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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 Keeir on 11/30/2009 7:40:18 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention gasoline is actually pretty safe. Certainly safer than trusting the average Joe with a plug that can deliver 50-100 amps at 480V!.

Ummm... nothing wrong with that at all.

Gasoline pretty safe? An extremely flammable/explosive liquid? Not to mention toxic.

A chord can be designed that will essentially elimate the possiblity to shock ones self. Water Detection (you know standard on all homes), pass off signals so circuit doesn't engage until properly pluged in, etc.

RE: Electric?
By Elementalism on 11/30/2009 9:52:45 PM , Rating: 3
Gasoline is actually pretty stable provided you dont light it on fire.

RE: Electric?
By Runiteshark on 12/1/2009 12:39:07 AM , Rating: 2
And if you don't make it aerosolized.

Then again anything can burn if its dispersed enough...

RE: Electric?
By JediJeb on 12/1/2009 1:35:13 PM , Rating: 3
Just watch the Myth Busters episode where they tried to get a car fuel tank to explode by shooting it. It would not explode no matter how much they tried. They even dropped a lit match into a half full tank and it just extinguished the match. The explosive concentration of air and gasoline is a very narrow range. If you don't believe that just try to start a carberated engine that is a little out of adjustment.

Most deaths from fire in vehicles come from a slow cooking burn from the spilled fuel instead of an explosion like you see in the movies. The Lower Explosive Limit for gasoline is 1.4% in air, the Upper Explosive Limit is 7.6% in air. If the concentration of gasoline if above or below this number then it will not explode when a flame is present. It will burn but not expolde. So really gasoline is much safer than what the movies would have you believe.

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