Print 54 comment(s) - last by Hoser McMoose.. on Jan 9 at 3:47 PM

Courtesy of MSNBC
We can make it bigger, drive longer, not that much faster, we have the technology, kind of.

General Motors announced last week the revival of its electric car.  Their new design, the Volt, will mass market the electric car and use little to no gasoline. 

The Volt draws its power from a next generation battery, the E-flex system, which is recharged by a small onboard engine.  According to GM, when the battery is depleted, a 1L, three-cylinder turbocharged engine spins at a constant speed to create electricity and replenish the battery.  The motor will not provide forward propulsion and is only used to recharge the battery. The car is said to reach 40 miles on one charge and save close to 500 gallons of gasoline a year.

This new development sprouted from the failed EV1 project GM began in 1996 and abandoned in 2003.  They were heavily criticized for abandoning the experimental electrical vehicle program, but with the Volt, GM hopes to improve on their previous ideas of the EV1.

Some improvements on the new model include more passenger space, longer battery life, smaller battery size, and higher cruising speeds.

While most ultra-clean and efficient vehicles on the market today use hybrid gasoline-electric powertrains, the Volt will use E85 fuel which is a blend of 85% Ethanol and 15% gasoline.

Since the project is still in the concept stage, a final production version of the car is not projected for another 3 to 5 years.

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Just the next step
By djc208 on 1/8/2007 8:17:12 AM , Rating: 2
This is called a "series" hybrid, as opposed to the currently available hybrids which are "parallel" (gas and electric work together to power the wheels).
It's actually a very good way to extend the run a hybrid. You can use a small, very efficient engine to generate electricity since that's all it does. Since the engine only runs at one speed it can be tuned to make max power and minimum emissions at just that speed, unlike a normal or parallel hybrid where the engine must operate anywhere from idle to red line.
Plus when the tech is ready you just swap out the gas engine for a fuel cell, no massive vehicle redesign required.

RE: Just the next step
By myurr on 1/8/2007 9:59:49 AM , Rating: 2
Oh thank the maker, finally someone has managed to 'get' how this concept works. It doesn't do 40 miles on the battery and then switch to gas. Basically what this concept allows you to do is drive a huge big heavy car, fast, with a 1 litre engine. As soon as the battery is being drained (say below 90% capacity), on comes the small petrol engine to keep it topped up. Cruising at 55 miles per hour doesn't require the same amount of engine power as a 5 second 0-60 time. It is this disparity that the concept is exploiting.

In time expect the petrol engine to be replaced with a fuel cell or small gas turbine running on hydrogen.

RE: Just the next step
By AxemanFU on 1/8/2007 11:45:50 AM , Rating: 2
The concept is remarkably simple, and similar to what modern diesel electric trains do. The diesel runs a massive generator that powers high torque electric motors that power the train engine. We have the same thing here in a car, scaled down. Like mentioned, the best part is that the power source for the charger can be changed out over time. If they are thinking ahead, they will produce a modular design that allows the power pack or battery assembly to be easily replaced or upgraded.

You can use many things for a power pack for the generator/alternator/magneto that charges the battery: An turbine, a rotary engine, a small piston engine, a fuel cell.

You can use many fuels: gas, ethanol, any natural gas, ethanol/gas mixes, hydrogen, diesel, whatever the engine type will allow.

The weakness is still the battery many times can it be cyclically recharged? How much ability to hold charge does it lose over time? Etc.

Trust me, once you have a sufficiently powerful electric drive, you will never miss a gas engine. Smooth, quiet, fast, with a LOT of torque at all speeds. I'm not so sure how well it can accomodate towing loads if it is adapted to trucks, though. More load will increase the drain on the battery system.

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