General Motors unveiled its 2016 Chevrolet Volt at the Detroit auto show on Monday morning, offering a glimpse of GM’s next gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid. The automaker says the next Volt will travel 32 percent longer distances on battery power alone than the current one, from 38 miles to 50 miles.
“We believe our engineering prowess combined with data from thousands of customers allows us to deliver the most capable plug-in vehicle in the industry,” Alan Batey, head of GM North America, said in a statement.
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Volt sales declined last year by 19 percent and they represent less than a percent of GM’s total U.S. sales of 2.9 million units. But GM is betting that consumers will embrace plug-in hybrid electric cars as battery technology improves and public charging stations expand. Volt loyalists enjoy making short trips on electric power alone while avoiding the range anxiety -- the fear of running out of battery power midtrip -- that comes with fully electric vehicles that lack internal combustion engines. GM would like to see the Volt garner the same success as Toyota had with its Prius, first introduced in 1997 to become the world’s best-selling hybrid.
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“The idea of an electric car without range anxiety remains a compelling concept, but the first-generation Volt couldn’t establish widespread support because of its short electric range, limited passenger capacity, less-than-stunning exterior shape and high price,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in an email. “The new Volt will address all of these issues, giving it a real chance at Prius-like success for Chevrolet.”
GM engineers managed to squeeze out 12 miles of additional range by building a two-motor drivetrain, shedding 100 pounds of weight, while boosting battery capacity to 18 kWh with fewer cells, saving 20 pounds. The combined fuel economy is 41 miles per gallon, GM says.
While the economy isn’t remarkable -- the hybrid versions of the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta have higher fuel economy ratings -- the selling point of the Volt is the ability to run short errands without using gasoline, a capability that standard hybrid cars don’t have. A 50-mile electronic-only range makes those gas-free trips more doable. The new Volt also gets a redesign and more interior room.
Chevrolet also unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday its Bolt concept electric car. The Bolt is GM’s answer to Telsa’s anticipated Model 3 electric car. While Telsa says the Model 3 will get more than 200 miles of range for less than $40,000, GM is promising 200 miles of range for $30,000. Both cars are scheduled to be out in 2017.
“I love the thought of a 200 mile ranged electric vehicle for $30,000,” Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said by email. “Sticker before tax rebates will be closer to $37,000 but this shouldn't matter since this will likely have a solid lease right out of the gate. I wouldn’t call it a Telsa killer but the bar will be pretty high for Telsa model 3.”