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GM's Bob Lutz  (Source: Photobucket/willfusion)

Production Chevrolet Volt
GM gives a thumbs up to the Volt's battery pack

General Motors' Bob Lutz made headlines earlier today for his comments on crash testing for European-designed vehicles. Lutz argued that differing crash testing standards are preventing the GM from bringing over smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles from Europe that would help the company boost its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).

When Lutz isn't championing GM's efforts to pump the U.S. market full of high quality, fuel efficient vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines (ICEs) and drivetrains, he is singing the praises of the upcoming Chevrolet Volt. In the latest saga of the Volt's development, Lutz proclaims that testing of the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack is going smoothly.

"We haven't hit any obstacles so far for the batteries," remarked Lutz to Kicking Tires. "They are all performing flawlessly. It's almost scary we are not seeing any problems with the batteries."

Lutz went on to explain that the batteries have been subjected to numerous reliability and durability tests which encompass rigorous road testing and extreme temperature variances. That being said, the battery life of the lithium-ion battery is a concern for GM. As a result, the battery along with other powertrain components will be covered under a 10-year warranty.

"We're being conservative on battery life. For our cost calculations we're assuming each car will need a replacement during the warranty period," added Lutz.

Lithium-ion batteries -- when used to provide 100% propulsion for a vehicle -- have largely been untested on a large scale in the U.S. auto market. There have been niche players like Tesla Motors with its Roadster, which features a 6,381 cell lithium-ion battery pack, but it also carries a hefty $100,000+ price tag.

GM's Volt, on the other hand, is expected to carry a much more palatable price of around $40,000 to $45,000 before the requisite government rebates and tax credits.

The Chevrolet Volt was recently spied on the set of the “Transformers 2” set wearing what appeared to be production bodywork. Shortly before the exterior was spied, picture of the Volt’s interior was also leaked for the world to see.



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RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By therealnickdanger on 9/3/2008 12:28:22 PM , Rating: 3
Someone posted figures for the cost of recharging such a battery in 6 hours... I remember it being very low. But no, electricity isn't free.

OK, let's be realistic. My current car cost about the same as the Volt. With the majority of my driving (~30 miles per day with commute/errands/events) falling within the bounds of the battery limits, I will use very little to no gasoline in any given month. With a 10-year/150K warranty, that pretty much ensures that the Volt will cost very little to maintain during that time (outside the standard stuff). No matter what, the car will cost less over 10 years than my current car. To me, that's a win.

However, since we have a lot of ethanol in our gas pumps in Minnesota, I wouldn't want it to sit in there very long. I know they are testing the vehicle in cold weather, but I'm curious what happens if the ICE isn't used for a month during a Minnesota January and you run out of charge... ICEs start really hard in cold temps, especially when they have been sitting. It would suck to run out of juice only to have the ICE not start because it's mechanically too cold.

Obviously, I'm not paying for this thing in advance, but I'm very, very interested!


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Doormat on 9/3/2008 12:52:28 PM , Rating: 2
8kWh worth of charge, plus about a 85% meter to battery efficiency, so really 9.4kWh.

If you live in the Pacific NW where electricity is cheap, it'll cost you about 75c for 40 miles.

If you live in California where its 12c/kWh, its $1.12 for 40 miles.

If you were to compare it to a Prius at 45MPG, excluding the initial price differential, gas prices would have to fall to between 85c/gal to $1.26/gal for gas to be as cheap as electricity.

At $3/gal, a Prius would use $800/yr at 12,000 mi/yr. A Volt would use around $282 in electricity (10,000 mi) and $200 in gasoline (2000 mi at 30MPGe from the generator), or $482 total, saving $318/yr. Not a lot, but you're practically immune to gas price spikes, you'd probably fill the cars tank once every 4-6 weeks, possibly with E85 (which I saw for $2.99 the other day). And unlike gas stations which change their prices once or more per day, my electric company has to go before the PUC to raise their rates.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By FITCamaro on 9/3/2008 12:58:53 PM , Rating: 2
The Volt is rated at somewhere around 45 MPG on the gas generator. Not 30 MPG. 45 MPG for such a large car is pretty damn good. People seem to forget its a hatchback. Not a compact. It's the size of the Subaru Outback.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Doormat on 9/3/2008 1:44:47 PM , Rating: 2
Really? My own back of the envelope calcs said about 37MPG for gas and 30MPG for E85. I usually use the E85 number because (hopefully) by the time the volt is in mass production in 2011 we can use something other than corn and food supply for E85, and it'll be environmentally and financially viable to choose E85.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By therealnickdanger on 9/3/2008 2:18:34 PM , Rating: 3
All the PR so far claims 50MPG when relying on ICE to charge the battery.

I've seen a host of other figures floating around - but the 340-mile figure stands out as being either the TOTAL range or the ICE range. On an 8-gallon tank plus full charge, that either means 42.5MPG (40/300 bat/ICE) or 47.5MPG (40/340 bat/ICE). Since GM has been touting 50MPG, I would go with the latter being the case... but all this will change by the time Volt hits production lines.


By therealnickdanger on 9/3/2008 2:21:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
All the PR so far claims 50MPG when relying on ICE to charge the battery.

I've seen a host of other figures floating around - but the 360 -mile figure stands out as being either the TOTAL range or the ICE range. On an 8-gallon tank plus full charge, that either means 45MPG (40/320 bat/ICE) or 50MPG (40/360 bat/ICE) . Since GM has been touting 50MPG, I would go with the latter being the case... but all this will change by the time Volt hits production lines.


Fixed.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By shin0bi272 on 9/3/2008 8:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
The EPA has stated that ethanol made from corn is 15-20% less polluting than gasoline but its 20-30% less fuel efficient than the same amount of gasoline. So your best hope is to break even on the pollution angle. In most cases its much worse for the precious environment than gasoline but no one mentions that in their push for ethanol. It also releases more toxic vapors that are more poisonous than what comes out of the gasoline car.

You have to remember Oil is a natural product too. It comes from the earth and to process it we heat it to 700 degrees till it evaporates and what ever level in the cooling tower at the refinery it condenses at determines what product we have. So in all truth Oil is a natural product and ethanol is a man made product that we take from corn (yeah good idea use food to run our cars that wont drive food costs up nooo), and add chemicals to in order to make it combustible enough to power our cars.

Ethanol is a horrible idea and we need to abandon it IMMEDIATELY. Cellulosic ethanol has less energy in it than corn ethanol and there hasnt been any real advancement in that area either otherwise we'd of seen it already. Cellulosic ethanol has been around for about 110 years (first produced from wood in 1898 in Germany) so obviously its a waste of time compared to the power we get from oil.

My last point about ethanol is simply this... If ethanol were a better alternative than gasoline then it would be brought to market without having to be federally subsidized or any laws being passed to fund its use.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By glennpratt on 9/3/2008 1:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps GM will include an automatic block heater by default, since there pretty cheap and the vehicle will be plugged in anyway.

Now you just need some fuel stabilizer.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Alexvrb on 9/3/2008 8:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
Fuel stabilizer isn't a bad idea as long as you pay attention to the ratio on the back of the bottle. Heck, using fuel with 10% ethanol in a properly sealed tank will help prevent ice from forming in the fuel lines, etc.

As for including a block heater on all of them, when 95% of them sold won't need it? I doubt it. If you do need one, I'm sure you can get one installed either from the factory or aftermarket. It's a modern ICE with modern fluids and lubricants, and it is designed to fire up and run warm or cold at fixed RPMs. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not even really sure a block heater would help you at all, unless it was powered on the road by the onboard batteries. You could unplug the block heater, and drive off on battery power. Assuming the engine really did need to be preheated, if the climate is really that cold, won't the engine just be cold again by the time it needs to fire up to charge the batteries?

If you wanted to do something to help the motor in a cold enviroment, you could always use a good quality synthetic 0w30 (30 because I'm assuming this Ecotec motor will recommend 5w30 like other ecotecs). Also throw in the occasional dose of isopropanol (the preferred fuel system drier).


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Doormat on 9/3/2008 1:42:37 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, I would expect the ICE to start up at least once a week for at least 30 seconds to make sure everything is OK and still works. You don't want to not use the ICE for 3 or 4 weeks and then find out its not working when you need it. GM will probably advise drivers to always have at least 1 gallon of fuel in the tank (which would be burned through about once every 4-6 weeks).


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By therealnickdanger on 9/3/2008 2:10:43 PM , Rating: 3
That's what I'm thinking. It must come on automatically from time to time. Surely the largest auto-maker in the world wouldn't forget this fundamental of ICEs. I suppose it will have some algorithm to know when to activate it based upon all sorts of causal factors.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Spuke on 9/3/2008 2:14:39 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't that be dangerous to have an engine coming on by itself in a garage?


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Doormat on 9/3/2008 2:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
I would assume it would be while you're driving around somewhere (e.g. vehicle is not in park). If you dont drive it more than once a week, well, you'd have been better off spending it on a Civic.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By FITCamaro on 9/3/2008 4:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
Not for 30 seconds. Unless you make a habit of pushing used newspaper under your car so high its packed against the tail pipe.

And this does make sense. One potential problem I see with the Volt is that gas eventually goes bad. If you constantly only use the battery during the day, you might go months on one tank of fuel. Sales of fuel stabilizer for Volt owners may be high.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Siki on 9/4/2008 4:13:45 PM , Rating: 3
I regularly use 1+ year old fuel for my lawn mower. I don't see several month old gas as being a problem. Maybe I'm just optimistic.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Spuke on 9/3/2008 2:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
I have a 60 mile commute (round trip). Can anyone do a quick calculation on how often I'll need to fill up with that commute? I heard the range was down to ~360 miles. It seems I'll still be filling up every week but the cost to fill would be lower. Doesn't seem like enough of a savings for me to justify the price of the car.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By therealnickdanger on 9/3/2008 2:33:32 PM , Rating: 2
At 50MPG with an 8-gallon tank and 20 miles/day using ICE, $4/gallon, and $1/charge, I came up with a daily operating cost of $2.60. I'm bad at math though... :P

quote:
Doesn't seem like enough of a savings for me to justify the price of the car.

Very few vehicles can EVER justify the expense of a new one. To me, this car looks cool, has reasonable performance, and would serve my commute very well. The $40K price range is where I like my cars anyway, so if I'm already going to spend that much... Volt becomes a very good option because it will save me at least $30,000 over 10 years. That's a small downpayment on a house... a college fund... diapers... LOL


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Spuke on 9/3/2008 3:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Very few vehicles can EVER justify the expense of a new one.
True, but I usually compare my old car with the new one to see if the extra expense is worth buying the new car or keeping the old car until a new car is worth the extra expense or buying a less expensive new car.

I'm comparing the Volt to a new MINI Cooper S. The MINI would be more fun but, if the Volt is not too slow (or too heavy), my wife could have fun in that car too. The present PR says 0-60 in 8.5 seconds or so. A bit slow but maybe the production car can do better. She says she doesn't care but I know she doesn't want a slow car.

We'll see what happens in a couple of years. It'll be about that time anyways when I'll be in the market.


By Mojo the Monkey on 9/3/2008 5:37:19 PM , Rating: 3
8.5 may sound a bit slow if you're reading about sports cars all the time, but if you take a few moments and go to a comprehensive car review site, you may find that a lot of sufficiently powered cars and "powerful" SUVs are in that ballpark.

Unless you find yourself at the red-light-race in front of a freeway onramp, needing to get over to beat another driver who is aware of your intentions... I don't think you'll be the car holding up traffic in the volt.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Doormat on 9/3/2008 2:53:23 PM , Rating: 2
So to add on, $13/week (5 days commuting), plus any weekend driving not on gasoline, plus the $5 in electricity. if you drive 300 miles a week now, and even at 30MPG, you'd be paying $35/wk on gas, so you'd save about $15/wk, more if you get less MPGs.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Digimonkey on 9/4/2008 9:21:09 AM , Rating: 2
He figured in gas being $4 a gallon not $3.50. So it'd be closer to $20 a week in savings.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By walk2k on 9/3/2008 4:25:28 PM , Rating: 2
If you can plug it in at work it'll go 30 miles 1 way just on battery alone.

Friend of mine has a plug-in Prius conversion and charges it from the solar panels at work (a winery in Napa). His commute is about 30 miles (round trip) but he charges it at work for free off the solar excess (during the day they generate way more electricity than they use so it's totally free energy). During the summer he doesn't even charge it at home at all.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By Spuke on 9/3/2008 4:45:05 PM , Rating: 2
No battery chargers where I work.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By srue on 9/3/2008 5:15:33 PM , Rating: 2
I would agree, but Bob Lutz and others at GM have repeatedly said that if you drive less than 40 miles/day, you'll never use a drop of gas. Clearly if the engine is coming on occasionally for maintenance you'll use some gas.

Also, think of a backup generator. Do those have to be run occasionally? I thought they often sit unused for years, ready to spring into action when the power goes out. The Volt ICE is essentially that.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By JediJeb on 9/3/2008 6:38:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, backup generators do run occasionally. I know someone who has one of the natural gas ones at his house and at least once a month or maybe every two weeks the thing fires up automatically and runs for about 5 minutes just to keep the engine lubricated. If you don't run ICEs occasionally the oil can settle to the oilpan and when you start it you will have more wear on the bearings than you should.


RE: 10-year... how many miles?
By AE3Wolfman on 9/19/2008 1:31:18 PM , Rating: 2
Worse is corrosion between the piston and cylinder walls. Will cause all sorts of problems.


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