Unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit back in January, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt promises to be a major improvement on the outgoing first-generation, 2015 model year car, with improved all-electric range, better handling and higher gas mileage in range-extending mode.
Now, as Automotive News reported yesterday, the range-extended electric car is months away from production, with GM already building its first pre production examples of the 2016 Volt at its Hamtramck production facility in Detroit.
Additionally, says the industry publication, we should expect pricing for the 2016 Volt to be announced some time in late April, ahead of the car’s official market launch this summer.
Unlike the first-generation Chevrolet Volt, the 2015-model year incarnation of which has an EPA-approved range of 38 miles per charge, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt should be capable of at least 50 miles of all-electric range per charge, thanks to some major improvements made to the car’s construction, battery pack and twin motor drivetrain system.
For a start, the new car is substantially lighter than the outgoing model thanks to a redesigned chassis and body but also to next-generation lithium-ion battery packs which are far more energy dense than those used in the outgoing model.
Despite having a slightly higher battery capacity — 18.4 kilowatt-hours versus 17.1 kilowatt-hours in the outgoing model — the new 2016 Volt battery pack is 21 pounds (9.8 kilograms) lighter than its predecessor, and actually uses 192 battery cells rather than the 288 battery cells found in the original Volt. Made by LG Chem, it still follows the same T-shaped pack design as its predecessor, but sits lower down in the vehicle for a lower centre of gravity and improved handling.
The physically smaller battery pack also means the Volt gains a third rear seat, making it a five-seat car on paper (although as we’ve noted previously, it’s a seat designed for short trips rather than long-distance treks).
Motors are redesigned too, making use of far less rare earth metal yet managing to output more torque than their predecessors while simultaneously being far more energy efficient. Combined with the lighter battery pack, the twin motor setup — 100 pounds lighter than the previous twin-motor drivetrain — is responsible for the greatly improved all-electric range.
Up front, next to the new electric drivetrain, there’s also new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder ecotec gasoline engine which can provide range-extending capabilities when the battery pack has been depleted. While there are no official figures yet for fuel economy, GM claims a combined fuel efficiency of 41 mpg in range-extending mode, better than the outgoing model but not quite where many had hoped it would be.
After GM has completed its pre-production run — something that every automaker does to every new model to ensure that the plant equipment is ready and capable of producing production cars — GM will make any necessary final adjustments to the car or the production line before starting official production later this spring.
As always, we’ll bring you more information on this important new plug-in as it becomes available, including the all-important pricing and EPA test figures when they are officially announced.
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