2016 Chevrolet Volt sneak peak for owners, Los Angeles, Nov 2014Enlarge Photo
GM says it will use higher-capacity cells, but it has cut the number of cells in each 2016 Volt's battery pack from 288 to 192, reducing complexity.
If it can use a greater percentage of the pack's overall energy--70 or 75 percent, perhaps--it could significantly reduce the pack size and weight. Indeed, the new pack is 30 pounds lighter.
As of now, Voltec engineers have far more data--five years or more--on how Volt batteries age than they did on launch.
That means they will be far more confident that using a bit more of the total capacity wouldn't risk unacceptable capacity loss down the road.
2016 Chevrolet Volt powertrainEnlarge Photo
One thing that will change in the next Volt is its range extender.
While many expected it to be a variation of the 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that was launched a year ago in the Opel Monza concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show, it wasn't.
Instead, GM is fitting a special variation of its new 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine from the same family to replace the current 1.4-liter four producing 85 hp. The outgoing engine was adapted from a 138-hp 1.4-liter turbo fitted to the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact and Cruze compact sedan.
The goal of using a slightly larger engine, which has been optimized to run on the ultra-efficient Atkinson Cycle under certain circumstances, is to reduce noise and vibration considerably and provide enough power so the 2016 Volt isn't strained under maximum power demand.
The new engine is lighter than the old one, and along with power electronics integrated onto the top of the Voltec transmission, overall vehicle weight could fall substantially.
While Chevrolet has only released a few selected specifications thus far, the combination of new battery and engine might boost the 2016 Volt's gas mileage in range-extending mode from today's 37 miles per gallon to 40 mpg or higher.
For more details on the engine, battery, electric motors, and power electronics, see the link above.
2016 Chevrolet Volt teaser image, with GM marketing chief Tim Mahoney, Aug 2014Enlarge 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 a month.
It's better than the 10-month delay when we published the first version of this article, but the wait seems like a very long time, doesn't it?