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Volt powertrain offers surge of acceleration

May 3, 2009

Volt powertrain offers surge of acceleration


Based on the thin evidence available, folks who buy or lease the Chevrolet Volt electric car — scheduled to go on sale in November 2010 — should be surprised and pleased.

If the so-called Volt mules — chassis and powertrain from the Volt within a Chevy Cruze’s metal — that General Motors provided for a few miles of driving around the GM Tech Center in Warren on Tuesday were representative, Volt owners will be treated to remarkably punchy performance from the electric drivetrain and a level of quiet refinement that appears to lead the industry.

Why the urgency? Volt is as close as the modern auto industry has come to "making it up as we go along." The car’s lithium-ion battery packs remain under intense development and testing. GM is betting it will know everything it needs to by the time the showroom-ready chassis, body and drivetrain come together next year.

Based on a few miles in one of the mules, Volt should be:


  • Powerful. Electric motors give instant torque, and the Volt motor has some serious guts. If the production version — which GM says will have even more power — is like the tester, you’ll be able to embarrass muscle-car drivers when the light turns green.



  • Quiet. None of the whine typical of electrics when they accelerate exists; nor the distant whine and howl on deceleration when the motor becomes a generator to recharge the battery pack in what’s known as regenerative braking.


    Gas-electric hybrids, even the best, don’t completely scrub out all the whine.

    The tuning of the gasoline engine is another matter. It wasn’t operable in the test cars, so there was no hint of how smooth and quiet it’ll be when it comes on to charge the batteries, if needed.

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