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2016 Chevrolet Volt To Get Three-Cylinder Range Extender: Report

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2013 Chevrolet Volt  -  Driven, December 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012

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Range-extended electric cars are a great idea, mixing clean electric running for the majority of drivers' commutes, with an extra few hundred miles of gasoline running for those longer trips.

As we alluded to last week though, the engine isn't always perfectly optimized for its task, often a standard car unit designed for standard car requirements.

That could change with the next Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR, which Edmunds reports may get a smaller, three-cylinder engine in place of the current car's 1.4-liter four-cylinder.

It's part of a plan to reduce both the fuel consumption and weight of GM vehicles by 2016, and the new engine would see service in a facelifted Volt, due in 2015.

Sources suggest the new range-extender will be either 1.0 or 1.2-liters in capacity, with three cylinders.

GM will be the latest carmaker to tackle three-cylinder engines, which are increasing in popularity in smaller vehicles across the world.

Traditionally the preserve of tiny city cars like the Smart Fortwo, compact three-cylinder engines are now appearing in a much wider range of vehicles. Most publicized recently is Ford's 1.0-liter Ecoboost 3-cyl, providing a more efficient alternative to the standard 1.6-liter unit in the Fiesta.

BMW has also teased a 1.5-liter 3-pot, which could see service in MINIs, 1-Series and 3-Series models (depending on the market) and also the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. In Europe, virtually every manufacturer offers at least one car with a three-cylinder powerplant.

Most manufacturers have reduced the extra vibration inherent in three-cylinder units, and the new engine's size and weight should be lower than that currently used in the Volt.

At a Houston energy conference last week, GM Chairman Dan Akerson said, "A good rule of thumb is that a 10 percent reduction in curb weight will reduce fuel consumption by about 6.5 percent. Our target is to reduce weight by up to 15 percent."

As a smaller engine with less internal friction, it should also make the Volt and ELR's range-extended modes more efficient, additional to the gains from lower weight.

GM hasn't confirmed the 3-cylinder's use yet, and actual specifications are still hazy. Should the engine's development go to plan though, the next Volt could see large efficiency improvements over the current car.

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Comments (14)
  1. As long as those three cylinders recharge the batteries and use less fuel then it's a winner. If they could also put three seats in the back then I (and probably scores of others) would be all in...
     
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  2. I would love to see the new free piston linear generator used instead of a standard ICE engine. It's much lighter and more efficient, by eliminating the crank and valve trains. But, it probably won't be available for production use by 2015.
     
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  3. Bret, interesting. I don't know much about this and will look around a little myself, but is this a general technology, one owned by only one supplier, etc...?
     
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  4. Make it optional. Different extender size and with additional battery size as choice as well...
     
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  5. Toyota has a cracking 3 cyl 1 litre engine which would do the job perfectly but they will obviously develop their own. Until
    something like the free piston linear gen unit is proven the triple will be more efficient than the present engine.
     
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  6. I used to own a Suzuki triple motorcycle. It was smoother than a 4 or twin and is inherently smoother by design, so bring 'em on! Triumph and Italian motorcycle companies are offering triples of various sizes successfully.
     
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  7. The Volt only needs 15kw/20hp for unlimited range. 1 or 2 cylinders would easily do.

    As for 3cyl vibration, What? Other than a 6cyl which are 2 3cyl ones, the 3cyl is the next best of all other types except maybe 12cylinders.

    We did Geo 3cyls for tiny aircraft and they had little vibration not even mounted.

    If you are going long distance you just tekll the Volt and it just starts the gen earlier than if a honking one like on it now.
     
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  8. the volt needs a plugs out inverter to serve as an emergency generator, if i could do that, my house would be able to reliably go off grid.
     
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  9. Pat
    check out the following - it's a kit designed by a chevy volt owner to do just what you want:
    http://www.evextend.com/EVEX-1000W.pdf
     
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  10. @Pat, @Scott: Please note, however, that installing such a device runs some chance of voiding the vehicle warranty. I'm not saying it will, but in the absence of a specific guarantee from the maker of the kit that it won't ... do your research carefully.
     
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  11. wasnt the Volt originally supposed to have a charge sustaining engine only and run off batteries all the time? whatever happened with that idea?
     
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  12. A big hill test proved that wrong.

    The Volt engine with "mountain mode" is designed to handle just about every single road incline in North America with a full load without going into "low power" mode...

    Volt doesn't want owners to sacrifice climbing power when the battery is low on a long road trip.

    With EV hold button, I don't think that is needed. But you know what happens when someone forget to do the "hold"...
     
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  13. I may be wrong on this but I think that the Volt's engine runs a generator that recharges the battery on the run. At least that is what I read. By 2016 my lease on my Leaf will have expired and it looks like I will be buying (leasing) a 2016 Volt.
     
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  14. @Happy: It doesn't recharge the battery, it just provides enough electric power to run the motor that moves the car. Recharging is done only on wall current.

    Note that some models of Volt allow owners to reserve battery charge for later use, and run the car in range-extending mode even if the battery hasn't yet fully discharged.
     
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