The rumors were true – Nissan is upping the Leaf’s battery for certain trim levels and a dealer has announced it ahead of the automaker.
This would be Andy Mohr Avon Nissan of Indiana, which confirmed also that the 2016 model is the end of the first-generation Leaf, but the gen-one will go out with a bang offering two trims for the first time.
As has been the case since 2013, the standard Leaf will come with an EPA-estimated driving range of 84 miles from its 24-lwh pack, while higher levels will get as much as 25-percent increased capacity, with range as high as 110 miles.
It’s unclear whether Nissan intends to offer new trim levels for the 2016 Nissan Leaf lineup, or if the SV and SL models will carry over with the larger battery.
We took a screen shot in case this gets pulled down. Click on it to enlarge, or go to the dealer’s website.
The dealership also didn’t announce pricing or availability yet and we shall see whether Nissan charges significantly more for the larger battery in a segment that’s becoming more competitive.
The second-generation Nissan Leaf is expected to arrive within the next couple of years as a 2017 or 2018 model, though this too has not been confirmed by Nissan.
Chevrolet meanwhile has not announced the launch of its 200-mile Bolt which could put a dent in Volt sales, and it’s believed Nissan will have a 200-plus mile gen-two Leaf next year – when rumor has it the Bolt will be here too.
And, meanwhile again, while the 2016 Volt with 53 miles AER – and using about 14 kwh of its 18.4 kwh pack will be attracting new buyers, Nissan is doing what it can now to stay competitive.
So, now that Ford has found this out, will it be introducing more PEVs?
By Sarah Shelton
More than 90 percent of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners say their next car will also have an electrified powertrain, according to a new survey.
The study – conducted by PlugInsights on behalf of Ford Motor Company – surveyed 10,000 battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) owners. Ford said it commissioned the study in part to find out if consumers were happy with owning an electrified vehicle (EV) (AKA PEV – plug-in electrified vehicle).
The answer was a resounding “yes.”
“Ninety two percent of BEV owners and 94 percent of PHEV owners plan to buy another EV in the future,” reported CleanTechnica. Ford didn’t release the entire study, preferring instead to keep some cards close to its chest. But the company’s manager of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Technology, Stephanie Janczak, revealed a few details in a CleanTechnica interview.
For their next vehicle, Janczak said most owners plan specifically to buy a BEV. Even though both categories shared this answer, the survey indicated that current BEV and PHEV owners have different priorities driving their choice.
For BEV owners, global warming and reducing their carbon footprint are high priorities, making this zero-emission technology optimal. Though current PHEV owners may also be looking greener transportation, the ability to save money with increased fuel efficiency is a top priority.
These reasons explain why the majority of EV owners will pick a BEV over a PHEV for their next car: the PHEV doesn’t provide an added environmental advantage, but the BEV can save the owner more money over the long run. Janczak also noted that a BEV’s “instant power” was a hit for both groups.
Another detail released by Ford is that more than 90 percent of the EV owners surveyed also owned another car, which was most often powered by gasoline only. The findings suggest that when automakers can offer batteries with a much longer range, owners will be more likely to trade in this second car for an EV as well.
Ford’s study follows up on a similar report released by PlugInsights last year. In the 2014 study of 900 EV owners, 96.9 percent said their next vehicle would be a BEV or PHEV.
“The category is still quite young, with the modern era starting in December 2010 with the intro of the [Nissan] Leaf and the [Chevrolet] Volt,” said Norman Hajjar, managing director at PlugInsights Research, of BEVs and PHEVs. “But some rather seismic ‘age-related’ events are waiting in the wings for this category.”
Included is these “age-related events” are the thousands of EVs currently on the road that will soon be returned to dealers when their lease is over.
I’m giving this on wireless charging to you ahead of its being posted on HybridCars.com. It’s a draft. I did not have any great story ready for today, so hope this works for you.
Would you believe Momentum Dynamics’ wireless tech can send industrial levels of high-power current through the air as efficiently and cost-effectively as a Tesla Supercharger?
That is, up to 135 kilowatts of electric car charging energy and beyond is technically feasible today, and the same technology can be scaled to lower power levels down to home systems.
Perhaps Elon Musk might want to take note, as he clearly demonstrates Tesla still has needs. Beyond new Superchargers adding to maps around the globe, Tesla recently showcased a bizarre and possibly complicated “snake” just to provide automatic charging.
The “snake” represents one potential way to recharge a Model S hands free. It could dovetail with autonomous parking functions believed pending, but could wireless do the same function, only better?
According to John M. Miller, PE, PhD, formerly the Director of Power Electronics and Electric Power Systems Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the answer is yes.
Miller, a technical adviser for Momentum since May 2014, is regarded as one of the leading authorities on high-power Wireless Power Transmission (WPT). Last month he published a technical paper in Transactions on Transportation Electrification, a journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
In short, the paper, full of complex equations and tech speak says Momentum’s technology is ready for prime time.
What is its technology? It’s a proprietary improvement on an old concept – resonant magnetic induction. One receiver weighing between 30-50 pounds installed flush on the bottom of a vehicle could handle anything from level 1, 2, or Supercharger-class level 3.
Miller’s credentials include being Chair, IEEE-TEC Industry Relations, Chair, SAE J2907 Electric Drives, principle of J-N-J Miller Design Svcs PLLC. Before ORNL, he was a member of the technical staff at Texas Instruments and later a research engineer and technical leader at Ford Motor Company where he worked on electric and hybrid vehicle programs.
His long resume has led him into being an advocate for WPT and he says he joined Momentum Dynamics in part because of its progress beyond others also venturing in the field.
“I believe wireless charging is the future, and I also believe Momentum’s technology is the most cost-effective and safest,” said Miller.
Wireless can be embedded in the pavement or sit on the surface and offers several compelling benefits, said Miller.
He exhibits enthusiasm when he also talks of electric vehicles with higher wireless power needs than would a Model S – like buses, and trucks. He foresees a paradigm were these could charge as they travel en route.
WPT could also mean they – and passenger cars – don’t need larger batteries as more charging opportunities would mean need for less energy storage. That in turn could save costs and vehicle weight.
Miller envisions potential for them to be located all over the place, including in home garages or in driveways; in public parking spaces or garages – for many vehicles, including Teslas.
Plug-in infrastructure can also do this, but wireless could be embedded in the roadway, and experiments in this functionality are ongoing – including in the UK later this year.
Opportunity charging could be even at stop lights, noted Miller, along streets or on highways at rest stops, lay-bys, shopping malls and so on.
Momentum’s tech also works in all weather, under snow, slush and ice, and the car would be equipped to get within proximity, perform a virtual “hand shake” — and be as hands-free as a robotic plug-in device might be.
Quote, Miller: Fast chargers (DCFC) typically require 480Vac, 3-phase supply. The Tesla pack (up to 90 kWh) can charge at 135kW off a commercial 480Vac, 3-phase utility connection that is rated for more than 162 Arms. So the service cabling must be rated for that level of current.
These DCFC’s or Supercharger are all part of the infrastructure (only in very special circumstances can 480Vac be plug and receptacle connected). Now, the Tesla pack is rated 400Vdc which at 90kWh means the cell pack is rated 225Ah (Amp-hour). That rating is 1C, which means that at 225A continuous discharge for 1 hour it will be fully depleted. That in turn implies a discharge (or charge) power of 90kW. So, for 135kW charging one requires only 1.5C-rate into the battery. Lithium-ion packs for EVs can easily absorb 2C-rate charging. Take the Nissan Leaf as an example. A DCFC for the Nissan Leaf (24kWh, 364V pack) has a 1C rate of 66A. The LEAF DCFC is rated 45 kW which implies 123Adc charging, or 1.9C-rate. So its actually the battery pack that determines how much power it can absorb. Lithium-ion packs rated 4C or higher are designed for power, such as those found in hybrid cars, and going higher still means packs for portable power tools.
So the opportunity for high power wireless charging, just as for conductive charging, depends on the local infrastructure and the vehicle battery pack charge acceptance limits.
CEO Andy Daga: There are a lot of misconceptions about wireless charging. We place the most weighty parts off the vehicle (and hence the cost as well — off the vehicle). You can offset the weight addition by reducing battery size to attain equivalent driving range. For commuter vehicles especially, this means a vehicle with a few less kHh of battery can offset the addition of the charger, but the wireless charger allows more frequent partial recharges, which extends driving range.
Efficiency would be on par with a plug Miller said. The wireless portion has demonstrated 91-percent efficiency and Momentum is shooting for 93 percent. On-board chargers (OBC) have similar efficiency at handling current delivered by traditional plug-in electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE), said Miller. So, while the solid cord connection is more-efficient at delivering current to the OBC, losses elsewhere in the power processing and routing make what EVs now rely on no better than Momentum’s setup.
Momentum Dynamics has previously showcased less-powerful wireless charging for cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, but the company is at work on systems for commercial vehicles with higher power requirements than a Model S.
This is why it’s confident it can be done.
Are You Skeptical?
If so, you are not alone. We shared this with a Silicon Valley techie who writes for this site occasionally. Despite his extensive knowledge, he fired off a typical knee-jerk response
“One question is: what happens to small animals like cats if they snuggle up on the warm charging pad during cool evenings when charging at 135 kW wirelessly? One wonders,” he said.
The answer is Momentum Dynamics’ wireless technology conforms to international magnetic emission standards, poses no known risk to human or animal health, and actually, the human body is 40-times less visible to it than the best optical glass is to sunlight.
This and answers to other more-pointed critics have all been batted down so far by Momentum, which has invited many from near and far to come see live proof.
Momentum is also working with at least one major car manufacturer behind the scenes and we too were privy to see a demonstration. The system we were shown was being prepped to be sent to the OEM for testing. If they like it, they may use it, or they may ask for changes in the prototype; this is part of the process and business as usual.
The system we saw was delimited to around 25 kilowatts – not Supercharger strength, but more than a Nissan Leaf’s 6.6 kilowatts, or the standard 10-20 kilowatt on-board charger of a Tesla Model S.
We’ve also seen an electric truck from one of the world’s largest shippers at Momentum’s laboratory warehouse, and seen it charged. The company may have more news on this and other behind-the-scenes work later this year.
The secrecy is at the client’s request, not Momentum’s, and its CEO Andy Daga, an engineer who’s done work for NASA agreed with Miller the system can be scaled to Tesla levels.
“A more powerful 50 kilowatt or 100 kilowatt charger is certainly feasible and would almost certainly cost no more than a Supercharger, since many of the basic power electronics are similar,” said Daga who added beyond 135 kilowatt power is just as feasible. “The wireless charger would have lower lifecycle costs, however, because there would be no cord or plug to be damaged or vandalized.”
But a Supercharger is only possible where utilities will supply that much 480-volt three phase current, and Daga said a home system would be possible, but obviously limited to power on hand.
“A single phase, 240 volt, 50 amp circuit in a home represents the maximum power transfer, which with a necessary safety factor, is about 10 kW. Unless alternative arrangements are made with the local utility to provide more power, this constrains the time it takes to charge at home,” said Daga. “Without making allowances for battery equalization time, a rough order of magnitude approximation for bulk charging 70 kWh of battery capacity would be at least 7 hours, assuming no interruptions.”
“It is possible to upgrade a home to have more power,” Daga added, “but this is very expensive. To get to 20 kW (twice as fast as 10 kW) you would typically need to perform such an upgrade. It is almost like adding enough power for a second house.”
To actually make Tesla compatible, the automaker would have to cooperate. Momentum is not willing to try and hack into the Model S and adapts its system. It has modified a Chevy Volt and other vehicles for lower power systems, but cooperation from the manufacturer is otherwise needed.
Tesla however is working on the snake, although Daga and Miller say it looks potentially more pricey than a wireless system would be.
We asked what cost hurdles Momentum would face compared to what Tesla is now doing with its plug-in level-two systems.
This could be flush mounted with aerodynamic under-cladding..
“There are essentially no cost hurdles to delivering a 25 kW Tesla-compatible charger to the market,” said Daga. “These would be ideal charging stations for Teslas who park in office buildings or supermarkets, and could easily augment the existing plug-in charger currently built into the Model S and future Tesla vehicles.
“It would certainly cost less to add wireless charging than to buy, install, and maintain a robotic arm,” he said, adding “There really are no major technical barriers in front of us. Safe power transfer has been accomplished, what remains is vehicle integration and industry standard organization.”
So, what would have to happen to implement wireless?
“Charging a Tesla Model S is a straightforward technical proposition. This is a business decision, not a technical hurdle,” said Daga. “We have heard from Tesla owners across the country and in Europe (especially in Norway where stiff frozen cords are really an issue) that they want automatic wireless charging. It’s pretty clear the business case is strong as we have seen in the a attempts by Volkswagen and Tesla to develop a robotic conductive charger. Now that – a robotic charger – is a technical and cost challenge.”
There really are no major technical barriers in front of us. Safe power transfer has been accomplished, what remains is vehicle integration and industry standard organization.
Do you see Tesla going to wireless charging as likely, we asked?
Yes, I would say it is inevitable,” said Daga speaking generally, not necessarily Tesla deciding to do business with his company specifically. “The business case is undeniable. Let’s just say that I do not believe Tesla will be the last company standing when every other automaker has fielded wireless charging.”
Inevitable? Can you elaborate?
The timing of “inevitable” will in large part be driven by Tesla’s competitors who are developing BEVs and strong PHEVs. More than one is trying to develop a head-on competitor to the Model S. All of the major automakers are committing to wireless charging; they are either developing 3.3 kW inductive chargers internally, or they are working with suppliers, including Momentum, to develop these for them; we are concentrated on units that are sufficiently versatile to operate throughout the power range of 1 to 50 kW — so you can charge anywhere; at home or in public, using the same receiver on your vehicle with dynamic adjustment based on local conditions.
Daga added “inevitable” would be lower power devices form 25-50 kilowatts power – ahead of 135-kw Superchargers.
“It is also preferable because when people can charge automatically and carefree, they can and will charge more frequently,” said Daga of a world where convenience stores, shopping malls, restaurants and other places with under-a coupdl-hour parking would take place. “This does not require a change in consumer behavior — all you need to do to charge is to park.”
Many automakers are trialling systems now on their proving grounds. My estimation of the first adoption of an OEM production wireless charger, albeit for a low power (3.3 kW) device, will be 2017, but I am not privy to all of the work going on in various labs. High power wireless charging is also in concurrent trials, and it will hit the market very soon after. High power will eventually win this contest, with low power being the easiest pathway to a first introduction, but high power being the only pathway to treating the real needs of a growing population of EVs.
What else can be added to the discussion?
The world is moving rapidly to a new technical paradigm where autonomous operations and wireless transmission of both data and power are influencing product designers and consumer expectations in every realm. It cuts across the spectrum from factory floors, to inside the distribution centers of Amazon and FedEx, to the end-user products that we all use. The hottest area of innovation today is happening in the two areas which were each regarded for many decades as being the most resistant to innovation: Electrical utilities and automotive technology. Now we see auto executives harvesting technologies at the seedling stage from the fields of Silicon Valley, and utility executives sitting on the boards of automotive companies. Tesla itself, and some of the newer auto companies, are in California for a reason – because the culture of innovation is so strong there. It’s time to fasten your seatbelts, because what is happening in the auto world is going to be amazing and you are going to see entirely new business models arising in the next few years. Momentum is part of that new paradigm, standing astride both the power and automotive side of this movement.
This is an overview for people who wish to begin learning about these kinds of vehicles.
Plug-in hybrids were first introduced in late 2010, and several automakers have said we will be seeing several more over the next few years.
To date the selection for sale in the U.S. tallies to nine but reasons why they are on the rise include they’re an excellent way for automakers to meet increasingly tough emissions and mpg regulations.
If you are just learning about them, following are some highlights and insights to get you started.
A Couple Different Types
As vehicles that build upon technology already developed for regular gas-electric hybrids, there are a couple of general categories of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
These are the 1) “extended-range electric vehicles” (EREV) and 2) parallel or blended hybrids.
Within the EREV category for now is only the Chevy Volt, Cadillac ELR and range-extended version of the BMW i3. The now-extinct Fisker Karma had been one, and it was actually a pure “series hybrid” never allowing the engine to drive the wheels but using it to only to generate electricity. The range-extended BMW’s i3 REx operates in series. The GM products are similar and operate in series mode much of the time.
All other plug-in hybrids are the blended variety. Here the engine and electric motor both are connected mechanically to the wheels. Like the EREVs, they also have lithium-ion batteries to provide a certain electric range and then when that is depleted, they go back to regular hybrid operation.
Some PHEVs Are Greener Than Others
There is a bit of a dichotomy going on in the marketplace. Cars targeted at ordinary work-a-day driving like the Volt, Ford C-Max and Fusion Energi siblings, Toyota Prius PHV, and pending Hyundai Sonata PHEV are the greenest.
Green speaks to greenhouse gas emissions, and the flip side of that coin is fuel efficiency, or in other words potential fuel savings.
Beyond that you have the new breed of powerful and luxurious plug-in hybrids. Hybridization is a marvelous way for automakers to do what they used to when they turbocharged or supercharged an internal combustion engine. The net result is more power – but electric motors instead of cramming more fuel use zero fuel, so voila, more power and “green” factor all in one stroke.
Note several supercars pushing upwards of 800-1,000-plus horsepower are PHEVs and it’s like having an ace in the hole to satisfy regulators and consumers who both want more of mutually contradictory objectives – mpg and mph.
The same thinking is trickling into luxury offerings by German brands, Japanese like Lexus which will wow us with more next spring, and others. These high-end PHEVs can still beat the efficiency and emissions of comparable luxurious and powerful conventional models, but they have a potential dark side to their green factor.
Namely, if packed with upwards of 400-plus horsepower, green cred comes from just enough electric energy storage to nurse them through government test cycles, give them a modicum of pure EV range, and make them look like heros. And they are heros as long as you don’t call on all that horsepower.
Mercedes-Benz S 500 PLUG-IN HYBRID (W 222) 2013, Lack: Magnetitschwarz metallic
Horses – even hybrid horses – like to be fed and cars set up to rely mainly on potent gas engines will drink that fuel. There is no free lunch, but then this is even true to a certain point for all-electric Teslas if you use all they have also. The difference is the electric motor in a Tesla is more than twice as efficient as gas. However, a 700-horsepower-plus Tesla will still eat range and electrons too if you want to post a video of it out-sprinting a Lamborghini.
But, coming back to high-power PHEVs, they can use fuel and emit from the tailpipe within the spectrum of conventional gas cars when pushed harder.
So, if the plan is not to use the power frequently you’re fine, they can beat conventional cars, this is true. But if your thought is to slash emissions, there can be a large difference between official EPA ratings and what the vehicle does when on the boil.
In short, the relatively less-powerful PHEVs intended as more-sensible transportation have less potential to burn fuel even if you do drive like you stole them. Energy costs to produce, it does emit, and the laws of physics can’t be violated, just worked around to a point.
There’s the Volt and Everything Else
Plug-in hybrids are a step above regular hybrids because they work like part-time EVs. Electricity is your friend, and even in the dirtiest coal-intensive grid in the country, all-electric drive edges out an average modern internal combustion car.
That said, the Volt has more all-electric range than any PHEV on the market – more than double. The Cadillac ELR is second-highest too, but it costs more, is a luxury purchase, and the new 2016 Volt offers 13-miles more range at 53 miles combined.
(Sssh! Don’t tell anyone GM’s double-priced Cadillac is soundly beaten by a humble Chevy).
The nearest competitor to the Volt in its general price and demographic range would be the pending Hyundai Sonata PHEV which may offer 24 miles, and beyond that are the 19-mile C-Max and Fusion Energi by Ford.
Looking at EPA ratings for annual greenhouse gases, there is not as huge of a grams-CO2-per-mile difference, but these numbers can be misleading. The real game is staying in the e-drive zone because that is where a plug-in hybrid is much-more efficient and emissions at the tailpipe are zero, though upstream emissions at the grid need to be factored.
This assumes you are not using solar to recharge. If you are, then solar dovetails beautifully with an electric plug-in car – be it hybrid or all-electric.
As it is, the Volt runs like an EV for 35-38 miles for gen one, and 53 miles for gen two, and General Motors OnStar telematics data suggests on average 2016 Volt drivers will go 1,000 miles between fillups. If they fill up the tank every eight gallons, GM is effectively saying it’s good for 125 mpg given all the electric miles you’ll get.
Opportunity charging along the way or at your destination, if available, increases the potential. The Volt is so good at being used like a pure EV with only part time gas use, it’s become a sport for some hard-core fans, and the present record on Voltstats.net is 118,000 mpg.
If you drive within the e-zone every day, accounting for some miles range lost during winter where applicable, the Volt can go long intervals without turning on the engine. Exceptions are 1) Cold temperatures may induce it to kick on to augment HVAC, and 2), Engine Maintenance Mode. EMM ensures the range extender starts up at least once every six weeks to run long enough to heat the engine up to full operating temperature and lubricate all the internal parts; 3 the engine computer monitors gas and will burn off gas before it goes past its freshness date
Anecdotes of ordinary Volt drivers going months between fillups were common when the car got 35-38 miles, and the new 53 miles will help.
But beyond the Volt, all PHEVs are potentially capable of running electrically, so it depends on your actual distance.
Unfortunately for some, the Volt is smaller inside than midsized competitors, so it is not a clear win in that category.
PHEVs Could Become A Gateway Drug To A Pure EV
Once you get a taste of driving all-electric in whatever PHEV you get, you may find yourself wanting more e-range.
All-electric driving can feel preferable 1) because it’s quiet, smooth, and novel, especially in the beginning, and 2) because it is cleaner and more energy efficient as mentioned.
As soon as next year we may see the Chevy Bolt EV ready for sale and this is supposed to be around $38,000 before federal or state incentives, net at $30,000 or upper 20s, and get 200 miles range.
That could eliminate range anxiety, and already people have jumped out of cars like the Volt and into ones like the Tesla Model S, or even the Leaf or other sub-100-mile EVs.
Range anxiety can be a valid fear – or an irrational fear – of the unknown. For the latter, once the ins and outs are experienced, peoples’ comfort levels can go up. Some may decide an 84-mile Leaf will work for them.
Price And Value Is A More Complex Question
PHEVs are all eligible for a varying federal tax credit based on their battery size in kilowatt-hours with the cap being $7,500. States may offer something too.
But PHEVs do cost more, maybe $4,000-$8,000 more for the mainstream varieties. Costs are higher because they are really combining two relatively sophisticated powertrains into one vehicle. This can scare some people off or attract them depending on their view.
In their favor, the less the gas engine is used, the less maintenenace it needs compared to a conventional car running it all the time. The electric powertrain needs no normal maintenance. Brake pads are used less because regenerative braking spares them, and oil changes can come very infrequently.
But they are complex machines and it would be fiction to say there is nothing to ever be concerned over. Same could be said of any of today’s complicated, computer-packed cars though, but remarkably, reliability keeps getting better overall.
A total cost of ownership comparo such as by Edmunds’ online True Cost to Own calculator may show some 2015 PHEVs – latest year available – either doing well, or not as well as regular hybrid siblings or other comparable cars.
This latter possibility is the case in Southern California zip code selected for the C-Max Energi which Edmunds pegs at $36,169 cash, and its five-year total ownership cost is $55,076. By comparison, the C-Max Hybrid selling for $29,129 costs $48,469 over five years according to Edmunds.
A Prius Plug-in Hybrid about matches the regular Prius however. The base PHV’s sales price is $30,959 and TCO is just $36,544. By contrast the Prius trim level III costs $26,759 and in five years costs $36,676.
The outgoing 2015 Volt however, eligible for max credits has the strongest TCO. Sales price of $34,933 and five-year TCO is $37,278.
Variables to consider can be several, including depreciation, taxes and fees, finance charges, fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs and potential tax credit or other incentives.
Beyond these, personal preference, vehicle design and style and play in, as does whether you have access to solar, or otherwise comped charging. Also, if you charge intraday, that reduces cost, as does your actual mileage, driving style, and many factors besides.
The short answer is from a cost perspective, PHEVs may not be a no-brainer, but they can make good sense depending on your needs and values.
As orders are being taken now in California, Chevrolet hopes its 2016 Volt due in a couple months will prove to be a superior fuel and money saver for more people.
Since the first-generation model was launched in December 2010, the Volt has had a polarizing effect on people – or ducked under the radar – for too-many nuanced reasons to elaborate here, but those who “get it” mainly love it.
The outgoing 2015 Volt had an electric range of 38 rated miles and the new one is pegged at 53. Less-well known is the EPA rates it for 57 all-electric miles in the city, and 49 all-electric miles highway.
Efficiency on electricity has now been bumped from 98 MPGe combined to 106 MPGe. Fuel economy on gas only has increased from 37 mpg to 42 combined – 43 city, 42 highway – and the new range-extending engine runs on cheaper regular fuel.
The compact Volt still will catch criticism by some for having a tight-ish back seat but where it is like the super genius in the classroom is in the efficiency spectrum.
“The 2016 Volt is engineered to offer customers more of what they want: range, range and more range,” says Chevrolet, and this is not exaggeration.
The next-closest plug-in hybrid competitor is the Ford Fusion Energi EPA-rated at 19 miles all-electric miles. Hyundai’s 2016 Sonata plug-in hybrid is expected to deliver 24 miles all-electric miles – so the 2016 Volt more than doubles that.
How important is just 29-more electric miles per charge that the 2016 Volt affords? This message may be lost on people who hear of EVs going 80-270 miles, but for daily driving, this is enough to put lots of people over the top and stay in pure electric mode.
The average daily drive is under 40 miles says government data, and electricity in most parts of the country is far-less to pay for than gasoline, even at presently low prices.
2015 Volt Total Cost of Ownership. Data for the 2016 and 2016 Prius and Fusion Energi following is not yet available. Source: Edmunds
Given the Volt – which starts at $33,995 – is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and in California and other states further money back from governments encouraging low-emitting cars, the value proposition looks like it could be good-to-great.
According to Edmunds.com’s Total Cost To Own calculator, the present 2015 Volt, though priced higher, already compares favorably to the most-efficient hybrid sold in the U.S., the Toyota Prius Liftback.
2015 Prius trim level IV. Note cash price is less, but TCO is more than Volt. Source: Edmunds.
Next to the Fusion Energi, the Volt comes in around $12,000 less to own over five years based on the averaged numbers and algorthms Edmunds applies.
When the Volt was first launched GM wanted to say it was good for 230 mpg, but facts get confusing when mixing potential gas savings by turning the engine off and running on battery power for a span.
As it is, Volt fans for the past four years have been raving that they do indeed exceed the EPA’s conservative estimates and net crazy high “mpg” – but of course this is augmented by electricity, which is not free but still less.
In Detroit this year at the generation two’s launch, the two top General Motors engineers responsible for the Volt’s development separately told us the main thing Volt owners wanted was to not have to turn on the gas.
Why? A few reasons, but one is once people get used to the Volt’s gas-free operation, it makes them want more. Frankly, the noise, vibration and harshness of engine-on versus engine-off spoils them for the all-electric drive experience. GM says the NVH is superior for the new 1.5-liter Ecotec replacing the 1.4 in the gen-one Volt, but the real goal is it not be used more than absolutely necessary.
Beyond those considerations, saving gas of course means less money spent, and fewer greenhouse gases emitted.
With its hands tied by liabilities and higher accountability, Chevrolet says conservatively the improved 2016 Volt will do well.
“Chevrolet expects many next-generation Volt owners will use power solely from their batteries for more than 90 percent of trips,” the automaker says based on OnStar telematics data. “Today, Volt owners use battery power on 80 percent of their trips.”
The carmaker hinted around the edges the vehicle may over-deliver with people who drive it sensibly and take advantage of recharging.
“Data shows that drivers of the first-generation Volt achieved, and often exceeded, the published EPA-estimated mileage,” says the automaker. “Chevrolet expects the same label-exceeding result with the next-generation Volt.”
In cold weather, the estimates will go down to one degree or another and the Volt does still need to run the engine due to cold temperature in frigid conditions.
But while the TCO compares available 2015 data, progress continues for everyone.
Unknown is how the new Volt will fare against the fourth-generation 2016 Prius due to be revealed later this year.
With regards to the Volt’s ability to run on battery only, that is a slam dunk – 53 miles versus maybe 1. How it may do later against a Prius plug-in hybrid is also an open question and rumors have it more EV range will be provided than the present car’s 11.
What Toyota has going for it is a long track record back to 2000 in the U.S., and superior gas-only mpg. Daily drives will still see the Volt averaging better but longer trips will see its edge diminish as the new Prius may get close to 55 mpg versus 42.
Of course a buying decision is based on far more than these narrow factors so other criteria even beyond those weighed in TCO estimates will need to be considered.
But within the other set of criteria – average-length daily driving – the Volt offers advantages of a pure EV with a built-in gas engine to go farther and stands heads above.
Similar acceleration numbers can be found for the 2014 Cadillac ELR. *The 0 – 90 mph data was taken from the following ELR test data.
So let’s examine some of the published information on the Gen 1 Volt. Figure 1 provides a comparison of the acceleration levels between Gen 1 and Gen 2.
Reference: SAE Paper 2015-01-1152: “The Next Generation Voltec Extended Range EV Propulsion System”, Conlon, Blohm et all General Motors dated 4/15/2015
There are several points to note from this graph. The Gen 2 Volt has greater acceleration at lower speeds, however, at higher speeds, Gen 1 actually has greater acceleration. We know the Gen 2 is faster from 0 – 30 mph, but from 30 to 60, Gen 2 still has greater acceleration.
Also, these Gen 2 numbers may likely be preliminary.
So with the Gen 1 data, we can use the following equation;
V = a * t
where V is velocity, a is acceleration, and t is time.
Gravitational acceleration (g) is 32.17 ft/sec2. Therefore, at 10 mph, the Gen 1 acceleration rate is 0.4g or 0.4 * 32.17 = 12.87 ft/sec2.
Since 60 mph is 88 ft/sec, 10 mph is 14.67 ft/sec. Therefore, to increase speed by 10 mph, the equation becomes;
14.67 = 12.87 * t
Therefore, t = 1.14 sec
Thus, with 0.4g of acceleration, the Gen 1 Volt can increase speed by 10 mph in 1.14 sec. However, this acceleration rate is not constant, and decreases with increasing speed. Therefore, a spreadsheet was created that utilizes the acceleration rates from Figure 1, and then finds an average acceleration rate for each 10 mph speed increment (i.e., 0 – 10 mph, 10 – 20 mph, 20 – 30 mph, etc.).
Figure 2 below provides the calculated full power EV acceleration for the Gen 1 Volt.
As seen in Figure 2, 0 – 30 mph calculates to 3.45 sec, 0 – 60 is 9.12 sec, and 0 – 90 is 20.87 sec. These results provide good agreement with the road test numbers.
So what can we expect from Gen 2? We can first note this comment from a recent press release, “We listened to our customers,” said Andrew Farah, vehicle chief engineer, “They were very clear when they told us that they wanted more range, and a fun driving experience behind the wheel. We are confident that the 2016 Volt delivers both.”
So the next step in this analysis was to look in more detail at the Gen 2 Volt acceleration. However, rather than utilize the preliminary numbers from Figure 1, the torque numbers from the motor A and motor B curves were used. The motor curves can be found in this article.
In short, the peak motor torques at the motor speeds corresponding to each distinct vehicle speed (every 10 mph) were tabulated. Each motor drives through its own planetary gear set, then through a final drive system. The overall gear reduction is 7.577 for motor A and 8.123 for motor B. The total axle torque at each speed was calculated.
From these values, the load required to drive the Gen 1 Volt at each speed was subtracted (this is the load to maintain speed and overcome losses; this load cannot contribute to any acceleration). Thanks to George S. Bower for the steady speed running losses.
The corrected axle torque values now equate to the forces that can accelerate the Gen 2 Volt.
Data from Michelin indicates that the tires on the Gen 2 Volt are 25.5 inches in diameter. Using this data, the torque value can be used to calculate the force transmitted by the tire to the road. This force value is divided by the weight of the Gen 2 Volt to arrive at an acceleration rate in g’s. Then, like the analysis in Figure 2, acceleration rates for the Gen 2 Volt can be determined. This data is shown in Figure 3.
Here we see good correlation with GM’s stated 0 – 30 time of 2.6 sec. But notice the 0 – 60 time; 7.33 seconds! This is a substantial increase in acceleration over the preliminary 8.4 seconds provided by GM. Also, the calculated 0 – 90 time is ~ 20 seconds, which is not much different than Gen 1. This illustrates that the EV performance in the Gen 2 Volt is optimized for the lower speed range.
The final performance parameter to discuss is skidpad performance. The new Michelin tires are an energy saver design, but are probably slightly more conventional. In this video, Mark Reuss comments on the improvements to the tires.
In addition, the Michelin tires have a lower aspect ratio, 50 versus 55 for Gen 1.
The Gen 2 Volt is approximately 250 lbs lighter than Gen 1 and most of that weight has likely been removed from the front wheels, since 100 lbs was removed from the drive unit. The Edmunds data indicates that the Gen 1 Volt had 61.4% of its weight on the front wheels, so reducing the weight on the front wheels will provide a more even weight distribution, which should improve handling.
Given the improved tires, lowered weight, improved weight distribution, suspension calibrations, and other improvements, the Gen 2 Volt skidpad numbers could come in near 0.84g (similar to 2014 ELR).
In summary, GM under-promised and over-delivered on the Gen 2 Volt efficiency ratings. It appears that they may do the same with the performance ratings.
The 0 – 30 mph acceleration time has been stated by GM to be 2.6 seconds. Calculations verify this number. However, instead of reaching 0 – 60 mph in the promised 8.4 seconds, calculations indicate this number may be closer to 7.5 seconds. Weight, tire, and suspension improvements could yield a skidpad rating of 0.84g.
So the “fun-to-drive” factor may be much more pronounced in the Gen 2 Volt.