We got a lot of questions answered this morning about the upcoming Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid, but we had a lot more to ask. That’s why we connected with Greg Cesiel, the Volt’s program director at GM. Now we share what we learned below.
Q: Why is it a four-seater?
A: “We joke that there is a fifth passenger — the battery,” Cesiel said. “The T-shaped battery package that fits between the two rear seats worked best with a four-passenger configuration. It would not offer good comfort for a fifth passenger.”
Cesiel did say that if this battery setup were used in another configuration, like an SUV, this would not be an issue.
Q: Will the Volt be compatible with child-safety seats? The four seat setup makes the rear seating area look too small to fit today’s large child-safety seats.
A: Yes it will work with safety seats. “There are no issues there,” he said.
Q: There is a big shifter in the center console. Many hybrids don’t offer many modes/gears to select. What does the Volt have?
A: “There is one forward, one reverse and one low,” Ciesel said. The low mode (there are no gears for electric drives) uses increased power from regenerative braking to assist in situations like ascending hills.
Q: The Volt’s 150 hp — or its electric equivalent — seems like a lot for this type of vehicle. Is GM giving up any range or efficiency by producing that much power?
A: No. “One big advantage of electric propulsions is that we’re not giving anything up [in terms of efficiency],” he said.
GM hopes that the spirited driving experience — and an expected zero to 60 time that’s less than 9 seconds — will be a major draw to intrigued car shoppers. “We expect it to be a very fun vehicle to drive,” he said.
Q: Why is there an LCD screen instead of an analog gauge cluster? Won’t that use more electric power and reduce battery life?
A: The LCD gauges are completely configurable and can display numerous metrics involving the propulsions system and efficiency. Cesiel did not go into the power it consumes, but said that it is the type of display buyers of the Volt would expect in such a car. To us that means, yes, it consumes more electricity than traditional analog gauges would.
Q: Can the Volt run on E85 ethanol?
Q: Is GM working with the EPA to figure out a new mileage rating standard for the Volt?
A: Yes. “GM is cooperating with the EPA to determine how to measure the fuel economy of a range-extender vehicle,” Cesiel said. Because the first 40 miles driven use no gas whatsoever, there is debate on how the EPA will display mileage. They are probably not considering an infinity icon for city mpgs. There has been no decision made one way or the other.
Q: Will the lithium-ion batteries used to power the Volt be the determining factor in how many you can produce?
A: “We don’t expect battery supply to be a limiting factor,” he said. “Market demand will drive additional supply.” Cesiel did say that GM chose to make the Volt a Chevy because they want it to be a volume product and not a niche vehicle.
Q: Is GM going to lobby the government to get expanded tax credits, like the current ones that are set to expire, that reward buyers on a sliding scale, with more incentives going to those who buy the most efficient vehicles?
A: “Yes, we’d support that,” is all that Cesiel could say, but he wasn’t aware of any current lobbying.
Q: Are you on schedule with your late-2010 on-sale date?
A: There is a very regimented internal schedule for the progress of the Volt. “We’re right on track where we want to be,” he said. “Next year we’ll have our last phase with the integration vehicles. Our mule vehicles were scheduled to start running on Aug. 26 and they didn’t make it until Aug. 28. We’re still working to recover those two days.”