There’s a long and a short story here.
The short story is that on first reading, the new GM plug-in concept vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, doesn’t look like a direct rip-off of the Saab BioPower Hybrid Convertible, which also featured a plug-in capability that was hushed up by GM.
So whilst that hasn’t happened, it looks like Saab’s plug-in capability was silenced in order to allow a bigger impact for this vehicle at a North American show – a possibility first mentioned on this site mid-2006.
If all that doesn’t make full sense, then read the long story……
AutoblogGreen has a detailed look at the car and its drivetrain here
GM have released details of their plug-in hybrid concept vehicle: the Chevrolet Volt. The vehicle makes it’s world debut at the GM Style event today and then it’s public debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.
Here’s a few pics that you can click to enlarge:
Anyone else see similarities with the 9x and Aero-X concepts? Not saying it’s copied or anything, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the three vehicles shares some staff on the design team.
Anyway, some details about the vehicle. These are from the GM press release:
The Chevrolet Volt concept sedan, powered by the E-flex System – GM’s next-generation electric propulsion system – and sporting an aggressive, athletic design, could nearly eliminate trips to the gas station.
The Chevrolet Volt is a battery-powered, four-passenger electric vehicle that uses a gas engine to create additional electricity to extend its range…..
….The Volt can be fully charged by plugging it into a 110-volt outlet for approximately six hours a day. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged, the Volt can deliver more than 60 city kilometers of pure electric vehicle range. When the battery is depleted, a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine spins at a constant speed, or revolutions per minute (rpm), to create electricity and replenish the battery…..
….“If you lived within 50 km from work (100 km round trip) and charged your vehicle every night when you came home or during the day at work, you would get fuel consumption of 1.6 liters per 100 km,” Lutz said. “More than half of all Americans live within around 30 km of where they work (60 km round trip). In that case, you might never burn a drop of gas during the life of the car.”
In the event a driver forgets to charge the vehicle or goes on a vacation far away, the Volt would still get 4.7 l/100 km by using the engine to convert gasoline into electricity and extending its range up to 1030 km, more than double that of today’s conventional vehicles. In addition, the Chevrolet Volt is designed to run on E85, a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
A technological breakthrough required to make this concept a reality is a large lithium-ion battery. This type of electric car, which the technical community calls an “EV range-extender,” would require a battery pack that weighs nearly 400 pounds (181 kg). Some experts predict that such a battery – or a similar battery – could be production-ready by 2010 to 2012…..
….The Volt is the first vehicle designed around GM’s E-flex System.
“…..we are also showing a variant of the Chevrolet Volt with a hydrogen-powered fuel cell, instead of a gasoline engine EV range-extender,” said Lauckner. “Or, you might have a diesel engine driving the generator to create electricity, using bio-diesel. Finally, an engine using 100-percent ethanol might be factored into the mix. The point is, all of these alternatives are possible with the E-Flex System.”
And here’s some of the Vital Statistix (the sky is falling!)
electrically driven system with onboard range extender, plug-in recharge capability
Energy: 16 kWh (minimum)
Peak power: 130 to 140 kW
Voltage: 320 to 350
100% recharge time:
110-volt outlet: 6 to 6.5 hours
Electric traction system:
Max. electrical power: 130 to 140 kW
Max. mechanical power: 120 kW
Continuous electrical power: 45 kW
Continuous mechanical power: 40 kW
Power: 53 kW peak power
Type: 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine
Fuel: gas or E85
Nominal speed: 1500 to 1800 rpm
Max speed: 3200 rpm
Fuel tank (gal / L): 12 / 54.5
Voltage / amp: 110 / 15
Horsepower (hp / kW): 160 / 120
Torque (lb-ft / Nm): 236 / 320
Electric mode range: 64 km (40 miles) – full electric vehicle (EV) range
Estimated fuel economy @ constant state of charge: 4.7 l/100 km (50 mpg) during charge sustaining operation
Daily usage equivalent mpg
@ 64 km (40 miles) or less: not applicable – no fuel used
@ 96 km (60 miles): 150 mpg
@ 128 km (80 miles): 100 mpg
0 to 96 km/h (60 mph): 8 to 8.5 seconds
Top speed – 192 km/h (120 mph) (limited duration)
Now for some backstory…..
In late March 2006, Saab unveiled the BioPower Hybrid Concept. It too was a hybrid vehicle offering mechanical and electrical propulsion. The engine was a 2.0litre 4 cylinder unit modified to run on 100% ethanol, producing 260hp. In addition there were a series of electric motors providing a little more power and heaps more torque – as well as the added benefit of reduced emissions and a zero-mode, where the car would run on electricity only.
Saab’s modular hybrid system features a maintenance-free, 300-volt battery bank, a 38 kW rear-mounted electric motor, a 15 kW integrated starter generator and all-wheel-drive with electric power transmission to the rear wheels. The entire system has been packaged without sacrificing cabin accommodation or trunk space, as demonstrated by its unveiling in the Saab 9-3 Convertible.
That quote is from the Saab press release at the time.
What the press release didn’t tell you was that the BioPower Hybrid concept was also configured as a plug-in vehicle in order to recharge the electrical system. This fact was uncovered by Robert Collin of Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper. The original press release for the vehicle featured the plug-in capability, however it was recalled just prior to the Stockholm Motor Show where the concept debuted. A new press release was drafted, one that made no mention of the plug-in capability at all. You can see an online copy of the original release here.
Plug-ins have been the darling of the environmental set for some time. They allow for easier recharging of the electrical system, thereby ensuring that the powered propulsion system is always at full charge and minimising the need for the gasoline backup. They could even theoretically act as power stores and contribute power back to a household or electricity grid in times of need.
The fact that Saab had built a Hybrid vehicle that sacrificed nothing in terms of performance was a great development. That they’d done it in a manner where the entire drive system fit into a convertible was even better. The plug-in capability would have been an even bigger ace for the little Swede, but it was hushed up by a corporate parent who obviously had a bigger stage in mind.
Whilst the Volt looks to be an electric vehicle with a combustion engine as a “range extender”, the Saab BioPower Hybrid was intended as an example of hybrid power complementing a performance-based engine.
In essence, the emphasis was on electric assistance with the Saab, whereas the electric drive is the feature in the Volt.
As an electric vehicle, the Volt seems to excel. It has a much bigger range in electric-only mode (the Saab would only manage 10-20 kms in ‘zero mode’) and it’s designed for frugality rather than for hybrid-enhanced-performance like the Saab.
Following are some technical diagrams for both vehicles. I’m not going to pretend to know enough about this stuff to try and explain them, but they appear to be substantially different. The Saab uses several electric motors to boost performance and economy whereas the Volt uses its electrical system to propel the vehicle.
Click the pic to enlarge. This one’s the Volt:
Following is a similar diagram of the Saab BioPower Hybrid and some explanations as to what’s what.
1. Saab BioPower 2.0 Turbo – combustion engine optimised to run on pure bioethanol (E100), resulting in zero fossil fuel emission.
2. Integrated starter/generator (ISG) – built into the flywheel, between the engine and transmission. Contributes with an additional 15 kW (20 bhp) and up to 120 Nm of torque
3. Rear Drive Unit (RDU) – transmission differential with an integrated 38 kW (52 bhp) electric motor/alternator. Deliver up to 665 Nm of torque briefly at lower speeds to boost take-off performance.
4. Battery Management System (BMS) – Electronic Control Unit with software for battery supervision.
5. 42 V battery – powers the front electric motor (ISG).
6. 300 V battery – powers the Rear Drive Unit. Compact, high-capacity lithium-ion battery.
7. Electronic Control Unit – for the Rear Drive Unit (RDU).
8. Zero Mode button – switch between Hybrid and Zero Mode. Driving range in fully electric Zero Mode is 10–20 km depending on driving conditions.
9. Electronic Control Unit – for the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG).