As an electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt’s thirty-seven-mile range isn’t all that impressive, but could future developments in lithium-ion battery technology change our impressions?
Really, the Chevy Volt, billed as an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV), is just a series plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). You can drive a Chevy Volt up to 37 miles, or so, after which the gasoline-powered range-extender, an onboard generator, allows you to drive until the gasoline runs out. The engine is not connected directly to the transmission, which makes it slightly different from parallel PHEVs, such as the Toyota Prius Plug-In, in which both the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the electric motors can drive the vehicle.
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson has hinted at possible future Chevy Volt developments, including a lithium-ion battery with two or three times the capacity. A Chevy Volt with a 200-mile range would certainly take it out of PHEV territory and put it into EV territory, especially if they drop the ICE range-extender. This seems like it could be a good way to go, if General Motors can manage the technology. They already tried this with Envia Systems, but legal troubles and failure to actually reproduce the touted 400Wh/kg lithium-ion battery technology has been a setback.
Mr. Akerson, in a BusinessWeek interview, said that, by 2016, the Chevy Volt might well have an electric-only range of 200 miles, and that the price would be around $30,000. Released one year ahead of the expected Tesla Model E, could this new Chevy Volt steal attention away from the most-successful electric vehicle startup, or any automobile startup, company in the last half-century? It might be a moonshot, but the Chevy Volt already is more popular than other electric vehicles in its class, in spite of, or because of, the fact that it isn’t a pure electric vehicle. Could added range make the Chevy Volt the popular EV that it could be?