During our Chevy Volt media day, myself and other journalists were given a whirlwind tour of the E-Flex battery lab. Hybrid Director Mickey Bly briefed us on the current mule (test car) status.
First, there have been four mules operational for the past 6 months. We actually got to see one on a lift, with an A123/Conti battery pack sitting on a smaller lift below the vehicle ready to ride up into the T-shaped space within the floorboard.
This mule which has been running constantly for these past 6 months has a fully-operational comprehensive E-Flex powertrain, and all of the Volt-specific components within it, per Bly. Thus far it has been running on a daily basis using small NiMh packs which allow it a 1 to 2 mile pure EV range, but has allowed testing of the electric drive, range extender, and controls. The skin of the car is that of a late model 2005 Malibu.
Mickey told us that the first lithium-ion pack (he wouldn’t say which pack-maker first) will be placed into the first mule this month, and that GM plans a fleet of about a dozen to soon be off and running.
This month marks a strong and decisive landmark or turning point in the development process, for these prototypes, although not in finish, will be for all intents and purposes, Chevy Volts.
The engineers will from these be able to learn the real-world driving characteristics of the battery packs and allow them to prove the models are valid and the car will behave as intended.They will also learn how to optimize the control mechanisms.
Volt executive Frank Weber noted that true Volts both in appearance and form will appear in mid-2009.
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