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GM Introduces Electric Vehicle System
Mike Millikin, 7 Jan 07
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In an announcement its executives describe as “very important to the future of our company,” GM has introduced a new family of electric vehicle systems—the E-Flex Systems—and is showing the first concept application of E-Flex at the North American International Auto Show: the Chevrolet Volt, a 40-mile all-electric range (AER) plug-in hybrid.

We are focused on reducing our dependence on petroleum—today we are 98% dependent [and] we don’t think that is a good business strategy at all.

—Beth Lowery, GM VP Energy and Environment

There has been some speculation in the press that perhaps this is a publicity stunt on our part. This is not a publicity stunt, nor is it a science fair project. This is something that we have been working on for close to a year.

—Jon Lauckner, GM VP Global Program Management

E-Flex vehicles are all electrically-driven, are plug-in capable, feature common drivetrain components, and can generate electricity on board either through a genset or a fuel cell (a series hybrid configuration). Regenerative braking will also contribute to the on-board electricity generation. (“E” stands for electric drive and “Flex” for the different sources of electricity.)

GM is developing the E-Flex System in parallel to its mechanical hybrid efforts—including the development of the Saturn VUE Green Line two-mode plug-in hybrid (more), for which GM just awarded lithium-ion battery contracts (more)—as well as its ongoing fuel-cell vehicle development efforts.

In its evolving taxonomy of offerings, GM refers to its existing portfolio of hybrids as “mechanical hybrids”—i.e., the engine provides mechanical drive power in addition to the electric drive power.

There is tremendous synergy between the fuel cell vehicle program and the E-Flex program—Nick Zielinski is the chief engineer for the fuel cell program and the Volt Concept, as one example.

GM envisions a range of genset options for the E-Flex vehicles, including engines optimized to run on E85 or E100 and biodiesel.

The Chevy Volt. GM chose its Global Compact vehicle architecture (Cobalt-sized) for its first E-Flex application, the Chevrolet Volt.

The Volt uses the same electric motor as used in the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle in its electric powertrain: a 120 kW peak machine that develops 320 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque.

The Volt will use a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers 136 kW of peak power. Plug-in charging is designed for the home (110V, 15 amps) and will take around 6 to 6.5 hours.

The Volt can support all-electric mode from 0 to its top speed of 100 mph (with bursts to 120 mph). Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes 8 to 8.5 seconds. The basic operating strategy is to run the vehicle in all-electric mode until the state-of-charge (SOC) of the battery reaches 30%—that strategy delivers approximately a 40-mile range.

The 53 kW motor generator set (genset) allows the on-the-fly recharging of the battery. The genset in the current Volt concept uses a 1-liter, 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine.

You can drive at a continuous 70 mph, and the generator will not be on continuously. At 100 mph,the genset can maintain the charge in the battery and the speed of the vehicle. There are no compromises for the customers in the vehicle.

—Nick Zielinski, chief engineer

The Volt configuration features a 12-gallon fuel capacity, giving the vehicle a total driving range of around 640 miles—which works out to a nominal fuel efficiency of about 50 miles per gallon. (Presumably range would increase with a diesel variant.)

The less one drives before plugging in to recharge, however, the lower the effective fuel consumption. A daily drive of 60 miles, combined with a nightly recharge to support the first 40 all-electric miles, would yield an effective 150 mpg according to GM’s calculations, for example.

For comparable performance with a fuel-cell version of the Volt, GM anticipates needing 4 kg of hydrogen on-board.

The Volt also features some advanced materials contributions from GE Automotive Plastics, including weight reductions of up to 50% on the hood and doors through the use of high-performance composites.

Actual production of the vehicle is dependent on further battery development, and GM made no announcements about partners involved in the development of the battery pack for the Volt. The profile for the battery in the Volt is different than that of the pack being developed for the VUE plug-in.

Within the E-Flex family of vehicles, however, GM would like to minimize the different battery packs. One notable exception to this would in a fuel-cell configuration. In that case, the battery would be smaller, and more focused as power battery first and energy battery second (due to the ability of the fuel cell to produce the electricity on-board.)

However, GM is also clear that it wants to use common systems and controls wherever possible across applications. To that end, elements such as the charging systems will likely be common across mechanical-hybrid plug-ins and E-Flex plug-ins.

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Interesting. from the picture this appears to be in the direction of the Hy-Wire cars of several years ago.

Posted by: Andrew on 7 Jan 07

Except they finally found some common sense and took H2 out of the equation.

Posted by: Chris on 7 Jan 07

At first blush this seems like a great idea. I think it would be interesting if the vehicle could also act as a generator in an emergency. This would be handy after a hurricane, earthquake, or the recent mid-west ice storms. Another idea would be for GM to do a deal with an exercise machine manufacture such as Precore, for example, to generate power for your electric car while you workout! Sure, this is a bit of a gimmick but I think it generate a lot of very positive press.

The car should have a method to plug itself in when parked in your garage. Perhaps a power connection unit could be placed on the garage floor with an extender and a power adapter. When it senses the vehicle is above, it extends the plug up into the interface on the car. I was thinking a funnel like contraption on the car extending under the cars power interface would be a simple way for the “auto connector� to easily guide the plug into it proper location.

On the plus side – great commuter car for most folks. Also could go long distance when you need to. Could perhaps be tied into a solar trickle charger and/or exercise machine :-) Also great performance.

On the negative side – If these cars are successful, can the U.S. power grid handle the increase demand for electricity? Also, how do we fund our road system without the gasoline tax dollars flowing in? These issues will need to be addressed.

Posted by: Michael on 7 Jan 07

This story has been reported in wildly different forms across a large number of media outlets. Few agree on much of anything when it comes to specs (they often are ignorant of the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt hour). I BELIEVE GM is looking to install a 16 kWhr battery pack (with weight less than 400 pounds). If so, the 40 miles driving range figure is WAY, WAY off. On a car the size of this one (around 3000 pounds) one can reasonably expect a range of around 4.5 miles per kWhr, or 72 miles.
GM also released information that thru research, it estimates that 78% of commuters log fewer than 40 miles in doing so, and that half of all cars in the U.S. travel less than 30 miles a day. It's obvious that GM (thru U.S. Battery Consortium and the Dept of Energy) is trying to develop an inexpensive li ion version that will be practical and will cover the vast bulk of daily driving needs. That would absolutely destroy the market for gasoline and crude oil here and elsewhere, almost as completely as an all-electric fleet would. Also, don't believe reports that the plug will only be 110 volts. In fact, unless you read two or more INDEPENDENT reports of some "fact," don't believe it. The media gets everything wrong when deling with technology for one simple reason - a journalism major doesn't bestow any knowledge about
electric cars.

Posted by: kent beuchert on 7 Jan 07

I'll beleive GM is making progress when this or a Hydrogen fueled car are available in the Dealership. Until then its just playing to wall street to survive.

They apparently got nothing out of the decades of research on the EV1 or sunracer or any of the other seeming great ideas they've undertaken. What happened to GM Ovonics? Why dont they have the battery issue figured out?

"This is something that we have been working on for close to a year."

—Jon Lauckner, GM VP Global Program Management

Close to a year ???? Youve got to be kidding me Jon....What happened to all of the ideas / partnerships and research since the 1970's??

Until its in the showroom , your not even in the same category as Toyota. I'm sure they have ideas too...fact is theyve been actually selling Prius' for several years now.

Posted by: Brian Bubar on 7 Jan 07

First i want to apologise for posible mistakes i'm going to make writting this comment because my English is not perfect(i'm from Europe)
People,there are so much ideas,much better ideas,about technology in general not only in car industry.All this that is happening with Toyota,Gm,... is just one big compromise.As some of you wrote here what about their reaserches years ago?what about economy in general(it's not just big oil companies that will be in big trouble).A lot of that is tied to oil and it can't be untied so easely.
I'm a great supporter of everything ecological,but i understand there is no near simple solution to that question.They could make futuristic eco cars,they could solve the problem of increased demand of electricity(you dont need the power grid at all,and they also don't need the oil for producing the electricity,but they just can't(read are afraid of) do it so quickly.Oil is our dirty heritage and it will be here for a while,i just don't know exactly how long?
Big problem for you in USA is that you have so cheap fuel,now it 4-5 times cheaper then in some European countries.So some countries here have gotten so far with fuel saving and eficiency.Especialy those from the north as they are more developed in every meaning of that word.Some cities had gone so far that their comlete public transportation is fueld with oil from fried chickens and potatoes.And that is without allmost any modification or technology improvement.Ofcourse that doesn't mean that all the problems could be solved with increased consumption of fried chickens :) don't get me wrong :) i just wanted to point how much can be done with good thinking.And i repeat again briliant solutions are present but sadly they just can't be fully exploited at the moment.Some readers will not uderstand me i know.

Posted by: Petar on 7 Jan 07

Brian Bubar, your points are so invalid. I keep hearing these crazy stories from Europeans totally disregarding scalablility of the problem. The world cannot run on chicken juice, solar, wind power or even a combination of them. These are not alternatives. They are non-starters. Your saying that good thinking will solve the problem like America doesn't think? It is amazing to me how European's egos have increased as the EU gets larger. Bigger doesn't mean better (China, India) and I can tell you that you are in for a big surprise in EU with your economy long-term (short-term it isn't really good either). Do you remember England's amazing planned economy during the cold war until it dived in the late 70's?

Regarding alternative technologies -- especially new ones -- we should pursue them but only as they are ready on a LARGE-SCALE. I hope this Chevrolet Volt is ready for large production and cost efficiency but I doubt it is. I love the Prius but it is actually working.

Posted by: Wade on 7 Jan 07

I M.Lakshmi Swarupa working as a Senior Engineer R&D ,Future Tech,India.I am presently doing my research work on HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES.I request you for details regrading your site and your projects.

Posted by: lakshmi on 7 Jan 07


In order to insure energy and economic independence as well as better economic growth without being blackmailed by foreign countries, our country, the United States of America’s Utilization of Energy sources must change.
"Energy drives our entire economy." We must protect it. "Let's face it, without energy the whole economy and economic society we have set up would come to a halt. So you want to have control over such an important resource that you need for your society and your economy."
Our continued dependence on fossil fuels could and will lead to catastrophic consequences.

The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, etc. The source of energy must by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, etc. including utilizing water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption.

The implementation of mandatory renewable energy could be done on a gradual scale over the next 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period all construction and energy use in the structures throughout the United States must be 100% powered by renewable energy.

In addition, the governments must impose laws, rules and regulations whereby the utility companies must comply with a fair “NET METERING� (the buying of excess generation from the consumer), including the promotion of research and production of “renewable energy technology� with various long term incentives and grants. The various foundations in existence should be used to contribute to this cause.

A mandatory time table should also be established for the automobile industry to gradually produce an automobile powered by renewable energy. The American automobile industry is surely capable of accomplishing this task.

This is a way to expedite our energy independence and economic growth. (this will also creat a substantial amount of new jobs) It will take maximum effort and a relentless pursuit of the private, commercial and industrial government sectors commitment to renewable energy – energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal, energy storage (fuel cells, advance batteries), energy infrastructure (management, transmission) and energy efficiency (lighting, sensors, automation, conservation) in order to achieve our energy independence.

Jay Draiman
Northridge, CA. 91325

P.S. I have a very deep belief in America's capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
I happen to believe that we can do it. In another crisis--the one in 1942--President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this country would build 60,000 [50,000] military aircraft. By 1943, production in that program had reached 125,000 aircraft annually. They did it then. We can do it now.
The American people resilience and determination to retain the way of life is unconquerable and we as a nation will succeed in this endeavor of Energy Independence.

Solar energy is the source of all energy on the earth (excepting volcanic geothermal). Wind, wave and fossil fuels all get their energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are only a battery which will eventually run out. The sooner we can exploit all forms of Solar energy (cost effectively or not against dubiously cheap FFs)the better off we will all be. If the battery runs out first, the survivors will all be living like in the 18th century again.

Every new home built should come with a solar package. A 1.5 kW per bedroom is a good rule of thumb. The formula 1.5 X's 5 hrs per day X's 30 days will produce about 225 kWh per bedroom monthly. This peak production period will offset 17 to 24 cents per kWh with a potential of $160 per month or about $60,000 over the 30-year mortgage period for a three-bedroom home. It is economically feasible at the current energy price and the interest portion of the loan is deductible. Why not?

Title 24 has been mandated forcing developers to build energy efficient homes. Their bull-headedness put them in that position and now they see that Title 24 works with little added cost. Solar should also be mandated and if the developer designs a home that solar is impossible to do then they should pay an equivalent mitigation fee allowing others to put solar on in place of their negligence..

Posted by: Jay Draiman on 8 Jan 07

It’s looking good. Shame it looks so heavy though. But I’m glad to see GM are seeing the light more or less. The sooner the manufacturers swap the hybrids around so that the electric motor is doing the driving and the ICE is doing the topping up the better!

Michael: “can the U.S. power grid handle the increase demand for electricity?�
The answer looks like yes:

Kent: The text says the battery management system will let it discharge only as far as 30% SOC. Also your calcs suggest 220Wh per mile. Isn’t that a little high for a car of this weight?

Posted by: Scatter on 8 Jan 07

errm when i say "a little high" i meant "a little low". oops!

Posted by: Scatter on 8 Jan 07

Jay Draiman - whilst I have trouble swallowing the manifest excesses in your rhetoric - just what is its final destiny (sorry). I say good luck to you in making a slightly odd nationalist argument for the alteration of energy production in the US. I actually believe such an argument might achieve political purchase where others - motivated by rationalism, fairness, or America's debt to the world, have failed. I would however be wary of the potential by-products of such crocodile green politics.

Posted by: Tan Copsey on 8 Jan 07

To push the envelope, GM should use its significant market leverage to require that its battery manufacturers produce and sell batteries that do not depend on heavy metals such as lithium and cadmium, which are not naturally present in such large quantities in the biosphere. They could therefore reduce FF dependence AND try to stop destroying natural systems at the same time. GM could potentially move the market quickly in a more sustainable direction.

Ikea pushed the industry by demanding suppliers to figure out non-mercury CFL bulbs, and large hospitals are doing it with construction companies, demanding mechanical engineers to design greener HVAC systems in hospitals. GM you're next.

Posted by: melanie dubin on 8 Jan 07

It's great to see a major automaker finally moving forward on what small companies have been proving possible for several years (see Energy CS, CalCars and HyMotion). But while the announcement is exciting, GM still isn't giving any solid timeline on WHEN we can see these cars on the road or HOW MANY cars are actually going to be produced - at best they say 3-4 years if the battery technology is available. There is a demand for plug-in hybrids NOW - there are hundreds of cities, counties, utility districts and fleets already placing "soft orders" for such vehicles. Such early-adopters of these vehicles would provide test markets for GM to refine the technology and build public confidence and interest in these cars.

I have to admit I'm a little concerned that they will use the announcement of these concept cars more to clean up their image than clean up their product line. There is a lot GM can do between now and when we may see these concept vehicles actually on the road.

We all know increasing fuel efficiency is the direction automakers need to head – so let’s get past the hype of a handful of concept vehicles and look at what they are doing with the rest of their fleet. Overall average fuel economy from the Big 6 is worse today that it was 10 years ago and GM is still heavily dependent on its gas guzzling truck lines. In addition to that they are still fighting tooth-and-nail against increasing fuel economy regulations, suing states that try to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and in December argued before the Supreme Court that carbon from tailpipe emissions was not even a pollutant. GM is still planning to expand their Hummer line to become 25% of their overall sales. Consumers still have limited options to find fuel-efficient cars that are affordable, well-built, and fun to drive. There are plenty of things automakers can do today to increase fuel economy – and I'm tired of being shown distracting concept cars that we won't see for 3-4 years if ever.

I've been working with the Freedom From Oil Campaign to make automakers honestly prioritize fuel economy and move beyond oil – check out what we do at

Posted by: Matt on 8 Jan 07

Wow, I haven't seen so much action on this post in a while...In my opinion, GM is still playing catch up and usually showing too little too late.

Like in all large corporations these type of press releases are strategic just like the wave of green ads. they flodded the media with on the second half of 06', they also had a huge presence in NEXTFEST but very little content and real green innovaiton shown. They tease with just enough to get into the green conversation but you just need to watch any GM comercial in professional sports to see where their (99%) main strategy is still headed. Fueling that "proud to be american" theme and milking the superconsumer ridiculously large mantruck audience as still the american way. They need to smarten up and put a product on the showroom soon for me to even consider their proposals.

Posted by: Stiven (sustainableday) on 8 Jan 07

I believe as Dave Golstien of EV world, that GM is all hype witht he introduction. If they were serious they would have 2500 of these vehicles on the road in the hands of the general public or at least government fleets before the announcement of a real product. Since they are not announcing such a program then I'm sure it is a ploy to argue against the impending CO2 legislation and fuel economy standards that Congress will soon propose because of the administration change coming up!!

Let's see if we can persuade GM to get serious and produce real cars that they put in the hands of the public to evaulate the public acceptance and obtain real data, including encouraging the public to charge with Solar or wind!! As pointed out these 2500 cars need to be out there to gather real data on public acceptance even with preliminary batteries. The Nickle metal Hydride batteries are good enough for the initial demonstration. they could be replaced with lithium when they are developed further. They haven't announced a program anything like this!!I don't believe it is real until real cars show up on the road.
Before that it is hype to support their sagging stock and public image just as their Fuel Cell (fool sell) program.

Prof Andy Frank

Posted by: Andy Frank on 9 Jan 07

Most of your concerns about plug in hybrids are answered at

For example, the Volt's 40 mile range is when they draw down the battery only to 30% full, to extend its life span and make sure the car still performs well. (Need the torque for acceleration.)

And PHEV's should only be charged at night when we have a huge surpus of electricity that is otherwise uneconomic to store. A normal garage plug at 110V / 20A is more than powerful enough to recharge a 40 mile range battery pack.

Posted by: tom jonez on 10 Jan 07

The engineers have the technology now to build flex fuel plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and there is enough sunshine and wind and other natural resources to power all the electrical transportation the world needs many times over. Recently I researched and found out from a stanford researcher that if all major wind areas were utilized there would be enough electric for 36 earths at prsent demand. I extrapolated that if the deserts and sunny areas of the earth were utilized with suncollector sterling generators I am sure the results would be similar, maybe enough electric also for 36 earths. Than you analyze the potential biogas production from garbage dumps and you have a huge source of energy. My point is, just spend a few weeks studying the potential of alternative energy on the internet of, real live demonstration projects and you will see there is no shortage of non fossil fuel energy. You will discover there is 100+ times the amount of energy we need to get off the oil addiction, global warming, polluting, energy wars we are in now.

PHEV will allow us to tap into this energy supply on major electric grids or as individual energy producers.

As Tesla said 100 years ago, "the energy of the future will come from tapping into the very wheelworks of nature". That future is now!

Posted by: Steven Brothers on 12 Jan 07



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