GM Hints at 100 Mile Electric Range Volt

GM Hints at 100 Mile Electric Range Volt

Something might be amiss in the world when bringing battery technology up to par is considered a “game changer” as GM CEO Dan Akerson described it in an employee meeting, but then again maybe not.

Envia Systems, one of the many small companies GM works with to explore new battery technology, has made a reported breakthrough to offer a new lithium ion battery capable of 100 or even 200 miles of range to future EVs. Anyone who follows the industry will likely scoff after reading that because a 100-mile range is anything but a breakthrough, at least purely by the numbers. Currently automakers like Nissan, Honda and Ford all have 100 mile range electric vehicles that are either already on sale or about to be.

“I think we’ve got better than a 50-50 chance,” Akerson said, “to develop a car that will go to 200 miles on a charge. That would be a game changer,” said Akerson to the Associated Press.

Offering 100 miles of pure electric range is the current industry standard, which is why it seems silly to think of that as anything but making par. A story by the Associated Press discussed Akerson’s speech, but failed to find any conclusion as to why or how this announcement could be so important. In a conversation with GM, AutoGuide might have uncovered what exactly is so important about the new development.

Currently, the Chevrolet Volt can run roughly 35 miles on electricity before its gasoline engine kicks in to add juice. GM hasn’t made it any secret that it plans increase the Volt’s range. A far cry from jumping to 100 miles, the 2013 model will raise its electric range by three miles to a total 38, but that’s without whatever the new technology was that Akerson mentioned during his speech.

We’re always looking for increased energy density and lower cost.,” General Motors Hybrid and Battery specialist Kevin Kelly said in a phone interview. “That’s the holly grail of providing customers with increased range and lower cost and that’s what we’re focused on.”

That, combined with Akerson’s announcement about a battery with improved range would seem to suggest that the company is aiming to offer a Volt with drastically improved electric range. If that were the case, the car’s combined gas and electric motor drivetrain could carry the car between 450 and 550 miles.

“Look at the Volt. The Volt has now been in production for two years. In 2013 we’ll increase battery range by three miles,” he said.

Kelly declined to comment on product specifics, but when pressed he reiterated his point that GM is always trying to improve range and reduce costs for consumers, hinting that the Volt is set for further future range improvement.

When pushed on specifics for increased battery range, he said “I think you’ll see things like that happen,” though on which product and in what timeframe, he couldn’t specify.

  • Obermd

    Assuming this works, now GM is talking.

  • J_swizzle

    I think it will. How couldn’t it when the tech already exists for that kind of battery? Seems like this has been a long time coming…

  • danwat1234

    article TYPO: ”
    35 miles on electricity before its Atkinson cycle engine kicks in to add juice.”.
    It does not have an Atkinson cycle engine, it is a regular OTTO cycle engine, the same engine in the 2012 Chevy Cruze and 2013 Chevy Sonic. The only thing is that the Volt I don’t the engine is turbocharged but otherwise the same.

    And no I don’t believe 100 miles up from 38 miles. Envia’s new batteries definitely aren’t more than twice the capacity of existing batteries. More cargo/passenger space will be taken up by the battery if they make a 100 mile version.
    Wait for nanowire lithium ion.

  • Nasaman

    Several labs around the world are working on increasing Li-Ion battery energy/power density. And Tesla’s Model S has VERY large liquid-cooled/warmed batteries with little or no sacrifice in the car’s interior volume by using thin cells under the car’s floorboard. It could very well be that GM plans to use the Model S approach (instead of the center spine) in a re-designed version of future Volts. Why not?

  • 100 mile range might not be a game changer for pure EV’s but for a Hybrid Electric, it most definitely is.  Until EV charging stations get faster and more ubiquitous, hybrids will continue to dominate sales of plug in vehicles.  100 mile range on a Volt means even less need to buy gas than today’s model.  Currently I use about 65/35% electricity to gasoline.  Increase the range to 95 or 100 miles, and that ratio will easily go to 90/10%. 

    Less gas, less demand for oil, less capital going overseas.  Now if Chevy really wants to stir things up, they’ll make the dash & center stack more user friendly/appealing, increase rear seating & cargo room and bring the price down over time. 

    A 100 mile electric range, gas backup, comfortable, American built & designed, hybrid family car will easily enter the sales figure realm of the hugely successful Toyota Prius as it will offer everything the Prius does and more.  That means Volt sales moving from the thousands to the millions-  and that is most definitely a game changer.

  • Ebi7841

    I remember at first the Volt  was baisic  HYBREAD.with a big battery and a small engine ( 60 hp and a 26 kw battery.)

  • Rxonmymind

    GM is eating Toyota lunch. Soon the tables will have turned on Japanese cars. As they did to Detroit in the 70’s and 80’s Detroit with this 100 mile ( if it happens) will return the favor. Finally! Only took four decades….

  • Even double the current 35 mile range EV would be an astonishing improvement. Most Americans rarely travel more than 70 miles per day, so most Volt owners with this theoretical range boost from Envia Systems new battery technology would rarely need to fill up at the pump. 70 mile real world EV range theoretically would be a game changer and would boost Volt sales dramatically provided General Motors could keep the price within reason. Upon examining Envia Systems battery data, however, it appears their battery does loose significant energy density after about 300 discharge cycles which is not very good. Panasonic’s SCiB technology battery which will appear in the 2013 Honda Fit EV has a cycle life of 6000!

  • Ralph_alvarado1948

    100 miles is not the standard for series hybrids. It is not even the standard for electrics. To make a car that can travel 100 miles pure electric on a 200 mile trip is awesome. Why? You don’t have to worry about charging at your destination.

    I get 45 miles city driving in warm weather constantly. I posted a video on YouTube (Chevy Volt: 50 mile range). Some report 60 mile ranges.

  • 100 miles all-electric range on the Volt or the upcoming Cadillac ELR would be a total game changer and is just a fantasy at this time. Most people travel far less than 100 miles in their daily commute which means that most people would rarely if ever, use gasoline. The current 2013 Volt now has a 16.5 kWhr lithium-ion battery. Today, the Volt uses only 65 percent of its battery, so in essence the Volt is using about 10kWhr of its lithium-ion battery capacity while preserving approximately a 35-percent cushion to ensure that the battery will last for the life of its eight-year warranty. GM is currently experimenting with NMC (nickel-manganese-cobalt) cathodes in its proprietary battery technology to increase cycle life and increase energy density. With a longer cycle life, GM can allow a greater DOD (depth of discharge) allowing for more energy to be used from the battery and longer all-electric range. For 2013, the Volt’s all-electric range increased by a tiny three miles to 38 miles, but if GM can just manage in the next few years to increase the range to 50 miles all-electric, without increasing the price of the Volt, then they will have much greater sales.