back to article GM Volt to deliver three-figure fuel economy

A rather curious advert featuring the number 23 and a smiling power socket has appeared in North America over the past few weeks. Until today, nobody knew what it meant. GM_230_advert GM's Volt: first three-digit fuel economy rating? During a webcast today, General Motors’ President, Fritz Henderson, explained that 230 is the …

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Paris Hilton

Now thats more like it.

But will they be around to produce it? especially in Europe where people may buy it.

Also when is the diesel version coming out? that would be more efficient that the petrol one I would have thought.

ttfn

If there was a diesel version of PH she would be called the PHd, and could go all night I would expect.

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WTF?

Whatever the EPA's Methodoly is

...it clearly produces numbers that are total bollocks.

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Unhappy

But where does the electric come from?

I still can't get my head round the 'electric' car arguement. If you have to burn 'stuff' (coal, oil etc) to create electricity to fill up the cars where is the saving?

Some one help me understand

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Diesal for even more

And it doesn't look like it was designed by someone with a fetish for futuristic Buck Rodgers styling.

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Go

@Frank Bough

Half agree with you, but there seems to be little factual information either way. Essentially (and in the easiest term) the generator only needs to recharge the battery(ies) 4 times off 1 gallon, assuming the initial 40 miles is done off a full charge. If this is possible, the numbers add up. Especially if the engine can power the generator more efficiently than actually propelling the vehicle (and diesel trains use a similar method).

Like to see more detailed info on how 230 miles is achieved, though...

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FAIL

Yet they forgot...

Those are nice figures considering they forgot to meantion how much energy it takes to create one (so carbon produced), and the metal and processes needed to create the battery.

While we're on the subject they forgot that the energy from the socket needs to come from somewhere and with fossil fuels / nuclear being the only way to produce enough energy reliably they're only really passing the carbon emissions buck.

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@Paul Murphy 1

"Also when is the diesel version coming out? that would be more efficient that the petrol one I would have thought."

Not necessarily.

One of the main things that determines an EV's range is weight. A small petrol engine for extending the range weighs less than an equivalent diesel. Therefore with an equivalent-powered diesel engine, the car would weigh more, reducing the range before the engine had to kick in, and reducing the fuel economy.

It may produce better economy on longer journeys, but not necessarily on this 'urban' classification.

Obviously I haven't actually done any calculations, but this is just an overview of the balancing act.

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@ Paul Murphy 1

There won't be a diesel version for the same reason that there isn't a diesel Prius. Diesel engines cost twice as much to make as petrol engines and are nearly twice as heavy.

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Not mpg

It's not really an mpg figure, US or UK, it's a fudge based around a notional value for each kWh of electricity.

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Happy

CCHHHOO *Bollocks !!! UUGHHHH

sorry could you pass me the strepsils ....

This is like saying my 2cv has a top speed of 96mph *

in reality it is just over 70 on the flat in traffic and just under 70 with little or no traffic

*whilst tailgating a BMW downhill and carrying alot of weight

but the look on the guys face as i was keeping up with him near 1 ton was fucking hilarious !!! (rearview mirror view was enough to make me piss myself)

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Which journeys?

Great - A car that is only economical on the kind of journeys where you should be walking and biking anyway.

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Megaphone

plug it in 'at work'

So how do people plug it in 'at work'

Plugging in a mobile phone is acceptable, but a car.

Possibly not.

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WTF?

Hmmm....

I had a car like that. I could get 300 MPG from it. It did require me to find a 270mile long hill to go down first, and then the last 30 miles I would turn on the engine.

The first 40 miles you get with this are obviously "free", because it's only then that the petrol engine cuts in and starts burnig fuel, so even if the 230 MPG figure was true, it's really only 190, becuase you would need to then leave the engine running when you get to your destination for long enough to charge the batteries to give you that first 40 miles again.

Sheesh!!

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i'm waving in the reversing lorry...

...carrying the salt required to take this news with.

Considering the Prius when driven NORMALLY was less effecient than a Golf diesel, I can imagine the driving required would cause road rage for an entire funeral procession.

I'm genuinely salivating at the thought of the Top Gear review!

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Hmmm

I'd love to see the repair bill when fixing that thing after its warranty lapses. Also, I'm guessing resale values of used ones will be crap as is always the case for vehicles like this. That's going to suck in a few years when people start trying to trade them in.

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FAIL

If they just shorten the test loop distance...

If they would just shorten the test loop distance so that the petrol engine isn't actually required during the so-called test, then it would achieve INFINITY miles per US gallon.

And that's about 1.20095042 times INFINITY in miles per Imperial gallon. Amazing!

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WTF?

The juice has gotta come from somewhere

So instead of having point sources of pollution (individual vehicles), the plan is to have a few really big ones (electric power plants)?

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see that this is a big win. Instead of paying the oil companies, now we can pay the electric utilities.

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Re: But where does the electric come from?

Small Wee Jobbie wrote:

"I still can't get my head round the 'electric' car arguement. If you have to burn 'stuff' (coal, oil etc) to create electricity to fill up the cars where is the saving?"

An electric motpr has an excellent energy efficiency at varying speeds, while a gasoline engine is only (yet still less) efficient at constant speed. It is thus more efficient to burn "stuff" in a constant-speed generator to charge a battery and use that electricity to power an electric motor that will handle well the speed variations than to power the wheels directly.

--

Luc Le Blanc

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Does this count the electricity?

So does this figure in the electricity too? (Note I really don't know, maybe it does.) It's not free after all.. If they are not counting it, then by their logic, I could strap on a huge auxillary gas tank on my current car and say I'm getting like 100MPG, since I'm hardly burning any fuel from my main tank.

Anyway, I do think some kind of hybrids (whether plugin or not) will be increasingly used in the future; there's nice gains to be had from gathering the energy from braking rather than scrubbing it off as heat.

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Unhappy

Numbers, numbers

Typical leccy /hybrid vehicle news item.. Loads of stats about mileage, range, recharge times, yadda yadda. All hot air and pr puff. The manufacturers are falling over themselves right now to act like the numbers are "real" and the vehicles are nearly in the showrooms. Boring stuff ... this sort of item will only get interesting once the subject matter concerns testers getting their hands on a 'real' vehicle and producing real world numbers.

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Boffin

@Small Wee Jobbie

That's only an issue in backward countries that persist in burning stuff to make electricity - those countries that use nuclear power to provide massive amounts of cheap electricity can welcome the electric car with open baguettes.

If this rankles with you, have a word with all those NIMBYs that object to anything nuclear.

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I can do better

On my bike the more petrol I drink the less far I can go - so I get minus infinity miles per gallon.

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What's clear from the comments here...

...is that in no way can one:

o Gain absolutely massive savings from specialising power generation in one place

o Generate energy without using fossil fuels

o Utilise energy that's just wasted at the moment (e.g. at night)

o In the future upgrade power plants to be more efficient without having to change the cars

Oh wait - all of those things are eminently possible, and are some of the reasons for why having electric cars is a great idea! Phew.

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@ Small Wee Jobbie

So exactly what gets burnt in the nuclear power stations that churn out 87% of France's electricity? Or in wind farms, or tidal barrages? Electricity generation and burning fossil fuels are not inextricably linked, you can have the former without the latter. As for the EPA numbers as the article suggests the test almost certainly involves charging the car up from the mains at certain times. EPA tests are supposed to replicate real-world multi-day use, and in the Volt's case that will certainly involve re-charging regularly when on the urban cycle.

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Anonymous Coward

My vehicle gets 37,528 mpg around town

My bicycle gets 37,528 mpg around town so the Chevy Volt has nothing on me. One might consider the 230 mpg rating a crock of shitze aka HYPE. If you can only drive 40 miles before a recharge you had better not be going any where but to the store and back.

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Missing the point somewhat

Most electric cars are rubbish, charge them up drive a bit, wait a week for them to recharge, even the fast ones like the Tesla have the problem. The Volt is the first one that looks like it could make sense. Unlike the Prius that uses the petrol engine to power the wheels to give slightly better economy than a regular car, the engine in this is purely there to generate electricity, doesn't drive the wheels directly. Therefore you can charge the thing at home for short trips using the power from your house, perfect for the daily commute or fill it up for longer trips. It's a proper car to boot not some silly G-Wiz thing.

I'm no fan of the green nonsense that comes from the media but if this car delivers anything like what is claimed then the running costs will be fantastic.

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@Small Wee Jobbie

Electric cars dont necessarily solve environment problems but they at least give options that aren't possible if we stick with petrol. I.e. we don't have to burn stuff to generate leccy as you said, there are other options such as wind, hydro, nuclear (sustainability etc. of these is obviously still an open question but thats a seperate debate). Ultimately, my view is that leccy vehicles at worst consildate the existing env prob with burning of fossil fuels in a relative small number of areas (i.e. power plant) instead of millions of cars all with their own burners, and thats got to make environement issues easier to address with in the longer term.....

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Go

Electric vs Fossil Power

for those struggling with the idea that fossil fuels are required to generate electricity anyway so whats the benefit using electricity in cars - some ideas;

1. An electric motor is massively more efficient than the internal combustion engine.

2. Electicity produced in a power plant can be generated from recycled/recovered/renewable sources.

3. Power plants have much better filtration of waste than cars therefore better for the environment.

4. Electicity is much cheaper and more efficiently produced than ICE power.

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How about the power grids already overwhelmed

There are already parts of the USA where people are asked to save electricity and warnings are put out for possible brown/black outs. Add everyone plugging in these cars at the same time (right after the rush hour commute) and it doesn't sound good to me.

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But where does the electric come from?

>I still can't get my head round the 'electric' car arguement. If you have to burn 'stuff' (coal, oil etc) to create electricity to fill up the cars where is the saving?

a)

With a (us) gas(oline) car, you have little choice but to burn fossil fuel. For a while everyone was excited about burning corn, but that proved to had bad consequences for peoples of the world who ate corn.

With an electric car, initially, the electric might come from fiossil fuels too. But at least there are options for the electric to come from numerous sources: fossil fuels, wind, sea, Dr Strangelove, etc.

b)

Some people want cars to "go green".

But some have completely *different* aims, such as reducing the USA's need for foreign oil. If you take this driving force, then replacing foreign fissil fuen with domestic is still a big win.

Some people use both arguments to push the electric car forward for their own ends. etc.

Add in jobs, IP, and other economic issues.

Hay, it's basically a free market economy. If you don't want one, don't buy one. But all the complainers out there - get over it. What does it matter if there's gasoline and electric and hybrid cars for sale? Use the one you want.

As for the EPA's fuel numbers, they are a lot stricturer at testing and test protocls than you may first think. They are not the BSA though :-)

NB - My VW Bug is officially rated at a combined 22 mpg, but from a full 5 years of logs, i see a combined 28mpg (us).

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Petrol / Diesel

Isn't the reason for the petrol engine choice simply because the American market has yet to really adopt diesel?

Am sure I read that in a car mag once :-)

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License to Lie

Now that the government is running Government Motors, GM has a license to lie when in recent past they would have been called to the mat for exaggerated claims.

This whole fake MPG thing is a favorite gambit of the EV apologists. Creative accounting where only gasoline is tallied. Sadly there is precedent. Flex-fuel vehicles only count the 15% gasoline component in E85 for calculation of CAFE.

If they desired to be truthful about the situation they would feature MPG when propelled solely by gasoline. But The Powers That Be believe the masses are too stupid to understand that number plus a caveat, "Up to 40 miles may be achieved without gasoline in EV mode."

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WTF?

Sadly there are people stupid enough to fall for that crap.

Pah! I can beat that. My car is a 30 year old infernal combustion jobbie and it does 300 miles to the gallon*. You just need 3 people to push it 260 miles, then they jump in and we drive the last 40.

Or maybe I could convert it to run on LPG. I'll drive 360 miles on gas with a couple of fill ups and then do 40 on a gallon of petrol and wow, now it does 400 miles to the gallon*.

What utter codswallop.

* of petrol. Other fuels used ignored.

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keep in mind

Keep in mind that the booster engine runs at a constant optimal rate in these things, rather than spending 95%+ of the time running too fast or too slow for best efficiency as in conventional cars (as mentioned above, that is one reason why locomotives often do it that way).

No idea how that effects the numbers, but I agree to the question "where is all the pollution-free leccy for the initial charge coming from?" (Part answer - even fossil-fueled power stations are way more efficient than a car engine because the motors/turbines/etc. can be run in a constant optimal way).

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Stop moaning about the manufacturing process...

It takes energy to manufacture things like cars, carriages, shovels, whatever and since we use hydrocarbons for energy just bringing things to into existence means that they have a carbon footprint, yes, we get it. It is more efficient to retrofit newer propulsion systems to older vehicles and keep the older vehicles on the road, but instead of doing that we institute programs like "cash for clunkers" to sell new vehicles.

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FAIL

move the goalposts.

If you cant win, then cheat! its the american way.

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Gah I wondered what those signs were...

Around the Bay Area (Northern California,) there are some lovely LED full color signs on the freeway which have been displaying ads like this in their rotation. They're of course bright enough to cause near-blindness at night if you glance at one, but I must say, the 23(115V/15A amp plug) with a date under it caused nothing but apathy and a dislike for marketing departments in me.

It would of course take over 18 hours to push the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline through a plug like that, assuming 100% efficiency on the charging system.

And as for diesel engines in hybrids... Well regular diesel cars can get much higher mileage than a similar petrol version, which suggests that the weight of diesel engines can be offset by increased effiency and energy content of the fuel. My theory is that hybrids are more about popularity and looks than actual economy, and diesel (especially in the states) has a terrible reputation for being dirty and noisy, even if they aren't.

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Paris Hilton

@Y'all

"Also when is the diesel version coming out? that [sic] would be more efficient that [sic again] the petrol one I would have thought."

Most (all?) hybrid cars use a modified Atkinson cycle, not an Otto cycle, increasing the average energy efficiency of and reducing pollution produced per energy extracted by the engine. I believe this reduces the gap in desirability between diesel and gasoline engines (except for volumetric energy density and per-joule retail pricing in the respective fuels).

"I still can't get my head round the 'electric' car arguement [sic]. If you have to burn 'stuff' (coal, oil etc) to create electricity to fill up the cars where is the saving?"

Chevrolet figures they can get this car to drive around four miles per kilowatt-hour of input electricity. If charged only at night, that works out to one cent per mile at present residential electricity rates, and the power is typically produced by power plants that are optimized for producing power with minimal pollution. Whereas burning gasoline in an engine in a car typically gets fifteen to sixty miles (depending on the car) per gallon (currently $2.40 to $3.00) working out as four to twenty cents per mile, and that being run through a power plant optimized for constantly moving itself around and being able to rapidly switch off and on. Furthermore, technically the electricity could come from some "nice" source like non-toxic solar cells made out of seaweed and bubblegum, as soon as that's invented. (Meanwhile we'll use nuclear-waste-generating, bird-chopping, fish-grinding, rainforest-clearcutting, people-starving transition technology, in addition to the classic "find it and burn it" power generation.)

"Those are nice figures considering they forgot to meantion [sic] how much energy it takes to create one (so carbon produced), and the metal and processes needed to create the battery."

EPA mileage figures have never included any reference to the energy, raw material, pollutants, etc. involved in creating a vehicle. So there's nothing odd about this EPA mileage figure not including that for the Volt.

"Great - A car that is only economical on the kind of journeys where you should be walking and biking anyway."

Perfectly true. Except that now you don't need one of those specialized bikes that holds the wife, two kids, six sacks of groceries, and which keeps the rain off and gets you where you're going at a mile a minute on the freeway.

"I'd love to see the repair bill when fixing that thing after its warranty lapses. Also, I'm guessing resale values of used ones will be crap as is always the case for vehicles like this. That's going to suck in a few years when people start trying to trade them in."

All first-generation vehicles suffer these sorts of problems. I suppose that's why we should never innovate.

"Considering the Prius when driven NORMALLY was less effecient [sic] than a Golf diesel, ..."

Efficiency has many meanings. The Prius never shits a diesel stench-cloud into the air I'm trying to breathe, and so in terms of "volume of carcinogenic crap that enters my lungs" efficiency, the Prius is a wonder. (Not just from burning gasoline - also from using the modified Atkinson cycle and spinning constantly at the speed it thinks gets the most energy and least pollutants out of the fuel.)

"If they would just shorten the test loop distance so that the petrol engine isn't actually required during the so-called test, then it would achieve INFINITY miles per US gallon."

_I_ think they should give the car's mileage as an algebraic equation. Then everyone would be perfectly capable of comparing this car's "actual" mileage to other vehicles by simply graphing the various equations along with a curve describing their typical daily driving distances by frequency. That would also allow them to do some calculus to determine their actual fuel savings between different options. Nothing could be easier*! (* Not while still being this correct.)

Paris, because I'd like to do a couple integrals with her.

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re: Diesel/Petrol

Yup, the US market has yet to properly adopt diesel (even their trucks run on Petrol, which is nuts.) but there is a significant growth in Diesel, you see cars with 'I run on Diesel' stickers, which is a radical environmental statement in the US, totally normal in Europe, mind.

The advantage of a petrol engine for the generation of power isn't just limited to the engine being smaller. If the engine is charging batteries, rather than powering the car, it can be configured in such a way that it runs at it's most efficient RPM generating the most power from the least fuel, without needing to bother with running at different RPMs to get the car up to speed, very much like a diesel/electric train with added batteries. This would mean no gearbox, clutch etc, so lots more savings on weight and production costs. (NB: All I know about this car is what I've read in the article, so may be talking arse.)

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Stop

Surprised

That nobody has mentioned regenerative braking, where you pump leccy back into the battery. I'd like to see anyone try that with any form of primary energy source :)

Also, a shunt wound DC motor develops maximum torque at zero revs, which is EXACTLY what you want for a car. No need to waste energy in slipping clutches etc.

Use individual motors for each wheel, and your traction and steering contol becomes a dream - no wasted energy there either. Also much reduced tyre wear.

Finally, once you decouple the energy source from the drive chain, you can update both quite independently as better designs become available.

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@Petrol / Diesel

>American market has yet to really adopt diesel?

It's now finally legal in all states, and you can get low sulphur almost everywhere.

But treehuggers still think it's evil (picturing old trucks) so selling a diesel hybrid is a bit of tricky pitch.

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Boffin

magic numbers

Let's get this straight, putting some numbers to this efficiency bit, and lets be generous,

Convert fuel to electricity at the power plant, 45%.

Send electricity down the wires, through a transformer and out the mains, 90%

Convert to DC to charge battery, 90%

Battery efficiency, 90%

Convert back to AC to drive motor, 90%

Motor efficiency, 90%

Total efficiency fuel to motor output, 26.6%

Efficiency of average petrol IC engine, 25%

Learning the meaning of the phrase "nibbled to death", priceless.

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@jeffy[pooh

".....1.20095042 times INFINITY in miles per Imperial gallon"

my thoughts exactly....

\We need an icon of a pair of cojones, we really do.

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Unhappy

Price of fuel?

If everyone uses one quarter the petrol, will the price go up 4 times?

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It's the nearest we have to a practical EV

The trouble with the Prius is that the petrol engine acts as both a generator and a drive unit so it needs to be big enough to (barely) do both at the same time. This, plus the more complex transmission, adds extra weight and driveline losses, buggering up the range when running solely on batteries. Just because it's clever engineering doesn't make it a good solution to the problem.

The Volt's fossil fuel mill only acts as a generator, so only needs to be big enough to do that (and can be set up to run at its most efficient RPM for that task). Smaller engine means less fuel usage and less extra weight for cooling etc. The electrical motors drive the wheels directly so it might not even *have* a geared transmission which reduces weight and cuts down losses. Because it has the generated power to fall back on it doesn't need huge numbers of batteries to have a useful range (hence the quite short 40 miles range on battery only).

@ Anonymous Coward 15:50 GMT

"If you can only drive 40 miles before a recharge you had better not be going any where but to the store and back"

Errr...that's why it has a small petrol engine to generate power, to recharge the batteries on those trips where you do have to go further than 40 miles. Pay attention 007.

Though I do have a round-trip commute in the 30-40 mile region, with easy access to electrical power at both ends. If it wall-charges quickly enough my biggest problem with a Volt would be making sure the petrol in the tank didn't go stale!

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FAIL

GM?! OH PLEASE!

OOOH, I am not well liked at a website in Colorado, but you Brits should not believe a word of this.

GM has never told the truth. They have a history of lying. Couple that with no attention to detail, and you have a big, half-assed company that makes crap no one should buy. Now let's get to this stupid car they have. what is really wrong here is in Colorado, most electrical power comes from coal. Uh, how is this electrical grid, powered by coal, going to handle this pipe dream of plugging in your car at night?

Answer:

Without building more coal powered plants here in Colorado, it won't work! The current power grid will not be able to take this load.

Even Paris knows this.......

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This post has been deleted by its author

GM sucks

I can't wait until your wonderful show "Top Gear" tears this piece of crap up!

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The reason for the stupid MPG numbers

Obama + government commands that motor vehicle producers increase their **average** MPG.

Motor vehicle producers crank out one 230MPG car, with EPA onboard to agree to the bullshit calcs.

Throw a single 230 MPG offering into your car range and you've met all the average MPG requirements.

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Volt facts....

How it works:

It has a 16 kWh battery, of which all but 9.6 kWh are 'off limits' so as to extend the battery life; basically the computer won't let it discharge below 30% or over 90%. Said battery is warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles.

The electric motor is a 3 phase 600 volt unit of 161 hp/45 kW (100 KW peak). Like all electric motors it's vastly more efficient than an ICE and gets its maximum torque from 0 rpm vs. over 4,000 rpm for a gasoline ICE.

Slow it isn't. Volt can blister a lot of cars on the road.

The range extender/generator is a 1.4 liter normally aspirated 4 cylinder with a 53 kW generator attached. This runs at very specific speeds (depending on load) and only comes on when the battery is at 30% or if the battery is too cold or too hot. This is in order to power the car until the batteries environmental controls bring it into the normal temp range, at which time it shuts down and the battery takes over. It also starts up occasionally for a few minutes just to keep its innards lubed.

Full time electric drive, no 'helping the ICE' only at low speeds like most hybrids.

The range extender powers the car by generating electricity which is buffered by the battery on its way to the electric motor. Very few losses compared to a conventional drive line.

No transmission, so no losses there.

Regenerative braking - stopping recharges the battery.

For the first 40 miles it runs on electricity only, then the range extender fires up and can power the car for an additional 300 miles.

They were going to use a larger tank for a 500-700 mile range, but so little gas was being used in tests it started to stratify so a smaller tank with a magnetic stirrer was subbed in. Besides that, how many people can hold their water 500-700 miles? :-P

Operating costs (based on $2.50/gallon gas and the overnight off-hour electric rate for the Detroit area)

Charge time @120v: 6 hours

Charge time @220v: 3 hours

Cost of overnight charge: 40-50 cents

Cost/mile in EV mode: ~1 cent per mile

Cost/mile in range extender: 3 cents per mile

Cost of an ICE 30 mpg car: 10 cents per mile

Energy efficiency and availability:

A study by the EPI and a green group was done 2 years ago and it showed that existing generating capacity in the off hours is more than sufficient for EV's in the foreseeable future. In addition to this most new generation for the last ten years is natural gas, not coal.

All told the efficiency of an EV power path runs like this: 72% for the car, 40% for the power plant and 90% for charging. This results in an overall efficiency of about 26%.

Buy a solar panel, put it on the roof so that you can sell power back to the utility, then use just part of it at night to charge the EV and that goes way up to almost 65%. Such panels are already on the market and getting cheaper very fast.

A run of the mill ICE powered car is lucky to get near 20% for the vehicle and then you have to account for the processing of the fuel.

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