There is enough excitement over new ideas for alternative fuel technology to make concepts like the Volt noteworthy for discussion. There are also lightweight body construction features that could be incorporated into other vehicles, as new government corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations tighten.
The Volt concept vehicle has a unique operating system (see Figure 2). For propulsion, the Volt is equipped with an electric motor that generates 160 horsepower and is capable of traveling up to 40 miles on electricity alone. The electrical power comes from lithium-ion batteries located beneath the floor of the vehicle. The Volt is also equipped with a 1.0 liter, three-cylinder, internal combustion engine.
While current hybrid vehicles use a battery-powered electric motor to supplement an internal combustion engine for propulsion, the Volt is driven on electric power only. When the lithium-ion batteries run below a 30% state of charge during vehicle operation, the internal combustion engine will start automatically, not to propel the vehicle, but to provide energy to an onboard generator that produces electricity.
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Figure 1. The Chevrolet Volt concept vehicle at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show.
|Figure 2. The operating system of the Volt concept vehicle features an electric motor and a range-extending internal combustion engine.|
Figure 3. The plug-in charging ports for the lithium-ion batteries are located between the front doors and front wheels.
|Figure 4. The unique shouldered side glass design creates a dual beltline appearance on the Volt concept vehicle.|
The electricity generated is used to power the electric motor for vehicle operation, and to recharge the lithium-ion batteries. The internal combustion engine operates at a constant speed and automatically shuts down when the batteries are recharged to 80% capacity.
To fully recharge the lithium-ion batteries, the vehicle can be plugged into a 110-volt, 15-amp electrical outlet. The batteries fully recharge in about six hours. For convenience, there are two charging ports, one on either side of the vehicle between the front door and front wheel (see Figure 3).
The Volt also has a quick-charge capability. If there is not enough time to leave the vehicle plugged in to fully recharge, or there is no access to an outlet, the batteries can be recharged while the engine is running with the transmission in park.
GM says that the plug-in Volt is different than any previous electric vehicle, because of its rechargeable electric drive system and range-extending internal combustion engine. According to GM, with its 12-gallon fuel tank, this vehicle is capable of traveling up to 640 miles without a fuel fill-up or a battery recharge.
The Volt’s range-extending internal combustion engine uses GM’s E-Flex Propulsion System technology. With the E-Flex system, the internal combustion engine can be configured to run on gasoline, E85, or biodiesel.
A prominent feature of the vehicle’s exterior appearance is its low-cut roof line. The Volt concept vehicle also has a unique side glass and dual beltline styling feature.
The side glass is constructed of a plastic, transparent, glazed polycarbonate material that provides the scratch resistance and gloss surface appearance of glass, combined with the formability of a plastic composite. This provides the driver and occupants of the vehicle with very good visibility. Also contributing to the visibility is a shouldered, tinted side glass at the top of the doors, constructed of the same material. This shouldered styling establishes the dual beltline appearance (see Figure 4).
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|Figure 5. The Volt concept vehicle has external front door hinges that incorporate the plug-in charging ports for the lithium-ion batteries|
Figure 6. The Volt concept vehicle is equipped with a plastic, transparent roof. (Photo courtesy of General Motors)
Figure 7. LED technology is used for the headlamps on the Volt concept vehicle. (Photo courtesy of General Motors)
Figure 8. Some interior parts of the Volt concept vehicle consist of recyclable materials made from current or near-current technologies. (Photo courtesy of General Motors)
The front door hinges are another unique feature of this vehicle. The external door hinges extend into the front fenders and incorporate the plug-in charging ports for the lithium-ion batteries (see Figure 5). The door hinges are milled from billets of stainless steel. The door handles are located along the lower edge of the shouldered glass on the doors.
Additional features include a transparent roof that allows natural light into the interior (see Figure 6). The roof is constructed from the same material as the side glass and shouldered beltline. The front of the vehicle is equipped with horizontal headlamps that use light-emitting diode (LED) technology (see Figure 7). The Volt also has a flat, composite molded pan on the underside, which is integrated with the fascias and rocker panels.
Some of the interior parts of the vehicle are constructed of lightweight, recyclable materials (see Figure 8). Compression-molded foam is applied on the entire lower instrument panel, lower door trim panels, and rear quarter panel trim areas. Molded plastic panels are applied on the upper instrument panel, seat backs, center console sides, and door inserts. According to GM, the materials used for the Volt’s interior are made from current or near-current technologies.
Developing an electrically driven, plug-in vehicle may be one way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels for vehicle operation. Although the Chevrolet Volt is only a concept vehicle, many concept vehicles do evolve into production models. However, GM has not established a production schedule for this vehicle at this time.
This Advantage Online article first appeared in the I-CAR e-newsletter, which is published and distributed free of charge. I-CAR, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, is a not-for-profit international training organization that researches and develops quality technical education programs related to collision repair. To learn more about I-CAR, and to subscribe to the free e-newsletter, visit http://www.i-car.com or contact I-CAR Supervisor of Marketing Communications Brandon Eckenrode at Brandon.Eckenrode@i-car.com.