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Holden previews local Volt

High Voltage: Holden plans to sell the EV concept to Australians in the year leading up to the Volt's local release.

Local media gets a taste of Holden’s Volt EV range-extender a year ahead of launch

Holden logo12 Dec 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HOLDEN revealed its first hybrid-electric vehicle on Australian soil at a media preview in Sydney last week, almost a year before the car goes on sale in this country.

The company would not reveal the Volt’s pricing, model mix, or even exact launch date, but said the price of a moderately-optioned BMW 3 Series might be indicative of where the EV would be positioned when sales commence in the last quarter of 2012.

This would put the Chevrolet-built Holden at about $60,000, which is in line with its price of around $50,000 allowing for the various American federal and state government EV cash incentives.

Holden has assured that any changes that may be made to the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack as a result of recent US crash testing will be implemented on Australian-bound vehicles.

In June this year, a Volt that had been crash-tested three weeks earlier by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) caught fire in its storage compound, allegedly due to a combination of not being powered-down (depleting the batteries), a coolant leak and unfavourable external temperatures.

Two subsequent retests have led to smoke and sparks emitting from the Volts after a number of days left parked but still powered-up.

This has prompted a US House subcommittee hearing into the incidents later next month, along with calls for global standardised lithium-ion battery pack protocols across the industry due to the volatile nature of the technology.

13 center imageHolden said all Australian emergency and first-response organisations will be notified of the correct powering-down and battery-disconnect procedures prior to the Volt’s launch here.

The company will not say how many Volts it expects to sell, but expects the initial demographic to be made up of tech-savvy early adopters.

US experience has shown plenty of BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-class trade-ins on the Volt.

“The upshot for Holden is a whole new set of customers – ones that would never have contemplated a Holden before,” said one Holden executive.

Although the media launch vehicles all wore Holden-badged grilles, GoAuto has learnt that these were merely mock-ups and the car may look slightly different again when they arrive from the sole manufacturing facility in Hamtramck, Michigan.

The left-hand-drive car GoAuto ‘sampled’ was generally the same as the pre-production example we drove in Detroit earlier this year.

The Volt employs a highly modified version of the GM Delta II platform that also underpins the Holden Cruze as well as the upcoming Opel Astra.

At just under 4.5 metres in length and sitting on an identical wheelbase to the Cruze, it is slightly larger than an average small car but tips the scales at 1680kg.

Touted as the world’s first mass-produced EV with range-extender engine, in pure electric mode it can deliver a range of between 60km and 80km, increasing to “over 500km” when the petrol engine kicks in.

The engine does not drive the wheels directly, but charges the T-shaped 16kW/h lithium-ion battery pack that resides directly beneath the passenger compartment and contains 288 prismatic cells.

Charging the battery pack from a 240-volt power-point in Australia will take up to four hours.

The 1.4-litre twin-cam four-cylinder petrol engine produces 63kW of power at 4800rpm but runs at 2500-4000rpm most of the time to minimise pumping losses and maximise efficiency.

Together with a 55kW generator, and using one planetary gear, this Voltec drive system with its two electric motors delivers 111kW and 370Nm.

Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes less than nine seconds and the top speed is limited to 160km/h.

US EPA city and highway fuel consumption figures range from 2.5 to 3.9 litres per 100km.

The battery pack is never fully drained or charged to the maximum amount to help promote longevity.

Even if the Volt never exceeds its pure electric range, the engine is run for a few minutes at set 42-day intervals to keep the internals lubricated and burn ageing fuel as petrol degrades over time.

The Volt can be driven without ever plugging it into the mains since the petrol engine will keep it charged on the move.

Information screens show charge states, range, speed, fuel level, driving efficiency, trip computer data, tyre pressures, oil life and vehicle state-of-health messages.

A touch-screen controls the climate, satellite-navigation, audio and a myriad other car-related systems.

Not that we could ascertain any of the data offered in the Volt during our ‘drive’, since it was the equivalent to lapping a parking lot – and at similar speeds to boot. Total time, distance and speed were under 120 seconds, 240 metres and 36km/h.

All we ascertained was that the Holden hybrid EV is smooth, quiet and punchy up to 40km/h.

Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux believes the Volt is extremely important for Holden.

“For us (Volt) will be something new and different for our brand,” he said.

“It will be a harbinger of how we talk about Holden in future and you will see that in the next half-year to 18 months in how we talk about our brand.

“It is a green play but for us it’s also a technological tour-de-force kind of play … it is an innovator and that’s something that has not really been associated with Holden in the past.

“It is a game-changer for us.”

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