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Jul 05

Range-extended Lotus 414E prototype has 738 lb-ft torque


By Huw Evans

Note: I know some of you have little interest in cost-is-no-object prototypes, and at best you say they validate the $40k Volt and GM’s foresight for building it. This may be true, but it’s at least good to keep tabs on what others are doing. They are working in the same general direction and you never know what may come of it down the road. -Jeff

With Nissan’s Infiniti division having announced running, driving versions of its EMERG-E concept at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, it only made sense for Lotus to reveal its operable version of the Evora 414E, – a car with which the Infiniti shares a number of aspects, including the chassis and basic drive system.

Both vehicles have been developed as part of the REEVolution R&D project, a consortium led program funded by the UK government’s Innovation Agency.

The Evora 414E has been subject to a fairly lengthy gestation period, having begun development back in 2010. Like the EMERG-E, it uses twin electric motors to drive the rear wheels, with a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder internal combustion engine serving as a range-extending generator.

Lotus says that, like the Infiniti, the Evora 414E can travel a distance of up to 30 miles on electric power alone, while the three-cylinder engine (which is designed to run on gasoline or methanol or alcohol) is able to extend range up to 300 miles.

In an official press release from the company, Lotus says the Evora 414E will accelerate from 0-60 mph in four seconds and boasts a top speed of 130 mph – however it doesn’t say how long it will take to get to 130 mph from rest (Infiniti says 30 seconds for the EMERGE-E).

Due to the weight of the battery pack however, the Evora 414E is significantly heavier than the Evora S (likely around 3,550 pounds, if the EMERG-E is anything to go by); thanks to 408 horsepower and 738 pound-feet (1000 Nm) of torque on tap in the Evora 414E, performance more than healthy by EV standards.

According to Simon Corbett, principal vehicle dynamics test and development Engineer at Lotus, the Evora 414E’s acceleration “is almost indescribable, the surge of torque is like an ocean wave.”

The powertrain is configured so that under hard acceleration, the electricity will be supplied through the Xtrac 1092 transmission by both the battery storage and the engine.

In their effort to simulate the kick in the pants provided by a powerful conventional supercar, Lotus engineers have also taken pains to mimic some of that genre’s other visceral sensations.

A column-mounted paddle shift for instance simulates super quick up and down shifts along with synthesized engine sounds piped in to recreate the feel of controlling a fast petrol-powered sports car.

Upon shifting, torque is modulated to mimic the feeling of a gear change. This shifting changes the vehicle’s driving characteristics as though it were a regular dual-clutch transmission slamming a shift.

Downshifts are mimicked by modulating the resistance provided by the regenerative braking which makes the car feel like it is slowing under engine braking. Instead of the wasting the energy as is the case with true engine braking, the regen feature feeds captured energy to the batteries.

The system lets the driver select the appropriate level of regeneration by simulating stepping down by one, two or three gears. It is all accompanied by imitation engine sounds and the setup is said to be completely intuitive to grasp by drivers experienced with conventional dual-clutch transmissions.

These speed racer features designed into the electrified car are rather novel, and whether they make it to a production vehicle remains to be seen, or – as range-extended vehicles, and ultimately pure EVs advance – they are later deemed superfluous.

It could well be that as high-performance electric vehicles come on market in coming years that no one will miss the former actions associated with piloting a conventional car. These early on adaptions intended to make the transition from old to new could later be seen as evolutionary steps and not needed to enjoy new-found visceral sensations offered in their own right by electric drive.

At this point in time, it’s difficult to say whether the 414E will ever become a production car, since like the running EMERG-E, it’s been largely conceived as a rolling showcase for advanced vehicle technology, in keeping with REEV (Range Extending Electric Vehicle) project guidelines.

Nevertheless, it does show what kind of performance potential is available with range extending technology, even at this early stage in the game.


Mar 25

2012 Model Year Chevy Volt Prototypes Currently Under Assembly


[ad#post_ad]The Chevrolet Volt is expected to launch into the retail marketplace in eight months, and the world will begin to change.

The car will be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck (DHAM) plant in Michigan.  By last fall 80 or so integration vehicle (IV) Volt prototypes were completed at GM’s smaller Preproduction Operations (PPO) plant in the Warren Technical Center, and have since been undergoing extensive testing.  As well, the DHAM facility has been undergoing retooling and personnel training to prepare for the beginning of Volt builds.

According to Volt executive Tony Posawatz the first of these DHAM Volts will come of the line only days from now, and has already started production.

“The first 2011MY PPV’s will roll off the line in late March,” he stated.

These pre-production vehicles will still not be fully refined. Several hundred will be made in various iterations leading up to the actual saleable cars in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile Volt evolution continues.

Sources indicate that GM has already begun production of the 2012 model year Chevy Volt prototypes back at the pre-production operation (PPO) plant.

Little is known publicly about how these 2012MY prototypes differ from the 2011MY units.  “We can’t share any details on the 2012 model vehicles,” says GM spokesperson Rob Peterson.

Presumably, these cars include refinements that couldn’t be put into place for the first year retail model, and also incorporate learnings the team has made from the current batch of prototypes.

It is likely these refinements will improve efficiency, as well as lower weight and cost. They may include improvements that allow for more efficient building of the cars as well, which would further lower cost.

It is also unknown if the 2012 model year Volts have further refined battery packs, though it would seem logical.

The 2012 year cars will be built in much higher volume than the 2011 models. For the first year GM expects to build 8000 to 10000 units. The second year could bring up to 50,000 cars depending on demand.


Nov 24

The Spikes of Engine Sound of the Chevy Volt Prototype’s Charge Sustaining Mode Will be Ironed Out in Time for Production



[ad#post_ad]The two recent media test drives of the Chevy Volt’s in charge sustaining mode were seen as positive by 85% of readers.

Both reporters mentioned however that they could occasionally notice the generator revving after charge sustaining mode was well under way, though neither coud detect it when it first came on.

I was able to communicate with one of the reporters, Lindsay Brooke of the New York times, about his experience.

“Yes, when the ICE first kicked in (on an uphill climb) I could neither hear nor feel its engagement,” he said. “It was completely seamless. I only noticed it because I was keeping a close eye on the cluster—the icon noting battery charge changed over to the icon showing a gas pump which denotes the switchover and how much range remains using the generator.”

“The reason the ICE generator engages at random times is due to its current control regimen for charge-sustaining mode,” he said. “As the quote from Tony noted, the controls engaged the generator, then shortly thereafter called for another of the pre-set charging speeds (rather like, “Oops, I needed more juice than I previously anticipated.”).”

“It was not in situations where I was flooring the pedal, which as you know has no connection to the ICE’s throttle control. Nor was it necessarily in heavy-load situations. A couple times the ICE engaged when the car was going downhill, under what would be light load in a conventional vehicle,” he said.

Brooke added, “I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised when we drive the production-spec car.”

Andrew Farah, the Volt’s chief engineer explained to GM-Volt,” there are still points at which operation of the engine generator is more aggressive than we want it to be, and we want to make it operate less aggressively.”

He says the engine never generates more power than the car needs but may generate it more quickly than necessary. Engineers are able to vary power production by both varying the engine’s RPM and its load, and that along the RPM-load plane there is the third dimension of efficiency which has to be taken into account.

These variables are distinct from the NVH (noise-vibration-harshness) component which is what the customer actually perceives. The team must work within the constraint boundaries of the “NVH ceiling” at the high end and the permissible limit of dip into the battery reserve at the low end to achieve the lowest NVH possible at all times.

It is still at this point a work in progress.

Farah also notes that they don’t let the engine to run at all at low speeds because there is less ability to mask its noise.

Overall, 99% of driving in the integration prototypes is without audible engine noise, there are rare ocassional spikes of sound that the reporters noticed, which will be ironed out in time for production.


Oct 21

GM Reveals OnStar EV Lab Which Connects to Chevy Volt Prototypes, OnStar Will be Standard in Production


OnStar is General Motors’ cellular and GPS-based system for monitoring vehicles.

It currently provides real time assistance, directions, theft prevention and other features to 5.6 million drivers who pay from $199 to $299 per year for the service.

Its no secret that GM believes the Chevy Volt could gain significant value-added utility from having access to OnStar. In fact, Volt executive Tony Posawatz says the possibilities for this relationship are “mind-boggling.”

GM has yet to confirm or finalize all the OnStar-mediated features the Volt will offer, but have just shown off their new testing facility called the OnStar EV Lab.

Currently the lab is using OnStar to monitor 19 of the Chevy Volt integration prototypes.

Engineers are collecting all sorts of data from these cars each of which have 20 different independent modules that are capable of transmitting back status updates to the system.

The data includes performance and diagnostic information and relays such things as battery state of charge, temperatures, and thermal management operation.  Though the primary focus for now is real-time observation of battery health and function, GM is using the lab to develop the final features for the car once it reaches production.

Posawatz notes that OnStar could be used to communicate with the utility companies. Using this method, the cars could actually charge slowly or not at all when rates or demand is high, and then more rapidly when rates are lower, reducing the drivers expense.

A more simplified approach would be to simply let the driver manually program in those parameters in the same way one programs an automated household thermostat.

“The car will have to talk to the grid and be able to pull very sensitive (utility) data,” Posawatz told CNET. “Electric vehicle customers want to manage their energy–they’re very into data. OnStar is an enabling tool for us.”  GM is currently working with EPRI to collect some of this data nationwide.

Posawatz also cautions that the ability of the car to communicate with local utilities will limit the pace of the car’s rollout.

“It certainly won’t be a nation-wide roll-out (at first),” he said.  The whole nation might not see these cars until sometime in 2011.

Another potential use for OnStar will be in the other direction allowing for example firmware upgrades to the car.

And for those who might ask, Tony Posawatz has confirmed to, “OnStar will be standard with VOLT.”

Back in late 2008 we heard then GM executive Bob Kruse say that “OnStar gives us the opportunity to know more about the environment the driver is driving in,” implying that terrain could be taken into account to show the driver the most energy-efficient route home.

If it was clear that a driver was returning home, OnStar could also shut off the ICE to let the driver arrive “as close to zero as practical or possible,” minimizing the use of petroleum.

In response to that post, readers generated 180 responses, some of which I’ve been told by reliable sources were actually integrated into the car by the Volt team.

Any more ideas?

Source (CNET) and (Autoblog)


Oct 18

Chevy Volt Prototype Spotted in a Home Driveway


An astute observer noticed none other than a pre-production Chevy Volt integration vehicle nonchalantly parked in a neighbor’s driveway.

A fleet of eight of these vehicles just returned from a 3-day 1200-mile extended test drive last week, and perhaps one of the lucky participants got to take one home for the weekend. It is known that 80 of these cars are in existence and nvolced in continuous and extensive testing

General Motors engineers are often given the opportunity to take home pre-production vehicles prior to launch.  In fact, some of the learning that goes into the refinement of these vehicles is derived from these take-home experiences.

However, these IVer Volts are unusually early in development for this type of endeavor.  Most pre-production cars are taken home just a few months prior to launch when they are usually at a high level of refinement. The fact that they are already allowed home appears to confirms the great confidence GM has with their robustness and the particularly advanced level of development they have already achieved in such a short time.

No, its not my house.

Apparently this is nothing new. According to GM spokesperson Rob Peterson, “several engineers have already taken these vehicles home over weekends.”

Source (Autoblog)


Sep 25

Chevy Volt Prototype Fleet Spotted in the Wild


The Chevy Volt is now in the pre-production phase. GM has been building about 80 of these fully functional production intent prototypes, and are likely to be finished with this phase within days. Those cars are undergoing extensive testing and the learning and tweaking will be applied to the final production cars.

Part of this test process is seeing how the cars behave in real-world situations.

I received the following note from Volt fan Jim Northrop who lives in Nevada near Death Valley. Since it sent chills up my spine I thought I’d share it here (with Jim’s permission):

It was the best lunch I’ve had in a long time…. It was 11:55 AM. I was waiting for a traffic light in Pahrump, Nevada, on my way home for lunch and what should pass in front of me, headed North on Nevada Highway 160, but five (5) mysterious cars: silver and also white, with strange masking panels, antennae, and Michigan manufacturer plates. The fifth car was lagging and I had a chance to study the grill, gold accents, silhouette, then the rear spoiler. I had seen these features somewhere… they were Volts!! The “Fleet”. I quickly fell in behind, but intervening vehicles kept me distant and I couldn’t pass. I was hoping they would turn on Bellvista which is a popular route to Death Valley Junction and my house. Lucky for me they did make this turn and the chase began. I drove uncharacteristically fast to catch up, passing what I now believe was a large white Chevy “support van” and a few other cars. Finally, the trailing Volt was in reach. I was going way too fast as I pulled up and abruptly slowed next to the Volt–the two occupants didn’t give eye contact–they were probably busy praying they would survive this scary encounter with me (sorry guys). Momentarily mesmerized, I again accelerated, and pulled in front. I was now gaining on the other 4 Volts which were beginning to slow for the stop sign at Leslie. I pulled up behind the fourth Volt (sorry guys, I didn’t mean to scare you, but was completely focused on that round, gray, plug/cap centered low on your rear bumper–darn near caused the first Volt wreck…gasp!) Once I came to my senses and stopped, I honked my horn a few times, and grinning from ear to ear, gave driver and passenger excited “thumbs up”. They both gave me firm thumbs up in return and away they went. I rolled the stop and accelerated to catch them–they easily pulled away from me in my 2005 ,V8 Silverado– acceleration was comparable to my wife’s V6 07 Malibu (I know this as she always tries to beat me home, often from this same stop sign). Noteworthy… they had their windows up which meant they had to have their A/C’s on (in our heat)– strong acceleration!! They continued West, on Bellvista, toward the foothills. So excited, I forgot to eat lunch, too busy calling everyone I know… They are really beautiful, artistically sculpted automobiles. Wow! Very, very Impressive!!! Thanks GM for your commitment to the Volt, and for bringing them through our town today. By the way GM, please send some to Pahrump Valley Auto Plaza, a Volt is on my Christmas list.

Jim, didn’t have a camera with him, but apparently another lucky guy from internetautoguide caught a glimpse of this same fleet in a parking lot (photo above)

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