GM’s Greener Vehicles
Once one of America ’s best-known and best-selling automotive brands,Chevrolet is banking on greener cars with its emphasis on the Volt. TheVolt was originally unveiled as a concept car at the 2007 NorthAmerican International Auto Show in Detroit. The Volt is scheduled tostart production in late 2010.
The Volt is a mid-sized car witha very aerodynamic front end and high rear decklid. Futuristic designelements include the LED fog lights, black expanse beneath the windowsand Volt badging attached to the sideview mirrors.
Litium-ionbatteries are key to GM’s strategy for building the Volt. The companywill establish the first lithium-ion battery pack manufacturingfacility in the United States operated by a major automaker.
TheVolt can travel up to 40 miles (60km) powered only by electricitystored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. The gasoline/E85-poweredengine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt’selectric drive unit and this extends its overall range to more than 300miles.
According to US Department of Transportation data,nearly 8 of 10 Americans commute fewer than 40 miles a day. At the U.S.average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typicalVolt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles,or less than 3 cents per mile.
“From the data we’ve seen, manyChevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a dailybasis without having to use any gas,” said GM Chief Executive OfficerFritz Henderson. “EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to comparethe fuel efficiency of vehicles. So, a vehicle like the Volt thatachieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer.”
TheChevrolet Volt uses grid electricity as its primary source of energy topropel the car. There are two modes of operation: Electric andExtended-Range. In electric mode, the Volt will not use gasoline orproduce tailpipe emissions when driving.
When the batteryreaches a minimum state of charge, the Volt automatically switches toExtended-Range mode. In this secondary mode of operation, anengine-generator produces electricity to power the vehicle. The energystored in the battery supplements the engine-generator when additionalpower is needed during heavy accelerations or on steep inclines.
Thevolt is expected to cost more than $40 000. However the Voltextended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve city fueleconomy of at least 230 miles per gallon making it the firstmass-produced vehicle to claim more than 100 mpg composite fuel economy.
“The230 city mpg number is a great indication of the capabilities of theVolt’s electric propulsion system and its ability to displacegasoline,” said Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for theVolt.
Chevy may not be selling as well as the otherautomakers, but they are making a valiant attempt to stake a claim tothe Green Market. Chevy has nine models that get 30 miles per gallon ormore on the highway, and offers three hybrid models. More than 2.5million Chevrolets that run on E85 biofuel have been sold. Besides theVolt GM’s lithium-ion battery technology are being used in the ChryslerEcoVoyager.
Chevrolet is seeking to reinvent itself and becomeone of the fastest growing brands in the world. Although the Volt hasan extraordinary range, it was in the works before the financialmeltdown decimated the American auto industry. The most important testwill come in the marketplace. Will customers see value or will theprice prove prohibitive?
Richard Matthews is a consultant, sustainable investor, writer and owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog that covers the convergence of sustainable capitalism and the global environment.The Green Market is one of the most comprehensive resources for information and tools on sustainability. Follow The Green Market's twitter feed and see the Facebook Fan Page. Richard is a contributor to more than 50 publications. Find him on Facebook and Linkedin.
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