I had the chance to ask Andrew Farah who is the Chevy Volt's chief engineer, and former engineer on the EV-1 program about whether GM may spread the Voltec range-extended electric powetrain into other vehicles like trucks.
Are you configuring new battery pack designs for use in other vehicles such as people movers?
We call this portfolio planning. We look at our whole list of vehicles and try to figure out what should be next for the Voltec powertrain. We announced the Ampera which is a re-styling of the same architecture. The Converj is a little different approach. It's a global compact delta, with a different interior and probably a little different battery pack structure, although it'll have most of the same guts.
What about building trucks on the Voltec platform?
Yeah, but there is an issue generally speaking. You have to remember part of what enables this to work is an extremely efficient vehicle in a sense of its road load. What that means is lower, lighter, more aerodynamic and smaller.
So you wont get 40 miles of range in a truck, but can you supplement a truck with the battery?
You can, but if you're not hitting the sweet spot of 78% of the driving American public, how many will you sell? Everyone of these things in the portfolio has to be viable.
So you don’t see it going to pickup trucks?
Me personally, I don’t, but I don’t get to set the portfolio. Now if they call me tomorrow and say Andrew you're the chief engineer of the new Voltec pickup truck, guess what? By golly, I'm making one.
What if the cells get cheap enough?
To give you an example let me go back to my old days with the EV-1. We had the EV1 it was beautifully efficient small, and we also did a pickup truck. As a matter of fact there are still a few in captivity in the public’s hands. This was an interesting case, they're out there and they're still running around driving, but they didn’t go very far on a charge. They didn’t because they're heavy and non-aerodynamic. They went about 40 miles total range. They were set up for light duty fleet usage in an extremely limited area. You could say isn’t there a market for these things?, but that market is very sensitive to cost.
If cells were ¼ of their current price couldn't you theoretically use a larger battery pack?
I could throw in more modules, but right now my focus is the Volt. From a Volt prospective there are no major plans for changing the battery pack in size or energy in the next generations.
Though he says, "future product plans beyond what we've talked about publicly I cannot comment on," Bob Kruse who is Andrew Farah's boss, and GM Director of Hybrids and EVs also admits, "In this business you can never say never."