By on April 28, 2010

Former EV-1 driver and “science guy” Bill Nye hams it up while promoting GM’s Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle. And actually, according to a recent interview with Bob Lutz, GM now prefers that you refer to the Volt as “an electric vehicle with range extension.” Huh? Sounds like they’re gonna need a science guy to break this one down…

Instead, El Lutzbo explains:

We have stopped calling it an extended range electric vehicle and we now call it an electric vehicle with range extension. We’ve kind of swapped the emphasis on that.

We did some research in various areas but predominantly on the West coast, and we conducted this research several times. We have reason to believe that Nissan conducted the same research and is now somewhat less bullish about the volume for their vehicle.

We asked people to pick from three concepts. Once is an electric vehicle of about 40 miles range but with a gasoline powered generator that would permit when necessary another 250 to 300 miles of range. Choice B is an electric vehicle with quick charging of a range of a hundred miles, and Choice C an electric vehicle with swappable batteries, with a range of 100 miles and you find a battery swapping station and you swap out.

83% of the vote went to the Volt concept.

OK Bob, but did you include price point differences in your analysis? Because as long as nobody’s asking about prices, I’d still rather have a 400 horsepower, mid-engined supercar than a Camry. Why isn’t GM building that?

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22 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: What We Need More Of Is Science Edition...”

  • avatar

    I get it, what Lutz is saying is that the Volt is not an EV that has as much range as an internal combustion driven car of the same class, its an EV that ‘could’ have more range than most EV’s.

    These guys talk more like politicians than the politicians.

  • avatar

    that’s what hummer owners really wanted: a “range extension.” the picture however, seems to fit better with previous weight reduction articles.

  • avatar

    GM can do all the market research they want and play games with the name… the end all that matters is if they live up to or exceed their own hype (commonly called Customer Satisfaction)…..something for which GM is not well known.

  • avatar

    I would think that the Volt concept could be delivered, with 40 mile EV range, at a price that looked good compared to a 100 mile Leaf, as it’s the battery that’s the most costly part.

    Still, there’s some variables involved that make a straight comparison difficult. If you remove the battery, there’s much less to the Leaf than there is to the Volt. Take away the battery and the Volt is still a car with a fullsize gas powertrain. Take the battery away from the Leaf and you’re left with a passenger compartment and 4 wheels (I exaggerate slightly).

    Apparently, this means that to get 40% of the Leaf’s range, the Volt need 60% of the Leaf’s battery. That erodes a lot of the Volt’s potential for cost advantage.

    • 0 avatar

      The Volt doesn’t have a a full-size gas powertrain. The ICE is present purely to recharge the batteries. It will operate at it’s highest efficiency point to recharge the batteries….NOT to propel the vehicle.

      Hybrids like the Prius have both a gas and electric power source to propel the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Reply to 1996 MEdition:

      Charging the battery is exactly NOT what the gas engine does in the Volt.

      Gee, I thought we’d been through all that a hundred times on TTAC!

      The Volt is not a hybrid. When the battery runs down, the gas engine drives the electric motor through a generator to get you to journey’s end.

      Then you plug it in to get the 40 mile electric range again.

      That’s it. It’s not a Prius constantly charging the battery.

    • 0 avatar

      1996MEdition wrote: “The Volt doesn’t have a a full-size gas powertrain. The ICE is present purely to recharge the batteries. It will operate at it’s highest efficiency point to recharge the batteries….NOT to propel the vehicle.”

      It’s a Cruze-sized car with an engine big enough to power a Cruze-sized car (1.4L – not high-performance, to be sure, but full-sized).

      While it doesn’t have a transmission, it does have a generator, which erases some of that weight loss.

      Some engineers lashed together a generator for the Tau Zero and Rav4-EV. They used a 500cc trailer-mounted motorcycle engine.

      wmba wrote about battery charging…

      It’s going to kinda-sorta recharge the batteries and GM says the engine will run at multiple, different RPMs, depending on the situation (so it’s not optimized for recharging at a fixed rate).

      It won’t fully recharge the batteries but it will add some charge to them, so that you have a power reserve. When the batteries are “fully” depleted, the engine and generator only offer something like 53KW electric, which isn’t enough to get decent performance. So GM will allow the ICE to recharge the batteries a bit to give the vehicle some power reserve.

  • avatar

    what i want to know is, will this really amount to a piss in the wind for GM? to this point hybrids and electrics and any variable thereof are mostly a political statement by their owners. just like a bmw is a status symbol. i don’t personally know anyone who is amped up (pun intended) to own a volt.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Call it what you want but it’s always been pretty straight forward to me what the Volt is. The intent is that the generator is only there as a back-up and not meant to be used on a daily basis. It add’s cost and reduces range but IMO GM did their homework and determined it was needed to make the car more appealing to mainstream consumers. The beauty of the Volt is that it looks and drives like any ICE car. Personally I thin it looks great, sign me up!

    I’ll let you know how I like mine next summer!

  • avatar

    I like the idea of the Volt, but only time will tell if it’s a success. I suspect it will have a lot to do with the price of gas over the next few years. I’d be tempted to consider it if it works in a cold climate (which I think may be a problem)

    But GM should find a better booster than Bill Nye The Media Whore.

  • avatar

    In 2030 we’ll all look back and laugh at the Volt like we currently do the Vega. This of course presumes it ever ships.

    GM is incapable of thinking outside the box. They did it one and only one time, with the Corvair. It only took one over-motivated lawyer to kill that and chase GM’s thinkers right back into their comfortable box. Since then every attempt at going outside has resulted in failure. Now even the box itself is failing, or at least without a bailout HAS FAILED.

    On a side note. I dearly miss “Almost Live!” the show where Bill Nye got his start.

  • avatar

    Call me a sucker, but I’m with Lutz on this one. I’d call it an EV with range extension too. Because that’s what it is.

  • avatar

    They use the term “range extension” as though it’s free, and Nissan was stupid for not thinking of it.

    Nissan’s Leaf is a decidely simpler, cheaper car with appeal to some commuters, possibly even me.

    Utilizing the Volt’s range extension nullifies its fuel economy. If I knew I’d be making 300-mile trips, I’d look at a lot of other cars before a $40k Volt.

    • 0 avatar

      GM doesn’t talk much about Volt fuel economy after the battery has run down. It will be extremely interesting to see what the range is of a fully fueled and charged Volt.

      I think the vehicle will be ill-suited to long trips. We shall see later this year, most likely.

  • avatar

    “i don’t personally know anyone who is amped up (pun intended) to own a volt”

    Well UNDRGND 40, that’s your problem, you should get out more – then perhaps you would ! ;D

    But seriously I too would think that way. As another poster pointed out, this is coming down to a price war between GM and Nissan because these vehicles use their battery packs for storing large amounts of ENERGY making them ultra expensive components which eventually have to be reflected in their price stickers.

    In contrast, for those who may not be aware, the battery in the Prius is used solely for its 28Hp POWER capability. It is able to get this power from quite small cells having a total capacity of just 1.3Kwhr. This happens to be one tenth the size of the batteries employed by the VOLT and the LEAF, and therefore one tenth the cost. A fact which will leave the lower priced Toyota Prius out of contention.

    The question then, that needs to be asked, is whether the range extender is worth another $10k on the VOLT.

    To me that call is easy to make considering that Enterprise and Discount Rentals are just a phone call away for me and probably for 95 percentile of the rest of the population as well.

    The VOLT is a premium vehicle and certainly not a market competitor for either the Prius or Leaf. I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t some soul searching going on at GM right now, because what I am reading about here on TTAC is that there are going to be a lot of takers for the LEAF.

    GM should consider whether they can strip out the gasoline component and compete with the Leaf on price. Or downsize the battery to a Prius equivalent and go after Toyota’s full hybrid Prius market. It would be interesting to see what a 1.0L engine could do with that fully decoupled electric powertrain. I could, at the very least, forsee the demise of the Honda hybrids whose CVTs have longevity problems above 100k miles. Another American nameplate could join Ford in the hybrid Taxi market which would be nice to see also.

    • 0 avatar

      GM could probably produce a competitor to the Leaf, but it won’t be based upon the Volt. That platform has been optimized for its purpose – everything from controls to suspension components to interior volume is engineered to accomodate the series-hybrid componentry.

      We often speak here of competition between these vehicles, but they won’t really compete unless the consumer limits their choice to vehicles with electric propulsion, which most will not do.

      If you want a short-range electric commuter that consumes only 1 fuel, buy the Leaf. If you want a long-range electric car that consumes 2 fuels, by the Volt. If you want a car that can do everything economically, you won’t buy either one.

    • 0 avatar

      i’d love to get out more. but i actually live in an area where the volt wouldn’t be a viable option for most people.

  • avatar

    Did Lutz blog this in from the retirement home, or is he still on the payroll?

    It is sad to watch someone suffer from dumbentia.

  • avatar

    And what percentage of the vote went to “rear-wheel drive, 6-speed, diesel wagon for less than $20k” ?

  • avatar

    Nice Achewood reference.

  • avatar

    wmba wrote…
    The Volt is not a hybrid. When the battery runs down, the gas engine drives the electric motor through a generator to get you to journey’s end.

    To which I say let us not forget that whatever the VOLT will or will not do depends entirely on the installed software.
    A significant software change can change the modus operandus but still leave the hardware untouched.

    glippy wrote…
    That platform has been optimized for its purpose – everything from controls to suspension components to interior volume is engineered to accomodate the series-hybrid componentry.

    As I replied to wmba – software can change. There would be no problem to turn the VOLT into an improved version of the Prius. In this case you just go back to the 1.3Kwhr sized pack of the Prius and guess what ? NOW you can be price competitive.

    Let’s play with that using some figures with which I probably am more familiar than most people. You start with the 53kw engine in the VOLT plus the Prius equivalent 21kw battery giving you a total of 74kw as opposed to the 80kw of the 2004-2009 Prius itself.

    But wait !! That’s not the whole story. Things are much better than that !!
    Anyone who’s really up on the Prius knows that the partially coupled system of the Toyota HSD system hobbles the Prius engine which is not able to make full revs and therefore full power until high road speeds. Let me throw some figures. Their INZ-FXE engine makes only 55 Hp at 20mph and doesn’t find 76 Hp until at least 51mph.

    OTOH the fully decoupled VOLT engine can make 53Kw anytime it likes. So at 20mph with battery assist the Volt could push out 74Kw. Meanwhile the Prius makes 55+28 Hp or 83Hp (61Kw).

    There’s more. Hopefully I can make you a believer in the VOLT.

    Try this.. When the Prius cruises the HSD electrical servo system contrives to put a high torque load on the engine at lower revs in order to reduce engine friction for a given output power. Incidentally the Volt will be obliged to perform this trick also. In the Prius, Virtual Power is generated in the HSD and it can be easily 2 or 3 times that which is needed to actually propel the car at constant speed. The problem with Virtual Power, which by the way also exists on the national power grid, is that it incurs Real losses.

    In effect you have the two servos in the Prius connected electrically in parallel with the larger traction servo MG2 extracting the excessive mechanical power at the wheels and feeding it back as electricity to the generator servo, MG1. MG1, now acting as a motor is able to assist the engine in producing this excessive power- the Virtual power that is – in the first place.

    All this may sound just a bit crazy but the overall effect is to make the engine think it is chugging up a hill at 15 mph when in fact the vehicle is cruising along at 70mph. If you can do this with the engine just short of lugging – which should be easy since the current being monitored in MG1 is a direct analog of the engine’s torque – then you have an efficient system despite the churning losses of the electromechanical system that I described. Very cunning these japanese.

    This is the system that the VOLT has to beat. And the VOLT doesn’t have the benefit of Toyota’s HSD of providing that mechanical link back to the engine and ‘closing the loop’ so to speak. What we need is a way to replace the churning of mechanical power between two electrical machines connected back to back. In essence, irrespective of the vehicle’s actual power demand, we need a way to encourage a heavy current flow from the VOLT’s MG1 at all times. Could that trick be done with an electronic converter instead ?

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