Press days for the 2007 LA Auto show wrapped up yesterday. GM Invited I4U to the show this year and their only stipulation to the invite, which included airfare and hotel accommodations, was that I needed to disclose the fact that GM paid the way out to the show. Once there GM didn’t care if I wrote about them or their vehicles.
The biggest things that GM talked about during the show were its new hybrid vehicles and the Chevy Volt concept car. The Volt is a very exciting concept car that is powered solely by electricity. The power to drive the Volt comes from the power grid from plugging it into the AC outlet in your home or at your office. GM says on a full charge the Volt can go 40 miles, which they expect to be enough for the daily driving of most drivers, without needing to use a drop of gasoline.
Where the Chevy Volt, called an extended range electric vehicle, gets very interesting is when you exhaust the battery. The volt has a small gas powered generator that recharges the battery to allow you to keep driving. That effectively means that so long as you have gas in the Volt, you can drive. I tried to get information on the fuel economy of the generator, but was unable to obtain that information from GM sources at the show.
GM wants to be very specific with the Volt that it is not a hybrid vehicle. The combustion engine in the Volt is totally decoupled from the drive train and never powers the vehicle drive wheels. The only function of the gas-powered motor on the Volt is to power a generator that recharges the battery. GM says that while the final tuning of the Volt’s electrical and recharging system isn’t set that the generator is capable of putting out enough power to charge the battery and power the electric motors at the same time.
The tuning of the system remains to be seen. GM execs say that they are trying to determine how exactly to operate the recharging backup system. Things being considered are whether the generator should shut off after fully recharging the batter or if you simply activate the generator and trickle charge the battery, then shut it off until a pre-set capacity level is reached. Power output from the electric motors is consistent, so as long as the battery has any charge, full power will be available. The final delivery date for the volt is yet to be seen, but GM is committed to actually producing the vehicle. I did hear the 2012 timeframe mentioned, but the Volt team still has a lot of work to do. One of the most important components of the Volt, the battery pack was only delivered on October 31.
See the hi-res photos here.