Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Jan 14

What’s next for the ELR?


As we know here, this week was all about a couple of Chevrolets – the Volt and Bolt – but there’s another Voltec car that to date has ironically been a sort of red-headed stepchild big brother.

GM has said the Voltec-based Cadillac ELR will carry forward and as we now see, while it is the ostensibly upscale EREV, its powertrain has what will soon be last year’s goods under the hood.


I spoke with a couple of communications reps from Cadillac – including a European rep – and the word is GM is still committed to its plug-in Cadillac.

The lines and look are good, but whether GM will revise those or what it will do to the powertrain, it has not said.

Is it safe to say it should be updated to the generation two Voltec powertrain? What styling updates might it get too? Will it be kept on the same platform, or ought this be revised as well?

The European rep said in certain countries where the tax incentives and interest in plug-ins happens to be positive, the ELR is creating interest.

I pressed them on what to expect but was only told GM will update it and implicitly soon, though this was not unequivocally stated. Also known is a CT6 plug-in is in the offing as well.

That’s further off, but known is the ELR sells like cold cakes. Cadillac sold 118 units in December, and a total of 1,310 for the year. That does beat the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid’s 31 for December and 879 for the year, but this is a low volume car.


By contrast the Volt in a declining year sold 1,490 in December and 18,805 for the year.

The Cadillac needs help to succeed, not more reasons to not sell.

What does Cadillac need to do? Any suggestions, or guesses on what it will do?


Jan 13

Are you ready for the Chevy Bolt?


By now you know about the Chevy Bolt. The headline is rhetorical, but a more apropos question would be is GM ready to produce it?

The car looks pretty neat, with room to improve here and there. By the time it comes along, it may have competition with similar range from Nissan, BMW, and Tesla.


Yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit General Motors signaled its “commitment to electrification” with the Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept.

There have been reports this will be GM’s answer to the likes of the Tesla Model 3 when it is launched, but Chevrolet communications representative Michelle Malcho reiterated “it’s just a concept.”

That it is, but the advanced crossover which leverages lessons learned from the Volt and Spark EV – and promises a range of 200 miles and price of $30,000 after $7,500 federal tax credit has its options open – and GM otherwise has said it will be competitive in the plug-in market.


“The Bolt EV concept is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for attainability, not exclusivity,” said General Motors CEO Mary Barra. “Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers.”

Minimizing front and rear overhang and with a flat floor inside and open and airy environment, up close the design thesis looks inviting and like a futuristic sci-fi vehicle that is here now, and nearly ready to be driven.

“Form and function have never meshed so well together,” said Ed Welburn, vice president, GM Global Design. “No compromises were made when it came to aesthetics and the elements that contribute to the Bolt EV concept’s range, resulting in a unique proportion that’s sleek, efficient and obviously a Chevrolet.”


The cabin features lightweight, slim-architecture seats on exposed aluminum pedestals to make for a floating effect. The minimalist center console “floats” too, suspended from the front seats.

“The Bolt EV concept’s interior is intended as a sanctuary, with materials and technologies that reinforce the airy ambience and help contribute to the vehicle’s overall efficiency,” said Welburn. “It also incorporates technology in a subtler and simpler manner, for a more soothing driving experience – particularly in busy, urban environments.”

Also featured is a 10-inch-diagonal color capacitive-touch screen, with interface via a “concept Bolt EV Connect app” which allows the projection of all the application and other smartphone data onto the screen.


The concept can be accessed via a smartphone with the concept Bolt EV Connect app, which is designed to:

• Allow a smartphone to perform as the key fob
• Allow ride-sharing management, including reservations, vehicle location, digital key and even payment processing via the smartphone
• Incorporate the concept automatic park-and-retrieval technology, which enables the driver to exit the vehicle and tell the Bolt EV concept to park itself – and when errands are completed, the Bolt EV concept can be summoned to return to the owner’s location.


Presently the “200 mile range” thanks reportedly to advanced LG Chem batteries is far above the 81-mile range of a BMW i3 which it most closely resembles, and the 84 miles of a Nissan Leaf.

Tesla aims to produce its Model 3 sedan which also may be priced from the middle 30s and offer the exact-same nominal “200 mile” range.

That GM is posturing for more plug-in cars is evident. Interviews with high-ranking engineers have yielded that GM knows there will be room in the marketplace for more vehicle designs besides this “crossover” which is akin to a hatchback in actuality.


When GM might actually build these it is not saying, though an insider report has said by 2017 – when Tesla will have its Model 3 and Nissan may have a gen-2 Leaf with comparable range would be a reasonable guess.






Jan 12

2016 Volt seats five, promises 50 miles electric range – video


Following is crammed in most of the info GM supplied thus far.

They only sent three photos though — nice looking car isn’t it? I just saw it late Sunday as I’ve been on the road all day.

These pictures are full high-resolution, so you can click on them and make them larger.

I’ll get some more pictures at the show and post them later …

2016 Chevrolet Volt

Today at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, General Motors is revealing its all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt in advance of its going on sale after this summer.

This is the first production plug-in car to undergo a full redesign, and the new second-generation Volt’s 18.4-kwh battery increases electric range from an official EPA-rated 38 miles to an unofficial-but-expected 50 miles.

The front-wheel-drive compact hatchback’s new 1.5-liter Ecotec generator now runs on regular gas instead of needing premium, and combined fuel efficiency on gas is expected to be 41 mpg – up from 37 mpg for the present Volt.

Built on a new Delta II platform, the formerly four-passenger car features a rear bench seat for three abreast and a total of five-person capacity.

Vehicle weight was pared by 243 pounds while making it 3.3 inches longer, 0.8-inches wider, and interior passenger volume is similar with rear legroom increased by 0.6 inches and rear headroom decreased by 0.2 inches.

The first Volt was called a revolution, and this is perhaps an evolution – though on paper it’s altogether better having been tweaked inside, out, and under the hood in response to extensive data and feedback from existing Volt owners.

“The 2016 Chevrolet Volt provides our owners with a no-compromise electric driving experience,” said Alan Batey, president of GM North America. “We believe our engineering prowess combined with data from thousands of customers allows us to deliver the most capable plug-in vehicle in the industry.”


Chevrolet’s present Volt was first launched December 2010 after an accelerated development process by a troubled GM going through bankruptcy and restructuring. It was based on the 2007 Volt concept developed the year prior and thus the Volt is approaching half a decade on the market and a full decade since its inception.

The Volt has created raving fans and top customer satisfaction ratings, as well as detractors. By anyone’s reckoning, it has been heads above any other plug-in hybrid on the market by a wide margin. The nearest competitive “Energi” siblings from Ford are rated for 19 miles all-electric range.

Extended Range EV

The Volt’s “extended-range electric” powertrain is architecturally unique, as it runs as a pure electric car for 50 miles and gas plus-electric is now increased to 420 miles. Its new top speed is 98 mph and while the battery is charged the gas engine does not come on even if the accelerator is pressed to the floor. This differentiates it from every other plug-in hybrid and makes it its own unique type of vehicle.


Its new 0-60 time is quicker by a half second at 8.4 seconds estimated, and the 0-30 time has been cut by 30 percent to 2.6 seconds. “Instant torque” from the electric drive makes the Volt feel peppy and handling dynamics are reportedly sharper than one might expect as well.

The automaker says the electric range also increased “30 percent” from 38 miles to 50. While technically correct, when last summer the 2015 Volt received a 17.1-kwh battery – a 0.6-kwh increase from the 2013-2014 Volt – GM chose not to re-certify it with the EPA as it anticipated the 2016 Volt. If the 2015 had been re-certified, a known-reliable source has told us it could have conservatively been EPA rated for 40 miles. This means EV range for the new car is effectively 25-percent greater between an unofficial 40 miles to 50 miles.

Battery and Charging

The LG Chem-based battery pack designed and assembled domestically by GM has seen its capacity increased to 18.4 kwh. It now uses 192 prismatic pouch cells which is 96 fewer than the 288 of the current generation. Its weight was reduced by more than 20 pounds but is still in a familiar T shape, with slightly altered dimensions.

Recharge times are estimated at 4.5 hours using optional 240-volt level 2 electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE, or the charger). Or, by plugging the redesigned cord into 120-volt, 12-amp house current it takes 13 hours. GM has increased the cord to “maximum” length and revised the 120-volt supplied unit while also stowing it in the rear hatch area in a more easy access position. Many present Volt drivers only use house current for their daily charging and don’t use a level 2 EVSE.

The new Volt also uses GPS-enabled location-based charging.


“Owners will now be able to set their charging preferences exclusively for “home” charging and the vehicle will automatically adjust to that setting when it is at “home” based on GPS data,” said Andrew Farah, the Volt’s chief engineer. “The new Volt will give owners greater flexibility for charging on their terms and make public charging easier.”

The familiar dome-shaped charge indicator light visible through the windshield has been replaced with a horseshoe shape, and will show the approximate charge level through a series of flashes.


More friendly audible tones are offered to warn against such things as leaving the charger door open before driving off.

An optional LED light to illuminate the charger port will also be made available.

Two-Motor Drive Unit

A new electric drive unit to be manufactured at GM’s Powertrain plant in Warren, Mich. uses two smaller motors and is lighter by a total of 33 pounds (15 kg). One motor does away with rare earth magnets.

The drive unit produces the exact same 149 horsepower (111 kw) as the the outgoing drive unit’s, but with increased torque of 294 pounds feet (398 Nm) compared to the 2011-2015 model’s 273 pounds-feet (370 Nm).


At the same time, the drive unit delivers improved noise and vibration characteristics that contribute to a quieter driving experience.
The motors can be used individually or in tandem, effectively delivering two torque paths to make the most of performance and efficiency.

At lower speeds such as city driving the Volt can now operate on a primary motor or it can split power between the motors at moderate speeds or fully engage both motors for higher-load/higher-speed driving, such as passing on the highway.

The Traction Power Inverter Module (TPIM), which manages power flow between the battery and the electric drive motors, has been built into the drive unit to reduce mass, and size, which contributes to greater efficiency.

“The blended arrangement of the two motors is a key contributor to the new Volt’s GM estimated 50-mile all-electric driving range,” said Larry Nitz, executive director of transmissions and electrification powertrain engineering. “The arrangement also enhances torque, giving the Volt a stronger feeling of acceleration and the ability to use both motors helps deliver nearly 20 percent improvement in low-speed electric acceleration.”

Carried over are four diving modes:

• Normal: Designed to make the most of battery range and efficiency during every day commuting.
• Sport: Provides revised accelerator pedal mapping for improved acceleration feel when passing or taking off from a stop.
• Mountain: Enables the engine and battery to combine power to achieve desired performance when traversing steep grades.
• Hold: Allows owners to use their battery power when they want to use it. Hold mode switches the Volt into extended-range operation, which is ideal for longer-distance highway driving.

1.5-liter Range Extender

The 2016 Volt’s naturally aspirated four has four valves per cylinder, features a cast aluminum block and head, and serves as a generator that keeps the battery charged and powers the electric drive unit. So, the car operates as an electric car all the time, even with the gas engine supplying the electricity.

Only at certain operating conditions between approximately 55 and 70 mph may the transmission at certain points route engine power to mechanically drive the front wheels. An interview with chief engineer Andrew Farah revealed GM’s rationale is that when the gas engine is running, the priority is maximum efficiency. At certain points in a drive cycle, mechanically tying the genset to the wheels was seen as a more efficient use of energy.

The car is otherwise very nearly what’s known as a series hybrid.

The DOHC four-cylinder gas “genset” as it’s informally known is rated at 101 horsepower (75 kw) at 5,600 rpm. It features direct injection, a high-compression ratio of 12.5:1, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, double continuous variable cam phasing (DCVCP), and a variable-displacement oil pump to make the most of performance and efficiency.
2016 Chevrolet Volt

The former 1.4-liter by contrast needed premium gas even though its compression ration was a lower 10.5:1. It produced 84 horsepower (63 kw) at 4,800 rpm and was rated 37 mpg compared to 41 mpg for the new engine.

This will be the first North American application for this member of GM’s new Ecotec family of small engines.

For the first year of production the new 1.5-liter genset will be manufactured at GM’s Toluca, Mexico engine plant, then this will shift to the Flint, Mich. engine plant.

Design Features

Farah says in contrast to the first-generation Volt, GM ran the 2016 Volt through its normal full development process, letting the design team make it more integrated and polished.

The slightly larger Volt hatch riding on 17-inch alloys has been spiffed up inside and out to incorporate design from other members of the Chevrolet family including exterior cues from “performance” models (think: a whiff of Corvette) but it’s still recognizable as the Volt.

“The new Volt’s design is all about windswept surfaces so everything flows together,” said John Cafaro, executive director, Chevrolet Global Design. “It’s a theme captured from the flowing lines of the fenders into the hood, to the carved body sides which are aerodynamically tuned and aligned with Chevrolet performance DNA.”

A “NACA Duct” style roof is complemented by “a sportier, tapered rear-end appearance characteristic of premium sports sedans.”

Aerodynamics of course were closely sculpted too, and GM says it’s pleased with what it did.

“With electric vehicles, such as the Volt, aerodynamics play a more important role in efficiency than conventional vehicles,” said Nina Tortosa, aerodynamics engineer. “The knowledge we took from the first-generation Volt and other recent Chevrolet cars allowed us greater leverage to work with a more flowing design.”


Trunk space is the same as the present Volt’s at 10.6 cubic feet and this was a challenge as the tail was revised for aerodynamic considerations.

A longer, tapered tail generally means better aero performance but usually costs cargo room and looks slightly out of proportion. To overcome this, GM’s teams devised a rear end design using aero-optimized side panels that flow smoothly into a more rounded rear section with pushed-out corners.

2016 Chevrolet Volt


Sculpted tail lamps using lessons learned from the Impala were also utilized as was a engine airflow new shutter system.

The result was a shorter front overhang and wider grille opening – attributes that would typically add to aerodynamic drag.

When less airflow is needed on the highway, the shutters close to block air from entering the engine compartment, reducing drag and enhancing efficiency.

Inside the new Volt, with dual-digital 8-inch displays, and 4G LTE WiFi capability improved integration will be found, Comfort and convenience features include:

• Standard rear-vision camera
• Center armrest that is longer and higher than the current model
• New storage bin in the front console
• Available heated rear seats
• Available heated steering wheel
• Available wireless smartphone charging

“The 2016 Volt maintains the high-tech interior design aesthetic of the first-generation Volt, but has more user-friendly elements creating an inviting balance between ambiance and functionality,” said Crystal Windham, Chevrolet Interior Design director. “The new interior will appeal to existing owners, but also to those who will be new to the Volt family because of its integrated, yet familiar technology.”

It does not look as though substantial improvements were made to the rear seating space, however, as head room has slightly decreased, and presently only so-so rear leg room is 0.6 inches greater.

On the plus side, the new bench seat will enable child seats to be accommodated with greater ease, and a third person may squeeze in the middle, or a center armrest can be folded down when the middle position is not in use.

Returning technologies and new amenities include:

• OnStar 4G LTE with three years of service and standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot (with a three-month/three gigabyte data trial)
• Siri Eyes Free and text message alerts (requires compatible iPhone)
• Bluetooth phone connectivity
• Automatic climate control
• Keyless access and ignition
• Auxiliary 12-volt power outlets and dual USB ports
• Remote start
• Leather-wrapped steering wheel
• Premium cloth seats and available leather-appointed seating
• Available Navigation and Bose® premium audio
• Heated driver and front passenger cloth seats
• Available safety awareness includes front and rear park assist, forward collision alert and lane-departure warning

What’s Next?

Hints of a premium product have been made.

“Like the exterior, the Volt’s cabin flows with sculpted cues, visual jewelry and a greater emphasis on form,” says GM, which touts a “premium” product with an “inviting upscale aura” inside and out.


“The upscale look and feel of the Volt is reinforced with three interior color choices: jet black, light and dark ash gray and jet black and brandy,” says GM.

Is GM setting this car up for a price increase or will GM price it low enough to expand beyond present limitations?

GM has not said, but it is known the re-engineering found ways to cut costs throughout, although Farah did not reveal the precise dollar savings on an otherwise improved Volt.


The automaker will not announce pricing until closer to launch. As a green halo to date, any talk of it ever being a Prius beater by sales volume has long-since been silenced.

It will arguably be a Prius beater in function, but also up in the air is whether new spin-off “Voltec” products may follow.

The automaker does say the Volt has brought new customers to the brand but it is making no sales projections like it did for 2011 and 2012 which were never met and for which it was criticized by many.

But there were myriad complexities effectively conspiring to create negative synergy against the first-generation’s launch – too many to summarize – but generally agreed is the Volt was a well-engineered car that has been polarizing for those who even know what it is.

Now for any fence sitter that thought about it but didn’t buy a first-generation product on principle, that objection has been erased.

Eyes will now be on how successfully General Motors markets the 2016 Volt, how it prices it, and whether it indeed will break into any definition of “mainstream” as GM has suggested could be.




You can compare side by side 2016 preliminary specs to 2015 specs.






Jan 09

The weekend before the dawn of the second-generation Volt


As the last post here before the cover is taken off the second-generation Chevy Volt, having learned more, I can tell you the 2016 Volt is better in several key respects – although really, this much you already knew.

A question that will remain even during and after the initial disclosure is how the vehicle will be received this year by the general public. The media will have a heyday contriving stories, churning up tons of information most people here know about like the back of their hand.



Some of the past lore involves details some of us are glad is behind the Volt.

Positive details are many as well. One biggie is that the first Volt was ever built by a restructured new GM in the first place – and now it’s carrying forward the new car having listened, it says, to you – the most enthusiastic supporters who’ve bought the first generation car.

For the “fast followers” as the marketing parlance has it for next-wave buyers behind “early adopters,” if there were ever an objection not to buy the first generation of any product – let alone an all-new big ticket item like a car – that objection is gone.

Many new buyers may be willing to entertain the notion that GM has fixed perceived issues, or otherwise evolved the product.

The present Volt already has super high customer satisfaction ratings and it’s been documented how many conquest sales and new faces to GM it’s brought.

But for some time now GM has marketed the car mainly to California where easily 40 percent of the sales come from, and at tech events.

Will it break out of a niche status? Again, GM has hinted the answer could be yes, but wide open is the question of by how much?

While we’ll have plenty of fodder to speculate on this question and more on Monday, its mainstream acceptability factor will not be known with absolute certainty Monday, and will be something that proves out in time.

Meanwhile, I will be interested to see how the media mill handles the new data that is the 2016 Volt revelation. It may dispassionately handle it, maybe spinning it a little off color in cases, and others will likely cover it with greater care and accuracy.

Look here Monday Jan. 12 at 12:01 a.m. eastern time (Sunday Jan. 11 at 9:01 p.m. Pacific time) for a story revealing specifics on efficiency, performance, and more.

Till then, have a nice weekend!


Jan 08

Allstate creates ‘mayhem’ allegedly offering a stolen Volt for sale online


Would you respond to an ad to buy a stolen Chevy Volt for $200? Apparently a sham ad run by Allstate with a possibly clever social media campaign during the Sugar Bowl game did just that, but of course the car was listed as “sold out” so was it ever offered and did anyone ever get it?

For Sale: “Wheels. Doors. Seats. This baby appears to have all the major calling cards of an automobile. And it’s pretty new. Like 2014 new. Why deal with the hassles of a used car lot or going on some game show, when you can buy Matt and Shannon’s car from me? A couple clicks and it’s yours!”

The background for this story, courtesy of James who was part of the live experiment as a football spectator and Volt fan, is Allstate Insurance got millions to access the internet during the game between #1 Alabama and #4 Ohio State by posiing its “Mayhem” character as a thief.

Mayhem the thief said on the ad they accessed a fictional couple’s social media page saying they were at the game, so they went and heisted their house and sold the proceeds at pennies on the dollar, including the family car – a thinly disguised Volt.

Apparently they did sell stuff on a website set up for the alleged hot goods sale including a microwave for a couple of dollars and a 60-inch flatscreen for $60.

The de-badged, re-grilled Volt was the “grand finale” and worth only $140 more than the TV apparently.

But, it did not matter because the mayhem sale website leads you to a Twitter account to follow Mr. Mayhem who joyrides the car before selling it.

We’re not making this stuff up. Is this crazy? Smart? Clever? Creating? Or was it a big letdown because the Volt was “sold?”

James said he tried to buy it for $200 with free shipping, but alas, the fictional thief working for the real insurance company – a sponsor of the Sugar Bowl – ”lied.”

Oh well. Maybe next time.


Jan 07

Volt 1.0 was mission accomplished, says GM, on the eve of Volt 2.0


Never mind the naysayers, the Toyota fanboys, certain politicians, and other miscellaneous people who say otherwise. The Volt was a “moonshot,” GM’s Jon Lauckner said this week, taking the descriptor from Motor Trend’s 2011 Car of the Year article, and it was a success that’s now poised for stage two.


Whether it it will blast into outer space now, or remain in low earth orbit was not disclosed, but the attitude at GM is upbeat, one would surmise, because its people know what’s coming next.

This was divulged in an interview with GM executives at CES, and The Detroit News reported despite early sales projections not being met, and myriad other issues affecting the Volt’s market acceptance the past four years that most of you know, GM is pleased with what it has accomplished.

“It was our version of a moonshot,” said Lauckner, now GM’s chief technology officer, who convinced Bob Lutz that an EV needed to be range extended.

“It showed just the innovation prowess of our company and of the creativity, and beyond that, the ability to deliver something, the ability to deliver that innovation and deliver it in a way that’s not a science project,” added Pam Fletcher, GM’s executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles, in a recent interview with the Detroit News. “This is a car that’s on the road that carries the same warranty as every other car we’ve ever produced.”

Fletcher said the Volt in 2010 had two goals – 40 miles all-electric range and 300 miles in charge sustaining mode.

Of course the first cars were rated 35 miles AER, then in 2013 it grew to 38, and 40 could be attained. Before they retire the gen one Volt, it can be said they upped it to an unofficial, not re-certified 40 with the 2015′s 17.1-kwh pack. Anyway, it has been close enough, and GM is expected to exceed its initial parameters and then some with the 2016 to be revealed Monday.

Image by kdawg.

Image by kdawg.

To be sure, these are exciting times if we care about the Volt. Is this like an extended holiday season or what?

How it will be positioned and marketed in actual fact has yet to be further defined however, but we know about its track record.

The first Volt was sold to customers 79 percent of which are college educated, with household incomes averaged around $122,000. Over 70 percent are new to GM.

Beyond myriad other high-end cars, the most popular car to trade in is the Toyota Prius. Apparently many Prius fans were converted, even if some yet are not. Ahem.

“How do you put value on those 70 percent conquest customers [those who previously drove other brands] and how do we value the customer enthusiasm we have around this car?” Fletcher asked. “All of that stacks on top of the accounting, finances. The value to the company is tremendous on so many fronts.”

But the Volt also faces a still-weak legacy in the eyes of the general public, as well as $2 more-or-less gasoline.

It also faces GM’s known satisfaction now documented that the Volt paid dividends as a niche halo product, if not a mass-market car.

GM will be doing a webcast itomorrow to tip off journalists all about the new Volt, but they are all sworn to secrecy – the info is embargoed.

That means many folks will be writing and polishing stories to go live on the 12th when GM lets the world see how much it has outdone itself.

The Volt already is the highest e-range plug-in gas-electric car. The next-best Ford Energis go 19 miles by EPA reckoning.

The new car may also have room for five passengers, and we’ll see about that price strategy, although it’s not clear if that will be divulged next week – most likely it won’t be.

Then after next week, we’ll have to wait more months until the 2016 is released.

The Detroit News

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