Larry Nitz, GM’s director of hybrid electric power engineering, today said that the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid will have a “mountain mode,” as a standard feature, in addition to the normal and sport mode. In a conference call with journalists, Nitz said the new mode will allow Volt drivers to set a larger reserve capacity in the battery in terrain that would require extra power.
GM engineers have been taking a fleet of 10 Volts throughout the California—experiencing steep terrains as well as city gridlock conditions. “We’re very pleased. It’s a wonderfully driving automobile. You hardly notice that it’s an EV,” Nitz said. He said that the 10 Volts were making a strong impression on observers. “We pulled into a McDonald’s. It was remarkable how many people walked out and said ‘Wow, that’s a Volt.’”
Nitz acknowledged that the mountain mode will reduce the Volt’s all-electric range. Nitz said, “If you’re going up the hill, you want that engine to come on sooner,” for the sake of efficiency and optimal driving experience,
Nitz suggested that the Volt team was spending a lot of time testing and calibrating the vehicle to make sure the vehicle has an enjoyable quiet ride past its first 40 or so miles of all-electric driving—and in all conditions across the country. He said that engineers are using the electric car capability regardless of whether the engine is on or off. “It’s the overall driving experience that we’re after.”