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Jan 25

OnStar project promises renewable energy for recharging


As we’ve seen with the Volt and other green initiatives, GM is working to promote sustainability with perhaps its latest project being enablement of recharging from renewable energy.

On Monday, OnStar Communications contacted us and announced Volt owners “may soon be able to charge their vehicle using renewable energy.”

The actual time frame is “to be determined,” but the kinks are being worked out by OnStar and a company called PJM Interconnection with 17 Chevrolet Volts operated by Google’s Gfleet.


The way it generally works is OnStar-enabled technology receives a signal from PJM Interconnection showing the percentage of available renewable energy on the grid.

Data from this forecast is downloaded to the OnStar cloud, or Advanced Telematics Operating Management System (ATOMS). OnStar uses this signal to simultaneously manage the charging of many Volts and to match the renewable energy availability.

OnStar says a mobile app could be used to alert customers when renewable energy is available.

Google’s Gfleet is based at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and as many of you know, Google is highly involved in other green projects and automotive experiments that include cars that drive themselves.

At the same time, Google is naturally willing to collaborate with real human drivers, as the species does not yet seem ready to go extinct.

This week, the OnStar-enabled fleet’s technology will be demonstrated at the 2012 DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition in San Antonio.

The public demo fits with an announcement by Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development, who said it is nearly ready for prime time.

“This demonstration shows that in the near future customers will have a real signal of demand for renewable energy,” said Pudar. “As customers configure their Volts to favor renewable energy for their charging cycle, this real demand signal will influence utilities to tap into renewable sources.”

Note that Pudar says demand will prompt utilities to increase (now limited) renewable energy supply.

We asked Adam Dennison, an OnStar Communications representative who sent the info, “How hopeful are you that this will have a measurable or significant influence that it will push utilities to adopt more renewable energy sources?”

In response, he said “We think that as EVs continue to penetrate the marketplace that customers will drive a variety of demands throughout different industries. Certainly we believe that the energy industry will be one of these. Based on the level of interest a number of utilities have expressed in OnStar’s Smart Grid solutions, we are pretty confident that that they’ll be willing to look to more renewable energy sources.”

At present, peak hours for renewable energy generation from wind is generally between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. according to PJM data.

OnStar says it would therefore be possible for customers to use Smart Grid solutions to further reduce their carbon footprint and – as is already possible regardless of energy source – “save money by charging during these off-peak times.”

“Solutions like this one will ultimately lead to increased renewable energy generation and allow Chevrolet Volt owners to be a key part of that energy transformation,” said Pudar.

If the renewable energy service goes into production, customers interested in using it would need to sign up. Dennison did not say if it would cost extra or be made available with existing OnStar service.

Once signed up, OnStar would regulate customers’ charging using the renewable energy signal.

This video is not directly about the current project, but OnStar says it highlights an app it did for Google’s Gfleet of Volts.

OnStar says this renewable energy technology is the latest addition to its suite of Smart Grid solutions.

For your review, OnStar says it has developed other “intelligent energy management technology solutions,” including:

Demand response – This solution connects utilities to companies that have intelligent energy management products. These companies can use OnStar to manage energy use for Volt customers who opt in for the service. This future service allows the customer to save money on energy costs while enabling more efficient use of the electric grid.
Time-of-Use (TOU) rates – OnStar can receive dynamic TOU pricing from utilities and notify Volt owners of the rate plan offers via email. Owners will be able to use OnStar to load the rate plans directly into their vehicle and access them to schedule charging during lower-rate periods.
Charging data – OnStar also sends and receives EV data that helps utility providers without having to interface with the vehicle’s electric vehicle supply equipment. This includes location-based EV data that identifies charging locations and determines potential load scenarios.


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Jan 18

GM and Powermat Studying Wireless Recharging of the Chevy Volt


Recently, GM announced a small investment in a company called Powermat.  That company makes wireless device charging systems.  Their current product allow users to place a receiver in the charge port of their device (cell phone, iPad, etc) and plug in the mat.  If the device is rested on the mat, it is wirelessly charged.

The first automotive application expected to result from this partnership is an option for the 2012 Chevy Volt that will become available next year.  It will be a wireless charging mat in the center of the console that drivers can rest their cellphones on while driving to have them wirelessly recharge.

The technology works through the use of induced magnetic fields:

Powermat uses magnetic induction to transfer energy.   Specifically, energy is transferred from a transmitter (which will be embedded in vehicle) to a receiver (which is connected to or embedded in the device) through a shared magnetic field.   Communication between the Mat (transmitter) and the Receiver (personal device) allows the mat to deliver an exact amount of power for the proper length of time so that the transfer of power is safe and efficient and no energy is ever wasted.  When a device reaches full charge, power is shut off to that device. This not only saves energy, but it also prevents overcharging of the device’s battery, which can shorten battery life.

This story begs the question as to whether this option could this be all the relationship is about?  After all, GM Ventures is a VC unit that invests in small companies that may have big automotive futures.

Over the years there has often been talk and theoretical discussions about wirelessly charging not only small devices, but whole electric cars themselves.

The concept would be to have a large wireless mat in one’s garage, simply park on top of it, and the battery will recharge automatically.

Powermat spokesperson Scott Eisenstein admits his company is looking at how to charge large electric car batteries.  “Yes, we are certainly looking into that,” he said.

Also according to Volt vehicle line executive Tony Posawazt, so is GM. “We are studying many exciting new technologies for the future, said Posawatz.  “This includes wireless, hands-free inductive charging of the high voltage battery.”



Oct 05

2016 Volt first drive



General Motors has a secret new car called the 2016 Chevy Volt.

It can run 53 miles solely on battery power before a gas engine takes over for 420 total miles, is more fun than an “eco” car has any right to be, and we’re here to tell you about it.

What? You say you already know about the Volt? You say it was first introduced late 2010 and is the first plug-in car to receive a full redesign after a full product life cycle?

OK, so you are one who knows, but apparently a lot of people do not know in this country of 320 million. Although analyses have shown the subsidized and cheap-to-fuel Volt could pencil out better than a Prius, its annual sales have never matched a good sales quarter for the Toyota.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Review – Video

Reasons for this are many, nuanced, and could fill their own article. In brief, the Volt still has critics, surveys and anecdotes show many people still don’t: 1) understand what it can do for them, or 2) see the value, or 3) even know it exists.

2011 Volt.

2011 Volt.

Part of this is because Chevrolet stopped marketing it outside of California and tech fairs at least as far back as some time in 2013. GM quit making sales projections after 2011, its former CEO called it a “political football” in April 2012, and the company nearly tucked its tail between its legs, relegating it into a “niche” product.

Well, no more, says the automaker. Product Manager Darin Gesse says its continuation to a second generation proves the company believes in the car. It benefits from generation-one Volt owners’ feedback, he says, and with the redesign Chevrolet hopes this will be a new beginning.

Steve Majoros, Chevrolet director of car marketing, says they will now advertise gen two as it rolls out this year and next, and if they do it right, this new Volt could experience a turnaround. If any car could be said to deserve it, this underappreciated one does.

Media Intro

As the first Volts are shipping to dealers in California and 10 states that follow its emission rules, Chevrolet invited media to the town of Sausalito just north of San Francisco to put the compact car through its paces.

Before we hit the road, however, its lead engineers were on hand to discuss what is the single most distinguishing characteristic about the Volt – its powertrain – which has been called by some who understand its inner workings “truly a work of art.”


The Volt is by definition a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) but Chevrolet distinguishes it as an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) because unlike blended PHEVs, it can stay in the e-zone all the way till the battery depletes. It’s also unique in that its 53-miles electric range is more than double the next-nearest 19-mile Ford Energis, and pending 27-mile Hyundai Sonata PHEV.

The Volt’s “53” is actually combined. The EPA rates it for 57 all-electric miles in the city, and 49 all-electric miles highway. Efficiency has also been improved in gas operation to 43 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, 42 mpg combined on regular gas from a former 37 mpg combined on premium, and “miles per gallon equivalent” (MPGe) is 113 city, 99 highway, and 106 combined. To qualify this a bit, sometimes “combined” MPGe is calculated as a combined gas-plus-electric efficiency using a Utility Factor that estimates a typical driver’s daily drive and that would result in a different and lower number.

Aside from the Volt-powered Cadillac ELR – which does not get the updated EREV platform by the way – the 2016 Volt is in a class of one; there’s nothing else like it.

Among new features is an integrated inverter eliminating heavy orange cables. The new transmission offers increased efficiency, more flexible operating modes, and does not significantly increase parts count.

Among new features is an integrated inverter eliminating heavy orange cables. The new transmission offers increased efficiency, more flexible operating modes, and does not significantly increase parts count.

For 2016, the “drive unit” – the gas-electric transaxle – was redesigned. It’s 100-pounds lighter, and shed rare earth magnets in the smaller of its two motors and reduced them by 40 percent in the larger. It delivers more torque at 298 pounds-feet over the former 273, and the same 149 horsepower (111 kilowatts).

Inside the drive unit now are two connected planetary gearsets. One motor is 117 horsepower (87 kilowatts), the other is 64 horsepower (48 kilowatts). They are connected by a sophisticated traction power inverter module (TPIM) and merged with a new all-aluminum 1.5-liter Ecotec. It features direct injection, 12.5:1 compression ratio, cooled exhaust gas recirculation and a variable displacement oil pump, and is rated for 101 horsepower at 5,600 rpm.

Formerly, the 2011-2015 Volt used a single planetary gearset and more powerful motors, at 74 horsepower (55 kilowatts) and 149 horsepower (111 kilowatts) respectively. The larger of two motors did most of the heavy lifting. The new design lets both lighter motors work together or singly.

TPIM and motors.

TPIM and motors.

The drive unit is different from generation one, but the EREV principle is retained. In EV driving, it’s a new feature that the two motors can work together so – despite smaller motors – total power is actually higher than in the original Volt. This allows the 243-pound lighter, 3,543-pound 2016 Volt to accelerate from 0-30 mph in 2.6 seconds – within realm of what a 60-kwh Tesla Model S can do, give or take a tenth of a second.

This new drive unit was also designed from its inception to enable GM to spin off hybrids at will, and the 2016 Malibu Hybrid was co-developed with a similar drive unit, but only 1.5-kwh battery, and no plug.

So, in the course of building the new Volt, GM may finally become competitive with Toyota in the regular hybrid space as well. The pending Malibu Hybrid is rated 6-mpg higher than the Camry Hybrid, thus the Volt is paying dividends before the first example is even delivered to a customer.

Power for the Volt is supplied by a new 18.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery replacing the former 17.1. Fewer and larger LG Chem cells are used, and the T-pack sheds 20 pounds.

SEE ALSO: 6 Way The 2016 Chevy Volt Has Been Improved

When the battery is depleted – actually when the computer tells it to stop delivering power after about 14.0 kwh used – the gas engine kicks on. This is about 76 percent usable power of the nominal 18.4 total kilowatts, and GM upped it from about 65 percent of the battery used on gen-one.

With an exemplary reliability record, the decision was made to use more of the battery. It is warranted, and ought to last a normal consumer lifetime’s usage, barring complications.


Recharging takes about 4.5 hours on 240-volt level two power, or 13 hours for 120-volt house current. Many Volt owners don’t opt for level two, but some do. Some also wanted a bigger on-board charger, and it is, 3.6-kw instead of 3.3 which makes charge times comparable when charging at 240 volts. But not available is a 6.6-kw charger as some requested. This would have enabled quicker recharging, and some said they’d have paid extra for it, but this is one of the cost-reducing compromises GM settled upon.

Aside from those looking to charge intraday, or simply faster, most will be fine with this, however, as overnight charging on wall current is still all many will do.

Per normal electrified vehicle practice, the electric motors also generate power back to the battery, and serve in regenerative braking.

If you want a technical deep dive, here’s a great one from February.

With one of the authors, Jeff Nisewanger, along for our drive, we were told by GM engineer Tim Grewe “it’s correct” as he talked rocket science (Volt engineering) with us.

But for now here’s what you need to know: the powertrain works well.


The new Volt’s body is supposed to have been inspired both by endurance athletes, and windblown sand. In the event you are not up on subtleties of quasi-abstract notions from the world of art and design language, we’ll just note it’s more swoopy and retains certain cues from gen-one.


It also fits into the Chevy family line, echoing the new Cruze, with a dash of Honda Civic and pinch of Kia Forte thrown in for flavor to its three-box design. It looks like a sedan, but is actually a hatchback.

Inside, another facelift took place. Gone are haptic feedback controls, in place are very tasteful and functional knobs and buttons. A nice high-resolution 8-in touchscreen is reminiscent of an iPad Mini, and Apple CarPlay is one of numerous apps and functionalities.

Next year when the 2017 arrives early spring for the 39 states not getting it this year, Android Auto will be an option. Those with 2016 Volts will get a free software update for Android Auto at that time. Reports of self-driving Volts, if you heard any, were of a test fleet being developed, not an option for production vehicles. Yet.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

An issue for some will be GM’s compact Delta II platform. While room is great up front, even for long-legged folk wearing a cowboy hat, in back it’s only adequate. The rear legroom grew 0.6 inches, headroom shrunk 0.2 inches, and a mid seating section added at driver request is OK for kids, or other lithe people for short hops.

Front seat adjusted for driver with 34-inch inseam.

Front seat adjusted for driver with 34-inch inseam.

Asked why Chevrolet went with a compact, Gesse said they mulled the options, and chose it as it’s a hot class of car for eco. And realistically, while everyone wants more of everything – including interior space – a whole lot of people actually commute solo or maybe with one passenger.

The Drive

Chevrolet already had the longest EV-range for a gas-electric car on the market, short of a BMW i3 REx – which has less utility potential due to its 1.9-gallon gas tank.

The new Volt widens its pre-existing advantage with 13 more miles over an effective 40 miles the 17.1-kwh Volt could muster unofficially.

If you’re new to this, and say big deal to 13 miles EV range, that is enough to put many more people over the top and keep them in battery only for daily driving.

Based on OnStar data, Chevrolet expects an average 1,000 miles between fill-ups to its 8.9-gallon tank, which could work out to close to 120 mpg plus cost of electricity.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

Many will do much more than this, and the car has been known to go for months without turning the gas engine on aside from it briefly automatically running to maintain engine lubrication every six weeks.

On our drive, we saw 54 miles range alternately pushing it and nursing it by using the paddle on the left backside of the steering wheel for regenerative braking. In gas operation, we averaged 40 mpg though depending on conditions, this will vary above or below several mpg.

The regenerative braking paddle – the right-side paddle is a split multi-function switch –was adopted from the Cadillac ELR, and every electrified vehicle ought to have one. It significantly increases battery replenishing energy up to 60 kw, or about half of max output. It feels like brakes, but it works a bit more abruptly. The driver is not able to lightly feather or modulate it like friction brakes, but it’s definitely better to have than not, and the brake pedal still lets you feather regenerative braking.

Inside, comfort is great. This could be a road trip car, especially for two in the spacious front, or with kids in back in the just-OK rear seat room.

Sight lines are improved, the A-pillar is not as obtrusive as in gen-one, but still beefy for rollover safety. Manually adjustable seats to save weight don’t seem like much of an inconvenience, but we hear people say they wish they had the option for power seats.

The new gauges, and controls are attractively laid out following cues from the new Chevy family. The new touchscreen works nicely with a smartphone – we used an iPhone 5S with CarPlay – and experienced no wonkiness.

But while cars are morphing into rolling desktops and phone booths, they are still meant for driving, and our route could not have been better to test handling, highway, and around town.

A claim to fame is the Volt is fun, and that it was – on curve after curve of surreal tight twisties on a long stretch of Route 1 above San Francisco.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

The Volt doesn’t protest when pushed, though tire scrubbing could be heard as we challenged the low rolling resistance Michelin tires built for Volt fitment.

Doing ham-fisted moves like braking with the paddle regen into tight slow corners made the front tread scuff more, but overall, this is a decent handling car.

Product Manager Gesse estimated if you switched to summer rubber, you’d get better grip but maybe lose a couple miles range, and a mpg or two in gas operation. Most won’t feel the need.

It is no Subaru WRX, but definitely beats a 2015 Prius and some other ordinary cars in its class. Toyota is saying the new 2016 Prius now handles better, so we’ll see when we drive it in mid November, but really, the Prius is only loosely a competitor.

Augmenting the Volt experience is the famed “instant torque.” Push the accelerator and it goes. We were not confused that we’d taken out a Camaro Z28 by mistake, but it will be satisfying for most drivers.

On the highway, it’s smooth and with plenty of passing power. One thing still present is a “thrumming” noise of reverberation in the ears can occur when a window is lowered, particularly in the back.

Gone however is a polite pedestrian warning honk sound button on the left stalk. Instead the car emits a sort of fan-like sound at speeds below 19 mph. It can’t be heard inside the car, but people outside can hear it.

Incidentally, quickest acceleration according to Greg Hubbard, chief engineer, Electric and Hybrid Propulsion Systems, is from the motors operated by the battery, not the internal combustion engine.

The gas engine, not incidentally, may run in battery preserving Hold mode which suspends EV operation, saving it for later, or Charge Sustaining mode – the phase that takes over when the battery is depleted. Both Hold and CS do the same thing, but Hold sustains the battery’s state of charge while there is enough energy left to run in EV mode, and CS is a default state when propulsion energy is no longer available.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

The difference between gas or electric operation will be imperceptible to most anyone, but on paper, a smidgeon more propulsion energy is available in EV mode. So, to settle some misinformation we’ve seen on the forums, quickest 0-30, 0-60 etc, is with gas engine off, says Chevrolet. Unfortunately we were unable to run our own track tests during this drive event.

On our drive, once the juice ran out, the Ecotec engine seamlessly came on in CS mode as per normal Volt practice. Noise, vibration and harshness are muted better than the kind-of grindy 1.4-liter iron block mill that came before.

At odd intervals, the TPIM may decide to opportunity charge and rev the engine without actually applying that energy to the front wheels to accelerate, of course. We heard this a few times on rolling terrain, after cresting a rise.

Bear in mind, this is an extremely sophisticated managed powertrain.

According to Grewe, a dedicated system optimizer computer takes into account recent driving behavior. Five different computers cooperate to control the powertrain. If one computer decides to emulate the computer named Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey, and go off the deep end, the other computers can veto its commands to ensure redundant safety.


Chevrolet’s powertrain makes it hands-down the most effective gas-saving hybrid on average-length daily trips in the world. This is fact. A study presented to SAE showed it outdoes all other plug-in hybrids. And, U.S. Energy Department-run Idaho National Lab has shown it goes nearly as far on electricity as pure EVs.

Qualifiers to its gas-saving include on longer trips, perhaps over 100 miles, the Volt’s EV advantage averaged in with 42 mpg gas operation diminishes next to superior fuel sippers such as regular hybrids.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows Chevy Volt Can Burn Less Gas Than Any Other PHEV

The preeminent regular hybrid, a 2016 Prius, may get 55 mpg and on long trips it would be superior. Also, emissions advantages are a toss-up depending on upstream emissions, if applicable. Renewable electricity magnifies the Volt’s environmental potential significantly. More info can be seen at


In any case, the Volt stands to help American manufacturing, the environment, and energy security. The 2017 will rise to 70-percent U.S. content when the Flint engine plant comes online and Mexican engines are switched out sometime into the model year.

The new Volt is furthermore evolved, so it benefits from lessons learned from the first round of buyers.

As for looks, the move to “mainstream” aspirations, has the Volt blending in, and odd “eco” car design was never the Volt’s thing, but it did previously stand out more.

Frankly, until now, General Motors has been said to be sending mixed messages with the Volt. Former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz once said it might “leapfrog” the Prius, its history never bore that out, and Chevrolet’s present lead marketer literally said he was not in on that conversation, and finds it irrelevant to what the Volt has become.

SEE ALSO: Can the 2016 Volt Break Beyond ‘Niche’ And Go ‘Mainstream?’

So the Volt wants to be mainstream, but it’s been a niche. Is that an oxymoron? A mainstream niche product? And plug-in car watchers are still scratching their head, looking for a congruent message this time. Chevrolet is working to spread excitement, but changed plans in September so 39 states will not receive 2016s. It says it wants to nail down the 11 states, get set up, and move forward. Observers are hoping this won’t be mixed messages round two.

But if something about the Volt is a deal breaker for you, there’s always the Ford Fusion Energi, 2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV, others in this class, or whatever else works for you.

The well-balanced fun-yet-frugal Volt should however please more people than not.

Price starts at $33,995 including $825 destination. An upscale LTZ trim starts at $38,345.

Eligible for a full $7,500 federal tax credit – a couple thousand more than the PHEVs – and state subsidies where applicable, its total cost of ownership can prove amazingly good.


How good? Edmunds True Cost To Own calculator has shown last year’s 2015 model priced at $32,500 after dealer discounts could earn back the difference and then save an average driver in Southern California $6,000 in five years compared to a $21,400 Chevy Cruze.

The 2016 ought to do better, and it should sell better.

In question is whether Volt sales will surprise analysts who predict the 200-mile range 2017 Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3 will steal sales after the first year.

SEE ALSO: Is the 2016 Volt Worth Buying?

Maybe, maybe not. That there’s upward potential is clear. This Volt has been reinvented, and we think it has paid dues, not all of them justified. Perhaps it’s due for a rebound?

We certainly hope so. For all the fair and unfair observations focused on this Chevy over the last half decade, it is a winner and the new one is better.

This article also appears at


Oct 02

New Volt Ads Attack Leaf and Prius


Chevrolet wants to sell Volts; preferably more than it did at its peak in 2012,2013.


Compared to the 2016 Chevy Volt, a Nissan Leaf could leave you stranded, and it’s at least far from range-anxiety free. Similarly, the 2016 Toyota Prius uses 1990s tech in its NiMh battery.

These assertions are not ours, however, but the gist of new attack advertisements Chevrolet has in store to wake people up to the new 53-mile EV range Volt. The ads are set to debut online this fall, and also on TV.

“We’re going to go head-to-head with Leaf and Prius,” said Chevrolet’s global chief marketing officer in a report by Ad Age, Tim Mahoney. “The ads allow Chevrolet to talk in one way and they allow Chevrolet’s personality to come through. We’re going to be taking more risks.”

This revelation was given to journalists in San Francisco as the automaker has begun shipping first units to California and 10 other states following California emissions rules, and where Mahoney says it has sold the best.

2016 will be a short model year, the rest if the U.S. will get a 2017 model year beginning next spring, but meanwhile the offensive is on.

The Volt, launched its first generation in 2011 and was nearly hidden in plain sight. The car came on te heels of a bankruptcy, bailout, restructuring, and the Volt was a poster child for Republican election hopefuls because Obama backed it.

Chevrolet caught lots of criticism for not marketing it effectively nationwide, and even seemed to tuck its tail between its legs, revealing in January 2014 it has ceased advertising Volt outside California and tech fairs where people could comprehend its value.

Despite that, the Volt was, when objectively examined, actually disruptive and now ads themselves will be disruptive for generation two in a mildly confrontational sort of way.

This psychology will include a scene with Leaf drivers stuck between floors in an elevator, an unnerving experience, to get the point across of an EV being stuck. Getting caught out of juice in a world oriented toward gasoline is no fun – especially when recharging takes a while for the Leaf unless you run out coincidentally at one of the few level 3 quick chargers out there.

What was not talked about is the new 2016 Leaf will offer as much as 107 miles range – no doubt to counter the upgraded Volt and as Leaf sales have begin to fade compared to last year.

And, the 10-percent more efficient 2016 Prius is updated and supposedly handles better. Toyota will also soon show a higher-efficienct “Eco” version which may have li-ion battery pioneered since 2012 in the plug-in Prius – and it will have superior fuel economy, possibly over 55 mpg.

But the extended-range electric Volt is unique with ability to run on electricity then seamlessly switch to its 1.5-liter gas engine for hybrid mode.

Those who get it, well, they get it. But Chevrolet is trying to get past a public with apparent Volt blindness to see whether it can beat analysts predictions on tepid sales.

Mahoney said the attack ad idea is part of a “shattering perceptions” strategy that has increased brand perception by 3 percent.

The base Volt starts at $33,995, about $1,115 less than last year while delivering significantly longer EV range, and better mileage in gas operation at 42 mpg.

This article also appears at


Sep 15

Porsche signals it won’t let Tesla have all the fun forever


It’s only a concept but the Germans have discovered batteries, are doing more PHEVs, and an EV on this level is probably just a matter of when, not if.

Undoubtedly this won’t be price competitive with a Model S. Tesla aspires to Porsche like profits, but meanwhile, this looks nifty.

Wonder what the curb weight is …


Porsche has been progressively dipping its toes deeper into the water with electrification, and with the Mission E Concept, it dives right in.

The all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steering electric sedan boasts 600 horsepower (440 kilowatts), 0-62 mph time of 3.5 seconds, 200 km/h in under 12 seconds, and Porsche says it can lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in under 8 minutes.

Range is estimated at 500 kilometers (310 miles) on the NEDC cycle, roughly matching the Tesla Model S, depending on configuration.

“The drive system of the Mission E is entirely new, yet it is typical Porsche, i.e. proven in motor racing,” says the automaker. “Two permanently-excited synchronous motors (PSM) – similar to those used in this year’s Le Mans victor, the 919 hybrid – accelerate the sports car and recover braking energy. The best proof of a Porsche is 24 hours of top racing performance and a 1-2 finish.”

That means this is quick. The Nurburgring time is around one minute longer than a Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid hypercar, but one of the fastest times for a sedan, and faster than high-eight-minute times we’ve seen to date for a Tesla P85D, though that time may be reduced.


Seeking to top Tesla in other ways, the Porsche concept recharges its 800-volt drive system in just 15 minutes to 80-percent charge.

“Doubling the voltage – compared to today’s electric vehicles that operate at 400 volts – offers multiple advantages: shorter charging times and lower weight, because lighter, smaller gauge copper cables are sufficient for energy transport,” says Porsche.

Specifics on the high-power recharging system were not divulged, but Porsche cannot call it “Supercharging” since Tesla already owns that name, so this is called “Porsche Turbo Charging” for the double-the-voltage system.

Drivers will be able to charge with a conventional 400-volt quick-charging station, says the automaker, or of course, it may be plugged into level 2 or level 1 – wirelessly, at home via inductive charging.

The vehicle is otherwise promising no compromises for Porsche clientele with lithium-ion batteries low in the chassis comprised of aluminum, steel and carbon fiber.


“The battery mounted in the car’s underbody, which is based on the latest lithium-ion technology, runs the whole length between the front and rear axles,” says Porsche. “This distributes its weight to the two drive axles uniformly, resulting in exceptionally good balance. In addition, it makes the sports car’s centre of gravity extremely low.”

The body’s height is comparable to the 911, and the car rolls on carbon fiber wheels, 21-inch in front, 22-inch in back.

Inside, the future is now with a holographic display, eye-tracking technology and a mood tracker.

The car will know what gauge you are looking at by tracking your eyes and enables the driver to hit a button on the menu and access the gauge being focused upon.

Mounted to the rear view mirror is a camera mounted that enables the car to determine the driver’s moods and change a small emoticon on the corner of the mirror to mimic it.

Production plans have not been announced., full press release.


Aug 12

Will the 2016 Volt Be Worth It?



As orders are being taken now in California, Chevrolet hopes its 2016 Volt due in a couple months will prove to be a superior fuel and money saver for more people.

Since the first-generation model was launched in December 2010, the Volt has had a polarizing effect on people – or ducked under the radar – for too-many nuanced reasons to elaborate here, but those who “get it” mainly love it.

The outgoing 2015 Volt had an electric range of 38 rated miles and the new one is pegged at 53. Less-well known is the EPA rates it for 57 all-electric miles in the city, and 49 all-electric miles highway.

SEE ALSO: Complete Chevy Volt Award List

Efficiency on electricity has now been bumped from 98 MPGe combined to 106 MPGe. Fuel economy on gas only has increased from 37 mpg to 42 combined – 43 city, 42 highway – and the new range-extending engine runs on cheaper regular fuel.

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt can run on pure electricity for 53 miles

The compact Volt still will catch criticism by some for having a tight-ish back seat but where it is like the super genius in the classroom is in the efficiency spectrum.

“The 2016 Volt is engineered to offer customers more of what they want: range, range and more range,” says Chevrolet, and this is not exaggeration.

The next-closest plug-in hybrid competitor is the Ford Fusion Energi EPA-rated at 19 miles all-electric miles. Hyundai’s 2016 Sonata plug-in hybrid is expected to deliver 24 miles all-electric miles – so the 2016 Volt more than doubles that.

How important is just 29-more electric miles per charge that the 2016 Volt affords? This message may be lost on people who hear of EVs going 80-270 miles, but for daily driving, this is enough to put lots of people over the top and stay in pure electric mode.

The average daily drive is under 40 miles says government data, and electricity in most parts of the country is far-less to pay for than gasoline, even at presently low prices.

2015 Volt Total Cost of Ownership. Data for the 2016 and 2016 Prius and Fusion Energi following is not yet available. Source: Edmunds

2015 Volt Total Cost of Ownership. Data for the 2016 and 2016 Prius and Fusion Energi following is not yet available. Source: Edmunds

Given the Volt – which starts at $33,995 – is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and in California and other states further money back from governments encouraging low-emitting cars, the value proposition looks like it could be good-to-great.

According to’s Total Cost To Own calculator, the present 2015 Volt, though priced higher, already compares favorably to the most-efficient hybrid sold in the U.S., the Toyota Prius Liftback.

2015 Prius trim level IV. Note cash price less, but TCO is more than Volt. Source: Edmunds.

2015 Prius trim level IV. Note cash price is less, but TCO is more than Volt. Source: Edmunds.

Next to the Fusion Energi, the Volt comes in around $12,000 less to own over five years based on the averaged numbers and algorthms Edmunds applies.

When the Volt was first launched GM wanted to say it was good for 230 mpg, but facts get confusing when mixing potential gas savings by turning the engine off and running on battery power for a span.

As it is, Volt fans for the past four years have been raving that they do indeed exceed the EPA’s conservative estimates and net crazy high “mpg” – but of course this is augmented by electricity, which is not free but still less.

In Detroit this year at the generation two’s launch, the two top General Motors engineers responsible for the Volt’s development separately told us the main thing Volt owners wanted was to not have to turn on the gas.

Why? A few reasons, but one is once people get used to the Volt’s gas-free operation, it makes them want more. Frankly, the noise, vibration and harshness of engine-on versus engine-off spoils them for the all-electric drive experience. GM says the NVH is superior for the new 1.5-liter Ecotec replacing the 1.4 in the gen-one Volt, but the real goal is it not be used more than absolutely necessary.

2015 Fusion Energi SE TCO. Source: Edmunds.

2015 Fusion Energi SE TCO. Source: Edmunds.

Beyond those considerations, saving gas of course means less money spent, and fewer greenhouse gases emitted.

With its hands tied by liabilities and higher accountability, Chevrolet says conservatively the improved 2016 Volt will do well.

“Chevrolet expects many next-generation Volt owners will use power solely from their batteries for more than 90 percent of trips,” the automaker says based on OnStar telematics data. “Today, Volt owners use battery power on 80 percent of their trips.”

The carmaker hinted around the edges the vehicle may over-deliver with people who drive it sensibly and take advantage of recharging.

SEE ALSO: 6 Ways the 2016 Chevy Volt Has Been Improved

“Data shows that drivers of the first-generation Volt achieved, and often exceeded, the published EPA-estimated mileage,” says the automaker. “Chevrolet expects the same label-exceeding result with the next-generation Volt.”

In cold weather, the estimates will go down to one degree or another and the Volt does still need to run the engine due to cold temperature in frigid conditions.

But while the TCO compares available 2015 data, progress continues for everyone.

Unknown is how the new Volt will fare against the fourth-generation 2016 Prius due to be revealed later this year.

With regards to the Volt’s ability to run on battery only, that is a slam dunk – 53 miles versus maybe 1. How it may do later against a Prius plug-in hybrid is also an open question and rumors have it more EV range will be provided than the present car’s 11.


What Toyota has going for it is a long track record back to 2000 in the U.S., and superior gas-only mpg. Daily drives will still see the Volt averaging better but longer trips will see its edge diminish as the new Prius may get close to 55 mpg versus 42.

Of course a buying decision is based on far more than these narrow factors so other criteria even beyond those weighed in TCO estimates will need to be considered.

But within the other set of criteria – average-length daily driving – the Volt offers advantages of a pure EV with a built-in gas engine to go farther and stands heads above.

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