The Chevy Volt Unveiled

Instead of being a hybrid (running both on gas and electricity), the Chevy Volt offers an electric motor powered by Lithium-ion batteries.  It should be noted that a small gas engine may be included (making it also a hybrid), but this gas burning engine will only power up the batteries and not run the vehicle directly.  Slated for sale starting as early as Fall 2009 as a 2010 production model, on September 17, 2008 the Chevy Volt was finally unveiled to the press.

Brad Berman is the editor of and He apparently had the chance to experience firsthand filling up a Chevy Volt with gas and was told and wrote about how the car manages rare gas and generator use.

Of course we hope filling up the Volt’s tank will be a rare and minimally utilized occurrence. The idea is of course to carry out as much driving as possible on electricity. The tank, and generator, are there for those rare trips that must go beyond the electric range, and to prevent anxiety.

What makes the gas tank and fill-up process so unique in the Volt is ties to the fact that gas will be so rarely used. It must be kept from going stale, and the engine must occasionally be cycled to keep parts lubricated so that they don’t seize.

First, to release the gas nozzle inlet says Berman, the driver must touch a small gas release button on the driver’s door, hard to see, but right above the electric charging door release button.

After pressing the button there is a mandatory wait period signalled on the dashboard screen. During the wait, a vacuum pump decompresses the pressurized tank and pumps vapors into a “carbon canister.” This is a specialized system that normally keeps the gas tank sealed under pressure to prevent seepage of water and other factors that might lead to stale gas.

The car’s computer is always monitoring the gas situation. It knows how long its been since gas was last placed in as well as when the last time the engine was run. It also knows if you open the gas door but don’t actually fill up and even monitors the temperature of the gas to ensure it isnt “cooking.”

The car, of course needs to know all this because after a ceratin period of time the risk of gas going stale increases and the engine needs a cycling.

At that certain point, if fuel hasn’t been burned, the car will display a message encouraging the driver to drive beyond the EV range and let the generator go on. The driver can apparently ignore the warning but after two times the car will “take matters into its own hands,” writes Berman.  This means the Volt will start its generator to burn some fuel, lubricate the mechnical parts, and “pressurize the engine system.”

After completing this “engine and fuel maintenance mode,” the gnerator shuts off allowing the car to go back into pure EV operation, until the next time some gas needs to be burned.

Fuel economy is unknown until more tests are done, however GM has stated that with a full charge in its current configuration, the vehicle can get about 40 miles to a charge.  This is more than most Americans drive in one day and using the small gas engine to charge the batteries, theoretically, you can drive all day long with relatively high fuel economy.

As far as price goes, most industry analysts are expecting the vehicle to be anywhere from the low thirty thousand dollar range to the forty thousand or more.  However, GM is expecting backing from the US government in the form of tax rebates for consumers which may drive down the price further.

Source (Plugincars)

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