General Motors recently hit the headlines with its attempt to trademark the term “Range Anxiety” to use in advertising campaigns for its extended range electric vehicle, the 2011 Chevy Volt.
At a glance, you’d think the automaker was trying to seriously slur the image of all electric vehicles, with implications that battery technology was simply not ready to be used in electric-only vehicles.
But while the 2011 Chevy Volt is stealing most of the attention, multiple test projects within the automaker hint that worldwide, GM and its subsidiaries are deadly serious about going all electric again.
Chevrolet Cruze EV, test fleet in South Korea, October 2010
Last week, Opel/Vauxhall, the European arm of GM, unveiled its Vivaro e-Concept, an all-electric range-extended van the same size as a Mercedes Sprinter. Similar to the 2011 Chevy Volt in technology, the concept is capable of up to 60 miles on its lithium-ion battery pack before a small 1.4 liter engine switches on to offer range-extended operation.
Including the 2011 Chevy Volt, the Vivaro e-Concept brought the total number of plug-in vehicles being tested or produced by GM to four.
It turns out there are more.
We’d heard some rumors last week that keen photographers in Germany had spied some under-cover Opel Meriva minivans being recharged at a remote location during road-testing.
Today, GM confirmed the rumor and the latest of its test-fleets. Based on the european Meriva small minivan platform so popular among European soccer moms, the all-electric test fleet can travel up to 40 miles per charge.
Compared to other electric vehicles in testing, the range is truly abysmal. And the 0-62 mph time of 11 seconds is hardly anything to get excited about. But the Meriva test fleet has a far more interesting party trick.
It can provide power back to the grid.
The system, called Vehicle To Grid, or V2G, enables the electric car to provide power back to the power grid or even to act as a giant battery backup system for a home in the event of a power outage or natural disaster. Not only does this give the car an added functionality but it also helps the power grid to cope with peaks in demand by allowing a V2G vehicle to give a tiny amount of energy from its battery pack back to the grid.
The latest announcement from GM comes just days before the Paris Motor Show. Is GM planning a big announcement or perhaps an all-electric Volt? Possibly.
As for the Meriva? We're unlikely to see the current vehicle move beyond testing, but perhaps a future all-electric Volt model could provide a V2G capability along with a greatly increased range? We'll have to see.