Windsor

GM's electric Volt works in real-world tests

Real-world tests show General Motors Co.'s rechargeable electric car can travel 65 kilometres on battery power as promised, company engineers said Monday.

Engineers take Volts on errands around Detroit

The Chevy Volt, shown here at the Washington Auto Show in January, is expected to hit U.S. showrooms in December, and go on sale in Canada in the summer of 2011. ((J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press))
Real-world tests show General Motors Co.'s rechargeable electric car can travel 65 kilometres on battery power as promised, company engineers said Monday.

Engineers are testing six Volts that recently were made on a Detroit assembly line, driving them at the company's proving ground and on roads around Detroit.

The automaker still has a "few things to tweak" with the car, including computer software and controls, but the Volt is on schedule for full production in November, said Andrew Farah, the car's chief engineer.

The Volt, which has a 1.4-litre gas engine that kicks on when the batteries are depleted, is due in U.S. showrooms in December and in Canada in the summer of 2011.

Later this month, GM also will start making test versions of a similar car for Europe called the Opel Ampera.

It will be distributed in Europe as a 2012 model.

Tests included grocery runs

Farah said he got 66.8 kilometres and 68.4 kilometres on his last two electric cycles of the Volt, which he said were under normal driving conditions, running errands to buy tax preparation software, basketballs and baked goods.

"I'm not speeding," he said. "I'm not taking it particularly easy either, because I'm driving the way I would normally drive."

The car will get about 21.3 kilometres per litre when the gas engine turns on to generate electricity to power the electric motor.

Farah says the range will depend on weather, terrain and driving habits and can vary 20 percent up and down. The Volt, he says will have a lower range when the batteries have to heat the passenger compartment in colder climate.

Engineers said the gasoline engine will add more than 483 kilometres to the Volt's range, but they wouldn't say how many litres the gas tank will hold. Under both full-electric and gasoline engine power, the car will get about 98 kilometres per litre under U.S. government standards, the company says.

GM to expand Mich. lab

GM also announced on Monday that it would spend $8 million to double the size of its suburban Detroit lab that engineers and tests electric vehicle batteries.

The automaker said the expansion of the facility in Warren, Mich., won't create any new jobs, but will allow GM to centralize its battery testing and do tests in-house rather than with outside contractors.

The expansion will also allow GM to do safety and abuse tests, manufacturing engineering, charger development and heat tests at the lab, spokesperson Brian Corbett said. In addition, areas in the lab that were previously used for engine testing will be renovated for battery development.

Construction will start this month and the expanded lab is set to open this summer, GM said. About 1,000 engineers now work on electric vehicle development at GM, and the company has 40 to 50 openings for more.

Nissan to sell all-electric Leaf

Nissan Motor Co. plans to start selling its all-electric Leaf about the same time GM puts the Volt on sale.

The Leaf can get 160 kilometres on a single charge, Nissan says, but GM contends the Volt is a better value because it can travel much farther.

Nissan plans to price the Leaf, a four-door hatchback, at $32,780, but that drops to just over $25,000 when a $7,500 U.S. tax credit is included.

GM won't officially say the price of the Volt, but it's believed to be around $35,000.

Engineers said they are working to reduce the price as battery technology improves and becomes cheaper.

It will take eight-to-10 hours to recharge a Volt from a standard 110-volt home outlet, but that can be cut to four hours with an optional 220-volt charging box that will have to be installed in an owner's garage.

GM engineers also confirmed they are looking into a version of the Volt with the backup engine powered by natural gas.   

Corrections

  • According to GM, the Volt will get about 98 kilometres per litre under both full-electric and gasoline engine power, not 370 kilometres per litre, as reported in an earlier version of this story.
    Oct 15, 2013 11:59 PM ET

now