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GM Volts ahead

First drive: Chevrolet Volt vehicle chief engineer Andrew Farah takes the first pre-production test car for a spin around GM’s Warren, Michigan plant.

Holden’s 2012 range-extending electric-hybrid hits the road

29 Jun 2009

GENERAL Motors last week tested the first pre-production version of its vital Chevrolet Volt electric-hybrid vehicle in the United States – almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

The Volt is scheduled for release in Australia in 2012 wearing Holden badges.

It is powered by an electric motor that drives the front wheels and the battery pack can be recharged from a power-point or on the move by an on-board petrol engine (which does not directly drive the wheels, unlike the Toyota Prius).

The production prototype was driven for the first time on June 23 by the vehicle’s chief engineer, Andrew Farah, who earlier this year had set a target date of July 4 for the first road test.

“To this point, I’ve only experienced the Volt through the virtual world of computer aided-design and concepts, as pieces and components scattered about on tables during meetings, and as engineering development ‘mule’ vehicles,” said Mr Farah last Wednesday.

“But yesterday I was able to sit in, touch and drive an early version of the real thing.

“The mules demonstrated the potential drive experience of the Volt’s chassis and powertrain, but the pre-production vehicles bring together the complete Volt experience into one dynamic vehicle.

“I adjusted the seat and mirrors, pressed the POWER button, moved the shifter to D, and then took it on a few laps around our Technical Center campus in Warren, Michigan. This was the moment I’d been looking forward to and it was exhilarating.”

13 center imageMr Farah said that GM would soon build 10 Volts a week, with the aim of having about 80 pre-production vehicles built by October for testing and validating the production intent design as well as developing the final vehicle software and controls.

“We’ll also use them to tune the vehicle’s overall driving experience,” said Mr Farah, who wants to ensure the Volt driving experience is as close as possible to a ‘normal’ car.

“By exceeding our own pre-production deadlines, it allows us additional time to refine the vehicle. We’ve already discovered a few small tweaks we need to make, but nothing out of the ordinary for this stage of development.”

Despite GM’s well-publicised financial woes, Mr Farah said the company was determined to lead the electrification of the automobile and noted that GM’s Global Battery Systems Lab came on-line earlier this month, almost six months ahead of schedule.

“While there’s a still a long way to go, after driving the Volt yesterday I’m increasingly confident we’re on target to deliver.”

Mr Farah said the Volt chassis is much sportier than both the Prius and the new Honda Insight, and can be driven more than 65km in silent ‘electric-only’ mode – much longer than its hybrid rivals.

“Clearly I enjoyed the significantly longer EV distance that is available with the Volt. I had to drive quite some distance before the engine came on, even though I didn’t start with a full charge.

“The electric motor is always powering the wheels, whereas in a typical hybrid vehicle the electric motor and the gasoline engine can power the wheels.

“The greatest advantage of an extended-range electric vehicle like the Volt is the increased all-electric range and the significant total vehicle range combined.”

Mr Farah said the combined range for the Volt was more than 300 miles (480km) on a full charge and with a full tank of fuel.

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