GMI's Volt Questions…Answered
You were charged up to ask questions, we attempted to get answers.
October 20, 2010
By: Nick Saporito
As soon as we found out we would be driving the 2011 Chevrolet Volt we asked our readers to submit their questions about the very well-known, very controversial electric car. It came to no surprise that there was no shortage of questions. During our near three day stint with the Volt we attempted to get every question answered by General Motors brass that were faced with the "big" decisions on one of GM's most critical products ever.
Now we couldn't get every question answered, but we probably achieved a 95-percent success on answers. Below we have compiled a list of all of the questions in which a clear answer was given by GM. We've tried to keep subjective material to the bare minimum in the answers to maximize clarity, though there are a couple of questions that require subjective thoughts.
Please refer to our drive impressions (launching tomorrow!) for more details and subjective matter on how the Volt performs, looks, feels and behaves in all kinds of conditions.
I want to know what's in store for Volt 2.0?
GM executives actually made two references to the future of Voltec. Bill Wallace, Director of Battery Systems Engineering stated that the focus on Voltec “1.5” is longer battery life within the physical size of the current battery. He also stated that the focus on 2.0 is achieving higher power density out of the battery—specifically 40-50% more than the current cells. Wallace cautioned that the chemistry currently “does not exist,” but GM is working on it.How seamless is the transition between modes?
The transition is seamless enough that you won’t know when it is taking place. The only indication is a graphic change on the interface of the gauge LCD. At some point you will likely hear the internal combustion engine running, but when the car initially goes into extended range mode it is entirely seamless. Also how long does GM anticipate the lifespan of the current car to be?
GM has not specified, though considering they were talking about what they were going to do on version “1.5,” it sounds like an update is inevitable. I want to know how much quicker the Volt is in electric mode vs. the ICE when the battery is drained.
There really is no performance difference between EV and extended range mode. Electricity is constantly driving the car (in all modes), so that instance torque factor is always there and it is noticeable.I am curious as how far along they are on the 2.0? Will the Lithium battery or other battery technology improve much in the next 4 years?
Engineers made it very clear work is underway on Voltec 2.0. They also made it clear they intend for battery technology to advance greatly over the next decade.Can it do a burnout?
Oh yeah. In fact, it’s pretty good at it.More information on the conditions that will result in the ICE being coupled to the wheels.
GM refers to this as “combined mode.” This mode can engage at speeds as low as 40 MPH, but the mode is “generally” used at high speeds (above 65 MPH). In combined mode the Volt can be running on up to 60-70% mechanical energy. MPG after battery reaches depletion.
We observed 35-40 MPG in extended range mode and that seemed commonplace amongst most of the test drivers. This was during conditions of about 50-degrees ambient temperature and a wide array of driving conditions and styles.How much of the 16kW battery will be used initially.
The Volt can use up to 10kWh of the battery pack.Is it possible to replace a battery cell as opposed to the whole battery to bring a vehicle back up to warranty "range" as the cells begin to wear out?
GM told us that the battery is designed to never need service work, so we would venture to say “no.”More information about battery management. I assume the battery is used and will "wear" evenly over the entire portion being used (say 8 - 10 kW at first) - is this the case or will the "lower" 10% become "more warn and less usable" over time first - followed by more of the battery?
There is a tremendous amount of battery control systems on the Volt. More than we or GM can explain. From what we can grasp, the car can use more or less of the battery over time. But again, it depends on conditions and situations.Any word on EPA ratings?
The EPA is telling GM it will be two to three more weeks until a methodology is finalized.How customizable is the display on the LCD screens?
It depends on your definition of customizable. You can display just about any information imaginable on either screen- you select. However the manner in which said information is displayed is fixed and not customizable.When will it be rolled out to the rest of the states? When can I buy one in Pennsylvania?
GM is currently saying the nationwide rollout will begin in 12-18 months. Can you see if you can get more details on the battery warranty?
GM did not divulge much information on the warranty itself. It is likely one of those things that owners will have to read the fine print of the owner’s manual to learn the details.I'd like to know a bit more about the ICE.
Well, it’s a 1.4-liter ECOTEC four-cylinder from the Family 0 lineup of engines. GM has capped the engine speed to just 4800 rpm, at which point it produces a maximum of 83 horsepower. The fuel system for the ICE is pressurized and sealed to minimize debris and hydrocarbons from entering the system. As such, it does require premium octane fuel, which GM swears gives the Volt a 5-10% increase in fuel economy. Oil changes on the ICE are dictated by GM’s oil life monitoring system just like every other GM product.Much has been stated about the OnStar interface. In a garage like mine, cell phone connectivity is virtually non-existent. (Combination of weak signal area and the structure with no windows). Are there special things someone in that situation should be concerned about?
The Volt has an external cellular antenna for OnStar (like all GM products). In theory it should get a signal in areas handheld phones do not. If not, you will just miss out on the OnStar features when it’s in the garage.What does it sound like?
It’s very quiet in all modes. During EV mode you only hear the tires rolling and a very faint electric-like noise. When in extended range mode you occasionally hear the ICE running, specifically if you are driving aggressively. At that point the Volt sounds sort of mean.When it is -10 degrees, will the Volt be anything close to a practical vehicle? I would think the engine would run until the battery is at a comfortable operating temperature. If so, what does this do to mileage? GM certainly has an endless mountain of data on cold weather testing.
The battery is constantly kept to a “comfortable” temperature range, even if the car is turned off. GM stated that even during their extreme cold weather testing the battery never got down to ambient temperature. It is almost constantly doing something, which generates heat. The only time the battery would be at the ambient temperature—according to GM—is when the car has sit outside for a week or so.I'm interested in how the ride and handling compare with any of the truly good mainstream mid size cars that the average consumer is attracted to. Once we get past the initial sales success to the eccentrics it comes down to Joe Average consumer to determine if cars like the Volt are sustainable.
Ride and handling is obviously subjective, but my personal preference is that the Volt handles better than most front-wheel drive sedans that are of similar size. No, I’m not kidding. The instant torque from the traction motor simply makes it a really entertaining drive.Does the car have traction/stability control (StabiliTrak)?
Yes, it has StabiliTrak like all GM products. It operates very similarly too.What are the differences in terms of design, build, and operation between the Ampera for European markets and the Volt for the USA particularly in terms of the powertrain?
The one difference GM did discuss is the addition of a fourth driving mode. European models will have a “hold” mode that allows you to drive the car in extended range mode even with a fully charged battery. The logic behind this is that a driver that lives 20 KM out of Paris could drive on the highway in extended range mode, then drive in all EV mode while in city traffic. Will there be a demo mode to show the different modes of operation to customers at dealers and test drives?
Every Volt has a “tutorial” mode that walks the user through the whole car and user interface. This can be viewed anytime the Volt is in park and is accessed from the DIC.What is the towing capacity? Can I put my boat in the water with it?
GM recommends that you NOT tow with the Volt.Is it possible to recharge the batteries to a serviceable level without plugging into an outlet?
Theoretically, yes. Through regenerative braking it could happen if you have enough downhill action going on. GM did state that if such were to happen, you would have to power cycle the car before it would enter EV mode again.Can the Volt get me to and from my job everyday without engine recharge if the battery is fully charged before use?
Depends on your commute. We found it fairly easy to get 40 EV miles out of the Volt.How long is the battery life expectancy before it needs to be replaced?
GM told us that the battery is engineered to last 10 years and/or 150,000 miles.When the Volt is plugged in for charging, is the gear leaver locked in Park? Are you unable to move the vehicle until you unplug it from the power source?
The Volt gets very unhappy if you have it plugged in or leave the charging door open when you attempt to take off. Not only does a warning message and graphic display in the gauge LCD, but it also beeps very loudly. In our experience the gear selector was not locked in park.A question that I have is what fail safes or safeguards are built in with regards to battery pack failure. Can the failure of an individual cell disable the car?
To our knowledge, no. A cell failure will not disable the entire car.