2014 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
General Motors is still hard at work behind the scenes on the next-generation Chevrolet Volt.
We won't know full details of the car for some time, but one upgrade it's likely to feature is a new, more efficient and less expensive power inverter.
According to Charged EVs, GM is currently developing an inverter capable of a 55kW peak and 30kW continuous output.
While not described directly for use in the Volt, the new inverter is modular and scalable, meaning it can be used in various different applications, and GM is said to be two-thirds the way through the project, expected to finish January 2016--so it should coincide with the launch of the 2016 Chevy Volt.
GM is spending $16.6 million on the project, $6 million of which has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Among the DoE's 2020 goals are increased specific power and reduced cost. The former should rise to 14.1 kilowatts per kilogram, with 94 percent efficiency or more. The latter should bring the cost of GM's power electronics down to $3.30 per kilowatt, across 100,000 units.
GM is working with suppliers including Hitachi, Delphi, Infineon, HRL, Panasonic, AVX, Kemet, and VePoint, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The new inverter will be instrumental in GM's plans to take $10,000 out of the cost of making the Volt, improving Chevrolet's margins and in turn, reducing the cost of the car for the consumer.
We currently expect Chevy to maintain the Volt's existing 40-or-so mile range, though it's likely Chevy will free up some interior space for a fifth seat, currently rendered impossible by the large, T-shaped battery pack that runs through the cabin and splits the rear seats.
Another major change is likely to be the range-extending engine itself. That may even take the form of a one-liter, three-cylinder power unit--GM's Opel division has recently developed the turbocharged engine for use in its smaller vehicles, but it would make a good substitute for the existing 1.4-liter four-cylinder.
Further details on the next-gen Volt are likely to appear towards the end of the year--but GM's plans to reduce cost seem to be on track so far.