2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012Enlarge Photo
If GM can use higher-capacity cells, but build fewer cells and modules into the new Volt's battery pack, while using a greater percentage of the pack's overall energy--70 or 75 percent, perhaps--it could significantly reduce the pack size and weight--and perhaps provide space for that fifth seat.
And as of now, Voltec engineers have far more data--five years or more--on how Volt batteries age than they did on launch, meaning they could be far more confident that using more of the total capacity wouldn't risk unacceptable capacity loss down the road.
GM's Opel 1.0-liter SIDI turbocharged three-cylinder engine - 2013 Frankfurt Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
One thing that will change in the next Volt is its range extender, which is expected to be a variation of the 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine launched last fall in the Opel Monza concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
The current Volt engine is a 1.4-liter four that produces 85 hp, adapted from a 138-hp 1.4-liter turbo fitted to the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact and Cruze compact sedan.
If Chevy engineers remove the turbo from the 115-horsepower three-cylinder engine, it would be considerably lighter and more compact than today's range extender--reducing weight, packaging challenges, and perhaps even frontal area.
With a lighter battery and a lighter engine, overall vehicle weight could fall substantially, which might boost the 2016 Volt's gas mileage in range-extending mode from today's 37 miles per gallon to 40 mpg or higher.
We expect to learn more about this engine shortly, and will add more details to this story once we do.
2013 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
Many of today's Volt owners are expecting all specifications to improve. Some suggest that "triple fives" are the appropriate goal for GM to target: 50-mile electric range, 50 miles per gallon in range-extending mode, and five seats.
We suspect that GM is far more interesting in producing a Volt that's lighter, more capacious, and considerably cheaper to build.
If the company can turn a profit by selling Volts--which it isn't today--then it becomes possible to pay for a lot more innovation in an all-new Volt in, say, 2020.
Meanwhile, we should know much more about the 2016 Chevrolet Volt in about 10 months.
The wait seems like a very long time, doesn't it?
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