GM Planning Engineless All-Electric Cars To Follow the Volt

Follow John

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

Enlarge Photo

Bob Lutz, the retiring eminence grise of General Motors, is known for pithiness and plain speaking.

Yesterday, he tossed off a nugget of news: GM is working on a range of pure electric cars, without range-extending engines, that will follow the 2011 Chevrolet Volt--most likely a few years hence.

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

Enlarge Photo

Volt Battery Pack

Volt Battery Pack

Enlarge Photo

Coda electric sedan

Coda electric sedan

Enlarge Photo

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Enlarge Photo

Will GM's electric EV1 ever match up to its gas counterparts?

Will GM's electric EV1 ever match up to its gas counterparts?

Nissan, Coda leading

While the 1.4-liter engine in the 2011 Volt alleviates drivers' concerns over "range anxiety," by powering a generator to add 300 or so miles to its 40-mile electric range, other makers have moved directly into electric cars that offer ranges of around 100 miles.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf and the 2011 Coda Sedan, among others, are pure electric compact cars without range extenders that will go on sale before the end of this year. Now GM apparently feels it needs to play in that sandbox as well.

The 78-year-old Lutz told Associated Press that GM is "planning" a distinct line of electric vehicles without the backup engine that's an integral part of the Voltec powertrain used for the 2011 Volt and future extended-range electric vehicles.

Deep EV experience

Pure EVs would join a range of GM technologies that include a new and more powerful version of its mild-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system; an evolution of the full Two-Mode Hybrid system it now owns; and a plug-in version of the Two-Mode Hybrid.

Designs for a pure EV would build on GM's 15 years of deep experience with electric-drive cars back to the EV1 two-seater. They would also vindicate critics who savaged GM for killing its electric-car program in 2002 as new battery chemistries were coming to the fore.

Former CEO Rick Wagoner has said that ending the EV1 program in the early part of the last decade was one of his biggest mistakes.

Lithium cells from Michigan

It would almost surely use the same lithium-ion cell technology from LG Chem that makes up the Volt's 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The added volume from larger packs in pure EVs could bring down GM's cost for lithium-ion cells, making them more affordable.

Just this morning, LG Chem announced that it plans to manufacture those cells in a $200 million plant in Holland, Michigan, less than 200 miles from the Volt factory in Hamtramck.

"Poster child for planetary destruction"

During the wide-ranging interview, Lutz also said:

  • A large number of GM's full-size pickup trucks and SUVs will be hybrids in the near future, to meet new fuel efficiency standards.
  • GM will spread the cost of adding hybrid and electric-drive technology across all products, rather than packaging it as an option.
  • The Hummer brand, now being wound down, had become "the poster child for planetary destruction."
  • He believes GM will turn a profit in 2011, and pay back its government loans.
  • He plans to write a book about his eight years at GM, including the company's 2009 bankruptcy and government rescue.

[AP via Detroit News]

Follow Us

Comments (25)
  1. "GM will spread the cost of adding hybrid and electric-drive technology across all products, rather than packaging it as an option."
    Great, so now if I ever buy a GM car again I get to pay for technology and options that I don't want. Just make the dam thing an option package and let those who want it pay for it. I personally want a small TDI diesel car, but we can't even get the morons in CA to let those into the state.

  2. Bob Lutz mentioned a BEV version of the Volt before. Good for GM. The whole EREV concept was heavily based on the assumption of prohibitively expensive batteries ($1000/KWH+) so it would economical to substitute part of the batterypack by an ICE range extender. But even before the Volt has hit the market battery economics seem to have caught up with it. If the rumours are correct the all electric Nissan leaf (battery cost $400/KWH?)will actually be substantially cheaper than the Volt rather than the other way around . Looks like the age of the plug-in hybrid has ended before it even began.

  3. I think that GM is taking the safe approach by offering the Volt with the extender engine first to provide 100 % assurance that a person can make a short round trip without running out of fuel.
    GM needs to tell the world that its recent electric vehicle venture goes back to the early 1970, after all GM produced in conjunction with the Marshall Space Flight Center the electric Moon vehicle in which 3 are on the moon now. No other auto company has such an accomplishment. Every body talks about the EV1 but the moon car is more outstanding. It even folded up. I am a true believer and I am betting on the EEStore to come alive any day now. This will make the present advance battery companies go bust. Who will want a battery if they can put several EEStore units in the cars. I hope GM is in touch with this company and will not be blind sided with this new inovation.

  4. Toneil: did you know that the EV-1's folded up to? They did! In fact they folded up brilliantly when GM threw the lot of them in a crusher in a desperate attempt to hold on to their low MPG SUV businessmodel. Too bad they folded up their own future in the process and I might add the future safety of America. Remember that the US army failed in Iraq to ensure the flow of cheap oil necessary for the SUV economy. Iraq didn't have any WMD's but as a result of the political stalemate that resulted from the botched Iraq operation Iran now has it's very own and quite unstoppable Manhattan Project! Well they don't actually call it that of course and I'm sure that has nothing to do with them not wanting to spill the beans about their intended testsite...However the only thing I'm absolutely positive will never fold up is the EEStor saga. No matter how many deadlines they miss there will always be believers to propagate the myth.

  5. I Personally welcome the range extender. I only wish GM would make it double as an on-board charger. BEVs only work for City folks.
    How can you go on a family outdoors trip or hunting, or fishing, on a battery only car??

  6. @Chris O,
    Please don't bring in Politics and Anti-US drivle. Let's just talk about cars. Don't even make the false assumption that everybody here buys into your politics.

  7. paulbee: Your wrong about me being anti-US just as your clueless about the whole point of a range extender and apparently about the reasons why the subject of this blog could be important for the world (hint: it's not just about saving a few bucks on your gas bill). I agree though that politics should be kept to a minimum.

  8. chris o:you're right,unfortunately our country is 100 years behind the European Union.But then again,we enjy making war for a buck,while the europeans wil do almost anything not to exoerienc it again.After all,we never experienced war on our sovereign territory.Wealways went to war somewhere else......

  9. @Alec: How the H*ll are we 100 yrs behind the Euros?
    @Chris, I live in North Dakota (It's a US State, just in case you think America consists of New York, Chicago, and LA). Out here in the Country we have to drive Hundreds of Miles to get from one Major City to another. We NEED Range Extenders. We can't afford to get stuck on I-94 1/3rd of the way from Fargo to Bismark.
    If you guys just want to play Left Wing Corporate Capitalism bashing, and Euros-are-better-than-Us games, instead of discussing cars and technology, then I'll be glad to get out and leave this forum to you.

  10. paulbee: look, being pro new energy vehicle for me is not about Europe or the US or about anti capitalism. Corporate behaviour should be checked though or you'll wind up with all kind of excesses like a banking crisis and a particularly nasty oil addiction. It's addiction to oil is turning the world in a dangerous place and if you think things are bad now watch a few years down the line when peak oil hits which according to a number of studies may be as soon 2014/15. The latest study (article linked to my screenname)suggests 2014 and was conducted by Kuwait Univerity and Kuwait oil company, so not exactly a bunch of loony lefties. What's needed is affordable new energy vehicle concepts and at $40K the Volt EREV concept doesn't seem to qualify. Much simpler BEV's seem to be the smart bet.

  11. This statment is worth about as much as GM worthless. Perhaps GM should actually produce some of these vaporware Volts before announcing EV's that will supposedly follow them. Or maybe thats the whole idea, I mean,if your never going to actually release your worthless volt in the 1st place, its easy to declare your going to "release" even more vaporous EV;s at some vague point in-the-not-very-well-defined distant future.

  12. Okay Chris,
    Please address my points. The distance between Fargo where I live and Bismarck our state Capital is about 190 miles. Our winters can be as cold as -25 deg C.
    We both know that batteries loose their efficiency in cold weather. How do you propose that we rural Northern/Western state inhabitants make do with BEVs.
    If I have to recharge, would that force me to stay overnight on what should have been a days trip? If I'm supposed to swap, a) would I even make it as far as the swapping station, or will they remain open at night or have the variety of battery for my own make?
    Oh yeah I forgot to mention the need to provide Heat for passengers in winter, power for your Air Conditioner in Summer, and operation of the car lights and radio.
    The more I think about it, the less I want to drive a BEV where I live, except around town.

  13. paulbee:I think I can present you with a go ahead and keep your Lincoln Navigator or Humvee or whatever 10mpg car you are presently driving and we'll go ahead and try new technology that could potentially help even , as you can see , we are the only ones taking a you and your kids could one day breathe a fresher air....and our soldiers could stop dying for everyday gasoline.....

  14. paulbee: the first mass produced affordable (sort of) BEV will be the Nissan Leaf and with current battery technology it's clearly not going to be the right car for everyone. It's just a first step. Keep in mind though it has a 20 minute 80% fastcharge capability which could make it useful to more people once a network of fastcharge stations is in place, and Nissan has promised a longer range batterypack by 2015. Until then GM's EREV technology would solve the range problems, but unfortunately at a cost. You would have to pay $20k (before tax breaks)over the 40MPG Chevy Cruze the Volt shares it's platform with which will make this not a viable proposition for the average consumer. Since it's unlikely that a complicated car like this could ever be produced at a mass market price point I doubt it has any potential to reduce oil dependency. In fact GM only expects to build 50K of them per year tops. BEV's are a much simpler concept and have a better chance of becoming an affordable mass market proposition so I reckon they are the future. But the future is not now. Battery technology needs to improve and until then oil dependency will remain a problem that neither the Leaf nor the Volt can solve at this point. So in your position: stick to your ICE vehicle or maybe buy a Leaf as a second car and wait for better technology. If you really feel strong about getting off oil, don't want two cars and money is no object: buy a Volt.

  15. #1 Bob - Actually, you can buy a VW Jetta TDI any day you like in CA. For marketing reasons known only to them, none of the other manufacturers with available small diesels have bothered to get them cretified for CA emissions requirements. This is also true in the other 49 states. Diesel exhaust is a listed know carcinogen, and is implicated in too many other health impacts to list. If they can't get them to pass smog, we don't want them.
    As to GM amd the BEVs, so much the better. Bring it on!

  16. @Chris,
    Your last response was intelligent and well worth reading.
    You should change your name to Smart-Alec.

  17. @paulbee:uhhh......uhhhhh........I am humbled by your advice.....I......feel like.......I DON'T CARE!!!:)...bruhaha...:)

  18. Lutz is an ignoramus about EVs. IT WASN'T RANGE THAT KILLED THE EV1!!
    Not range, not anxiety; it was GM that crushed the Electric car.

  19. The statement by Bob Lutz "..GM planning engineless all-electric cars" will, I believe, include Hydrogen Fuel Cell equipped all electric cars like the Chev Volt. Fuel Cell equipped cars will use a small lithium-ion battery. The fuel cell will directly power the cars electric motor. Fuel Cell cars will be for sale in California by 2015. The future is Hydrogen Fuel Cell equipped cars and heavy duty trucks. Long live our beloved SUVs.

  20. Let's see... toss out the Volt's ICE generator and replace it with an equal weight of batteries. What will the range be? 70 to 80 miles? Great option!

  21. Problem with tossing out the ICE and replacing it with Batteries is that the Batteries cost more that same weight of ICE + plumbing, and give you lesser range to boot.
    If the reason for opposing GM's EREV strategy is Price, how does eliminating the ICE help?

  22. (Let's try this again).
    Tossing out the ICE, and replacing it with batteries, will cost far more, and give you less Range.
    If the reason for opposing GM's EREV strategy is the price of the Volt, How will a more expensive all battery Volt make things better?

  23. Paulbee
    Your concerns are behind the times. A Tesla, if money is no object, was driven from Los Angeles to The Detroit auto show. Check the Tesla web site where the trip was documented. The Tesla goes 250 miles on a single charge. The new electric vehicles that are coming are driveable in all weather conditions, have the options you mention, and drive just like the vehicle you drive now. Charging is done from a 120/240 Volt in as little as 2-4 hours or less. New battery technology is unaffected by temperature extremes such as you experience. When the low battery indicator come on you can have up to 25 miles to drive before charging as 20% of the battery pak capacity is kept in reserve, just like the low fuel indicator on cars. My vehicle has been converted to all electric using OUTDATED technology and is driven year round in cold, hot, rain, snow, sleet and suffers from some of the problems you mention. New manufactured vehicles do not have the problems.

  24. Larry,
    My concerns included the cost (I definitely can't afford a Tesla so money IS an object and forever will be), the charge Time, I don't want to sit 2-4 hrs charging just to travel from east to west in my home state (Bismarck our capital is half way across). Also Heating options, our temperatures in winter are 20-30 deg below zero, which will drain said batteries.
    The price of the Volt is Less than that of a Tesla by a factor of 5 at least, and it's comparable to a Nissan Leaf.
    The truth is that there are practical limitations to current BEV Technology vis-a-vis the needs of ordinary Americans living outside the confines of Big Metropolitan areas.
    Tell you what, When the BEV technology get's affordable and its associated technology develops to the point of true versatility and utility, I will gladly jump into one myself, because it has great advantages, potentially. Until then EREV's are the only practical solution that I can see.

  25. I moved from the US two years ago to Europe... All cars are tiny and many brands of Electric cars are here that for some reason are not allowed in the USA! Seems the US Gov. still loves the depenency on fossil fuels... wonder if the dollar has anything to do with that?

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.