A lot of information on the new Chevrolet Volt hit the presses last week between the Media Update and the review from the New York Times on the Volt’s Extended Operating Mode. The later is really the subject of this article because of how rare the opportunity to drive the Volt in such has been for reporters around the world. In fact, to date only two reports have been invited to drive the Volt at the General Motors proving grounds (yes, you hear a tinge of jealousy). The questions on everyone’s mind are: Did it perform well? Is it ready for primetime? Are there any juicy problems that we can know about?

If you read the NY Times piece you probably already know the answers: Yes, Yes and Yes. The review basically said that the car is well sorted and is pretty much ready for primetime with the exception of one piece of the puzzle. That piece is how the generator revs up in a noisy fashion to try to catch up to the depletion rate of the electrical power from the battery. Besides being noisy, the New York Times reported it being a little unnerving when you aren’t used to the constant RPM sound; in fact the writer equated it to sounding like missing a shift in a standard shift car.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

This brings me to some clarification on how the Volt’s systems work incase you were confused from my pervious article yesterday on the Volt media updates. The Volt can power itself for 40 miles on pure electric power provided by the onboard battery supply. Then after 40 miles it goes into the mode dubbed the “extended operating” mode. At this point the computer in the Volt senses that the battery has reached its minimum 30% charge point and kicks in the four-cylinder gasoline engine. This is where things differ substantially from the current hybrid cars on the market today, like say a Prius.

The big difference between the Volt and the current hybrids on the market is that the engine in the Volt doesn’t have a direct connection to the wheels. It is actually a generator to recharge the battery and provide electrical current to power the car. So you will still be propelled by the electric motor, but you will be putting out some emissions. The thing that may take some getting used to is the constant RPM of the motor. This is a way to cut down on emissions and delivery peak performance out of the motor no matter the actual load on the vehicles drive wheels. For those who drive Nissans or other vehicles with a CVT transmission the sensation will not be that different since the goal of a CVT is to keep a constant RPM as well.

Bottom line—the new Chevrolet Volt finally gets GM back in the innovation game and proves once again that America can compete in the Global Economy. Now we just need them to follow through and make America proud.


[Source: NY Times]