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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gen II Chevy Volt Could Use Rotary Engine

Chevrolet's 2011 Volt hasn't even made it to the dealer showroom yet and GM's engineering team is already working on cost-cutting solutions for the second-generation Chevy Volt.

"Right now, the propulsion system is too expensive, even with using an existing engine," GM's new vice president of global vehicle engineering, Karl Stracke, told Inside Line today. But Stracke confirmed that future Volt powertrains are already being tested, including several different range-extending engines, possibly even a rotary.

"We have a strategy to go rotary engines or a two-cylinder [gas] engine making 15-18 kW. I have driven the car already. Rotary has a higher fuel consumption but here's the advantage [holds up his hands to form round, frisbee-sized shape] — packaging."

"One rotor could be enough," Stracke continued. "Of course with the higher rpm of a rotary, you need to have an NVH solution."

Stracke says GM is also looking at the possibility of a diesel engine. "The cost of the engine would be higher for the manufacturer," said Stracke, "but the fuel costs would be cheaper for customers."

If GM hopes to reach the same level of mainstream success with the Volt as Toyota has accomplished with its Prius hybrid, it's extremely important to cut costs in future generations. Stracke says the cost of the 2011 Volt's battery pack is "roughly $10,000" and that GM is "working aggressively to get that cost down 50 percent" for the next Volt.

"The future of the automobile has never been as interesting as it is right now," said Stracke. "Big question is, what new propulsion system will come next?"

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