Chevy's Next Volt Shooting For 200-Mile Range, $30k Price Tag
Prior to stepping down as CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson made a few mentions about an EV similar to the Volt that would possess a 200-mile range on a single charge with an on-board generator that could run on gas, diesel or natural gas. He also hoped the car would sell for around $30,000.
What wasn’t reported, however, was that Akerson wanted this car to be GM’s moon shot in order to surprise the competition, namely Tesla with their proposed $30,000 Model E, set to debut in showrooms as early as 2016. With the upcoming Cadillac ELR helping to bring more EVs to the road (along with the funds to develop the Volt Mk. II), GM could end up planting their flag next to the Chinese telescope left behind in the Bay of Rainbows. Only time will tell, and with 2016 approaching, there is little of it to waste.
When the Volt was first announced, it was supposed to have an ICE just to charge the battery when it got too weak so it would still be able to power the electric motor, then it was announced that the ICE would be driving the wheels when the battery to too weak, this surely increased the cost of building and selling the car I'm sure.
I don't think this Akerson dream machine is as far-off as everyone thinks. The Volt's battery chemistry was locked in as of 2009. The EV honchos (Musk, Ghosn, et al) have made it pretty clear that energy density is increasing at about 5-7% per year. Presumably the chemistry that LG submitted to GM in the running for the Volt was tried and true given the relative lack of interest in EV battery development in 2007, when the Volt idea was born. So let's pick 2007 as the year that LG had finalized the chemistry for the Volt's pack. This gives us six years that have passed with more money thrown at Li-ion EV battery development than ever, probably exponentially so every year. We also have more data from 150,000 plug-in cars now on the road in the US actually using these things (ask Nissan about Arizona...). So at a 5% improvement in energy density for a price point every year, we should have about 35% more energy density for a dollar value in batteries approved today for production in 2016 than we do in current-generation EVs. Based on this assumption, the Volt's exact battery size and weight would stay the same while energy storage would increase from 16.5 kWh to 22.3 kWh. Furthermore, even Volts with high mileage (highest recorded on Voltstats.net right now is about 120,000) have virtually no degradation in usable battery capacity. GM only allowed about 10.2 kWh out of 16.5 kWh to be used initially to ensure longevity (along with a robust thermal management system). They've opened up that window twice, once for the 2013 model (10.9 kWh usable) and the ELR (11.9 kWh usable) as they've seen how well the packs are holding up. So ignoring everything else about the Volt, let's say our new hypothetical 2013 chemistry allows 18 kWh usable out of 22.3 kWh total capacity. This would allow 65 miles of EPA range in the existing car. Of course the new Delta platform is coming out, designed from scratch to be fitted with Volt bits instead of the current car where they're all shoehorned in. It's not unrealistic to think that: 1) The car will be substantially lighter than the current porker. 2) The car will have more appropriate accommodations for battery placement and size. Multiple pack-size options, pancake instead of T-shaped, etc.. 3) The car will support various methods of improving EV usage out of the box (DC quick charging, properly-integrated onboard charging [the current unit is stuffed behind the bumper cover], support for a heat pump, etc.). Then keep in mind that the Volt was a bit of a kludge design in 2007 using off-the-shelf stuff wherever possible due to financial constraints. The power split device/transaxle is essentially a modified GM Two-Mode hybrid unit. The engine is a de-turboed 1.4L iron-block from the Cruze. The main drive motor was a Japanese unit. This kind of stuff goes on and on. Increased battery energy density, new packaging options, lower curb weight, the Spark EV's highly efficient in-house drive motor, Opel's little aluminum 3 cyl engine, true serial drive configuration, a heat pump, and numerous other improvements certainly mean a 100 mile EV range Volt with better extended-range MPG are not anywhere near "moonshot" status. This is all possible at a palatable price for the next generation car. A 200 mile EV with a tiny optional range extender (like the i3) certainly isn't unfathomable either. If Barra pulls the trigger, this is totally doable.
The Volt doesn't need a 200 mile EV range. GM needs to drive cost out of it, get rid of the battery down the middle of the back seat, improve CS mode to 50 vs 40 MPG. Another 10-20 miles of EV range would be nice but anything more than that is pointless. Akerson sounds like he is talking out of his you know what more than anything. If he thinks the Volt needs a 200 mile range he really has no clue behind the most basic premise of what the Volt is supposed to be/do.
Tom Worobec, hosting "AutoNews Now", just reported (this afternoon) that despite all the EV "hoopla" (my term), that by 2040, 78% of all vehicles on the road will STILL use gasoline-only ICE's. (An Energy Department Report). See link: http://www.autonews.com/article/20131218/VIDEO/312189999/autonews-now-safety-mandate-coming?cciid=email-autonews-annow&r=4225F9661801A4X#axzz2neQrdiN5 My comment to him was this: "Of the remaining 22% of vehicles that won't be powered by the very perfected and adaptable gasoline ICE, how many will use natural gas (CH4)? If an estimated half of those (11%) will be, that leaves only 11% that would distributed among EV, Hybrid, H2, and diesel. Is that right?" No answer yet. -----------------------