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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: Electric?
By FaaR on 11/30/2009 6:58:03 PM , Rating: 0
You must be (very) confused. 100A at 480V is 48 kilowatts of power. That's not something you're going to see in a home environment, or in any consumer products. The Volt can be charged with 240V tension, and might pull 15-20 amps (my speculation) - still a lot, but should be manageable for the wiring. 100A is something else though... That's a hella lot of current.

Shit, you can't even buy 100A fuses in regular stores, much less 100A fuses rated at 480V...

RE: Electric?
By corduroygt on 11/30/2009 7:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
We're talking about charging stations, similar to current gas stations, but with electricity, if electric is indeed the future. Tesla roadster has a 53 kWh battery pack, and with a 48kW charger, it'd take just about an hour to fill it up assuming it has 10% charge left when pulling into the station.

Still a very long time compared to getting gas in 5 minutes.

RE: Electric?
By Keeir on 11/30/2009 7:42:32 PM , Rating: 2
You can check out the offical chargers already

I think the 240V pulls around 12 AMPs and the 120V pulls between 8-12 depedning on a switch.

RE: Electric?
By mindless1 on 12/5/2009 2:35:34 AM , Rating: 2
People seem to overlook this is not so different from plugging in your toaster oven, clothes dryer, etc. Is it foolproof, no, but who wants to guess whether more people are killed on the road vs plugging in their applicances. That the current is a bit higher isn't really relevant till the outlets get degraded with age, at which point it's more of a fire hazard than direct electrical risk to the owner.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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