with each other, rather than having one huge battery. Double the capacity of a Prius by adding an identical battery pack and you could also double the charge rate and the energy recovered from breaking (as long as you could charge both batteries at once).

RE: 40 Miles a day?
By mvpx02 on 7/9/2008 3:32:45 PM , Rating: 2
or a FlyWheel could be used in the place of the capacitor you mentioned, that'd be nice ^_^

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