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Just How DOES GM’s Volt Work?

Product Development chief weighs in and raises new questions.

by on Oct.13, 2010

Plugging in the new Chevy Volt.

The controversy about just how the Chevrolet Volt works may only get more cloudy after an interview with General Motors’ product development czar.

During a lengthy discussion, GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens discussed the new patent the maker has received for the new power-flow system on the Chevrolet Volt.  But while he acknowledged the maker’s decision to be silent until the patent was approved may have led to the current flap over precisely how the new Chevy battery car operates – Stephens only complicated questions about the technology.

And he again raises the question whether Volt should be described as a relatively conventional plug-in hybrid or, as GM prefers, an extended-range electric vehicle.

The system, under development for the last three years is designed to ensure that Volt’s wheels are driven only by electric power through a pair of what are called traction motors, said the executive.

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The patent, which was issued last month, Stephens explained, is “specifically for the car’s unique power-flow system used in the Volt,” which, he insisted, “is what we’ve said it is all along – an extended-range electric vehicle.”
Stephens, however, admitted GM has kept quiet about the unique system, while the patent was pending, in order to protect its competitive advantage. “If I started to discuss this in 2007 but it won’t be available until 2010, why would I talk about” specifics, he said.