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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, 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: One detail always gets overlooked in the Volt
By Keeir on 11/30/2009 5:49:44 PM , Rating: 2
Sure the Prius can run in EV mode

As long as more than 27 kW are not required. (More like 22 kW, because of the "magical" tranmission system. The Volt's 110kW goes through a fixed one gear with high high efficieny of transmission of power)

As noted earlier, the Prius entire battery is 0.5 kWh, so thats what? 1.2 minutes of full EV mode! or around 3 minutes at 40 mph. Oh yes, a wonderful EV mode.

"Furthermore, you are misinformed about the Prius, it can run in EV mode as well. All they need to do is enlarge the motor and the battery pack, connect it to the same wonder transmission, and all advantages of Volt are negated, whereas the drivetrain efficiency and the atkinson cycle engine efficiency advantages remain over the Volt. "

You mean. All they have to do is turn it into a Volt and the Prius is better than a Volt? A -fourth- generation product developed drastically into what would be its -fifth- or -sixth- product cycle is more efficient than a -first-?
Go back and look at the JDM Prius or even the first one that came to the US. Compare the Volt to that thing... The Volt has the potential in the 3rd or 4th generation that is something truely special. 60 mpg+ CS modes. 50 miles AER. 200 hp+ AWD. Prius? Not so much so, at least not without -becoming- a Volt.

RE: One detail always gets overlooked in the Volt
By corduroygt on 11/30/2009 6:12:22 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing the point.

It's not that hard to build a bigger electric motor, or a battery pack, only reason Prius doesn't have it is because it's designed to be sold in the 20k+ range unlike the Volt which is in the 40k range.

Generators, motors, and batteries have been around for years. Diesel electric locomotives use it due to the complexity/cost of designing a mechanical transmission that can withstand so much torque and the load of 100+ fully loaded cars. There's a reason why cars don't use the same propulsion system, and it's called efficiency.

Coming up with a transmission and hybrid system like in the Prius shows real ingenuity and impresses me much more. And mark my words, it will show its results in the real world fuel mpg when both don't have access to a plug.

Also, the "weak" Prius gets 0-60 around 9 seconds, same as the Volt, which is enough for a family car.

RE: One detail always gets overlooked in the Volt
By Keeir on 11/30/2009 7:35:00 PM , Rating: 2
errr... no your missing the point

The reason why cars haven't used the system is due to wieght and rolling resistence and space.

A train on proper tracks has incredibly small rolling resistence combined with relatively high volume.

Until Lithium Ion, Batteries have not provided the required Power, Capacity, and Density to be used in the Volt fashion.

Now that Lithium Ion is approaching a reasonable cost, every automaker is suddenly throwing together electric cars or plug-ins. Including Prius Plug-ins.

"Coming up with a transmission and hybrid system like in the Prius shows real ingenuity and impresses me much more. And mark my words, it will show its results in the real world fuel mpg when both don't have access to a plug."

Why in the world would you buy a Volt and not plug it in??????????? Maybe we should buy a Prius and use it as farm equipment?!? or a drag racer?!?

When used as intented, the Volt is much more energy efficient, operating cost efficient, and uses much much less critical resource (Oil more critical than Coal, NG, Nuclear, Wind, Solar, etc) than a Prius.

By corduroygt on 11/30/2009 9:15:54 PM , Rating: 2
Here's the study to prove that you are not that inclined in laws of physics:

The main energy saving effect of diesel-mechanic compared to diesel-hydromechanic and diesel-electric propulsion comes from better efficiency of transmission. According to DSB, mechanic transmission has an efficiency of ~ 95 % compared to ~85 % for the other two systems. This alone yields energy savings of about 10 %.

For less heavy commuter trains, the interest is actually returning to diesel-mechanical transmissions due to higher efficiency.

Prius is the best of both worlds right now, and can be easily modified to fend off the volt by adding a more powerful electric motor and a bigger battery pack. This will of course increase its cost.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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