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Saturday, May 22, 2010

100% Battery Electric Chevy Volt in the Works

When the Chevrolet Volt finally hits the market this November, it will mark the end of a long and highly publicized journey for the Volt team. Or will it? According to several reports, GM vice chairman Bob Lutz has said that the company is already developing a spin-off of the Volt, this one without the car’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine/generator. Yep, that would make it a pure EV, or “BEV” (for battery electric vehicle).

GM spokesman Shad Balch says that GM expects some of the Volt’s more fanatical customers to simply yank out the Volt’s gas engine and its supporting components, including the fuel tank and exhaust systems, while reprogramming the car’s computers so as to access most or all of the Volt’s 16 kWh of battery power. (The Volt currently allows the lithium-ion battery pack to operate only in its “sweet spot,” between a 30 and 80 percent state of charge, in order to prolong its life.)

Even with the considerably lighter weight that would come with the engine-ectomy, the Volt’s 400-plus-mile range would be seriously curtailed. But there are people willing to live with such limitations, Balch says, and GM would like to have something to offer them. It would also give GM a credible (and far more attractive) BEV to go up against Nissan’s new Leaf. A GM-built version would add battery capacity in place of the engine in order to increase the range beyond the current car’s 40-mile electric-only barrier.

Furthermore, a Volt BEV would pave the way for other GM BEVs. Just as the Volt’s E-REV technology could be fitted to the Cruze, with which it shares a platform, the BEV technology could be adapted to other small GM products like, say, the upcoming Aveo replacement, or the all-new Spark minicar (another car aptly named for electric propulsion).

Having an all-electric variant could also make it easier for Chevy to cast the standard Volt as an electric car with a range-extending engine versus a plug-in hybrid. No word, however, on how much a Volt BEV might cost relative to the E-REV version, nor how long we’ll have to wait before we might see it.

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