Volt Birth Watch 161: Charge!

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

More details about the Volt’s charging system emerged at a GM FastLane livechat with charging equipment engineer Gery Kissel. Kissel reveals that the Volt will have 120V and 240V power chargers, but the 240V unit will be wall-mounted and hard-wired. Though the 240V charger will refill batteries much quicker (3.3 kW), it won’t be portable. Though the 120V will be able to plug into any outlet, it will charge more slowly (1.2 kW) and the cord will only be 20 feet long. Kissel said code required the cord to be under 25 feet or have some kind of management system to keep it off the ground. A retractable cord has been ruled out, and a decision hasn’t been made to allow the cord to lock to the vehicle while charging.

Another issue comes from a question by “evchels” (aka Chelsea Sexton of Who Killed The Electric Car):

While it’s not crucial for PHEV/EREVs, do you expect at some point to enable the Volt w 6.6kW charging capability, given that much of the public charging will likely land in that range- and the existing infrastructure is already ~240v/40a?

Kissel’s reply:

The current size of the Volt charger is based on the battery size and recharge requirements. Unless one of those changes, we are going to stick with 3.3KW.

In short, without changes in battery and recharging equipment, the Volt seems to be behind the curve for most public recharging infrastructure developments. But another question reveals just how concerned Kissel and the Volt team are about such esoteric non-home charging developments. “Dustin” asks:

The 40mi range would be perfect for city traffic, are there any solutions for those who do not have a garage or electric hookup? Lots of people park in the road at home and work… If no solution, what kind of alternatives are being investigated?

Kissel’s reply:

This is really an infrastructure question. Our focus is on home charging.

Edward Niedermeyer
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  • KarenRei KarenRei on Aug 24, 2009

    As to the people questioning whether the 1.4L engine would be enough for passing or going up hills: It doesn't need to be. The engine only needs to be able to generate the *average* amount of power used in adverse driving conditions, not *peak* power. When you start going up a hill or passing, the battery charge drops. When you go down the other side of the hill or slow back down, the battery charge rises back up. Hence, the engine only needs to be able to provide for your *average* speed and your *average* slope. To address some more misconceptions: 1) "Most of us" don't pay anywhere near 20 cents per kWh. The average is just over 10 cents. 2) The Volt is more efficient than direct drive for the same reason that conventional parallel hybrids are more efficient: engines only hit their peak efficiency in a very narrow power band. Plus, a system like the Volt can go with a 98% efficient single-gear transmission instead of a 85-90% manual or a 80-85% automatic. 3) Climbing a mountain will not "very rapidly deplete that 30% charge". 30% charge is 4.8kWh, or about 24 miles range. The Volt is to be about 1,600 kilograms. At 9.81m/s^2 and, say, a 90% efficiency at turning the electricity into gravitational potential energy change (over the normal losses), that equals an increase in altitude of 3,250 feet. You know how far you have to drive on an interstate to gain 3,250 feet altitude? They're capped at 6% grade, and will rarely average (when all ups and downs are considered) more than 1-2%. And all that time, your generator will be running nonstop, refilling the pack. There's no normal situation in which you will drain the pack. 4) Even on coal, the Volt will be cleaner in almost every respect than virtually any other vehicle on the road. Power plants are more efficient than ICEs, have centralized scrubbers, and release their emissions further away from where people breathe. 5) The reason you can't have a Prius run in he series hybrid mode all the time is because the electric motor isn't powerful enough. Hence, the gasoline engine *must* come on at high speeds or high acceleration. If you want to run it in pure electric mode, even if you buy one of those add-on packs, you have to treat it like a low-speed vehicle.

  • Njdave Njdave on Aug 24, 2009

    re: Diesel-electric locomotives at least around here, d/e locomotives do not pull the train directly. The trains are normally electric, there are electric motors on the wheels of every car. The overhead wires, however, are only strung so many miles from NYC. When a train has to go beyond that range, they use the d/e locomotive, and it switches to diesel once they go past the catenary wires. The diesel is essentially a rolling generator, providing electric power to the motors on each wheel of the entire train, rather than doing a diesel-electric to electric-mechanical conversion for only the locomotive. Much more efficient.

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