Following on from yesterday morning’s news that the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt would feature a 1.5 litre, four-cylinder engine as its range-extender, General Motors has confirmed that the next-generation Chevrolet Volt will have a bigger battery, more powerful electric drivetrain, and more flexibility than the first generation (2011-2014) model Volt.
The result? A car which should offer customers a better driving experience, improved fuel efficiency, and no-compromise range-extending capabilities.
Smaller, more powerful battery
Detailed at a special technical briefing in Detroit yesterday, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt will feature a new, more powerful battery pack designed and developed in collaboration with LG Chem, GM’s go-to experts for lithium-ion battery technology. With physically fewer battery cells than the battery pack found in the current generation Chevrolet Volt — 192 cells instead of 288 — the all-new battery pack is 30 pounds (13 kilos) lighter than its predecessor but also twenty percent more energy dense.
While GM hasn’t talked specifics, we think that sounds very much like the promised 50+ mile battery pack former GM CEO Dan Akerson claimed the next-generation Volt was shooting for back in 2013. Since we — and other Volt drivers we’ve encountered — can already manage at least 50 miles on a charge from the current generation Volt, despite its official 35 miles per charge EPA ratings, we’re thinking all-electric ranges in excess of 60 miles should be easily possible, especially if adding in the effects of shedding the equivalent of a two year old from the battery pack’s mass.
More efficient, versatile twin electric motors
Weight reductions continue in other parts of the new Chevrolet Volt, with the 2016 Volt’s twin motor setup weighing 100 pounds less than the current twin motors used in the 2014 model year Volt.
As our friends over at GreenCarReports — who attended the briefing yesterday afternoon — detail, the new motors aren’t just lighter.
The 111 kilowatt traction motor and 55 kilowatt generator from the first-generation Volt have been replaced with a more versatile dual motor system that GM says can work independently or in tandem to power the car, depending on power demand and vehicular settings. Capable of achieving a 20 percent improvement in low-speed acceleration over the previous twin motor drivetrain, GM says the new twin-motor setup in the 2016 Volt is between five and twelve percent more efficient than its processor.
While the specifics of those settings were not discussed, GM did say that the 2016 Volt will gain an extra operational mode over the current Volt, which we infer as being something that will give the Volt more flexibility in everyday driving scenarios.
Aside from weight and versatility, it’s worth noting that physical differences in the motor design on the second-generation Volt that should help GM reduce manufacturing cost. As well as using identical stators in both motors, one of the two motors — the smaller-output or ‘A’ motor, uses ferrite rather than rare earth metals in its construction, cutting overall rare-earth metal use in the Volt’s new drivetrain by almost 60 percent. Heavy rare earth metals like dysprosium has also been slashed from 282 grams to just 40 grams.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the 2016 Volt’s new engine — up by 0.1 of a litre on the outgoing model — is indeed a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder variation of the new EcoTec engine unveiled by General Motors for use across its many vehicular lineup earlier this year. While it shares its DNA with GM’s other brand-new three- and four-cylinder engines however, GM engineers have tweaked the engine to give it some special abilities found no-where else in the GM family.
The result is an engine that is unique to the Volt, doesn’t suffer the same reduced-power problems that the BMW i3 REx range-extending engine has, with three specific adaptations that promote high fuel efficiency and range-extending versatility.
The first is a 12.5-to-1 compression ratio, higher than the 10.5-to-1 ratio found on GM’s stock 1.5-litre EcoTec engine. Designed to give a more efficient combustion, the engine is essentially tweaked for efficiency, not raw power.
Then there’s the addition of a cooled exhaust-gas reticulation system, which GM says will allow the 2016 Volt to use regular-grade gasoline without sacrificing low emissions. As those who own the current, first-generation Volt will attest, the outgoing Volt specifies Premium only on its filler cap, resulting in slightly higher costs at filling.
Finally, the specially-adapted engine features something called wide-authority cam phasers, which allow the Volt’s engine management system to operate the exhaust and inlet valves over a wider operational range, making it possible for the engine to offer a different compression and expansion ratio similar to the Atkinson Cycle engine found in cars like the Toyota Prius hybrid. The result is an improved fuel economy compared with a conventional fixed valve timing setup.
Based on what we’ve heard here, we think anyone considering a Chevrolet Volt should consider waiting a little longer to find out what the new 2016 model year will offer over the outgoing 2015 model year car. This is especially true if you’re in the market for a range-extended plug-in which offers the versatility of a plug-in hybrid but a far greater all-electric range than the current Volt.
But do you agree? Are you a current Chevrolet Volt owner looking with eagerness to see what the 2016 Volt will look like when it gets its debut in Detroit in two months’ time? Or are you happy with the current model you own?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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