Is The Chevy Volt An EV Or Hybrid?

2011 Chevrolet Volt

I was at the Chicago offices of Car.com on October 11th when Ron Hall asked me “Have you heard the big news about the Chevy Volt”?  Turns out that after years of Chevy engineers explaining to us automotive writers that the gas engine is not connected in any way to the drive wheels, they are.  Kinda.  Sorta.  The folks at Edmunds Inside Line were angry enough to fire off the headline “GM Lied: Chevy Volt Is Not a True EV”.  GM countered with explanations of how they needed time to protect patents and that without electricity Volt will not run so it truly is an EV.

I was offered a Volt in Seattle for the weekend bad sadly it coincided with my trip to Chicago (and I wasn’t going to let 3 months of marathon training and a $400 airline ticket go down the drain).  So in the meantime I’ve rounded up a number of Volt articles that do a good job of explaining the car and the controversy.  My take?  Volt delivers what GM promised- a 40-50 mile range before the gas generator kicks in to extend the range.  Many writers are experiencing a quiet comfortable ride and good performance.  Gas only fuel economy seems to be around 35-42 MPG with better numbers being seen in city driving dynamics.

If you want to know how the Volt really works, check out the articles by Dan Edmunds of Inside Line (How The Volt Works) or Joe Wiesenfelder of Cars.com.  Then make up your own mind.  GM’s press release is below the links.

Edmunds Inside Line- GM Lied

Edmunds Inside Line- How the Volt Works

Cars.com 2011 Chevy Volt review

Automobile Magazine Chevy Volt Surprise

Motor Trend Unbolting The Volt

Detroit News

Autoblog

The New York Times

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Bureau

GM’S PRESS RELEASE

DETROIT – As GM has started the media launch program for the Chevrolet Volt, some confusion has emerged about details of the Volt’s drive technology.

The engineering of the Voltec electric drive unit is very sophisticated.  As part of the media launch, we’re diving deeper into how the system works than we have in the past.  We did not share all the details until now because the information was competitive and we awaited patent approvals.  Following a small number of inaccurate media reports, we want to clarify a few points.

The Volt has an innovative electric drive system that can deliver power in both pure electric and extended range driving.  The Voltec electric drive cannot operate without power from the electric motors.  If the traction motor is disabled, the range-extending internal combustion engine cannot drive the vehicle by itself.

There is no direct mechanical connection (fixed gear ratio) between the Volt’s extended-range 1.4L engine and the drive wheels.  In extended-range driving, the engine generates power that is fed through the drive unit and is balanced by the generator and traction motor.  The resulting power flow provides a 10 to 15 percent improvement in highway fuel economy.

Our overriding objective in developing the Voltec electric drive was to deliver the most efficient, yet fun-to-drive experience in both pure electric and extended-range driving.  We think our unique technology lives up to its most important promise: delivering our customers with the only EV that can be their primary vehicle, with EV operation for normal daily driving, and extended range driving for weekends, holidays, and longer trips – all with no range anxiety.

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