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2011 Chevrolet Volt Wins Twin Car of the Year Awards

Key endorsements for the plug-in which is also a strong contender for North American Car of the Year.

by on Nov.16, 2010

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is shown at the GM wind tunnel - along with the Motor Trend Car of the Year trophy.

The trophy wars are just getting underway, but the 2011 Chevrolet Volt has already landed two key victories, winning the high-profile designation of Motor Trend Car of the Year, as well as the Car of the Year award from rival Automobile magazine.

The awards are the latest kudos for General Motors plug-in hybrid, and help overcome some of the stigma that arose shortly after Volt formal launch, last month, when GM officials acknowledged they had misled the media about the technology used to drive the battery-based vehicle.

Originally billed as an “extended-range electric vehicle,” or E-REV, which always uses electric power to drive its wheels, it turns out that the Chevy Volt occasionally relies on a direct mechanical assist from its backup 1.4-liter gasoline engine.  Nonetheless, Motor Trend editors declared the 2011 model one of the most significant vehicles ever tested during the 61-year history of the magazine’s influential Car of the Year award.

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“The Volt has some of the most advanced engineering ever seen on an American production car,” declared MT Editor Angus McKenzie.  The magazine also suggested that while it originally expected “a science experiment,” the 2011 Chevrolet Volt was more like “a moon shot.”

Formal production of the Volt has just begun, with sales beginning before year-end.  Originally intended to deliver 40 miles on a charge of its 16 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries, Chevy has since revised its forecast, offering a range of 25 to 50 miles.

That reflects the fact that battery-powered vehicles are sensitive to a variety of environmental and personal driving factors.  An aggressive driver, stuck in Michigan traffic on a cold day, will likely see battery range drop to the lower factor, while someone cruising through the exurbs of Los Angeles, with minimal traffic and the climate control turned off, could get 50 miles.

Once the battery runs down, Volt is designed to keep running, unlike a pure battery-electric vehicle, the 1.4-liter I4 engine taking over.  The controversy arose over an engineering decision to let the internal combustion engine connect directly to the driveline under some demanding conditions, rather than solely act as an electric generator.

Nonetheless, reviews of the Volt – including those on TheDetroitBureau.com (Click Here to read) have been almost universally enthusiastic.

While there were a number of key competitors considered for the Motor Trend and Automobile magazine awards, the most likely alternative was considered to be another new battery-based vehicle, the pure electric-powered 2011 Nissan Leaf.

Though GM and Nissan have insisted they are not direct competitors, each targeting a somewhat different kind of buyer, company insiders have occasionally taken shots at each other’s approach.  But they’ve also acknowledged that it’s in the industry’s best interest for both products to succeed if consumers are to begin accepting the nascent battery-electric offerings.

By some counts, there could be as many as three dozen plug-in hybrids, E-REVs and BEVs on the market by mid-decade. (Ford announces roll-out plants for the Focus Electric. Click Here for more.) A number of new offerings will, in fact, make their debut at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, including a battery-powered Toyota RAV4-EV.  (Click Here to learn more.)

The Leaf and Volt will likely face off again in less than two months when arguably one of the most widely-respected automotive awards is announced, the North American Car of The Year.  Both models are on the list of semi-finalists and an informal poll of the 50 jurors (editor’s note: including TheDetroitBureau.com Publisher Paul A. Eisenstein) shows the two favored to be among the three finalists.  The NACOTY winner will be announced during the opening of the Detroit Auto Show, in January.

GM IPO Could Determine Future Electric Car Strategy

Maker needs funds to invest in Volt follow-up effort.

by on Oct.20, 2010

While GM has scuttled the Cadillac Converj project, the maker is working up a number of other possible battery car programs, insiders report.

Key decisions about General Motors’ long-term electric vehicle strategy could depend on the success – or failure – of the maker’s upcoming IPO.

Though the maker has yet to publicly define its plans, the initial public offering of the “new” GM’s stock is expected to raise billions of dollars in capital.  A large chunk of that money is anticipated to go to help repay the federal government for its 2009 bailout of the then-bankrupt automaker.  But billions more, observers believe, will be pumped into the corporate treasury, at least in part to help fund product development efforts.

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Company officials, including new GM CEO Dan Akerson, have said that coming up with world-class product is essential to the corporation’s turnaround.  But the electric vehicle program, in particular, could become particular crucial as the overall auto industry presses into what has been dubbed “electrification.”

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Has GM Lied About Volt – And Would It Matter?

Chevy plug-in sometimes runs on gas power.

by on Oct.12, 2010

Is Volt really an electric vehicle or just a gussied-up hybrid? New questions have been raised about the ways its drivetrain operates.

With the Chevrolet Volt making its official launch this week, General Motors has found itself in the midst of a potentially serious controversy over the precise way the so-called extended-range electric vehicle actually operates – and whether the maker has been honest about its limitations.

To some, GM has engaged in a Watergate-style cover-up, and that message could resonate with those who still call the company “Government Motors.”  To others, however, it’s little more than a tempest in the proverbial teapot and, if anything, just proves that GM is making sure that whatever it takes Volt will live up to its loftiest expectations.

In a Monday news release, GM declared Volt “Reinvents Automotive Transportation.” There’s little question that the new model is a significant improvement over the current crop of hybrid-electric vehicles, like the Toyota Prius, which can operate under battery for very limited distances at low speeds.

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Electrifying!

As first conceived, Volt was designed to run exclusively on battery power.  Its 16 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries were intended to give the vehicle about 40 miles range solely in electric mode and at speeds of up to more than 90 mph.

But as the “E-REV” gets ready to launch a few key things have changed.  For one thing, GM now claims that Volt’s battery-only range is more accurately somewhere between 25 and 50 miles, depending upon road and weather conditions and individual driving patterns.

But the real controversy concerns the way the underlying drive system actually operates.

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Ford: Liquid Cooling/Heating Is Key to Electric Vehicle Battery Thermal Management

Nissan Leaf will use passive air cooling, but other automakers apparently think that strategy won’t work.

by on Sep.02, 2010

Ford says its 2011 Focus Electric will use liquid for optimum thermal management of the battery.

Yet another automaker, this time Ford, has announced that it will use liquid heating/cooling to maintain optimum battery temperatures to maximize battery performance and longevity, leaving Nissan even further outside the battery technology mainstream.

Ford said that its 2011 Ford Focus Electric would use a sophisticated liquid system to keep the lithium-ion battery at optimal operating temperatures. Both the Chevrolet Volt and Tesla Motors use liquid to regulate battery temperature.

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Electric Vehicle News!

Nissan is sticking to its plan to use passive air cooling to maintain optimum battery temperature, although cooling technology is downplayed on Nissan’s media Web site. While cheaper than liquid cooling, some critics, most notably Tesla Chairman Elon Musk, have called Nissan’s battery cooling system “primitive.”
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GM, Firefighters Teach First Responders EV Safety

Fire chiefs conference includes 3-hour Chevy Volt demo.

by on Aug.27, 2010

GM and the National Fire Protection Association are teaming up to develop safety programs for first responders to deal with electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles are coming, so first responders need to learn about them so they don’t get hurt and can quickly remove occupants from one after an accident.

With that in mind the National Fire Protection Association announced a joint effort with General Motors to train first responders at the scene of a crash involving an electric vehicle.

The announcement was made Thursday at the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Fire-Rescue International Conference in Chicago where Chevrolet and OnStar demonstrated safety techniques on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt – an electric vehicle with “extended-range” capability that will be on sale in limited numbers late this year.

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Red Hot!

The Volt and the pure electric Nissan Leaf will be the most visible electric vehicles to appear on the market in the next few years, but several automakers are planning to produce more EVs.
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Chevy Volt Still on Time, Insists Lutz

Volt also due for a European debut in late 2011.

by on Mar.03, 2010

Despite reports of problems with the Chevrolet Volt, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz insists the high-profile program is "on track" for a late '10 launch.

The Chevrolet Volt remains on schedule for a late 2010 U.S. launch, insisted General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, during an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show.

The septuagenarian executive, who is generally credited with coming up with the Volt concept, denied recent reports that the extended-range electric vehicle is falling behind the introduction date GM had set for it more than a year ago.

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Wired!

“The Volt is absolutely on track for a North American launch later this year,” said Lutz, who was the key speaker at Chevy’s news conference during the press days at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show.

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Chevy Volt Will Offer Smartphone Connection

Owners will be able to check charge, start car and more.

by on Jan.06, 2010

A new mobile app will allow Chevy Volt owners to stay connected with the plug-in hybrid.

Chevrolet Volt owners will be able to stay connected to their car using the industry’s first smartphone “app” for an electric vehicle, the automaker announces today at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.

The system, developed by Chevy and General Motors’ OnStar, will allow an owner to do things like checking the plug-in hybrid’s battery charge status, starting the vehicle’s climate control system and unlocking the Volt’s doors.  It will also permit the vehicle to send out an alert if there’s a problem, such as an interruption during charging.

The real-time link for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be available on a variety of smartphones, including the Apple iPhone, Blackberry Storm and Motorla Droid.  For other smartphones, OnStar plans to provide access through a mobile browser.

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Stay Connected!

“The Chevrolet Volt ushers in a new era of automotive technology and calls for a new level of connectivity and control,” said OnStar President Walt Dorfstatter. “Nearly 6 million vehicles on the road today use OnStar to stay connected, and our new smartphone app will make that even easier for Volt drivers.”

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