General Motors’ Global Powertrain Chief Open To Idea Of Sharing Voltec With Other Automakers

2 years ago by Steven Loveday 35

2016 Chevy Volt Cutaway

2016 Chevy Volt Cutaway

1.5-Liter 2016 Volt Range Extender

1.5-Liter 2016 Volt Range Extender

There’s been previous indications that perhaps another automaker could borrow General Motors’ Voltec technology for use in cars from other brands, but now there seem to be more evidence suggesting this Voltec-sharing idea might become reality someday.

The question is, can GM cut costs by offering the Voltec to other companies in need?

Dan Nicholson, GM’s global powertrain chief seems to believe so.

“We want to be the partner of choice in propulsion system development in this complex and turbulent era we are approaching.” He added that, “We have a history of being a good partner.”

Allowing automakers like Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Jaguar, and Fiat Chrysler access to GM’s gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain could be the push these companies need to move forward in the plug-in market. In return, GM could profit significantly.

The 1.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine used in the redesigned 2016-17 Chevrolet Volt could fit under the hood of most any typical compact car. The adopting automaker would simply need to find space for batteries and deal with calibration.

For prospective companies, this opportunity could subtract years off of the time needed to develop and release plug-in vehicles. Billions could be saved in development, manufacturing and labor costs.

Will GM, with Nicholson’s plan, help to push electric cars forward by providing a ready-made hybrid powertrain option for competitors?

Source: Automotive News

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35 responses to "General Motors’ Global Powertrain Chief Open To Idea Of Sharing Voltec With Other Automakers"

  1. Ziv says:

    Probably because by the time the Gen II winds down in 4 years, BEV’s will be cheap enough, their range will be long enough and recharging will be quick enough that the EREV really won’t be all that popular. Why carry both the pack and the gas genset if the pack can do the job without the genset.
    There will still be EREV’s but they will be a small subset of the electric car market.
    Once you have inexpensive BEV’s with 250-300 miles of AER and fast charging is commonplace, EREV will be less popular.

    1. evcarnut says:

      They are SSSSOOOOooooo Nice @ GM..Trying to imitate MUSK…0nly prob., Unlike Tesla , This technology is something you’d kick to the Curb..At this point it’s useless to everyone except the local Dump…..so Funny..

    2. kdawg says:

      I think 4 years is very optimistic. Until we have cheap SUV/CUV BEVs and 150kW DCFC everywhere, there will be a place for EREV.

      1. Ziv says:

        I hear you kdawg, and I may be a bit optimistic on timing, but by the time the Gen II Bolt comes out, I think the price and range will be where they need to be. And who knows who else will jump into the fray with a “Bolt Killer” in the meantime. I think Tesla is going to have a great car in the III, but I don’t think it will be here within the next 24 months and the 200+ mile AER won’t be priced at $35k.
        But the charging situation will be a problem as you note. I don’t think we need 150 kW chargers everywhere, even 80 kW chargers would be sufficient for most people if they were ubiquitous on the interstates and reliable. I think the Bolt will have 220+ miles of hwy AER within 3 years, if not within a year. It won’t be as cheap as an ICE, but we will be seeing more expensive gasoline right about the time the prices start to drop within striking distance for most car buyers.
        I think Benjamin and David both have good points, but I think the batteries and the chargers are coming along faster than some of us think. There hasn’t been a need for chargers up til now because there wasn’t a BEV with enough range to really fully utilize a fast charger.

      2. Jacked Beanstalk says:

        Yep, extended range EVs will remain the most practical solution for most people’s needs. Even with a Tesla one needs to carefully plan routes to drive any distance, and in many states there just aren’t enough Superchargers to offer the freedom people are accustomed to with ICEs.

        Here in MI I checked out charging stations in the hope of getting a Bolt. It won’t work unless I own TWO cars, one ICE and one EV. Far better to buy a Volt and use it in EV mode for 90% of my driving.

    3. Benjamin says:

      It will take a lot longer than 4 years for affordable 250 mile range EVs and fast charging are commonplace. When will we see a Model A (Affordable) from Tesla? Something like a Corolla or Civic, and priced like those competitors, with a real world 250 mile range? 15 years?

      The Bolt and 2cnd gen Leaf will get closer to that ideal but will not be there yet, so we’re talking second generation Bolt or 3rd gen Leaf, at minimum, with big price reductions.

      Extended range EVs like the Volt will have a place for a long time to come, gradually evolving toward bigger batteries and smaller engines, and maybe a fuel cell taking over the ICE role at some point a couple decades down the line.

      1. Ziv says:

        Benjamin, you may be right, but I wonder what the Gen III Volt will cost when it comes out in 2021. That is just 5 years and change away, so I am already going past my probably overoptimistic 4 years out, but I think the Gen III Volt will be much less expensive than the Gen II. I think the year the credit goes away, GM and all the other electric car makers will suddenly reduce the price of their electric cars.
        Admittedly, the important car for GM will the Gen II Bolt, more than the Gen III Volt, and that won’t come out until 2021 or 2022, but it will be very interesting to see how that plays out.
        I don’t think charging needs to be as fast as fuelling an ICE, but 80 kW is probably a minimum speed and 100 kW would work a lot better. But the size of the pack is critical for fast charging and that means that the price per kWh has got to continue to drop at the same rate as it has been doing so far, and that may be difficult to pull off.
        Interesting days.

    4. David Murray says:

      I’m waaaaay less optimistic than you. Many people will refuse to give up their ICE until charging stations are ubiquitous. My estimate is 20 to 30 years before PHEVs will disappear in favor of BEV.

      1. goodbyegascar says:

        David Murray,

        I believe that EV charging will become ubiquitous much, much sooner. And simultaneously, we will see our local gas pumps begin to disappear, only to be found along major highways. For the traditional ICE car driver, it will be a “strange anxiety.”

        Consider that EV charging posts can sprout up just about anywhere, almost instantly, and at a reasonable cost. Six of them just popped up at one of my favorite local family-owned restaurants. They are no more imposing than the installation of a common street lamp.

        And any business that has an EV charger is a magnet for customers. Even if a 50% charge takes 20 minutes, the business has a captive audience for 20 minutes, so free or discounted charging has the potential to attract and retain customers better than traditional marketing schemes.

        Consider, on the other hand, the low profit margins on gasoline, combined with the high up-front costs to install and maintain gas stations, only allowed in certain areas, etc.

        I suppose a good comparison would be the nationwide disappearance of pay phones, thanks to the rise of inexpensive cell phones.

  2. David Murray says:

    GM has a competitive advantage. I think it would make more sense to stick that drive train in more of their own vehicles. The only reason I can think they’d want to license it out to other car makers is because they want more return on their investment, without having to actually sell more EVs that might cut into their profits of gasoline vehicles.

    1. Benjamin says:

      The Volt is still a niche car because it’s much more expensive than it’s comparable-performing ICE compact car competition. So, if GM can expand that niche and sales of the Voltec system by selling to Honda or whoever, then that’s only a good thing.

      They gotta do something about that T-bone design of the battery – it’s not cool that back row center seat has horrible foot-room in this design. But looks like we are stuck with it for another generation ~5 years, so might as well try to drive up volume by selling it to other makers.

      1. David Murray says:

        I don’t have a problem with the design of the battery pack. For the size and shape of car that the Volt is, the battery pack design is perfect. Now, when talking about a taller CUV, pickup truck, etc.. sure, a different battery shape is needed. The T-shaped battery allows the Volt to sit low to the ground and doesn’t consume any cargo area.

        1. Benjamin says:

          I think the current Voltec design would actually work just as well or better with a taller CUV body on top. Elevating the seating position and roof will give those back seats more leg and head-room, plus you’d get more storage space. Really think that should be in the pipeline for GM if they are serious about keeping this architecture around.

          1. Stimpy says:

            Also easier to get in and out of. There are many positives for a higher body height and only a single one for lower: CG.

            (I don’t count advantages when driving on a race track)

            1. Oskar says:

              Lower body = less frontal area = less drag = less fuel consumption

              Unless lowering your roofline also means reconfiguring the front to be steeper then it’s anyone’s guess.

        2. For pickups, this battery could be two long rows, front to back, under the box, split on both sides, attached to the frame. I could see it bumping up to 22 to 28 kWh, giving about 65 to 80 miles or more range, but still being an EREV!

          1. John says:

            A truck will get less than half the range on the same size battery. Giving it a 28kwh battery would probably give it 40 miles of range. Optimistically. And not on the highway.

            I’d still be interested in one though 🙂

    2. Taser54 says:

      I disagree. GM is doing this to agressively and rapidly cut the cost of a Voltec system for the time when government tax credits expire. Who wins with this approach? The customer.

      1. Michael says:

        GM is doing what they should be doing. Applying their knowledge to the market in any profitable way possible.

        I see what looks similar to a return to the golden era of automobiles when coach builders transitioned to cars. GM has obvious expertise here and could contribute power trains to a number of different chassis builders.

        Quite a good offer by them, and one I would strongly consider taking up if I were a rival auto maker.

  3. What if we got this mated with a 40 kWh flat pack, using about half as many of the 18650 cells as Tesla uses in their 90 kWh packs?

    That could be a good mate with the EREV idea: it could get about 90 to 110 miles EV range before gas cut in. Imagine if Suzuki got this front end, and had Tesla build them a 40 kWh pack…they could blast EREV right on by the Volt!

    Honestly, when EREV is at 100 miles AER, most people will be using 99% EV miles, and will become quite ready to go all in with 200 mile range BEV’s! Some might even go for less expensive 125 mile range BEV’s!

    1. David Murray says:

      I just don’t think you’ll see too many PHEVs with 100 miles or more AER. The i3 Rex might get that soon, but judging from what I’ve seen most new PHEVs coming out have 20 or less miles per charge. It seems most manufacturers are not going the EREV route for some reason.

      1. I am sure, Legacy ICE makers want to hold onto what they know as long as they can.

        Still, 100 mile EV range in an EREV design, would be great in places withour much fast charging, and Alaska, Yukon Territories, Africa, China, as well as urban USA and the Prairies!

  4. Josh says:

    Could they please share it with one of their own SUVs/CUVs first !?!

    1. Speculawyer says:

      This times a trillion.

    2. vdiv says:

      Exactly! One does not preclude the other though. Sharing the tech. will share the R&D cost and smaller car companies can really benefit from it.

  5. Dan says:

    It’s mentioned in the AN article, but this seems like a no-brainer for a Gen 1 PEV from a company like Mazda or Subaru.

  6. SJC says:

    GM and Honda are working together, maybe there would be a Voltec Accord in the future.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      That is probably the first partnering.

      GM is probably looking for more partners to share that initial $1.5 Billion R&D cost on the Voltec.

  7. ffbj says:

    “We have a history of being a good partner.”
    LG Chem might take exception with that statement.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      That is not necessarily wrong even in the LG case.

      Without GM, do you think LG could have access to that much hardware in a car?

      LG went from “nobody” as far as automotive supplier is concerned and now it is almost up to tier-1 statues with all the contracts that GM gave it on the Bolt.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      ffbj said:

      “[quote]We have a history of being a good partner.[unquote]

      “LG Chem might take exception with that statement.”

      What, just because GM mistakenly revealed the LG “sweetheart deal” price it gave GM for its battery cells?

      That seems like a rather minor sin, despite all the hubbub about it. LG could have, should have, turned the negative into a positive by saying “Well, if anyone else wants to let us build the entire powertrain for their EV, we’ll talk to them about a low cost on battery cells, too.”

  8. Paul says:

    Before thinking of others, put the Voltec in your own companies, like Opel, Vauxhall and Holden. For the same price, not highly inflated as before.

  9. Ron Morrell says:

    Other than meeting the politically developed EV rebate criteria, I’m not seeing the sense of the Voltec vs the Toyota HSD approach.
    The mechanics are almost identical: a single planetary gear-set connected to two electric motors, an ICE, and the drive-shaft.
    In electric mode, there is no significant difference.
    In extended mode, Voltec typically requires all of the mechanical power from the gasoline motor to be converted to electrical power, and then the electric motors convert the electric power to mechanical power (there is only one set of circumstances under which the ICE mechanical force is passed through the planetary gears to the drive-shaft). There are significant losses with each conversion. The HSD is intended to pass the mechanical power straight through to the drive-shaft without the double conversion.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      Your understanding doesn’t fit Voltec 2.0.

      It is more correct on the Voltec1.0

      Also HSD is mainly driven by engine where the most of the power is from. In the Voltec, the electric motor(s) provides the main propulsion with engine provides assist as it is far less powerful. Voltec 2.0 allows direct drive from the engine.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Ron Morrell said:

      “I’m not seeing the sense of the Voltec vs the Toyota HSD approach.”

      Apparently “Toyota HSD” means the Prius’ hybrid drive system.

      One big difference between the two is that Voltec can use only its electric motors for full acceleration right up to highway speed. The Prius needs an assist from the gas engine to get that much acceleration.

      As I understand it, Voltec really can allow the Volt to operate 100% of the time in pure EV mode, until the battery pack is mostly depleted. The Prius? Not so much.

      I’ve seen claims that when maintaining any steady speed (on level ground) above 35 MPH in the Prius, or when accelerating above that speed, it’s always burning gas.