Battery Tech - Not Better Range - Is Why We Should Be Excited About Chevrolet Volt

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole
battery tech not better range is why we should be excited about chevrolet volt

Chevrolet announced Tuesday that its new 2016 Volt would extend its all-electric range from 38 miles to 53 miles, which is a 40-percent improvement and would satisfy more than 90 percent of normal drives.

The feat itself would put the Volt on par with many all-electric commuters, whose normal range is anywhere from 60 to 90 miles. Of course, the Volt packs with it a 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder that bumps that range up to more than 400 miles, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s talk about the batteries.

On paper, the Volt’s new battery capacity is 18.4 kWh compared to last generation’s 16.5 kWh — an only 11 percent increase in capacity. Even further, there’s 96 fewer cells in the 2016 Volt compared to the current model and the batteries themselves are 20 pounds lighter.

So where does the 40-percent bump in range come from? Better batteries and a better approach.

Chevrolet has steadily improved its batteries in the Volt since the car came out in 2011 — 16 kWh to 16.5 kWh — but the bump to 18.4 kWh would be the largest improvement in six years to overall storage. Chevrolet has put the car on a diet, too, and that signals a change for the automaker from previous years.

The overall weight of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is down 250 pounds over the current car (3,543 pounds vs. 3,781 pounds) and 100 pounds of that alone comes from slimmer energy storage.

All the little things — plus big improvements in battery tech — have equaled a 38-percent increase in EV range in six years and the car still costs $33,995, which is only $453 more than the average new car price in the United States. Range wars may become the new horsepower wars.

Almost two years ago, GM announced it was tripling its investment in its battery labs. It appears that investment is starting to pay off.

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  • Thinkin... Thinkin... on Aug 05, 2015

    CORRECTION: The current (2015) battery in the Chevy Volt is 17.1 kWh. It started as 16.0 kWh in 2011, went up to 16.5 kWh for 2013, and was further bumped up to 17.1 kWh for 2015. However, GM decided against EPA range recertification with the new battery for two reasons: 1) it was likely not worth the recertification cost for a 4-5 mile gain in EPA EV range, particularly for a last model year. 2) With the new model in the pipeline, GM stands to benefit from the outgoing model having as low a range as possible, so they can tout how amazingly improved the range is - helping to fuel articles such as this one. All in, it's actually a good call on GM's part, and owners of 2015 models have been very pleased with their unadvertised range bump.

  • Shaker Shaker on Aug 05, 2015

    Thanks for this article - it's nice to see some err... 'positive' news from GM, and I look forward to updates. I still might go a little bit nuts and get a Volt (the economics don't really work for me); I just would love the (ER)EV experience before I leave this mortal coil...

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that