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Volt gains "Sport" mode and works out some of its noise issues

The 2011 GM Volt is generating unprecedented hype as the highest profile upcoming mass-market electric vehicle.  With the U.S. government and automakers worldwide all betting big on electric vehicles, General Motors has done perhaps the best job at promoting its upcoming vehicle.

The vehicle is currently in the pre-production testing phase, in which the final bugs in the prototypes are ironed out via minor changes, largely to the vehicle's software and mechanical settings.  A fleet of prototype Volts completed a long test-drive journey and engineers are now using the data collected to tweak the Volt.  They hope to minimize its problems in the process.

James Riswick, an editor with Edmunds.com, recently took one of the mules out for a test drive to measure their progress on this front.  He reports, "[The Volt] is sort of on the more fun to drive hybrid.  The suspension is a little firmer, than say, in the Prius, which is on the floaty, comfortable side.  This is not a sports car by any means, but actually the electric power steering is reasonably direct and well weighted."

In his opinion, the noise when driving under gasoline generator is minimal and seems like "white noise". However, when stopping, a more "rough" unpleasant sound was heard – GM says they're working on this issue.  Overall, Riswick says the car is "pretty darn normal" and that "It drives like a pretty nice car"

However, as many have noted a couple of pivotal unknowns remain -- the Volt's finalized real world gas mileage and cost.  The Volt will be available in all 50 states when it debuts, according to GM.  It will be available for around $40,000, plus a $7,500 federal tax credit, which brings it to approximately $32,500 (excluding additional hybrid tax breaks in certain states).  However, this price could be bumped significantly higher or lower still.

The vehicles will currently recharge in about 8 hours household 120-volt current, while special 240-volt charging stations can charge it in only 3 hours.  GM estimates the car's fuel economy to be 230 mpg, but this value has yet to be confirmed in real world independent testing.  One of GM's top priorities has been trying to tweak the gas mileage upwards during the testing cycle.

One detail that has not been widely publicized is the new vehicle's "sports mode".  Activated by a Sport button on the center stack, the feature makes the throttle more receptive and increases its ultimate limit, bumping 0 to 60 mph acceleration down to 9 seconds.  The Volt's urge to scoot increases in the mode, though.  Like most cars, the Volt also provides an electronic version of a "Low" gear similar to that found in normal cars, which allows faster deceleration.  GM recommends the Low mode for driving on slopes or in stop and go.

One disappointment is that the Volt and other Lithium-ion battery-powered electric vehicles may not be viable in hotter climates, such as some states in the American Southwest.  Despite the fact that Volts will be sold in these states, performance may be significantly undermined due to the heat.  Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah describes, "The Volt may not be right for everyone. If you live in the Southwest, depending on how you use your car, the Volt might not be right for you."



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RE: Not interested
By thorr2 on 11/30/2009 5:06:13 PM , Rating: 0
All of this negativity reminds me of the naysayers back when the automobile was first introduced. They were slower than horses and much more expensive. Thankfully for all of us, the naysayers didn't stop the progress of the automobile.


RE: Not interested
By mindless1 on 12/1/2009 10:23:46 PM , Rating: 2
Two problems with your argument:

1) We're comparing the same thing - automobiles, not horses which would be much greener than electric cars.

2) The automobile provided an improvement in transportation, but electric cars do not!!! Merely using less energy is not an improvement fundamental to the task of transportation, rather being pushed on us by morons who are trying to make energy more expensive rather than building more power plants.

I say let's have electric cars but let's quit thinking about them as progress, rather a distraction from the real problem. Whether mankind exhausts all natural resources in 2200 years or 2211 is kinda irrelevant.


RE: Not interested
By thorr2 on 12/2/2009 6:41:45 PM , Rating: 2
1) Yes, EV's are still automobiles, but they are a revolutionary change from gasoline powered automobiles. Up until now, all automobiles were evolutionary design changes. EV's are a new technology designed to accomplish the same thing. Horses and automobiles still get you from point A to point B, but how that happens is different. I made the comparison to horses because of the revolutionary design changes that require time and testing to get right.

2) They don't improve transportation per se (unless you consider the Tesla Roadster perhaps), but if they end up costing much less to operate in the long run because oil is getting more and more expensive, then I would argue that that would be considered progress. I would rather spend my money on other things than energy consumption.


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