Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Nov 10

After Hours Stock Price Spike Follows Tesla Q3 Earnings Report


And now, next week, TSLA is up higher …


While those bearish on Tesla Motors continue to make their case, last Tuesday its stock price surged by as much as 10 percent in after hours trading upon the news of its third quarter earnings.

Tesla has been busy, it’s continually in the news, and its stock does trade based on expectations that all this work is leading somewhere far greater than it is today.

The more-positive-than-not news concerns the quarterly shareholder announcement for July through September in which Tesla reported adjusted (non-GAAP) earnings of $1.24 billion edging out analysts’ $1.21 billion estimate.

On an unadjusted (GAAP) basis, Tesla’s total revenue was reported at $937 million, down from Q2’s $955 million, but again, ahead of analysts expectations. It was also up from the Q3 one year prior which recorded $852 million.

Tesla’s losses however more than doubled with increased cash burn and research costs driving it to $229.9 million.

But Tesla is in growth mode, and among news discussed was its Gigafactory is set up to produce Powerwall batteries ahead of schedule.

"We have also accelerated plans to begin cell production for Tesla Energy products at the Gigafactory by the end of 2016. This is several quarters ahead of our initial plan." - Tesla shareholder letter.

“We have also accelerated plans to begin cell production for Tesla Energy products at the Gigafactory by the end of 2016. This is several quarters ahead of our initial plan.” – Tesla shareholder letter.

On the automotive front, it lowered guidance to 50,000-52,000 deliveries for this year, down from a former estimate of 55,000. It delivered the first few of its third vehicle, the Model X crossover during the third quarter, and projects deliveries to ramp up slowly in Q4.

Bearish reports have suggested Tesla’s projections are optimistic, but the carmaker’s shareholder letter forecasts steady deliveries.

SEE ALSO: Bob Lutz Foresees ‘Doom’ for Tesla, Suggests PHEV and Franchised Dealerships

“In Q4, we plan to build 15,000 to 17,000 vehicles, and deliver 17,000 to 19,000 vehicles, which will result in 50,000 to 52,000 total deliveries for the year,” said its letter.

Just as significantly, the carmaker has raised the bar for itself again for 2016, projecting more growth.

“Looking ahead, we still remain highly confident of average production and deliveries of 1,600 to 1,800 vehicles per week for Model S and Model X combined during 2016,” said Tesla’s letter.

"Since the Model X launch event, order rates have accelerated for both Model S and Model X. Although it is too early to draw firm conclusions, this supports our belief that Model X expands the market for Tesla vehicles, with little to no cannibalization of Model S." - Tesla shareholder letter.

“Since the Model X launch event, order rates have accelerated for both Model S and Model X. Although it is too early to draw firm conclusions, this supports our belief that Model X expands the market for Tesla vehicles, with little to no cannibalization of Model S.” – Tesla shareholder letter.

This could mean 83,000 to 94,000 vehicles to be delivered worldwide in 2016.

Coming back to the third quarter in question, Tesla said it delivered 11,603 cars, a bit ahead of forecasts and significantly ahead of 7,785 in the same quarter of 2014.

In miscellaneous other news, Tesla says it booked $39 million in zero emission vehicle credits, a sore point for some critics. This profit enabled under rules mandated by regulators goes straight to its bottom line of its balance sheet, and adds to around $600 million to date.

But in Q4, Tesla projects zero ZEV credit profits.

In related news on the financial front, Tesla announced new executives.

Jason Wheeler, hired away from Google, will be its new chief financial officer and Jon McNeill is to be its president of global sales and service.

Effective June 30, Wheeler will replace Deepak Ahuja, who announced retirement intentions earlier this year.

Jon McNeill is the former CEO of Enservio and had been named by the Boston Business Journal in 2013 “Most Admired CEO” in the small/midsize company category.

Growth Mode

Tesla stays in the news in part because it is assertively accomplishing things as a newcomer that no other automaker is at this juncture.

Its Model S is its present crown jewel product and has been updated since its June 2012 launch via OTA updates, and at the assembly line, a shuffling of models last year into this has seen introduction of all-wheel-drive variants – the 70D, 85D, P85/90D.

This has enabled the car to seem fresh whereas major manufacturers of top-selling plug-ins like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have seen sales wither this year for vehicles effectively cannibalized by the expectation of superior next-gen products. Not so for Tesla, which despite costing 2-4 times more has maintained sales volume on par with these ostensibly mass-market-focused cars.

Its latest significant update for Q3 saw Tesla release Autopilot semi-autonomous capability to 40,000 cars via over the air software updates.

"In China, our newest major market, Q3 Model S orders increased substantially from Q2, due in part to the opening of two new retail locations. We expect order growth in China to remain strong with more store openings and the recent policy changes in Beijing and other major cities that allow buyers of Tesla vehicles to bypass license plate restrictions."

“In China, our newest major market, Q3 Model S orders increased substantially from Q2, due in part to the opening of two new retail locations. We expect order growth in China to remain strong with more store openings and the recent policy changes in Beijing and other major cities that allow buyers of Tesla vehicles to bypass license plate restrictions.”

Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada is also going up to facilitate a major challenge of morphing from relative boutique maker to mass marketer with its Model 3, to have 200-plus mile range and cost $35,000 and up.

Yet to be shown, it may be by March 2016, and may be in production as soon as 2017 in time to offer an alternative to the 200-plus-mile Chevy Bolt hatchback due for production late next year, and potentially next-generation 200-mile-plus Nissan Leaf when it arrives.

And ever resourceful, in the process of developing batteries for cars, Tesla has found a new revenue and growth opportunity in its Tesla Energy division.

SEE ALSO: Tesla To Use LG Chem For Roadster Battery Upgrade

“Faced with growing demand for Powerpacks and Powerwalls, we have accelerated our plans to expand manufacturing capacity,” said Tesla’s shareholder letter. “In early Q4, we relocated production from Fremont to an automated assembly line at the Gigafactory. This positions us for strong growth in 2016, but the Gigafactory pull-ahead will push some Tesla Energy Q4 production and deliveries into Q1.”

“We are seeing very strong demand for Tesla Energy products globally, and particularly in Australia, Germany and South Africa,” continued Tesla. “To respond to these opportunities, we are growing our worldwide Tesla Energy sales team and are continuing to sign new business partnerships with utilities and energy companies.”

Never Drama Free

Meanwhile various watchers invoke a variety of criticisms upon Tesla, ranging from a perceptibly inflated stock price, to a checkered profit history, the fact its businesses have benefitted highly from subsidies and still mainly benefit the financially better off, and more.

Critics, including those who play short-selling strategies, and others with viewpoints hoping to see, or otherwise predicting Tesla’s failure continue to post their perspectives.

Model S11

For its part, the company says it is working a large-scale plan in the face of an entrenched paradigm to ultimately shift the transportation sector away from petroleum.

Its cars do now cost a subsidy eligible $76,200 to over $145,000 putting them out of reach for many. And, the stock took a tumble from a high of $282 in July to a low of $206 in October after Consumer Reports ceased to recommend Model S after 1,400 respondents offered sufficient negative feedback on quality.

SEE ALSO: Consumer Reports Downgrades Tesla Model S To ‘Below Average’ Reliability

The cars and company itself however continue to engender fierce owner loyalty, as Tesla is known for very proactive service.

Really, for every point, there is a counterpoint that someone somewhere has made.

And despite any naysayers, it is an understatement to say Tesla has endeared many devoted fans wanting to see the “disruptive” company succeed, including some on Wall Street predicting this will be the case.

So far Tesla has delivered more perceived good with any perceived bad, and soon, it is hoped, many more people may finally be able to get their Tesla.

For those not ready to shell out more than double the average new U.S. car price on a Model S or Model X, the Model 3 is a major goal in sight.

Always controversial, Tesla has inspired envy, admiration, love, and hate. Its latest Q3 report just continues the drama.

This article appears also on


Nov 09

Chevrolet To Donate 2016 Volt to K-12 FIRST robotics program


“The donation is a natural fit because the Volt exemplifies advances in science and technology,” said Chevrolet Marketing Director Steve Majoros.

But, the recipiends are going to sell it, not do anything with it apparently …


Having collaborated for years with Chevrolet, the FIRST K-12 robotics program will receive a donated 2016 Chevrolet Volt in order to helop it raise funds.

FIRST is an acronym of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and FIRST will auction the Volt with proceeds going toward the many STEM programs FIRST supports nationwide.

STEM in turn stands for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The money will go toward robotics opportunities across the U.S. particularly for those in communities underrepresented in STEM education fields.

“The Volt exemplifies technology, and behind the next-generation Chevrolet Volt is a diverse team of engineers who understand the power of science and math,” said Chevrolet Marketing Director Steve Majoros. “FIRST brings science and math alive outside the classroom, just like we are bringing it alive on the road.”

As mentioned, FIRST and Chevrolet have collaborated for many years. General Motors is a Founding and Strategic Partner to FIRST. In just 2014, GM engineers worked with 866 FIRST teams representing 10,000 students across the nation.

“We are so grateful for Chevrolet’s continuing efforts in supporting our mission to inspire young people to pursue STEM careers,” said FIRST President, Donald E. Bossi. ”It’s most recent donation of the 2016 Chevy Volt enables us to expose even more students to the life-changing experience of FIRST.”


Nov 06

Revenge of the Two-Mode Hybrid


By Jeff N


In recent months General Motors has rolled-out a compelling hybrid transmission architecture at the heart of the 2016 Volt, 2016 Malibu hybrid and a possibly related transmission for the 2016 RWD Cadillac CT6 plugin hybrid.

This new hybrid system helps the Volt launch to 30 mph like a Tesla after stops at traffic signals and helps the mid-size Malibu sedan get a stunningly good 47 mpg EPA estimate in combined city and highway driving while pumping out up to 182 horsepower.

How did GM get to where it is today?

A Brief History of Power-Split Hybrid Engineering

The Lohner-Porsche hybrid car, 1900.

The Lohner-Porsche hybrid car, 1900.

Thompson Ramo Wooldridge Inc. (TRW)

Although an early hybrid car was designed and sold back in 1900 by Ferdinand Porsche, the modern hybrid era had its stirrings in the late 1960s at an aerospace, credit reporting, and automotive parts conglomerate named TRW. Researchers there invented the modern idea of a power-split hybrid using a planetary gear set, a gasoline engine, and two electric motors. Its 1971 patent, US 3566717, and the closely related US 3732751 issued in 1973 refer to the smaller motor as the “speeder” since it effectively determined the rpm speed of the gas engine and the larger motor is the “torquer” since it added or removed torque going to the wheels of the car.

This was the era of the Apollo moon flights that used spacecraft computers far less capable than today’s Apple wristwatch. Using electric motors and a battery pack to take the place of fixed gears and clutches was an interesting concept but in order to be efficient and useful such a transmission needs to be carefully controlled. A hybrid transmission control computer was not a realistic possibility at that time so its design was not really practical for use in an ordinary consumer vehicle.

Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle

In 1993, shortly after taking office, the PNGV was created by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. The program excluded non-U.S. companies and this particularly worried the Japanese car companies like Toyota.

GM, Ford, and Chrysler collaborated on research under PNGV, but each company built its own high mileage prototype car. GM’s car, the Precept, scored the highest EPA mileage estimate at 80 mpg under the more lenient test cycles of that era. It used a 40 kW (54 horsepower) 1.3-liter RWD diesel engine mounted in the back of the car with a 35 kW (47 horsepower) electric motor driving the front wheels using power from a generator hooked off of the engine. They experimented with both NiMH and lithium polymer battery packs. This was a type of approach known as a “through the road” parallel hybrid since the engine powered the rear wheels and the electric motor powered the front wheels.

During this period, GM continued exploring and prototyping other hybrid designs. With the benefit of computer microprocessors, it focused on developing and extending the TRW idea from two decades earlier. It built an awkward prototype and filed a patent in February 1995 titled “One-mode, input-split, parallel, hybrid transmission”. This patent, US 5558595, described many various permutations of how an engine, two motors, and the wheels could be hooked up to one or two planetary gear sets in order to create an Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT or eCVT).

2001 Toyota Prius.

2001 Toyota Prius.

Toyota and the Prius

Meanwhile, in response to the U.S. government’s PNGV effort, Toyota established an internal project code-named G21 that eventually resulted in the design of the Prius. In January, 1995, a team of Toyota engineers began intensive meetings to research and design the transmission for the new car. According to a book titled “The Prius That Shook the World” by Hideshi Itazaki, they carefully studied up to 80 different known approaches. While these meeting were taking place, GM filed its “one-mode” patent which includes as one of its design alternatives the actual approach that Toyota eventually decided on for the Prius. After narrowing the field down to four alternatives, Toyota chose the basic engineering design for the Prius hybrid transmission at a meeting on June 30, 1995. Toyota did not complete the filing of its own Prius hybrid transmission patent, US 5907191, until 1997 although it initiated the filing process on Sept. 24, 1996 which was the day on which the GM one-mode patent was officially issued. The first Prius went on sale in December, 1997 in Japan. A later, modestly updated, version of that model of Prius was first sold in the United States and Europe in the summer of 2000 as a 2001 model.

Attack of the Clone: Is this the 2017 Prius Plug-in Two-Mode Transmission?

No Prius transmission has ever used clutches but it turns out that Toyota now has a freshly minted “Two-Mode” patent derived from the 3rd generation Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive. The patent, published on January 1, 2015, is US 20150005125.

Is this the hybrid system Toyota’s customers are looking for?

The new design uses 2 (or optionally 3) clutches to support the original Prius EVT mode plus a higher-speed EVT mode and a dual motor EV mode intended for a “vehicle such as a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which is frequently placed in an EV drive mode”. The similarities to the Chevrolet Volt transmission cannot go unnoticed.

Comparing the 2016 Volt transmission with Toyota's new PHEV patent.

Comparing the 2016 Volt transmission with Toyota’s new PHEV patent.

Although the two designs are similar, there are important differences.

Both designs achieve an additive dual motor EV mode by preventing the gas engine from spinning backwards. Toyota does it by engaging a clutch to connect the engine on the first planetary gear set to the planet carrier on the second gear set and then engaging a clutch brake to ground that carrier to the transmission case. GM does this instead with a “one-way” clutch directly on the ring gear of the first planetary gear set in order to ground the engine to the transmission case.

Toyota, like GM, also includes an EVT mode to improve efficiency at higher vehicle speeds. Both designs tie the output of its two planetary gear sets together and to the wheels — Toyota uses the ring gears for that purpose while GM uses the planetary carriers. Both Toyota and GM tie its electric motors to the Sun gears. That leaves the remaining gear on the first planetary gear set for the gas engine. For the remaining gear on the second planetary gear set, both designs include a clutch that can brake that gear to the transmission case and another clutch that can connect that gear to the first planetary set. But to where? Toyota connects it up to the same gear as the gas engine. GM connects it up to the same gear as the smaller electric motor (which it calls MGA).

There are other various details to be pondered. GM’s design gains a single fixed ratio gear but Toyota’s does not. Toyota also says that a one-way clutch might be added in parallel to the clutch brake on the planetary carrier of the second planetary gear set.


The second-generation car, introduced as the 2004 Prius hatchback, used the same basic design but was tweaked with stronger motors, newer battery cells, and an improved gas engine. Toyota later introduced a hybrid version of its small 2006 model year Highlander SUV. The hybrid transmission for the Highlander (and its Lexus twin, the RX 400h) was based on the Prius design but Toyota added an additional planetary gear set after the original power-split gear set. The new gear set acts as a “Motor Speed Reduction Unit” for the larger electric motor. Instead of being directly hooked up at a 1:1 ratio to the output axle it is instead hooked up to the new gear set which acted as a reduction gear allowing the motor to turn approximately 2.5 times for every turn of the output axle. This multiplies the turning force or torque of the motor and allows it to operate more effectively. The same basic design with a slight tweak was also used in the 2006 Camry hybrid and the third generation Prius hatchback when it came out in the 2010 model year.

Ford also began developing a hybrid design based on the TRW ideas and brought out a hybrid version of its Escape small SUV in 2005. Because of the close similarities in the design of the Toyota and Ford hybrids the companies agreed to swap certain hybrid patents.

Paice Back and Forth

Also during the 1990’s, an inventor and engineer named Alex Severinsky developed several hybrid-related designs and patented them beginning with a 1992 filing that was issued in 1994 as US 5343970. Severinsky’s biographical background, where he teaches at the University of Maryland School of Mechanical Engineering, says “Dr. Severinsky is the inventor of the Hyperdrive power-amplified internal combustion engine power train used in the Toyota Prius and other vehicles …”

After the Prius became a commercial success the company Severinsky founded, Paice, filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Toyota in 2004 alleging that the Prius design infringed on this and two other patents.

His patented hybrid design did not use the same kind of TRW-style power-split planetary gear and used one motor rather than two. It used clutches and a type of electrically actuated bevel-geared limited-slip differential the patent refers to as a “controllable torque transfer unit” to allow switching between the use of a single electric motor, a fixed ratio gearing between the gas engine and the wheels, or a combination of the two.

A federal court jury came to the conclusion that Toyota’s Prius design did not literally infringe upon Severinsky’s patents and this was upheld on appeal. However, through a legal concept known as the “doctrine of equivalents”, the jury found Toyota liable for infringing on 2 out of the 40 claims in his first patent.

One claim covered the concept of a hybrid vehicle powertrain with an engine, a single AC motor and inverter, and a battery pack. The remaining claim covered the idea of a battery that “supplies up to about 75 amps”. Elsewhere the patent suggests the pack should be well over 500 volts in a vehicle the size and weight of a Prius and the battery “is capable of delivering between about 30 and about 50 amperes, and possibly up to 75 amperes.” The Prius battery was 201 volts and delivered up to about 100 amperes. Beginning with the 2004 Prius, Toyota’s hybrids contain a DC-DC voltage converter circuit that can step up the battery voltage to above 500 volts for improved efficiency in the electric motors.

Paice attempted to block all imports of certain Toyota hybrid cars in 2009. Toyota (and Ford with its similar hybrid system) eventually agreed on a financial settlement. Toyota capitulated shortly before an import ban on the Prius might have been issued and ultimately licensed 23 of Paice’s patents. At the same time, Ford also reached a settlement with Paice and may have licensed fewer of Paice’s patents or only the single patent that was found to be indirectly infringed in the 2004 lawsuit against Toyota. In 2010, Paice sued Hyundai and Kia after they entered the hybrid car market and they subsequently settled. In 2014, Paice again sued Ford for infringing its hybrid patents. That case is continuing although the U.S. patent office recently ruled on September 28, 2015 that 2 of the patents in contention in that case are invalid because of “prior art”.

GM has never been sued by Paice for infringing on its hybrid patents.

The Two-Mode Hybrid Transmission

A San Francisco bus using the Allison Transmission hybrid system.

A San Francisco bus using the Allison Transmission hybrid system.

After filing its patent on the “one-mode” design in February, 1995, GM went on to innovate and patent a variety of hybrid designs using two, three, and even four planetary gear sets. These designs used typical automatic transmission clutches to allow the power flowing between the gas engine, the electric motors, and the wheels to be hooked together in different ways while the vehicle was driving in order to optimize for changing speed and torque requirements. From many design variations patented over the following years, GM ultimately created its initial products from two of these extended designs.

GM’s first power-split hybrid product was a transmission for transit buses first deployed for testing in 2001 not long after the first Prius arrived in the US. This design, now sold through a GM spinoff company known as Allison Transmission, has been the largest selling hybrid transit bus transmission, and is one of the two major hybrid bus systems sold today. It is sometimes known as the Two Mode EVT design. The two transmissions based on this design are the H 40 EP, and the somewhat heavier-duty H 50 EP which handles up to 330 horsepower from a matching Cummins diesel engine. The design is protected by US 5931757 issued in 1999. It describes 3 planetary gear sets and 2 clutches that allow for two different modes of operation — an EVT mode used at lower (city) speeds and an alternate EVT mode used at higher (highway) speeds for better efficiency — thus the name “two-mode”.

The BMW Active Hybrid X6 using the Two-Mode hybrid transmission.

The BMW Active Hybrid X6 using the Two-Mode hybrid transmission.

Global Hybrid Cooperation

GM later modified that design for use in SUVs and pickup trucks by adding an extra 2 clutches which effectively created four different fixed gears along with the original 2 EVT modes. This design is sometimes known as the AHS-2 design. It used two 60 kW (80 horsepower) electric motors and was matched with engines rated up to 300 kW (402 horsepower) and 358 kW (479 horsepower) combined system output and up to 6,200 pounds of towing capability.

In 2005 GM formed a consortium of companies known as the Global Hybrid Cooperation that included Chrysler, BMW, and Mercedes Benz. Vehicles based on this design were sold between the 2008-2013 model years. These companies eventually cancelled this hybrid version of their vehicles due to slow sales. The vehicles based on this transmission architecture were designed as “power hybrids” that improved vehicle performance while also improving efficiency as opposed to “efficiency hybrids” that included engine downsizing and control software designed to optimize primarily for the highest mpg. Most hybrid customers have focused on maximizing fuel economy and sales of power hybrids from various makers have generally been less successful, even for Toyota and its Lexus brand.

GM’s “New” 2016 Hybrid Transmission Design

For its newest hybrid cars coming out under the 2016 model year we are told that GM’s engineers evaluated many different approaches using sophisticated computer simulations to choose its new hybrid architecture. But however it got there, GM’s “new” hybrid architecture is actually a “Two-Mode” design that was conceived and patented some 15 years ago but never used. GM has now dusted off this old design and put a new shine on it.

image1 (1)

The original patent filing titled “Hybrid Electric Powertrain Including a Two-Mode Electrically Variable Transmission” is US patent US 6478705 and was filed on July 19, 2001 and issued on Nov., 12, 2002. The patent describes its design as providing “a hybrid electric powertrain that exhibits the advantages of the … [transit bus] powertrain, but with reduced mechanical complexity and improved ease of control.”

A newer patent filing titled “Multimode Electrically Variable Transmission Having a Ferrite Magnet Motor and Method of Operating the Same” is US 8602938 and was filed on July 6, 2012 and was issued on December 10, 2013. From an engineering perspective, this patent is largely the same as the earlier one.

GM has seemingly gone out of its way to avoid mentioning any similarity between the new 2016 hybrids and its previous “Two-Mode” hybrid transmission era. For instance, the 12 page SAE technical paper on the 2016 Volt hybrid design never mentions “Two-Mode”. Neither does the 2013 patent filing that largely restates the transmission design of the 2002 patent.

In the language used 15 years ago, Two-Mode has “input-split” and “compound-split” EVT modes optimized for city and highway driving but the newer transmission patent calls these “Low Extended Range” and “High Extended Range”. The newer patent’s “Multimode” name is more precise since the “Two-Mode” designs have always had one or more fixed ratio modes in addition to its EVT modes.

A basic planetary gear set.

A basic planetary gear set.

As illustrated above, a simple planetary gear set consists of 3 geared components meshed together which have a fixed ratio to one another. A so-called Sun gear is in the middle and planetary gears connected to a common carrier plate rotate around it while also meshing with an outer ring with inward facing gear teeth.

In the interest in simplifying things and focusing on the higher level concepts that is the last time you will see actual gears in this article. Instead, we will show groups of three colored boxes representing these gears — a red box containing an “R” for the Ring, a blue box containing a “C” for the planet Carrier, and a green box containing an “S” for the Sun. A vertical group of three boxes represents one planetary gear set like the one pictured above but the ordering does not represent the physical arrangement of the gears.

And now let’s look at some power-split architectures.

GM’s 2002 patent (upper) versus its 2013 patent (lower).

GM’s 2002 patent (upper) versus its 2013 patent (lower).

The upper illustration shows the hybrid design taken from the 2002 patent and below it is the equivalent illustration used in the new 2013 patent filing. They use different stylistic conventions and superficially look very different but to a mechanical engineer they illustrate the same basic design showing how to hook up a gas engine, two electric motors, and a final drive output via two planetary gear sets with three clutches.

GM’s 2002 hybrid patent versus its 2013 patent.

GM’s 2002 hybrid patent versus its 2013 patent.

By using a simpler diagram style it is readily apparent that the old and new patents describe the same basic hybrid architecture. The newer patent describes the potential use of ferrite (iron) instead of so-called rare earth metals in the permanent magnets of the smaller of the two motors. It also describes specific possible variations in the style of clutch used between the engine and the ring gear of the first planetary gear set. The original patent shows an engine clutch but does not describe its use or implementation. The newer patent shows that the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) can be “grounded” or locked to the transmission case.

In actual vehicles, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu does not have an engine clutch and it uses rare earth metals in the smaller motor. The 2016 Volt uses a one-way engine clutch which enables its “dual motor” EV mode that uses both motors together. Without the one-way clutch, the Volt’s smaller motor would spin the gas engine backwards if it were energized during EV driving. Having the clutch allows the smaller motor to push against the locked up ring gear so all of its spin is transferred additively to the second planetary gear set together with its larger motor. The details regarding the RWD hybrid transmission in the 2016 Cadillac CT6 are not yet available.

Toyota Camry hybrid versus the Chevrolet Malibu hybrid.

Toyota Camry hybrid versus the Chevrolet Malibu hybrid.

As the illustration above shows, today’s Toyota, Ford, and GM hybrid designs have converged on the same basic approach. The GM hybrid transmission is shown illustrating the power flow when the clutches are in the Low Extended Range EVT position which is also used for EV driving when the gas engine is off. The Volt’s one-way clutch, used for dual motor EV mode, is not shown. The Ford and Toyota transmissions do not have clutches and are always in this configuration.

Ford and Toyota have also chosen to have the gas engine power come in on the planetary carrier and go out to the wheels on the ring gear. GM swaps that around and chooses to have the gas engine come in on the ring gear and have the output to the wheels go out on the planetary carrier.

For the record, Ford’s newest hybrid transmission and the recently announced fourth generation Toyota hybrid system for the 2016 Prius do not use a second planetary gear set to perform the gear reduction from the larger motor to the output axle. They perform the equivalent large motor gear reduction using a different “parallel” gearing style.

Unlike the Toyota and Ford transmissions, GM uses a multimode design that can also set its clutches into a fixed gear ratio mode and into a High Extended Range mode used mostly to gain improved efficiency at highway speeds.

The first generation 2011-2015 Volt and the 2014 and 2016 Cadillac ELR share a uniquely different design. The ELR and older Volts have a series hybrid mode where there is no mechanical path to the wheels which they use where the new Volt uses its Low Extended Range power-split mode. The ELR and older Volts also have a highway speed power-split mode that is technically different but similar to the new Volt’s High Extended Range. The ELR and older Volts do not have a fixed ratio mode.

Several other car makers like Hyundai, Volkswagen, and previously Honda have used a parallel hybrid approach that uses a single electric motor connected with the engine and then combine that with a conventional transmission. This is easier to design but typically is somewhat less efficient in city driving. It also retains the greater mechanical complexity of traditional transmissions. Honda is now shifting to a unique new hybrid architecture with the Honda Accord hybrid that uses a combination of a series mode under about 43 mph and a fixed ratio gear above that speed when the gas engine is running.

For the full details on how both the first generation and new generation Volt (and Malibu) transmissions work see: Second-Generation Volt Transmission Operation Explained.

This article also appears at


Nov 05

100,000th Volt Sold in October



Two months shy of its five year anniversary on the market, the GM last month sold its 100,000th Chevy Volt worldwide.

Counting more than 9,900 rebadged and re-trimmed “Ampera” variants sold under Opel/Vauxhall nameplates in Europe, the tally is actually close to 102,000 following October sales.


In this count are 84,656 Chevy Volts delivered in the U.S. and 5,023 in Canada through October, plus through September are counted with help by sales tracker Mario R. Duran around 1,750 European market Chevy Volts and 245 Holden Volts in Australia.

Among top European countries which absorbed the car, the Netherlands accounted for 52 percent of sales, or 4,976 Amperas and 1,065 Volts. Germany bought 1,539 Amperas and 73 Volts, and the UK took 1,250 Amperas and 124 Volts through June.

The best two U.S. sales years for the Volt at 23,000-and-change each were 2012 and 2013.

Passed Through a Gauntlet

Launched in a multi-staged rollout beginning December 2010 as a 2011 model year, the Volt is solely made at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, a point of pride and hope for American advanced-tech engineering, even as the car did fall short of early sales projections.

It was never promised to outsell the platform-sharing Cruze, which on a good month can sell 24,000 units. Chevrolet did however have higher aspirations for the Volt and its Voltec range-extended electric powertrain, but as is euphemistically said, plans changed, as did the tone once expressed by the original “Volt Team.”

Going into it, GM knew it faced major opposition, as relayed May 2011 by the original Volt media rep, Rob Peterson at the Electric Drive Transportation Association conference in Washington D.C.:

“Most importantly, our greatest opportunity isn’t an opportunity to actually move the football past the goal line. It’s an opportunity to make sure that we don’t lose any ground,” Peterson said of the Volt he’d represented since 2007. “This is very important. There’s no question that our industry – this movement, EVs – is in the cross hairs of people that want to challenge the relevance of electric vehicles.”

“There are groups out there – pundits and detractors – who desperately want to see this not succeed. I don’t want to say fail, they just don’t want to see it succeed,” Peterson said, “They will go to great lengths to try and challenge the success of what we’re trying to achieve here. We can’t do anything about it, quite frankly, except to protect our ground, but what we can do is make sure that we that we manage our expectations, and customers in the industry and of our dealer force appropriately.”


To lay out a point-by-point saga of the gauntlet the Chevy Volt faced would be its own feature-length article, but briefly, to say it was tripped out of the gate is an understatement.



The car was introduced at a low point in GM history following a bankruptcy and restructuring.

The New GM faced numerous critics with varying bones of contention entering the 2012 presidential election season and former GM CEO Dan Akerson was so tired of it by 2012 that he said the Volt had become a “political punching bag.”

It was distressing for supporters to see the Volt treated like a scapegoat if not alternately ignored, misrepresented, or dismissed, but this did happen.

It hadn’t been one year in production before headlines blew up a story over a 2011 federal side-impact crash test and fire that slowly smoldered a couple weeks later. This amplified “concerns” over the Volt as people wondered about this new kind of tech, and whether it was a good idea.

SEE ALSO: GM Reinforces Volt Battery as Customer Service Gesture

GM’s own checkered manufacturing history also gave little confidence, and many took pause at the notion of a compact Chevy launched at just under $40,000 despite its eligibility for a $7,500 federal tax credit and potential state incentives.

Confounding the negative synergy was a general lack of comprehension surrounding the Volt. It came with all-new technology, and consumer polls showed the average person’s grasping of what this car could do or why they should buy it or care was generally low.

Protocol calls for “depowering” the battery just as first responders empty gasoline tanks after crashes. The federal government however did not depower the Volt’s battery after rupturing it. Coolant escaped, crystalized, bridged a gap, created a short circuit, and a fire started in the car stored in a lot more than a week after the crash test. There was no explosion as some (mis)represented at the time.

Protocol calls for “depowering” the battery just as first responders empty gasoline tanks after crashes. The federal government however did not depower the Volt’s battery after rupturing it. Coolant escaped, crystalized, bridged a gap, created a short circuit, and a fire started in the car stored in a lot more than a week after the crash test. There was no explosion as some (mis)represented at the time.

Nor has this yet been fully dealt with. Volt proponents have repeatedly documented an incredible mental blind-spot shrouding the Volt from peoples’ awareness. It was as though the car wore an invisibility cloak or something,

The simple concept never registered for countless people that this car could work like a pure EV for 75 percent of all peoples’ daily driving needs, or up to 35-40 miles, with gas engine backup for “no range anxiety.”

GM had initially projected 60,000 global sales for 2012, but by the end of 2011 had quit making projections, and said it would just match supply to demand.

By 2013 GM stopped marketing the car altogether outside of tech fairs where people did “get it,” and California, the state where it sold the highest volume – as much as 50 percent of nationwide sales.

Add to this slanted articles cherry picking data to allege the Volt was a loser by a loser company – and maybe even a tendency of some Americans to ambivalently view domestic manufacturers – and this starts to describe obstacles the Volt faced.

At other times, presidential attention could be considered purely positive press. Not this time.

At other times, presidential attention could be considered purely positive press. Not this time.

None of this helped launch a new technology where on principle people may sit on the fence letting others buy first, assuming prices and performance will get better, and not wanting to be part of an experiment.

There were several more factors as well, including dealers which were not compensated to walk consumers through a more-complex sale than for an ordinary gas car, but these are some of the major ones.

Of course there have also been a contingency of very strong Volt supporters, but for every positive point in its favor, there was a counterpoint and whether justifiable or not, the Volt did feel the brunt of it.

Are Consumers Being Manipulated By Anti-Electric Car Propaganda?

The Volt’s public relations roller coaster ride was at times a veritable travesty to anyone sympathetic and paying attention. For those who were in the Volt’s camp, the car was after all meant as a first step toward projecting U.S. technological leadership with the idea things could be improved from this initial product. It was to be a bridge to help wean off petroleum more effectively than a regular hybrid.

A Winner In Qualified Terms

The 100,000 cumulative Volt sales were just accounted for by first-generation 2011-2015 cars, and October also saw 1,324 U.S. market 2016 generation-two Volts delivered.

With the fully revised 2016 Volt, GM is starting over with marketing and rolling out the car now improved over generation one.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Volts Account For 1,324 Sales Out Of 2,035 October Deliveries

In fact, even gen-one Volt surpasses any other plug-in hybrid other than the limited utility BMW i3 REx in the all-important electric range department.


All-electric range is the most important characteristic leading to why people pay up for a plug-in hybrid, and GM’s original 2011-2015 “extended range electric vehicle” is still ahead of PHEVs from Ford, Toyota, Honda, Porsche, and others that have since come along.

The gen-one Volt is capable of running up to 100 mph without the gas ever coming on in EV mode. It can drive for 35-40 miles depending on the battery sized from 16.0-17.1 kwh.

This five-year-old drive unit in its powertrain has been highly praised by engineers and the Volt surpasses the next-best 19-mile Ford Energi blended plug-in hybrid siblings. Unlike the Volt, these also will turn on the gas engine with a firm push of the accelerator, and operate less like a pure EV with extended range. The original Volt’s range also tops the pending 27-mile Hyundai Sonata PHEV.

The Volt also saw two years in a row atop Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction ratings in 2011 and 2012, and bumped the Porsche 911 in the process.

Its battery, once a cause of concern for some, has been revealed to have been remarkably trouble free.

“We’ve seen what I would call pharmaceutical levels of quality in cell production,” said GM’s Larry Nitz, executive director, Global Transmissions and Electrification, this year, “Of the more than 20 million cells that have been produced for the first generation Chevry Volt, we’ve seen less than two problems per million cells produced.”

The Volt battery pack employs liquid cooling, and was conservatively set up with only 65 percent usable energy for gen one to spare it greater hardship, and ensure long life. Nitz reported these packs using LG Chem cells have after three years of ownership retained nearly all of their original charge-holding capacity.

The all-electric Nissan Leaf, by contrast – launched the same month and having sold twice as many – saves costs without the active thermal management system the Volt gets. Its battery early on had heat-related charge-holding capacity degradation in Arizona, California and Texas. Nissan upped it warranty, and tweaked the battery, but the Volt was done right from the beginning.


Because of these factors and more, those who do fully like what the Volt represents have been generally loyal, with only a short list of known complaints. One is the compact car is short in back seat space, a deal breaker for some compared to the midsized competitors.

And aside from contemplating the car in the abstract, people who actually drive one find the Volt to be quicker and nimbler than America’s best-selling hybrid, the Prius, and with incentives and discounts, net pricing can be on par too.

Now building on this, the 2016 Volt is just launching.

Where is This Going?

GM’s challenge will still be getting the message across. The company specializes in bread-and-butter cars, trucks, SUVs, and the Volt is now relegated to being a “tech halo.” This is not the original intent former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz once declared when he said things about leapfrogging the Prius, but today’s top Chevy marketers have said that is not relevant to today’s mission.

SEE ALSO: Can the 2016 Volt Break Beyond ‘Niche’ And Go ‘Mainstream?’

Not an especially encouraging sign already is Chevrolet was going to introduce the new Volt to all 50 states this year before December, but changed plans. Why? Chevrolet said it wants to refine its deliveries and dealer/customer processes and experiences in 11 states following California zero emission vehicle rules. After it focuses first on that, 39 other states will get it next spring as a 2017 model.

Fans have said they want to see GM sell it like it means it. They’d also like to see spinoffs in crossover and SUV and other styles, something GM has never committed to.

But working in the new Volt’s favor is this is now round two. Some of the rancor directed toward “Government Motors” has faded over the past half decade, so we shall see.

October media drive. Sausalito, Calif.

October media drive. Sausalito, Calif.

Having passed through what some have called unfair treatment, the Volt is back. Will its next 100,000 sales come sooner, or not?

Reviews thus far are mostly positive, and a public including those with a short memory is in cases hearing about the car as though they just grew ears.

The first car also got good reviews, but then all the extraneous factors summarized above happened. Today the Volt is a virtual grandfather among plug-in cars, if it’s not premature to call it that.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Review – First Drive

It along with the Leaf was the first of the major manufacturer plug-in cars, and it is the first of the plug-in cars to receive a full redesign.

It’s still a compact, that will still be a problem for some, but it is better – better than the already good first generation Volt that itself surpassed competitors in vital ways, if not all.

This article also appears at


Nov 04

2016 Volts make up 1,324 sales from October’s total 2,035


The Volt more than doubled September’s numbers …


What everyone suspected is true – Chevy Volt demand has been held back in anticipation of the 2016 second-generation’s release, and October’s sales verify this.

The floodgate was opened last month with first 2016 model sales in 11 states following California’s zero emission vehicle rules, and Chevrolet documented just these 2016s in a limited market exceeded September’s 949 nationwide Volt sales by 40 percent.

Overall, General Motors reported October Volt sales of 2,035 units – a 41.4-percent year-over-year increase. has further learned from GM that of these, 1,324 cars, or 65.1 percent of the October total, were 2016 second-generation Volts.

Of the remainder, 662, or 35.5 percent were 2015s, and 49, or 2.4 percent were 2014 model Volts.

Chevrolet has chosen however to release the Volt only in the 11 states this year. California has been its traditional stronghold market, so in any case this and other first markets would have represented a greater proportion of sales on a national basis.

Next spring, Chevrolet says it will release to the 39 remaining states the next-generation Volt as a 2017 model year.

How the Volt will sell going forward is open to further speculation. It would appear certain that some of the first sales were from people waiting for the 2016 to arrive.

Chevrolet’s challenge going forward is marketing the 53-mile-range extended-range EV.

With nearly a half decade on the market now, and having passed a gauntlet of pushback from several fronts in the U.S. and abroad, the Volt has returned showing GM does believe in the product, it has said.

To be sure, there are no other plug-in hybrids with true coast-to-coast driving potential that have the electric range the Volt does.

Will the second go-around see forgiveness, among whom it may concern, and an open mind among consumers who may finally discover the Volt as relevant for them?

Time will tell.


Nov 03

September sees worldwide 47,000-plus plug-in sales record



Gas in the U.S. may be cheap, certain leading electrified cars sales may be down, but that did not stop the world from buying a record 47,000-plus plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) in September.

It was an all-time record, and the U.S. still cumulatively leads the global roster of highest consuming countries with over 363,000 through August 2015 out of just over one-million PEVs, but China and Europe have already surpassed it for sales during calendar year 2015.

In all, while the market for plug-in passenger vehicles is still very small, September’s benchmark knocking on the back door of 50,000 shows progress is happening globally.

The more-than 47,000 PEVs sold just in the month of September 2015 compares quite favorably to around 45,000 worldwide in all of 2011 when things were just beginning for major-manufacturer PEVs. In 2012 the U.S. alone ramped up to 53,394 sales.

September’s worldwide number also surpasses that of September 2014 by 52 percent, and tops the next-best all-time record sales month of last June by 13 percent.


But the numbers are being propped up largely by marked increases in cumulatively number-two China which has bought more than 250,000 from 2011-Sept. 2015. Just this year it has bought more than half of this total, or more than 136,000 counting also heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as buses and sanitation trucks. At its present sales rate, it is on track to have bought in excess of 200,000 “new energy vehicles” as it calls plug-in vehicles.

While some sales figures in China have been elusive, it’s estimated through September passenger PEVs this year tallied to around 93,000.

By contrast – and counting just passenger vehicles – the U.S. through September saw its total sitting at 81,675. In just September, the U.S. bought 9,742, so assuming roughly 10,000 per month for the rest of the year, it might buy another 30,000 give or take or possibly in the neighborhood of 110,000 – though this could be lower or higher, we shall see.

As for China, it has since 2009 set policies subsidizing both buyers and sellers of NEVs that initially did not see much growth, but 2015 has been the year of the electrified car in that market.

This is really quite the turnabout, as we reported as recently as early this year that for 2014 just the state of California purchased more PEVs than all of China.

Now all of China will surpass the U.S. in PEV sales as domestic manufacturers increase their sales, and incentivized consumers take the offer.

A PHEV the U.S. does not get, the Mitsubishi Outlander ranks as third  best seller this year behind Leaf and Model S.

A PHEV the U.S. does not get, the Mitsubishi Outlander ranks as third best seller this year behind Leaf and Model S.

In June 2015 we also noted Europe had surpassed the U.S. for the first time for the period of January through April 2015. It was ahead by 60 percent, is also adding to this month’s 47,000-plus total, and the U.S. is slipping.

U.S. Outlook

Why is the U.S. slipping? Though we opened with the gas-price angle, the actual reasons for why U.S. sales are down go beyond gas prices.

Actually, among electrified vehicles, it has been more-established regular hybrids, not the plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, that have suffered more because of gas prices.

PEVs attract a demographic with overlapping desires in a vehicle, but they go one step further. PEVs let people drive without gas, so when that is seen as the case, gas prices are less of a deciding factor because they matter less for some PEV drivers.

If your goal is to not use gas, then other factors also come into play than just the possibility of buying a cheaper gas car and saving on fill-ups.

So what else might be happening? The U.S. has been the cumulative sales leader, still is, but the leader board is top heavy with the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model S being the three best sellers.


Of these, the Volt has been down significantly as consumers wait for gen 2 which is now rolling out in California and 10 other states that follow California’s zero emission vehicle rules. It’s due in the rest of the country as a 2017 model in spring 2016.

The Leaf also is down, and of the three, only the Model S is holding strong – and a new leader has risen, the BMW i3, which has ascended with increased supply to 1,710 sales last month, up 67.3 percent compared to a year prior.

We will have a full October sales report this week, but looking for now at September, the Volt is down nearly 32 percent from a year prior. If that is not bad enough, the Volt in September 2014 was down 21.1 percent from September 2013, so its decline has been long.

The Leaf also however is finally feeling the effect of a future model known to be better. September saw 1,247 sales, down a sizable 56.7 percent from September 2014.

A 2016 Leaf has been announced with 107 miles range compared to the 2015’s 84 miles. Dealers are cutting prices, but sales are still down.

Also unknown is the effect of other future cars in the U.S., such as three 200-mile range battery electric cars pending.


First is the 2017 Chevy Bolt, another is the next-gen Nissan Leaf which has been reported due for 2017, but that is strictly a rumor, not ever stated by Nissan. It may not get here till 2018 according to a report from Japan last week.

The third of course is the Tesla Model 3. It may be shown by March 2016, tweeted CEO Elon Musk, and may go on sale by 2017, though Tesla has missed production deadlines for its previous cars. The Model 3 is actually already not on target for a 2012 projection in which Tesla said it hoped to have shown it by early this year.

As it is, these factors are overlaid on top of a plethora of others that have traditionally affected the U.S. PEV market.

The good news for plug-in supporters of course is worldwide emission regulations are tightening and making automakers see electrification as a means to an end, and choices keep increasing and getting better.

With over one million PEVs now on the road worldwide, the market is now firmly underway, if still finding its way as well. Consumers are catching on, it’s been nearly half a decade since the Volt and Leaf hit the scene December 2010, and synergies are happening.

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