GM’s Goals For The 2nd Generation Volt – Lower Cost And More EREV Tech

MAR 18 2014 BY JAY COLE 57

GM Employees In Hamtramck, MI Probably Looking Forward To Working On Something New

GM Employees In Hamtramck, MI Probably Looking Forward To Working On Something New

Earlier this month, we learned that the 2nd generation of the Chevrolet Volt would be debuting next year as a 2016 model, and that part of this debut would be “evolutionary styling changes,” as reported by Edmunds.

Now, AutoBlogGreen has done a follow-up interview with Pam Fletcher, GM’s executive chief engineer, Electrified Vehicles that everyone should check out.

Some of the topics of interest covered (with condensed answers):

  • Does the Chevrolet Volt need a 4 cylinder engine?  (not really)
  • Is the range-extender engine due for an update? (working on it)
  • More plug-ins from GM? (yes)
  • More GM vehicles with EREV tech coming? (maybe)
  • Has the Opel Ampera in Europe been successful (hey, look at the lovely trees outside my office)
  • What is the focus of the next gen Chevy Volt? (bringing costs down)
  • Does more range matter?  Will 2nd gen get more? (you know we are still selling the current gen right?)

Be sure to check-out ABG’s non-condensed version here!

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57 Comments on "GM’s Goals For The 2nd Generation Volt – Lower Cost And More EREV Tech"

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Nice summation! 😉

GM has done quite well with the Volt, whether the Big Wigs at GM realize it or not. Lutz realizes it but he’s no longer there. I miss Lutz already, because I don’t think he would have ever allowed them to “Cheapen” the Bose Stero option, such that you can’t buy a 2014 with as good as sounding a Radio as my 2011 had as standard equipment. That’s taking money out of the wrong place.

To get more range, GM will probably ‘open up’ the range of the battery utilization, originally around 65%.

Of course the wild card is whether new technologies such as VW is pursuing will actually add meaningful value to the battery purchase price. If so, that could mean achieving the “Three Five’s” that Volt lovers have always dreamed of:
Fifth Seat
50 MPG Range Extender
50 miles on electric only.

The increase in gas mileage could take place with a lighter engine and lighter battery, since admittedly, gasoline engines are getting incrementally better all the time as well.

OK for the “Three Five’s”!

That is the list I would ask for, too. The engine could be 50% smaller displacement and be a true (pure) serial hybrid; with no complicated transmission and a bigger electric motor.

Will the refresh look more like the original concept vehicle? Probably not…

I personally thought the original concept vehicle was ugly as heck. It also was not aerodynamically efficient. Which makes me believe GM didn’t put a whole lot of thought that it would get past the futurism concept phase. Remember the skateboard concepts and all the iterations of EV-1 GM showed off at major auto shows? There was a hydrogen fuel cell EREV version and two or three other versions.

Volt original show car had the most hideous of retro “Space Needle” 60’s retro-future motif. So glad it turned out as good as it did, since the concept was really a joke. The concept did the job it was intended to do – make GM appear to be cutting-edge in drivetrains and look wild and sci-fi movie-ish with gigantic wheels and other incredibly
silly add-ons to the base EREV drivetrain. The drivetrain, indeed, did have upscaleability and was sound in it’s design and concept. The outside shell? Buck Rogers.


Similarly, I would not own the Volt today if it looked like the concept.

I would have owned it either way (well I own it as it is now).

Forgot to update my O’dawg. Still getting the green beer out of my system apparently.

Haha, nice.

Agreed! I was very turned off by the Volt Concept car… I was glad it turned out different. I would not have bought a car that looked like that.

I really wouldn’t want 20ish AER because the 0-100 mph silky smooth all-electric performance would be compromised. If anything, I would like 50-60 miles AER and I’ll pay for it. On the other hand, if you decide to build a 200 mile range BEV for 40K I think many of us EV fans would buy it!

I’m not convinced that cutting the range at this point would make the car less expensive. Lets assume for the moment that the battery pack costs $3,500. If not, it probably will cost that much (or less) by the time Gen-2 hits the market. So if you reduce the battery capacity by half then you just trimmed $1,750 from the price of the car. I’m willing to bet most customers would happily pay the $1,750 for the extra 20 miles of range. It would be different if it cut the price by $5,000 or something.

As for the performance, they could always go the route of the Energi cars and have the ICE assist when extra power is needed. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Volt with a low end trim giving 25-30 miles of range and a higher level trim with 50-60 miles of range (and extra performance too)

“As for the performance, they could always go the route of the Energi cars and have the ICE assist when extra power is needed.”

That would actually be quite cool if it had that ability without compromising the current EV only 0-60 (Say 0-60 in 7 sec in combined mode). However, I would not buy another one if they decreased the 0-60 time by 1 sec. in combined mode only for the EV 0-60 time to suffer like the Energi’s 15 seconds.

An anemic electric motor that needs engine assist while there’s still charge left in the battery? That’s a bug, not a feature. Why would GM want to throw away the major advantage (full performance in EV mode until the battery is drained) that it has over its competition?

David, Patil said that the pack cost $10,000 in late 2010. I would guess it costs around $6,000 now, but no one outside of GM really knows.

I don’t think that GM is making much money, if any, on the Volt. If the pack cost just $3500 I think the rest of the car simply couldn’t cost enough to add up to $30,000.

Volt inventory has peaked at 3908 and has now fallen back to 3830 again. If GM was making any money on the Volt they would be building more of them than 1.5 Volts per Chevy dealer, or just 5 or 6 weeks of sales at their better months sales rates.

I’m with Dave. Great summation, Jay. It appears as if what they are trying to prepare us for is – a cosmetic makeover. Same
lame Ecotec 1.4, more capacity out of the very same battery pack. They almost have to produce the battery pack now that the once-delayed LG Michigan plant is up and running. The ELR will be out there and 2nd gen Volt cannot have 50 miles of range and 50 miles per gallon. At $80,000+ ( pathetic ) the ELR as a flagship halo cannot be outshined by the lowly Volt from Chevrolet.

With all this GM downplaying – I just want to go puke.

I tend to agree James. I think we will see a minimal redesign. My guess is they keep the 2 mode, keep the T pack and who knows about the engine. The hi tech turbo 3 banger sure doesn’t address any cost issues.

Turbo engine doesn’t cost that much to make. The drop in battery cost can easily offset that cost difference.

Wait a minute, though.. The 2nd Gen volt won’t be on the market for at least 2 years. There’s no reason the ELR can’t get a mid-cycle refresh in 2 years also.

The big question for me is – since the floor is going to be the same height, and seemingly they will be using the same T-pack, will they have the balls to produce ANOTHER 4 seater EREV to place on dealership floors?

My opinion of GM has reached a new low.

That sounds like a lot of assumptions. The interview I read above suggests a lot of potential changes continuing to enhance the E-REV concept, rather than simply a cosmetic refresh.

I read the ABG interview and for the most part it is all boiler plate answers that offer no insight except one: Getting the cost down.

Who knows, maybe they will get rid of the expensive 2 mode tranny and go pure series……but I doubt it.

Seems like they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to reducing costs.

“Does the Chevrolet Volt need a 4 cylinder engine?”

YES! Because it’s a Plug-In Hybrid with a 38 mile EV range. So when you need more power than the electric motor can offer(like going up a steep hill), the gasoline engine kicks in and turns the wheels.

Or you can just choose to drive in HYBRID mode at EPA 35 mpg city, 40 hwy or 37 combined.

Unlike an actual EREV i3 Rex where the tiny motor ONLY charges the battery, and NEVER turns the wheels.

Meh. It could do just fine with a 3-cylinder engine. The little 2-cylinder engine of the BMW is pushing it a bit but should do fine, I just wish it had a bigger gas tank. Personally, I think sacrificing a little performance on those rare steep hills when you just happen to have no battery power left is worth the gain in efficiency for 95% of the time.

The Volt has a 149hp electric motor, and a 84hp gasoline engine that’s necessary to move the car when on steep incline or hard acceleration. Unlike the i3 Rev with a 170hp electric motor, that does not have an engine connected to the wheels. But the logic behind the extended range EV is a bit off. Burning gasoline(creating Co2) trying to make electricity, while at the same time ‘burning’ that same electricity to move the car is a waste. Using two different fuels to get 1 car from point A to point B, that could power 2 different cars at twice the distance. Where a plug-in hybrid like the Fusion Energi (141hp gasoline engine) will just switch to hybrid mode when battery is too low, and add the gasoline engine to the electricity already available. Along with recharging the battery on engine decelleration or coasting at 43 combined mpg. Compared with the much smaller Volt(84 hp gasoline engine) trying to charge batteries at 37mpg, and the Rex(33hp engine) is about the same. The next gen Volt should dump the pretend extended range concept, and go more efficient longer EV range plug-in hybrid or pure EV with longer range.

I disagree.

The draw of the Volt over the Energi is the “real EV mode”…

I wouldn’t buy either the Energi or the Prius Plugin b/c their EV mode is nothing more than a “pretender”…

I read your comment and realize that you are “clueless” based on that this comment you wrote: “Volt has a 149hp electric motor, and a 84hp gasoline engine that’s necessary to move the car when on steep incline or hard acceleration”

I call BS on that since the engine will NEVER come on when the Volt is in EV mode. The 276 ft-lbs of torque is MORE THAN enough to propell the Volt up a steep incline or hard acceleration. In fact, it is the engine that can’t keep up to supply the max power for the electric motor so the battery has to be used to boost the power in the gasoline mode….

I’ve never gotten an answer to this question:. Why does the bmw i3 only double the mile range with the motorcycle engine? Is the thing that delicate that you can’t keep refilling the gas tank because you can only drive the 2 gallons of gas, and you’re not allowed to drive it any further without giving it a rest?

The range limitation is based on the CARB rules in California. It cannot have more range on gas than I does with battery to qualify for the number/type of credits they are hoping to get. That is the only reason. I think they should have included a 5 gal tank for all regions other than CARB states, but oh well.


Where did you get all your “crazy” idea about the Volt? Are you that Ford CMax Energi guy who doesn’t know anything about the Volt?

Volt’s Electric motor is more than enough to power the car. It is the engine that can’t keeps up.

Ford Energi choose the other way b/c it got a WEAK electric motor and a SUPER WEAK battery (only slightly better than a Prius)…

Bloggin said, “So when you need more power than the electric motor can offer(like going up a steep hill), the gasoline engine kicks in and turns the wheels.”

Your statement here is patently false. Unlike virtually every other plug-in hybrid, the Volt never needs the gas engine to go up hills as long as it has battery left. If it is out of charge, then sure, it uses the gas engine. But not because the electric motors are not powerful enough. It’s because it’s out of battery.

What’s funny throughout the interview, ABG kept referring to the Volt as a EREV, but PF never did.

Even after question #1 where PF explained in detail how a plug-in hybrid works. NOT how a EREV works.

Indeed. I saw a comment about how the Volt needs the engine to run to assist the battery. I was like, WTF? The Volt works quite the opposite. In mountain mode, for example, the battery has to assist the engine for extra performance. It sounded like he was describing the drive train in the Energi cars or the PiP.

Pam… let me give you another $5k and you give me whatever battery that will buy.

Or at least give us some hint on the latest for a 200mile BEV from GM.

I agree that cost is probably the #1 target, but AER is #2 for those that actually own Volts. Plus more AER will let you compete head on with the Leaf, the i3, and other plug-ins with 75 mile ranges that are either out there, or on the way.

If this requires another model, let’s make it happen.

Yup! Cost is not #1 objective for a lot of people. Just look at the lucky ones driving a Tesla. A great non-compromised EV is our #1.

Have you seen the video on youtube of the “hacked” or modified Volt running 5.5 seconds 0-60? That says to me there is a lot of locked up performance in the vehicle.

Yup. That’s how GM got extra performance from the ELR that is using the same EREV drive-train.

If GM rolls out a 200 mile-range EV in 2 years,they also must roll out a comprehensive SAE combo fast-charger network so they can compete with Tesla.

If bringing costs down is their main goal, then I don’t think we get any major feature enhancements. Instead, we’ll get the 5th seat, ~40 mile range (probably in a Spark EV form factor pack), a more efficient 4-banger, a slight weight reduction (due to smaller battery and lighter engine block), and a cosmetic rework of the outside and inside.

Which I’m fine with. What all of us EV nerds here need to understand is that mid- to late-cycle, the Volt wont be eligible for the $7500 tax credit (yes, I expect GM to sell enough EVs by 2018). So GM needs to be able to not price this thing astronomically high (35-40K) but rather be able to sell it by 2020 for $30,000 and not be selling each unit for a loss (which probably translates to a BOM+Labor cost of 25K).

The third gen Volt will be where you start to see more feature enhancement – 50+ miles, 50MPG, etc.

If bringing costs down is their main goal, I’m not expecting a 5th seat.

I don’t see why a 5th seat is incompatible with lowering costs. GM should be able to use smaller, cheaper batteries to achieve the same kWh, freeing up cabin space to put a bench in the rear (instead of twin buckets).

Sounds like Fletcher’s job is to have a repertoire, and that EREV clinging for life. It isn’t as if multiple other signals aren’t being sent. Here we go: -GM has tasked her not to be a hero, else lose a fortune -EREV would require same, or more than 16kwh -16kwh already captures maximal tax-credit -The industry has spoken on PHEV, and chorus says 10kwh, or less -Competition is developing engine assist parallel and series (Honda) options Above said, this isn’t about a car. It’s about a drivetrain. The top tier Cruz could get the decontented Voltec, with Volt 2 remaining a halo. As the mid-size Fusion and Accord already went PHEV, GM will do something consistent with harmonizing to that, possibly leading to a 2017 Malibu PHEV. The bigger internal question, upon which I bet all this pivots is “What will be our goto efficiency drivetrain”, to complement the cheap 4, or the 6/8cyl. They’re between a rock and hard place, to satisfy our lot. So many of us “down shopped”, yet we don’t rate as a segment. Maybe the 2-yr plan includes a four door Cadillac PHEV announcement, but by that time I could have a 50k Model S… Read more »

To me the most telling part of the interview was the comment below by Pam. This means no major changes in the Volt.. just evolutionary ones. However, to satisfy the market, we may see more Voltec models. I’m OK w/this. (electrified may not mean Voltec, but I’m hoping for at least 1 more Voltec model soon.)

“PF: There will be more electrified vehicles. We have said that we expect to have fairly high production by the 2017 timeframe, and it will take multiple solutions to achieve the kind of volumes we’ve discussed. As with conventional cars, one solution does not meet everyone’s needs. So we will have to offer a variety of solutions, which will come in different architectures, sizes and body styles, as well as different technologies.”

Meanwhile Tesla leverages their one solution and one architecture for two very different vehicles, the Model S and the Model X. And I would be willing to bet they re-use that same platform for their future pickup-truck.

I don’t understand why GM keeps inventing new solutions to solve the same problem.

For example, why couldn’t the Volt also be an EV? Extend the battery so it’s “I” shaped (instead of “T” shaped) between the front and back wheels. Get rid of all the engine/generator/transmission stuff, making part of the engine bay a “frunk”. With all the extra battery capacity, 250HP AWD should be easy. It would sell like hot-cakes at $45K to $50K.

Industry says hybrid a d ZEV credits. Most PHEVs have batteries sized to fit the car and the limits of the hybrid inverter and motor. You only need to look at the top sellers to see that plug-in buyers want more EV.

Add a L3 DC charge port (same as Spark EV), a decent L2 on board charger 30A 240Vac 7.2kw and few extra Km (miles), I would be glad enough! Oh, a nice shade of medium/dark blue color be a nice touch, thank you!

Yup! Yup!

Want my Blue Topaz back and I would even pay a small premium for it.

I agree that they have to get the base Volt’s MSRP down to no more than $30k and preferably $25k, by the time the incentives run out. After all, almost no one will pay $35k for a Volt if they can buy a Cruze for $22k or less. Although they can certainly do more decontenting (especially by getting rid of the electronic controls for HVAC/audio, which many of us don’t want in any case), as long as the battery remains the single most expensive component the only way to gain the significant price reduction needed is to offer a smaller battery with reduced AER.

I’ve long believed that 15-20 miles AER is the current sweet spot, so a Volt with an 8.4kWh battery would be fine with me, and would fit my driving needs better. But what I really want would be a small AWD CUV with a 20 mile AER and the Voltec powertrain.

Although I don’t personally care about the seat, I think they must offer five seats with no incursion on cargo or pax space, unlike the Fusion and C-Max.

Hey they could put the Volt drivetrain in the Spark body to LOWER COSTS– just like they did for their Spark BEV. I’m sure it will be a smashing success. 😉

Fair is fair, right? 😉

NO NO! Please don’t tell them that. I bought the VOLT strictly because it had the minimum sized battery I’d consider. If Lutz wasn’t there at the time I’m sure they would have put a HUGE 4 kwh battery in there or whatever all the other manufacturers are doing.

Lutz and Tesla are the only people who like larger batteries. I’m with them.

The only reason there isn’t a bigger battery in there already is cost.
As long as they can reduce battery costs and R&D greater capacity, there will be a very bright future for EV’s PS I really like the current Voltec in the Volt – it really is amazing!

I’m not suggesting it has to be one or the other, they should give people a choice. Those whose driving habits will benefit from a larger battery can have it, those who (like me) mainly do long distance freeway/highway driving can benefit from the smaller battery (lighter weight/better highway mpg/performance etc). Let people vote with their wallets as to how much battery they want. It worked for Tesla, and lots of us would like other EV companies to do likewise.

Oh and not many cars like the Volt where I driven for over a 1-1/3 and used just over a tank of gas with machine marks still visible on the disc rotors.
It drives as fast as my old GM V6 but is more nimble and agile in traffic with whole lot less stress than driving an ICE powered vintage car.

+1 to Bill Howland and Martin T

“More GM vehicles with EREV tech coming? (maybe)”

They need to make an EREV first.

You’re right Aaron (sarcasm).

GM has made an EREV. The Volt. However, in some scenarios they boost the efficiency over a typical EREV by going indirectly utilizing the mechanical energy of the engine to propel the wheels through the electric motor.

If you think that taking the EREV technology and improving efficiency by 15% in certain scenarios invalidates the EREV concept, you are foolish.