Chevy has unveiled its newest technology in the Chevy Volt engine. General Motors will produce the plug in series hybrid and production is expected to begin in 2010 and the model should be available to consumers in 2011.
The engine in the Chevy Volt accomplishes its propulsion in a different fashion than the currently available commercial hybrid vehicles. The propulsion for the Volt comes directly from the electric motor, as the internal combustion engine is not connected mechanically to the wheels. The initial power source for the vehicle will come directly from the lithium ion batteries. When fully charged the batteries are capable of a 40 mile range when the outside ambient temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This is distance satisfies the requirements for 75% of most commuters in the United States who tend to drive an average of 33 miles to work.
The ECU (electronic control module) works to distribute the power from the generator back to electric motor and the batteries and depending on the beginning charge has the ability to extend the range of a single tank of gas to 640 miles. The official definition for hybrid engines given by the Society of Automotive Engineers states that to qualify for a hybrid “the vehicle must utilize two or more sources of energy located on board the vehicle both of which either together or separately must provide propulsion for the vehicle”.
Because of this, General Motors has dubbed its newest creation an EREV or Extended Range Electric Vehicle although most will know this particular combination of batteries and ICE as a series hybrid. As for the environmental impact of the Chevy Volt, the actual end carbon footprint left the vehicle remains to be seen. For the first 40 miles the Volt will have zero tailpipe emissions. Once the batteries have drained to a certain point, the 4 cylinder internal combustion engine will then take over propulsion completely.
When the 4 cylinder engine is engaged the tailpipe emission will be similar to that of other small 4 cylinder ICE’s. Due to the feedback loop between the engine and the batteries, once these have been fully charged by the generator, the electric motor will resume the job of propelling the vehicle so tailpipe emissions will then fall back to zero. The on: off cycling between the electric motor and the internal combustion engine results in a lower net total for the tailpipe emission which is lower than any of the hybrids in production today. At this time, The Environmental Protection Agency has not decided how the volt should be tested to measure its official fuel economy rating. If the standard currently applied to hybrids is used, the Volt would be the first vehicle in mass production to achieve a fuel efficiency rating of over 100 MPG. As engine technology strives to move away from oil dependence, General Motors hopes to be on the cutting edge with the innovative strides made with the new Chevy Volt engine.