GM plans to boost output of its Chevrolet Volt to take on the Nissan Leaf

Article by Christian Andrei, on July 26, 2011

Sales of the Nissan Leaf have been leading the electric-car segment so far this year, a trend that General Motors Co. intends to change. To take the lead, GM seeks to increase the Chevrolet Volt’s output to 5,000 each month. From January to June of 2011, Nissan has sold 3,875 units of the Leaf in the U.S. while only 2,745 units of the Chevrolet Volt have been sold.

Tony Posawatz, the director of GM’s vehicle line, said that Nissan had accelerated its output quicker but that GM will outperform its Japanese rival and make 5,000 units of the Volt a month as early as January.

At the current production levels, the Leaf and the Volt are in short supply. In fact, there are thousands on their waiting lists. It’s unclear if customers prefer a pure electric car such as the Leaf or a plug-in hybrid such as the Volt that could be driven farther. It has yet to be established just how many consumers are prepared to pay for the gas-saving technology.

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, a research firm based in Lexington, Mass., said that instead of being a sales race, it’s really more about supply limitations.

She believes that by next year, we’ll know just how much the demand is for these cars and we’ll also determine the winner.

Posawatz said that GM will increase production quickly in order to achieve its goal to sell 10,000 Volts in the U.S. for 2011. GM is aiming to build 60,000 units of the Volt next year at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant. Of this figure, 45,000 will be offered to U.S. buyers. He said that GM misjudged the demand for the Volt. He asserts that GM has to make sure that by January, the capacity would be online.

The main feature of the Chevrolet Volt is the Voltec propulsion system. This particular system is able to utilize both the range-extending engine and the pure electric drive, resulting in the Volt having a maximum total range of 350 miles. GM executive director for global electrical systems Micky Bly shared that many of the company’s customers continue to be dedicated when it comes to technology that is aimed at lowering the dependence of petroleum.

As such, he continued, the company is committed to offering the highest of standards when it comes to performance, quality, reliability, safety, and value. With the Volt, the company more than shows that electric driving can indeed be energetic. Maximum speed is at 100 mph with torque at low speed coming in at 273 lb.-ft. Acceleration from 0 mph to 60 mph is possible in nearly 9.0 seconds and can reach a quarter mile in shorter than 17.0 seconds. In addition to being designed to provide a number of qualities, it comes covered with the company’s eight-year/100,000-mile warranty. This battery is able to deliver energy to the electric drive unit which results in an output of 111 kW (149 hp).

With solely using the energy kept inside the battery, the Volt can go between 25 miles and 50 miles, depending on the current temperature, the terrain, and the driving technique. The Volt can do all of these without any emissions whatsoever going out of its tailpipe. The battery is composed of a lithium-ion battery pack that is T-shaped, releases 16 kWh of power, weighs 435-pound (198.1 kg), and has a length of 5.5 feet.

This pack was created in a facility located in Brownstown Township, Michigan. Prior to actual production, the battery pack had to undergo validation testing conducted by GM engineers back in 2007. Overall, it took a total of four million hours and one million miles to validate not just the pack itself but the nine modules in each pack and the 288 prismatic cells. The different team, from the development group, the validation, and even the test teams, made sure to meet the thousands of specification and ensured that each of the 161 components of the battery had to be validated. Of these components, 95% were designed and engineered by the company itself.

Once the energy inside the battery is drained, the Volt easily converts to the extended-range mode. The 1.4-liter gas-powered engine has its output at 63 kW (84 hp) and this power is inverted and transmitted to the electric drive unit to give an extra range as far as 310 miles. Recharging the battery is both intuitive and simple. It is possible to do it using a 240V dedicated charging station or the standard 120V electrical outlets.

Using the former, it takes around 4 hours to fully recharge the battery while with the latter, it takes between 10 and 12 hours. Once it has been plugged, it makes it possible for the owners to set either delayed charges or an immediate one. Owners can even schedule the charging to match the departure time or to run when the rates for electricity are lower. The Volt can be remotely managed and monitored through two options that include using a computer and access or the smart phone application which is the exclusive Chevrolet Mobile App and powered by OnStar MyLink.

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