Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Nov 05

GM gives engineers a closer look at its new Volt powertrain


GM gave a deep(er) dive for the Society of Automotive Engineers into the gen-2 Volt’s powertrain, and divulged total range and energy efficiency will increase about 12 percent.

That would improve 380 gas plus electric miles to 425 but for Volt owners this is far less important than all-electric range.


“Greater range (particularly in EV mode), fuel efficiency, and power were the top three requests from owners of 2011-2013 Volt models,” said SAE International

So, is it reasonable to say if it’s 12 percent overall, and better in EV mode than gas mode, that AER was boosted by more than 12 percent? Not sure, but if so, a 12-percent increase to 38 miles is 42.5 miles, so “greater” than this means AER could be greater than 42.5.

Of course everyone already suspects as much, but this is another solid clue, at least.

As for fuel mileage – now regular, not premium – the 2015 Volt was rated at 37 mpg, so a 12-percent increase would boost it to 41.4 mpg, which might mean 41-42 on the sticker, but this too was not disclosed.

GM is withholding specific efficiency numbers until the Detroit reveal, but does say it responded to its driver pool who gave extensive feedback for GM to re-engineer the powertrain.

There is one misreport floating out there saying the SAE was told the 2016 Volt will keep the 2015’s “16″ kilowatt-hour pack capacity for its redesigned pack, but this is certainly incorrect as the 2015 has 17.1 kwh.

The specific capacity of the pack was not disclosed by SAE International’s report, but as reported earlier it’s 30-percent lighter, and has a reduced number of cells from 288 to 192 (still 96 cells in series).

“The larger cells also are positioned .5-in (12.7-mm) lower in the pack which in turn lowers the new Volt’s center of gravity,” said SAE International of the clean sheet design.

Actually the whole Voltec powertrain is a fresh start, and also now 130 pounds lighter with the 1.5-liter’s aluminum block accounting for a good chunk next to the iron block of the outgoing 1.4.

“I can’t think of a powertrain we’ve re-engineered more extensively within a five-year period than this one,” said Larry Nitz, GM’s Executive Director, Transmission and Electrification to SAE International.

A revised TPIM (traction power inverter module) is now direct mounted to the transmission case eliminating the heavy orange 400-A cables. GM said the focus was system integration.

The 1.5 reduces NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and the 1.0-liter turbo everyone thought was going to be installed was unacceptably noisy at points, especially at start up.

In all, efficiencies were found in re-vamping much of the system which now uses two redesigned motors. The new Volt has 20-percent more low-end power, is lighter, quieter, has more range.

Unanswered is anything about a fifth seat, and of course a breakdown of the range and efficiency numbers. The actual details will be announced in January unless some other leak happens sooner.

SAE International


Nov 04

October: 1,439 Volts sold in up month for GM


General Motors posted a number of records for its vehicle sales in October, but the Volt is just cruising along with 1,439 units delivered.

This is consistent with September’s 1,394 sales, but compared to October 2013’s sales, the Volt was down 28.8 percent.


Calendar year to date GM has delivered 15,979 Volts compared to 18,782 CYTD in 2013.

So what carried the day for GM? Bread and butter vehicles, including the Cruze with 24,289 sold, and up 51 percent over the 16,087 unts in October 2013. And then you have SUVs and trucks led by the Silverado, which topped every model by far with 46,966 units delivered, a 10.1 percent increase over 2013’s 42,660.

Beyond these, Buick had its best October since 2003, GMC Sierra had its best October since 2001, and as a company, GM had its best October since 2007.

“The U.S. economy has steadily improved all year and now we are poised for a stronger expansion backed by an improved job market, higher consumer confidence and lower fuel prices,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “We have a strong hand to play, with the industry’s newest and most complete line-up of pickups and SUVs, class-leading crossovers like the Buick Encore and a wealth of new products in the pipeline.”


One of those new products in the pipeline is the 2016 Volt, due for deliveries second half of 2015. Given that the existing Volt is not advertised well if at all, and folks still do not know how it works, and it may be in lame duck status somewhat now, it may be considered doing alright.

By comparison the Nissan Leaf reported its 21st straight month of sales records of one form or another. October witnessed 2,589 units sold, and with 24,411 units delivered calendar year to date, and Nissan’s EV achieved the most U.S. sales in a year by an electric car, and this is with two months to go.

Other plug-in sales of note include Cadillac ELR, 152; Spark EV, 58; BMW i3, 1,159; i8, 204 – up from 58 September and 9 in August when it was launched.

Then you have Tesla, guesstimated at 1,650 by Autodata. By the way, Tesla’s earnings will be reported tomorrow where we get to see who wins the PR spat between Elon and the WSJ which said Tesla sales are down for the last nine months.

Ford’s Energi cars are on par with the month prior with 644 for C-Max, and 686 for Fusion.

The Ford Focus Electric still has not risen higher in sales though it is a 50-state car now, and just had its entry price clipped a second time, to $29,995 in line with the Leaf. It delivered 186 October, and that’s close to the 176 from September, and less than 254 in August.

Want more plug-in sales? Fiat 500e, 140; Accord PHEV, 34; Fit EV, 23; new M-B B-Class Electric Drive, 98 – up from 65 in Sept., 51 in August. Mitsu i-MiEV, 17; Panamera S E-Hybrid, 97 (NOt BMW i8 eclipsed it); Smart ForTwo 150; RAV4 EV, 97, e-Golf, 1.

And Toyota PiP sold 479.

Miscellaneous Commentary

As readers here know, average consumer memories seem short, and buying decisions appear rather reactive. Americans like larger vehicles, and gas just last week crested below a national average of $3 per gallon, making feeding less-efficient vehicles comparatively less painful.

Nissan knows consumers care about gas prices, and even if the stuff is cheaper than Perrier, it gave gas for free to consumers for its latest ad to hammer home the point that EVs can be cheaper still.

Speaking of Nissan also, it has escaped as much of a lame duck status even if it will eventually be replaced and is as long in the tooth as the Volt – assuming either really are, actually, they both remain relatively stellar.

But Nissan’s 84-mle range EV has had no official next-gen announcements as the Chevy has. It by contrast is being advertised, and Nissan puts out special press releases touting its latest records in the nascent industry.

GM’s effective Volt advertising is the Volt is on its way out, and a new one is around the corner. That message is hitting the national media more than the existing Volt’s still-valid advantages, which GM gave up on trying to push as hard.

Here’s hoping Gen 2 is as super duper as everyone suspects, and then some. We may see some serious catching up at that point – assuming GM can properly support it and this is not just a bone thrown to the fan club it has developed.

Where is that Voltec CUV? If Americans love trucks and SUVs, could a plug-in sell, or not? VIA seems to think so, but with sales growth of the existing 17-20 mpg Silverado, who needs a plug, in perhaps?

What Americans bought most last month.

What Americans bought most last month.

What ever the case, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and progress is on its way.

Every plug-in car out there is potentially advertisement for the others. Once people’s eyes are opened to any plug-in car, they may think to cross-shop. If GM is fortunate, it might get a few inadvertent conquest sales from people for whom the light bulb goes off after hearing about Tesla or Nissan, then look for alternatives.

Of course the best alternative will be Gen 2 Volt which will come soon enough – or, which is it? Maybe it can’t come soon enough?

Our vote is the former, and note the due-to-be-replaced old Volt was the third-best selling out of 20 cars.


Nov 03

Simple reason why Toyota is not building EVs: “No one” wants one, says manager


There will be more news from many outlets this month on Toyota’s FCV.

Toyota will have five pre-production FCVs lined up and will be funneling 75 journalists through on a test drive complete with fill-up at an H2 station. This will be its own separate media event before the LA Auto Show.

Anyone who wants me to ask some pointed questions this month, please post them in comments or e-mail me.


Having long basked in an enviro-reputation for its hybrids, Toyota has been saying battery electric cars don’t make sense, and as it prepares to show its fuel cell car to the U.S. next month, it’s said more.

“Today, Toyota actually favors fuel cells over other zero-emission vehicles, like pure battery electric vehicles,” said Craig Scott, the company’s national manager of advanced technologies. “We would like to be still selling cars when there’s no more gas. And no one is coming to our door asking us to build a new electric car.”

In response, EV advocates have viewed this “no one” wants a Toyota EV statement with feelings ranging from dismay to disgust to finding it humorous. The quote was originally given to the LA Times as Toyota amps up for its FCV preview.

But do people really not want Toyota to engineer and produce a battery electric car?

SEE ALSO: Is Toyota’s No-EV Vision Brilliant Or Missing The Boat?
It’s being said customers would ask Toyota to build an EV, but marketers tend to focus on their corporate strategy, and the negative outlook on lithium-ion battery cars has been the view from Japan for a few years now.

At the same time it’s been reported Toyota is at work in Japan on more-advanced batteries for use in EVs that would provide better energy storage, more convenient charging, better cold weather durability, and all around make for a superior electric car.

So while it seems to some Toyota is quitting early, characteristic of Japanese manufacturers, Toyota is a long-range planning company. It yet considers its options open, and is at work on technologies including solid state chemistry even if its U.S. arm is playing out of the Japanese corporate playbook it’s been handed.

And for now, Toyota is focused mostly on fuel cells.

As noted, the fuel cell vehicle is getting a big boost as the the company prepares for corporate big wigs to show the media their company’s first FCV in Newport Beach, Calif. This will happen Nov. 16-18, a couple days in advance of the LA Auto Show in Long Beach to air the point-counterpoint, and make Toyota’s case.


The company also is at work on an improved plug-in Prius hybrid – a car now rated for 11 miles EV range, and the lowest of plug-in hybrids sold stateside. Unknown is Toyota’s range goal, but it will use li-ion batteries, and Toyota is at least dedicated to this model.

But Toyota has exhibited a habit of saying things negatively against EVs, and this may not be helping it. To us in New York early this year, it for the record spoke only benignly of EVs, and made a point of not stepping on toes, even if since someone at the company did again.

And as a result, EV fans have been saying things like Toyota is “painting itself into a corner” with its outspoken support for FCVs, and sidestepping EVs.

It has become a bit of a “zero sum game,” an either/or proposition in the minds of some. Perhaps most outspoken for the notion that the time of the EV is now have been Tesla and Nissan, with other automakers following in development of electric cars.

What’s more, California’s Air Resources Board award nine Zero Emissions Vehicle credits to an FCV, while even EVs like Tesla’s Model S get four.

You can see how that’s a regulatory carrot on a stick for Toyota, Hyundai, Daimler, Honda, and we’ll see who’s next. And yes, natural gas will be used for now as the feed stock to make hydrogen, so that keeps that fossil fuel in business as well.

All this and many more details that could make for a long debate are true enough, but the jury is out on Toyota’s ultimate game.

SEE ALSO: Toyota Preparing For ‘The Next 100 Years’ With Fuel Cell Vehicles
Toyota has said it has not ruled out EVs forever into perpetuity. That’s merely its position now. If it or another company devises a better battery, it could rethink EVs later this decade or next decade.

It may have alienated some of the faithful in the mean time, but this is where things are.

So, unknown is how this will shake out in the long run. Memories may be long in the public for the company that gave the world the Prius and now says “no one is coming to our door asking us to build a new electric car.”

Or, as has happened before, people may forget about it if later Toyota comes up with a new whiz-bang EV and it meets peoples’ needs, wants, and desires – when ever that may be.

LA Times via Autoblog Green


Oct 31

CNN takes a trip to GM’s Volt battery building lab in Warren


Loads of questions remain about the new Voltec powertrain, but CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena got to see more up close and personal at GM’s massive battery lab in Warren, Michigan.


That’s where they developed the new Volt’s battery, and the auto writer got to put an electric drive unit together, and see more new components, including the new lighter, more-effeicient T-pack.

Unknown also is whether there will be room for a fifth passenger in the Volt’s back seat, and speculators also are wondering what mpg will be in charge-sustaining mode, and all-electric range.



Oct 30

What could GM have done differently with Gen 1 Volt, and how can Gen 2 do better?


Yesterday a reader who periodically writes comments pointing out faults with the Volt and GM, and who points out how Toyota is doing better had more to say along those lines.

One of the reasons criticism persists – not the only reason – is because there are gaps in GM’s armor, or pick your metaphor.


The Volt is an awesome car. There’s little question about that, but I rebutted some criticism.

As we know GM has a new chance lined up for Gen 2. It will have learned lessons we hope from the Gen 1 period from Dec. 2010 to now.

Here’s the point I batted down. It was late, I was tired, so forgive me if I missed anything.

Critique: The problem is that GM built a car that did not appeal beyond EV Zealots. And the low sales reflect this. The EV Zealots seem to think the problem is with the public. Well, the public is what it is. To get the car to sell, it will have to have wider appeal.

My off-the-cuff reply:

A full analysis is open to debate, but I do not think it’s as simple as GM’s product having narrow appeal.

GM’s marketing or lack thereof plays into it.

Also the Volt was the victim of early on severe public bashing by no less that the presidential candidate, screed artists, writers of false hit pieces.

And GM was coming from dark days of public distrust, and bankruptcy, and a low point of trust for the company.

And let’s not forget the NHTSA fire safety fiasco where they crashed a Volt, then left it parked with power in the battery to see what would happen after they’d ruptured it and allowed a coolant leak to short circuit.

And the Volt is all new, the only “EREV” on the road (besides now ELR) and there are people on principle who won’t buy the first of anything.

And early on the Volt was priced from $40k, and dealers gouged over that … now it’s $35k.

And the fed tax credit did not apply to everyone. A point of sale rebate for anyone would have been more equitable.

And the public does not understand the car. Is this the fault of EV zealots as you call them? Or is this because GM focuses on Calif and gave up on other markets?

Today almost 4 yrs into it many people do not know the car has a gas generator. They don’t know the difference between it and a Leaf, or Prius or other PHEVs for that matter.

It was all new. Tripped out of the starting gate.

I believe these are pretty verifiable facts; well documented, and each has been covered over the years.

And I am probably leaving out other reasons.

I won’t have time to engage in a debate on this though …

All I am saying is there are a multitude of factors that added up to bad synergy.

The new Volt’s powertrain looks very hopeful. I am really hoping this car will be as good as GM implicitly puts forth. I think they know better than to over promise and under deliver after all the hard lessons.

So again, here’s hoping.


As Jackson pointed out Gen 1 has done well enough to prompt GM to build Gen 2.

And this is true. It’s sold around 70,000 and is the top-selling U.S. plug-in, second-best globally behind the Leaf.

Cynically, or practically, you decide, also true is GM is committed to electrification because of CAFE and CARB, and it has already put all those Volts on the road.

Remember who killed electric car? It can’t do that again. It’s onward and upward.


But giving benefit of the doubt, I believe GM is committed despite the fact the Spark EV is a compliance car, Volt is marketed narrowly, and no Voltec spinoffs have come forth.

So now, with four years’ hindsight, what could GM have done differently? What should it do now?

You can make up a fantasy wish list, but better yet, speak to the corporation thinking for a global market with limitations and possibilities, not just what you want.

It’s not about you. It’s about GM and electrification of the automobile.

And of course this is not to bash GM. We have other helpful readers who like to do that. What can be said to GM to help launch the Gen 2 Volt and beyond?

I almost did not write this article because much will depend on the product – how good Gen 2 really is.

But it’s probably safe to say it’s better. And it’s a fresh start. Just the fact that it’s all new is a plus.

So what needs to happen? How should GM market this new car? People still don’t get it and gas is cheaper than bottled water these days, or almost.

Will GM price it right, or keep it for higher income earners?

Does GM really want to leapfrog the Toyota Prius in the sales arena?

What would you say to GM on this subject?

This week CEO Mary Barra spoke of well reasoning customers who are “thoughtfully” urging GM to step up, and she said GM wants to win, or else “why are we here?”

OK, good question. What will it take for GM to win in the electrification of the automobile, starting with Gen 2 Volt?


Oct 29

2016 Voltec powertrain completely updated


The most pressing question about the next-gen Volt is not whether its propulsion system will be improved, but whether it will be so much better that GM-bashers and Toyota fanboys have nothing else to say at

Oh, also, about that back seat. Can the T-pack permit that oh-so-important 5th passenger space that people want but then won’t use that much anyway? (At least some won’t, others do need it).

So come to think about it, there actually are a bunch more potential questions. Another one is are you looking forward to summer (or later) 2015? How about January ’15 for starters?


Yesterday General Motors revealed the next-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt will receive a substantially improved Voltec powertrain providing better efficiency and performance.

The system pioneered in the first-generation Volt introduced December 2010 has been entirely re-thought, and updates have been made to improve battery chemistry, T-pack configuration, electric drive components and range-extending gas-powered generator.

A higher percentage of U.S. content is also being brought to bear.


The new car will be seen in January, but details released yesterday imply GM is serious about improving the car that simultaneously performed less than hoped for in the sales arena, while winning many die-hard fans as well.

The Volt was already the top-EV-range plug-in hybrid with double that of the nearest U.S. competitor, and more range is coming says the automaker, without releasing the specific range in miles.


GM pared weight and cost from the battery by replacing the old LG Chem chemistry with revised LG Chem formulation good for 20-percent better storage capacity by volume.

Cell count was cut from 288 to 192 saving 30 pounds (13kg). The pack’s bulk is positioned lower for improved mass centralization.


The previous pack had already been well engineered with thermal management, and out of the total kilowatt-hours – it started at 16.0, grew to 16.5 and now 17.0-kwh – a conservative percentage was held back to ensure longevity and GM says it did err on the safe side.

GM says around 20 million battery cells have been produced, there are over 69,000 Volts on the road, and problems have occurred at the rate of less than two per million cells produced.

“It would have been simple for us to tweak our existing battery to provide nominally increased range, but that’s not what our customers want,” said Nitz meaning they could have reduced the buffer of unused storage capacity to the existing pack to improve range without hurting anything. “So our team created a new battery system that will exceed the performance expectations of most of our owners.”

While other companies like Tesla, BMW and Nissan and others are out there with battery using cars of their own, GM three times described its battery technology as “industry-leading.”

Drive Unit

The Volt’s new drive unit will be manufactured at its Powertrain plant in Warren, Mich.

Just as GM did not state the new Volt’s electric range, it is not just yet spelling out fuel or electric efficiency and speed capability, but does say efficiency is superior, and electric acceleration is 20 percent improved.

Drive unit.

Drive unit.

The new system is being touted for less noise, vibration, and harshness, as well as superior packaging, and is 5 to 12 percent more efficient while being 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter.

“The Traction Power Inverter Module, which manages power flow between the battery and the electric drive motors, has been directly built into the drive unit to reduce mass, size and build complexity while further improving efficiency,” said the company of a thorough redesign.

Electric motor.

Electric motor.

Now both motors can be utilized together for a “boost in performance,” but GM’s Manager, Electrification Technology Communications, Kevin Kelly clarified this. When asked whether 20-percent improved accerleration meant 0-60 time is 20-percent better, he said GM is not necessarily positioning the Volt to win more stoplight drag races.

“It means we have improved overall acceleration, not specifically 0-60 time,” said Kelly. “In fact, most of the improvement comes at the lower end of the acceleration curve, as that’s where owners told us they wanted better response.”

GM also cut use of rare earths, and one motor is rare-earth-free.


The range-extending engine is a 1.5-liter non-turbo Ecotec four-cylinder that runs on regular gasoline instead of premium as did the 1.4-liter before.

Efficiencies are gained through a direct injection fuel system, high 12.5:1 compression ratio, cooled exhaust gas recirculation and a variable displacement oil pump, among other latest technologies.

Voltec drive unit and genset.

Voltec drive unit and genset.

“Using the 1.5-liter engine as the range extender assures owners they can go anywhere, anytime without having to worry about whether they have enough power to go through the Rocky Mountains or on a spontaneous weekend getaway,” Nitz said. “It’s all about keeping the promise that the Volt is a no-compromise electric vehicle.”

GM’s move follows that of the third-generation Toyota Prius which in 2010 increased the engine displacement from 1.5 liters to 1.8 liters and in doing so the engine did not have to rev as high, worked in its sweet spot more often, and netted improved fuel efficiency.

Looking Good

GM said it upgraded the new car based on real-world details gleaned from a case study of 300 model year 2011 and 2012 Volts in California for over 30 months. GM knows its battery was reliable, delivered EPA spec or better for EV range and fuel efficiency in charge-sustaining mode.

However where it fell perceptibly short next to the country’s best-selling hybrid, the 50-mpg Prius, was in charge-sustaining mode and to add insult to injury, drivers had to buy premium fuel.

Volt fans have vehemently defended this saying the point is to stay off gas, and true enough, no plug-in gas-electric car can do this more effectively, Volts have averaged more EV miles than gas miles with long times between fill ups, but it was not a clear win in the eyes of some.

GM also knows it needs more rear seat space, but the T-pack that impeded a middle rear seat appears likely to impede again, but GM’s Kelly neither confirmed nor denied this.

He did confirm however it will be a 2016 model year – something largely assumed, but not previously stated by GM, and the car is due not especially long from now.

“Next-gen Volt will launch sometime in second half of 2015,” Kelly said.

That the car’s powertrain is improved is clear. We’ll be looking to see if more revelations are forthcoming between now and when – as Kelly confirmed – the production-ready new Volt is shown at the North American International Auto Show in January.

Video is Volt related. More info from GM press release.

Page 3 of 17712345678Last »