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Discussion Starter #1
In the Free Press

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008808160385


The key issue is the upgrades and proliferation that GM is planning. I think that people are underestimating how fast the core platform will be moving to other product lines. This is one of the real strengths of an electric car. Modifications for a modestly different platform (say Malibu) are pretty close to trivial. Modest change to code running the engine ( more power needed), and slight changes to the battery management, and 'poof', a brand new power train. Additionally, this beast is really simple to manufacture. Very few moving parts (compared to other cars), and will be getting simpler by the model year. They also seem to have figured out that they have a lead and need to exploit it as fast as they can.
 

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Additionally, this beast is really simple to manufacture. Very few moving parts (compared to other cars), and will be getting simpler by the model year.
Why is this car simpler to manufacture? It still has an internal combustion engine that must meet all pollution requirements. That would mean all devices on a conventional car must be on the Volt, e.g. advanced fuel injection, exhaust recirculation, catalytic converters, etc.. The car will have exhaust pipes, muffler, coolant systems, radiator, water pump, oil filters, air filters, spark plugs, gas tank, gas evaporation control system, gas line and filter, etc. They say it won't have a "shifting transmission" but it will have a reduction gear box that likely will require fluid changes. Now add the electric car components, inverter, charger, computer control electronics, batteries, electric motor, etc... How is this car simpler? It's an internal combustion car and an electric car combined.

A simpler car to manufacture would be a pure electric car, wouldn't it? It would have controlling electronics, battery system, electric motor and gear reduction unit. No emissions controls, no fuel systems. Virtually no maintenance. The pure electric car would also last longer.

The Volt appears to be a much more complex car than what's currently on the road today.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
You're right about an all electric being simpler, but simple is relative. Compared to a Model T - it will be more complex. Compared to the Rube Goldberg Prius (or any parallel hybrid), it is much simpler. Compared to standard car, it is moderately simpler. Yes, there is an engine, but it is a small simple engine that only operates at one RPM. It doesn't have a transmission, or differential, brakes are much simpler (regen functions as break also). Tuning for engine (valve timing etc.) is the same for all platforms in the same catagory. Electric motor change is minor software update (and repackage). Moving forward things will get much simpler as the design is refined. Simpler engine, and controls, motor wheels, steer by wire, etc..

For a standard car (around town and long distance), I think it will be awhile before we see an all electric. Range issues and recharge (especially recharge) are major problem areas for all electics.
 

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You're right about an all electric being simpler, but simple is relative. Compared to a Model T - it will be more complex. Compared to the Rube Goldberg Prius (or any parallel hybrid), it is much simpler. Compared to standard car, it is moderately simpler. Yes, there is an engine, but it is a small simple engine that only operates at one RPM. It doesn't have a transmission, or differential, brakes are much simpler (regen functions as break also). Tuning for engine (valve timing etc.) is the same for all platforms in the same catagory. Electric motor change is minor software update (and repackage). Moving forward things will get much simpler as the design is refined. Simpler engine, and controls, motor wheels, steer by wire, etc..

For a standard car (around town and long distance), I think it will be awhile before we see an all electric. Range issues and recharge (especially recharge) are major problem areas for all electics.
While I believe that overall the Volt CAN be simpler than a conventional automatic-transmission car, and definitely simpler than a Prius, I don't think it's quite as simple as you're thinking.

The engine will definitely be simpler than a modern all-ICE car, since it can be optimized for its ideal RPM and won't need variable valve-timing and such. I'm not sure what GM is doing transmission-wise, I don't know if it's a single ratio to the electric motor or not, but I suspect it is. It will absolutely require a differential unless they're planning for 1-wheel drive. Regenerative braking is significantly more complex than conventional mechanical brakes, because it has to blend between regeneration and mechanical braking depending upon the speed, the rate of deceleration, the state of charge of the battery pack, etc. etc.

Then you have systems like AC/heat. Conventional cars have a relatively simple engine-driven compressor and have hot coolant available when heat is required, but I think the Volt will have an electric-powered heat pump of some kind.

You also seem to be somewhat dismissive of the complexity of the control software. It may be unintentional, but when you're saying "Electric motor change is is minor software update" it seems like you think the software issue is trivial. I'd wager that the software is one of the most complex aspects of the Volt, because every aspect of its operation will be controlled by software (or firmware.)

I think the Volt has great potential. ;)

I don't think it's going to be particularly simple, however.
 

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You also seem to be somewhat dismissive of the complexity of the control software. It may be unintentional, but when you're saying "Electric motor change is is minor software update" it seems like you think the software issue is trivial. I'd wager that the software is one of the most complex aspects of the Volt, because every aspect of its operation will be controlled by software (or firmware.)
Software is easy, especially control algorithms.
 

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The first few generations will be complex because they are a hodgepodge of existing old, inefficient, and/or cheap technologies thrown into a hastily assembled package. Lack of a specially designed engine for the task of constant-RPM, hub motors, and more lightweight materials will be the biggest problems.

Firmware updates would be very easy. But wouldn't it be cool if you could just download updates from GMs web site and stick them on an SD card and just plug them into your Volt. Volt detects firmare and updates if necessary. Volt also detects MP3's and compiles a playlist for me on the center dash display. No need for a service shop visits or an OnStar link to get updates. Just use a standard SD card reader for everything. Then maybe we could do some tweaking to the firmware ourselves. Make "Volt hacks". Tweak turn signal rate and flash length. Dash display themes and colors. A geek can dream, can't he?
 

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Oh Noez. . .

My Volt got a virus from a bad download.

(It could happen. . . The more popular the car, the more likely the virus.)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
While I believe that overall the Volt CAN be simpler than a conventional automatic-transmission car, and definitely simpler than a Prius, I don't think it's quite as simple as you're thinking.

The engine will definitely be simpler than a modern all-ICE car, since it can be optimized for its ideal RPM and won't need variable valve-timing and such. I'm not sure what GM is doing transmission-wise, I don't know if it's a single ratio to the electric motor or not, but I suspect it is. It will absolutely require a differential unless they're planning for 1-wheel drive. Regenerative braking is significantly more complex than conventional mechanical brakes, because it has to blend between regeneration and mechanical braking depending upon the speed, the rate of deceleration, the state of charge of the battery pack, etc. etc.

Then you have systems like AC/heat. Conventional cars have a relatively simple engine-driven compressor and have hot coolant available when heat is required, but I think the Volt will have an electric-powered heat pump of some kind.

You also seem to be somewhat dismissive of the complexity of the control software. It may be unintentional, but when you're saying "Electric motor change is is minor software update" it seems like you think the software issue is trivial. I'd wager that the software is one of the most complex aspects of the Volt, because every aspect of its operation will be controlled by software (or firmware.)

I think the Volt has great potential. ;)

I don't think it's going to be particularly simple, however.
If there is anything on this planet that I am NOT dismissive of is the control software. And, once the initial code is completed, follow on cars will be much simpler.

And, yes, the first Volts are moderately complex, but they will get a lot simpler very quickly. The car is inherently simple, but that first model is really tough because everything is new. After that, simplification and refinement will work their magic.

Forgot about the d**m single motor. <argh> Yes. Until they switch to a multimotor system you will need to have a differential.
 
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