I have debated this post for awhile. Nissan-LEAF.net for the most part has stayed far away from the Chevrolet Volt debate. Sure, we have had a couple stories here and there…but other than the odd case, we leave the Chevrolet Volt stuff to our friends at GM-Volt.com.
Today we take a day off from that policy, and put it out there. The title of this post says it all, ‘How to fix the Volt.’ It implies both that the car is broken, and that there is still a solution.
What are we not going to talk about? The winding road on how we got here. We all know how the Volt started out – a fanciful concept, delivering 40 miles of EV driving and 50 MPG thereafter (remarkably without direct drive) for “comfortably under 30K.’ /truly, 2007 was a blissful year of ignorance
Today, the car is a homogeneous version of its former self, a restyled 4 seat, 3,800lb Cruze if you will, that gets somewhere between 32-40mpg in extended range mode (depending on which review you read) and achieves on average somewhere between 30-40 miles of electric driving depending on the reviewer, starting around $41,000. Doesn’t sound incredibly appealing does it?
The thing is, the Volt only has to do one thing right, and all is forgiven. Drive 40 miles under electric power alone. Now, there are reviews out there that didn’t do it, but say it ‘can’ be done, there are reviews that will say they have done it under certain circumstances…and that is not what I am talking about. The Volt HAS to drive 40 miles ALL the time (barring the most extreme situations). That is the moonshot…consistent delivery. Not a mile less, not a mile more (too bad hypermilers). The car drives exactly 40 miles, every time.
But Jay, that isn’t possible, you have to take into account the driver, the conditions, the blah, blah, blah. And your wrong. The Volt packs 16 kWh of power, more than enough to lay down 40 miles in just about each and every situation. The car also packs enough smarts to know that when to curtail the extreme edge of performance (like when the heat is on full). Sure controlling performance is a trade-off, but what do you want, a car with 0-60 performance of 9 seconds and 33 miles of range, or 0-60 and the full 40 miles? I suggest the car is being built for its ability to drive electrically, not for mediocre performance…so what is one more tick at this point?
In short, the car needs quietly turn on, drive 40 miles on electricity, make a little ‘bing’ that signifies 40 miles have been achieved, then flip seamlessly to its internal combustion engine…on the dot everytime.
The fact is the Volt’s battery was designed to take on tough AT-PZEV standards, which makes auto manufacturers cover their product for 10 years and 150,000 miles. That is what the Volt was originally built to achieve; only a recent decision to not apply for this standard allows GM to offer a lesser 8 year/100,000 mile warranty…this is where salvation lies.
To ensure 150,000 miles of driving was achievable, a huge portion of the pack (up to 50% at one point) was designed to be inaccessible. (Currently, the car uses 10.4 kWh of power at maximum). Also, a costly liquid battery thermal management system was put in place for the same objective.
There is now more than enough ‘play’ in the longevity of the battery to sometimes allow the driver to dip into a extra kWh (or two) to get from the ‘almost’ 40 miles of range to 40 miles exactly. Conversely, some cycles can be saved by having the car automatically convert to ICE propulsion regardless if there is still ‘life’ left in the battery at the 40 mile mark. All the customer knows/sees/expects is 40 miles, all the time.
General Motors, in giving the Volt to 15 members of the public for ‘testing’ before the car goes live, has said there is still time to make changes to the Volt, to at least make some changes in the software. Well, in my opinion, this is the change they have to make.
A consistent 40 miles, and the car can be called the success it was always meant to be (regardless of other shortcomings), and if that means they have to put a little more faith in the work of the engineers that designed the battery pack…then that is the chance they have to take.
No more ‘this reviewer got this,’ and ‘that reviewer got that.’ No more (*) asterisks. No more ‘your mileage may vary.’ Just a simple ‘you got exactly 40 miles of electric range.’ Again. Always.