The Volt has been a relatively good seller for GM, as more than 69,000 them are on the road today. However, GM wants to increase its market share, and the only way to do that — other than drastically lowering the price — is to improve upon its current technology. Today, GM is here to give us just a little taste of what it’s working on to make the Volt an even better daily driver.
Since GM’s research shows that 80 percent of Volt driving is done in EV mode, the auto giant decided that extending the EV range would be the best place to spend most of its time. GM first turned to the battery pack itself, and increased its storage capacity by 20 percent, which by my math puts it at about 20.5 kWh. GM also decreased the number of cells in the battery pack from 288 to 192. This helped reduce the weight of the battery pack by a full 30 pounds and allowed GM to position the cells further down in the battery pack, creating a lower center of gravity.
After getting the battery where it needed to be, GM engineers then turned to the drive unit to help increase efficiency and performance. The team managed to not only make the two-motor unit quieter and reduce it vibrations, but it also made it 5 to 12 percent more efficient and dropped its weight by 100 pounds when compared to the current unit. Additionally, the automaker managed to improve electric-only acceleration by 20 percent and drastically reduce the amount of rare Earth metals used inside the motors, which should help lower the Volt’s price. Given the current volt can hit 60 mph in about nine seconds, the 20-percent improvement should drop this time to about 7 to 7.5 seconds.
The final improvement comes in the form of a new range-extending engine. A 1.5-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder with a 12.5-to-1 compression ratio and a variable-displacement oil pump arrives in the place of the old 1.4-liter unit. This will help provide the electric motor the juice it needs for longer trips when the batteries run out.
GM will release the full specs and all of the official driving ranges when the model debuts in January 2015 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. By using the estimated improvements that GM released today, I will say we can expect an EV range of around 55 to 65 miles, depending on other variables. What’s more, depending on how the weight loss affects the Volt’s range, we could even see it touch the 70-mile range.