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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: Somewhat understandable
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 7/9/2008 11:43:17 AM , Rating: 2
Heh, see what Ethanol(E85) or even 15% Ethanol gas does to your tank, and fuel lines if it sits untouched for a month.


RE: Somewhat understandable
By Alexvrb on 7/9/2008 10:03:15 PM , Rating: 2
Engines, fuel tanks, and fuel lines in 99.9% of vehicles on the road are ready for ~10% ethanol (which is what most states are using or preparing to use in place of pure gasoline). My 1987 Caprice Classic Brougham with a 305 and a 4bbl q-jet stated in the manual that 10% ethanol was no problem, and I know people who ran it without any issues.

Unless you mean that fuel with alcohol is going to do something bad by sitting that regular gasoline would not? How is it sitting there for a month going to cause any harm? It certainly won't varnish that fast, especially not with enough alcohol in it.

As for not using the gasoline for longer periods of time, there are ways to mitigate possible storage issues. Gas stabilizer will allow for long term storage without any problem. Regarding condensation, its almost a non-issue if you use E85. If you use regular gasoline, use a bottle of "dry gas" or whatever label they want to put on the bottle once in a while. Use the kind that is 99% isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol), its a lot more effective at removing water than methyl alcohol (methanol). Presumably you could let the battery run low once in a blue moon to burn some of the fuel off instead of or in addition to using additives to prolong the life of the fuel.

Oh, finally, 10% ethanol *can* produce bad results initially if a gas station doesn't properly clean out their tanks when they make the switch. The water that builds up at the bottom of the storage tanks just sits there when there's only gasoline. But if they don't remove it, the alcohol will mix with the water and you could then get a load of gasoline with an unacceptable amount of water that could cause your engine to run a little shitty until you put better gasoline in it.


RE: Somewhat understandable
By theapparition on 7/10/2008 11:56:59 AM , Rating: 2
While I somewhat agree with most of your points, here are some factors to consider:

1. My main point was: How was GM going to tackle old gas. We all know you can use stabilizer, and there's "gas dry" for water problems, etc. The average consumer knows nothing of these problems. GM must design for "least common denominator" (sad but true), and will have some sort of plan to tackle it. I'm curious what that plan is.

2. 15% ethanol can be very caustic to fuel systems. The OP's point of it sitting for longer periods of time in vehicles that weren't specifically designed for it is valid.


RE: Somewhat understandable
By Alexvrb on 7/10/2008 6:59:39 PM , Rating: 2
Just like with any maintenence issue, they tell you what to do and when to do it. ;) Failure to perform required maintenence on any vehicle can void the warranty. They will probably only demand that you do something once in a long while, like once every year. Sounds like a good time to coincide with an oil change or other service. If you can't do it yourself, take it to the dealer or a good shop that can performance the service at the required intervals. Heck, for all we know the engine will pop up with a little "change gasoline" light every year. :D It would only come on for those who don't use any/much fuel.

As for 15% ethanol being caustic to fuel systems, there's a couple of points. For one, we're talking about a 2010 model. He seemed to imply that leaving an ethanol blend in this vehicle would cause harm by sitting for a little while. I assure you the Volt will be ready for a 10, 15 or maybe even higher % of ethanol in the fuel. The turbocharged inline 3 cylinder might even come as an E85-capable motor - as a modern turbocharged engine, it could adjust valve timing and boost levels on the fly depending on the ratio of alcohol to gasoline, allowing it to extract the most energy from any blend.

Second, where are all these stations in the USA pumping 15% ethanol? o.O I see 10% ethanol blends all over. I'm sorry for those being forced to use 15%, more ethanol means less energy (by volume), especially in a regular gas engine. But as far as ir damaging fuel systems goes? I haven't seen any evidence of that outside of very old vehicles with old rotten fuel lines. I'd say 99% of cars should be fine with 10-15%. Lines and seals which come into contact with fuel are (and have been for many years) constructed from materials which are ethanol-safe such as but not limited to: Steel, stainless steel, neoprene, nylon, nitrile, viton, and teflon.

Oh! I did think of one other issue which can occur when switching to ethanol blends. Your fuel tank accumulates filth/water/debris over time (particularly at the bottom), and the ethanol may dissolve some of it and it could get pumped into your fuel lines. The filter will catch it, but it could plug the filter.

So even if you do have a really old vehicle that isn't happy with the 10 or 15% ethanol, you can usually replace what is problematic with compatible materials such as modern hoses and lines. Or scrap the vehicle, or retrofit it with a newer engine. You might have an older carbureted vehicle and the seals in the carb just don't like it, and the replacement seals aren't worth a damn either. In that case, sorry bout your bad luck. :(

If I ever get to talk to the SMP rep again, I'll ask him about the seals in the carb rebuild kits and 15% ethanol. Maybe I can get ahold of Dayco as well, since most stores carry their hoses.


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