The 2016 Chevrolet Volt will have an all-new drivetrain that will deliver a longer driving range on battery power, quicker acceleration and quieter operation when the car’s gasoline engine is running, the extended-range electric car’s development team said Tuesday.
The Volt was hailed as a technical triumph when it went on sale. It won every automotive award in sight, but never hit the ambitious sales goals GM set for it. Despite that, GM points out that the Volt, which can go about 35 miles on battery power before a gasoline engine turns on to make more electricity for longer drives, is America’s best-selling plug-in hybrid. GM has sold 69,000 Volts since the car went on sale in 2010, including 14,540 through September this year.
The improvements should make the car more appealing to some buyers, but electric vehicles will have a hard time getting much traction as long as gasoline prices remain low.
“More range and more power are good,” IHS senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. “The big question is how much cost GM pulled out of the Volt, and how that affects consumers’ bottom line.”
Prices for the 2015 Volt start at $34,170. The prices for the 2016 Volt likely won’t be announced until after the Volt’s debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
Chevy won’t reveal the car’s electric range and mileage until closer to the Volt’s debut at the Detroit show, but the efficiency increases should be in the range of 5-12 percent. The Volt’s acceleration will improve 20 percent.
Those improvements address Volt owners’ main wishes, said Pam Fletcher, chief engineer of GM electric vehicles.
Current Volt owners do about 80 percent of their daily driving on electric power, Fletcher said. Chevrolet hopes the improvements, which include a new battery that packs more power into less space, will boost that to 90 percent of their daily driving. The current Volt’s battery gives it a range of about 35 miles. Its gasoline engine turns on to generate more power so the car can keep going when the battery is depleted.
The new drive unit, which comprises a pair of electric motors electronic controls and transmission, will be built at GM’s Warren transmission plant. The $240 million investment will protect 160 jobs, plant manager Mike Dulaney said.
The drive unit will also include a 1.5L four-cylinder engine that’s bigger and more powerful than the current Volt’s 1.4L. It should be quieter than the smaller engine, fixing a common customer complaint. The engine also runs on regular gasoline. That will make it less expensive to operate than the current Volt, which requires premium.
The Volt’s exterior design, interior and other features also get a makeover for 2016.