Archive for the ‘General’ Category


May 13

Video compilation – Volt has come a long way …


For all the talk of GM not adequately marketing the Volt, it’s not true to say it has not tried.


While the Volt is sometimes called a “halo,” for all the slowness of comprehension in the general public, one might start to wonder whether it’s really wearing an “invisibility cloak.”

As it is, here’s a general compilation. There’s tons more where these came from, but as we look to the 2016 gen 2, I thought this might be of interest looking back …

Jay Leno Picks Up His 2011 Volt | Volt | Chevrolet

Dec. 20, 2010 –

‪How the 2011 Chevy Volt Works | Volt | Chevrolet‬

Jan. 2011 –

‪Happy Volt Owners: Priya | Volt | Chevrolet‬

Aug. 2012 –

How the 2011 Chevy Volt Works | Volt | Chevrolet

Dec. 2010 –

‪Chevrolet Volt | Winter Driving Efficiency‬

Dec. 2011 –

‪Tour the Solar Charging Stations at the 2011 Chevy Volt’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant‬

Nov. 2010 –

The 2011 Chevy Volt Battery: No Boundaries

July 2010 –

The 2011 Chevy Volt and GM at the Washington Auto Show (Jan. 2010)

Building the Pre-Production 2011 Chevy Volt: General Assembly‬

Dec. 2009 –

‪Building the Pre-Production Chevrolet Volts – Coming Off the Line‬

Dec., 2009


May 12

GM Is readjusting its 500,000 electrified vehicle by 2017 goal


Was this goal ever realistic? Is so, why are they so far short? Is there more to the story than what’s written below?

By Stephen Elmer


GM has admitted that it won’t hit its electrified vehicle sales goals.

The brand was aiming to have 500,000 vehicles that use electrification of some sort in the hands of customers by 2017, but as of the end of 2014, just 180,834 were sold. That is an increase of about 30,000 GM electrified car sales over 2013.

“For our commitment to electrification, our forecasted outlook currently projects us, along with the broader automotive industry, falling short of expectations for 2017,” said GM in its 2014 Sustainability Report. “GM is committed to electrification and our award-winning eAssist, extended-range electric vehicle and battery electric vehicle offerings, but consumer demand for these vehicles has not kept up with our initial projections.”

GM lays the blame for its shortfall on the lower price of gasoline combined with the increase in competition. Despite missing its target, the American automakers still “aspires” to hit its goal of 500,000 electrified vehicles on the road.

In 2016, the new redesigned Chevy Volt will hit the market along with the new Malibu Hybrid. Chevy is also planning the Bolt all-electric vehicle, which the brand says will be capable of 200 miles of driving and will be sold in all 50 states.


May 11

New Volt ad evokes Disney’s ‘Tomorrowland’


For those wondering how the marketing will go for gen 2, here’s an early start …


A new Chevrolet commercial ties together the image of futuristic 2016 Volt E-REV with cars of yesteryear and the Disney move “Tomorrowland.”

The 30-second spot called “Tomorrow, Today” since posting to YouTube Thursday has at this writing 30,290 views with 66 thumbs up and just two thumbs down.

It features five GM concept cars morphing into the Volt at the end as they’re driving with a part of the film’s score in a design studio at the heart of Tomorrowland.

Cars featured are the Firebird III, Firebird IV, Astro II, Astro III and Express concept all straight out of the GM Heritage Museum.

The Volt, which starts at $33,995 and is due in dealers the second half of this year then ends the imagery from “a space of infinite possibility that embodies the optimism at Chevrolet,” says a statement issued Friday.

“The Chevrolet archives are full of innovation in the form of sketches, specs and renderings for ‘the car of tomorrow,’” said Paul Edwards, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet Marketing. “This animation reveals how the freedom of imagination helps find new roads in present day as demonstrated in the next-generation Chevrolet Volt – the car of tomorrow, today.”

Beyond this ad, Chevrolet is releasing digital work tied to the Disney film and the new Volt and EN-V concepts will be on the blue carpet Anaheim, Calif. on May the film’s premiere. The film, starring George Clooney debuts May 22.


May 08

Tesla Continues Delicate Financial Balancing Act in Q1 2015


By George S. Bower

Elon has many balls in the air: a new gigafactory, a new battery energy storage business, and late deliveries of Model X.


Due to heavy investment in the gigafactory, the Supercharger network and Model X development, Tesla again reported a net loss. Growing pains for sure but hopefully these big investments will pay off in the future……after all Tesla is an American electric car company. We are rooting for its survival.

The numbers are summarized in the table 1.

Table 1: Tesla Q1, 2015 Financial Summary

On the plus side, revenue increased 51%. Model S deliveries increased 55%. Revenue was $939M of which $66M was from the sales of zero emissions credits. Per share earnings were $.36/sh loss but beat street analysts estimates of $.50/sh loss. Gross operating margin was 26%. Gross operating margin is a good indicator of the profit potential of the business if investment expenses were not so high.

Cash and equivalents were depleted to $1.5 billion from 2.4B 6 months ago. However, Musk said that Tesla’s growth plans could be funded without additional share or convertible bond sales.

Table 2: Going Forward

Going forward Tesla estimates total vehicle deliveries for 2015 to be 55,000 units. Q1 Tesla delivered 10,045 units, Q2 Tesla estimates 11,000 deliveries which means the next 2 quarters deliveries will have to average 16978 per quarter. Part of this increase in deliveries should be Model X shipments that are now targeted for delivery in late Q3 and Q4. (Mark Z should get his Model X soon).

The new battery business is said to be sold out thru middle of 2016. The new gigafactory is estimated to start deliveries in 2016.

WSJ (subscription required)


May 07

Is compressed air a good idea for transportation?


OK, maybe this is a pipe dream. Maybe not. Has anyone heard of other crazy (or ingenius) technologies that could work, but there seems to be no major backer for it? Have you ever wondered if conspiracy theories are correct? Wasn’t some guy found dead in the desert for inventing something revolutionary (and threatening) some time in the 60s? Ring a bell? Have automakers had a history of resisting innovation, as have oil companies — even so far as to burying ideas (and their inventors) they knew could revolutionize things?

How many ideas could work but have had no political or industrial will to make it happen? Can you name any? (say what you will about Voltec, and how it’s been supported, proliferated) …

Guy Negre head of MDI (Motor development

By Sarah Shelton

A carmaker with plans to build a subcompact car powered by compressed air has just receive a big boost towards building its first U.S. factory.

Pat Boone, a 1950’s musician best known for rock ‘n’ roll hits like “Ain’t That a Shame,” teamed up with Ethan Tucker from Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) to pitch the car on ABC’S show “Shark Tank.” One of the sharks (aka investors), Robert Herjavec, agreed to invest $5 million in ZPM in exchange for a 50 percent stake in the company.

Herjavec’s newest investment is called the AIRPod. Though it will most likely be slotted amongst similar alternatively fueled mini cars, like the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive or the Fiat 500E, there is no risk of misidentifying the AIRPod. This bubble-shaped car is less than 7 feet long, uses its front and rear windshields as doors and steers by a single joystick.

Driving the rear-wheel car is a two-cylinder engine. In place of an electric battery or fuel tank is a Type IV tank with a thermoplastic liner, holding compressed air. Cyril Negre, who designed the car with his father, Guy, in Southern France, explained how the AIRPod operates:

“The compressed air engine works very simply,” said Cyril. “It is just using the air we’ve just compressed into a tank and then we use this compressed air to move some pistons into the engine that drive directly the crankshaft and goes to the wheels and movement and drive the car.”

Guy Negre, co-designer of the AIRPod and head of MDI (Motor development International) company, sits in his "Airpod One" prototype. (Photo credit VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Guy Negre, co-designer of the AIRPod and head of MDI (Motor development International) company, sits in his “Airpod One” prototype. (Photo credit VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

After filling the tank – which takes four hours with a regular plug-in outlet or three minutes with a stationary air compressor – the AIRPod can travel about 100 emission-free miles.

“I’m a consumer coming to a store to buy an air car or a battery car. Tell me why I’m going to buy the air car,” Herjavec told Boone and Tucker on “Shark Tank.”

“There’s one big difference,” replied Tucker. “The difference is if there’s a compressor at a gas station, just like you fill up your tires, you can fill up your car.”

SEE ALSO: PSA Shelves Hybrid Air Project While Awaiting New Partners

This readily available supply of fuel, a hiccup afflicting technology such as hydrogen powered cars, is not the only salient distinction. With no batteries for energy storage, the AIRPod isn’t burdened with extra weight or cost. Total curb weight is 617 pounds, and ZPM quoted the retail price at “slightly over” $10,000.

Even using ZPM’s shorter urban range estimate of 80 miles, the car company is predicting the lifespan of the AIRPod at 1.6 million miles. No real-world examples were provided to authenticate this, but even if the car lasts for half of that life expectancy, it will be $10,000 well spent.

The AIRPod’s creators say its affordable price, nimble handling and the ability to refuel quickly and cheaply all blend together to create the ideal city car.

“It’s very agile. There’s no driving wheel, just a joystick. And it’s very comfortable because you are driving in the seat with this wonderful view all around you because you are seeing everywhere. It’s a real new way to drive into the city,” said Cyril.

Not everyone is sold on the concept, however. IEEE Spectrum, a professional association centered on technology and innovation, raised doubts over AIRPod’s specs after analyzing the system.

Guy Negre head of MDI (Motor development International) company sits in his "Airpod One" prototype of a non polluting minicar driven with a joystick, activated by compressed air on October 9, 2008 in Nice, southern France. (Photo credit VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Guy Negre head of MDI (Motor development International) company sits in his “Airpod One” prototype of a non polluting minicar driven with a joystick, activated by compressed air on October 9, 2008 in Nice, southern France. (Photo credit VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

“IEEE Spectrum estimated that the AIRPod’s range could be less than a third of what MDI has claimed, due to energy being wasted in the process of expanding the air before it is sent to the engine,” said Lisa Zyga at

“Some automotive engineers think that compressed air is simply not a practical power source for vehicles due to the laws of thermodynamics. They point out that the AIRPod’s 200-liter tank doesn’t carry much more energy than one liter of gasoline.

“In the IEEE Spectrum, two engineers, Denis Clodic of the Ecole des Mines de Paris and Pascal Higelin of the University of Orléans, said that pneumatic hybrids (vehicles that combine compressed air and fuel combustion) are promising. But they worry that, if MDI’s AIRPod fails, the entire concept of compressed air might suffer from the negative experience.”

There are other features on the AIRPod that may deter some buyers. Even smaller than the already cramped Fiat 500E, the standard AIRPod only holds up to four passengers (three adults and a child) with minimal space for cargo. And its top speed of 50 mph may result in a frightening ride on the freeway.

Safety will also be a question mark. ZPM doesn’t say what safety equipment will be mounted in the AIRPod, and states that “this size car does not require crash testing.”

While the design has yet to yield a production car, ZPM appears undeterred. With the $5 million “Shark Tank” investment, along with additional funds raised through sources such as, the carmaker is planning to build its first turnkey factory in Hawaii.

“Unlike the huge classic assembly plants, these plants will manufacture 80% of the vehicles and will sell them in the same location,” said ZPM. “This concept represents a drastic decrease in costs and logistic problems associated with the conventional assembly process (stocks and freight of finished cars to the dealers, etc.). It also has a significant beneficial impact on the environment.”

The company doesn’t say what funds, if any, are still needed before it can begin producing cars. But ZPM is predicting that the first AIRPods will be available in late 2015.

One additional snag for funding may be looming. Shark Tank’s Herjavec said he will only award his $5 million contribution if ZPM is able to manufacture and sell the AIRPod in all 50 states. But some states, including Michigan and Texas, don’t allow manufacturers to act as dealers (an issue that Tesla Motors knows all too well).



May 06

Parsing the Gen 2 Volt Power Train Efficiency Improvements


By George S. Bower and Bill Rollins

The new Gen 2 power train gives increased all electric range and improved fuel consumption in extended range mode, lower cost, and it is scalable to almost all other GM vehicles as either a simple hybrid or as an extended range vehicle. At the time of this writing GM has included it in the new Malibu hybrid and potentially the new Cadillac CT6. Undoubtedly there are other vehicles in the pipeline destined for this power train.


The power train consists of many subcomponents of an electrical and mechanical nature: the battery, the inverters, the electric motors, the transmission and the internal combustion engine (ICE). How much did the individual parts improve?

Range Extended Mode

Figure 1: Contributors to Gen 2 Volt MPG Improvement

The first thing we notice from looking at figure 1 is there were significant improvements in almost all of the power train sub systems with inverters topping the list followed by the motors and transmission. The transmission improvements were probably a result of adding fixed gear and high extended range (compound split) modes to the transmission. Also we know that Gen 2 no longer has a pure series mode like Gen 1 which adds efficiency as well. The authors do not have Gen 1 motor maps for comparison but we do have Gen 2 motor maps. The new larger motor B has a very large maximum efficiency island. The maximum efficiency of motor B is 96% and the motor will be operating at this sweet spot around town.
The other interesting thing to note is that the ICE efficiency only improved on the order of 3%. This came as somewhat of a surprise as I had expected around 10% efficiency improvement.

EV Mode

Figure 2: Contributors to Gen 2 Range Improvements

The biggest contributor to the Gen 2 range improvement is the battery which contains 27% more usable energy. In the city, AER increases by more than the 27% battery energy due to efficiency improvements in other sub systems. FTP composite increased more than 27% as well. However, only 22% range improvement was noted in the FTP HWY cycle.

What stands out when looking at the sub system contributors in figure 2? Once again we see the inverters as being the biggest winner with 5-7% efficiency improvement. We see a 3% reduction in motor losses in the FTP city cycle. However, we note a slightly worse situation in Gen 2 in the motor and transmission losses in FTP HWY. We have improved 12V accessory loads but a slightly worse vehicle drag and tire losses. This implies that the Gen 1 city EV rating of 101 MPGe should improve for Gen 2, however, the HWY EV rating for Gen 2 could be less than the Gen 1 rating of 93 MPGe.

The above scenario can be explained by examining the individual motor maps in the Gen 2 Volt.

Figure 3: Larger Motor B Map

We see from the motor map that motor B has great peak efficiency (96%) and a very large efficiency island centered at lower speeds and torques which occur during city driving

Figure 4: Smaller Motor A Map

The smaller motor A, on the other hand, has its peak efficiency island at higher speeds where motor B does not. Thus when we use both motors they complement each other. As motor B falls off in efficiency, motor A can be added in to compensate.

As noted earlier, we have a slightly lower efficiency in Gen 2 in the motor and transmission department during HWY operation. The following is the author’s speculation as to why. As said earlier we do not have Gen 1 motor maps for a direct comparison so we must speculate. We do have Gen 2 motor maps however. All the gear ratios in the PG set and final drive have been spelled out by GM. We know the tire sizes so we can easily calculate the motor speeds for any vehicle speed.

Figure 5: Motor B Speeds as a Function of Vehicle Speed.

We see from figure 5 that at lower vehicle speed, around 30 MPH, motor B is sitting on its sweet spot at 96% efficiency. This is why motor losses improved in the city cycle. However, as vehicle speed increases we start to fall off the end of the island….ie motor efficiency is decreasing. By 70 MPH motor efficiency has fallen 6-7% and is below 90%. This would explain why Gen 2 motor losses are worse than Gen 1 in EV mode during HWY driving.

In EV mode, the new Gen 2 transmission runs a fixed gear ratio resulting in higher motor speeds than Gen 1 where the motors could mix.
Figure 6: Gen 1 Motor Speeds, Steady 60 MPH

Figure 6 shows Gen 1 motors operating at low speeds compared to Gen 2. Motor A is running at 1100 RPM and motor B is running at 2900 RPM. This is based on Dashdaq data acquisition tool in the author’s 2012 gen 1 Volt. For Gen 2 at 60 MPH, motor A spins at 6200 RPM while motor B spins at 6600 RPM.The authors are speculating then that higher motor speeds in Gen 2 are what is causing the slightly worse motor losses in Gen 2 in the HWY cycle.


Sometimes GM is accused of taking the high tech, high cost approach when solving a problem or inventing a new product with the Gen 1 Volt being at the top of the list. We can see from the article today that there were many tradeoffs involved in designing the Gen 2 Volt.

Could GM have gotten higher AER out of Gen 2 if they had used the Gen 1 transmission design? The opinion of the authors is that yes they could have gotten slightly better AER in the FTP HWY cycle with the old Gen 1 transmission. However they had to make tradeoffs. Life, like engineering, is full of tradeoffs. Nothing is ever black or white. In the case of Gen 2 Volt some small sacrifices had to be made in order to meet cost bogies for Gen 2. However,GM also developed a new transmission that can be used throughout their product line as either an EREV, like the Volt or, as a simple hybrid in the new Malibu: an equitable trade in the author’s opinion.

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