Over the weekend, Scot Oldham broke a story about the new Chevrolet Volt. It was based on rumors that had been circulating among the cognoscenti that the Volt used its gas engine to provide propulsion during high loads.
This is a big deal because GM has been making a fuss about the Volt being an “extended range EV.” In fact, during a lunch I had with Bob Lutz earlier this year, we discussed the marketing challenge GM faced with the Volt. Consumers assumed the Volt was another hybrid, but it is was supposedly completely different. (With a hybrid, both the electric motor and the engine provide motive power; they drive the wheels.) With the Volt, the engine was supposedly basically a generator. It did not drive the wheels.
So, does the gas engine power the wheels, or not?
Motor trend has a technical discussion of the Volt that seems to confirm the rumor. And according to Scott, he has learned the NY Times has confirmation as well. The gas motor both charges the batteries AND powers the wheels under some conditions. In other words the Volt is a hybrid, albeit a technically advanced hybrid.
I would like to be able to tell you our engineers had confirmed this for themselves, but GM has been promising us a Volt for weeks to test and has yet to deliver. (Perhaps hoping to get a groundswell of good stories from less critical reviewers?)
Let’s be clear. There is nothing wrong with the Volt. The only reason this story has legs is that GM has been clearly on the record as saying the Volt is not a hybrid.
I can even see how they got themselves into a corner on this story. Perhaps the early mules were true EVs. The tradeoffs between motor power and efficiency may have meant that at this stage of technological development there was no alternative but to use the gas engine to power the wheels. No big deal. But say so. Don’t wait until the vehicle is close to being launched and wait for people to figure it out for themselves.
Or if you do, don’t be surprised when it becomes a story.
You can read the InsideLine story here.
And the Motor Trend piece is here.