GM CEO Hints at 20-Percent More Electric Range For Next-Gen Chevy Volt

Famous for letting the cat out of the bag, General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dan Akerson, revealed this week that the next generation of the Chevy Volt should see an increase in all-electric range of 20 percent or more.

In previous disclosures while reporters were recording, Akerson has said GM is seeking to whittle away production costs by over $10,000 per car, and in a Bloomberg interview just posted, he confirmed the recent $5,000 price drop for the 2014 Volt was a result of declining costs.

The price cut also was an official sanctioning of prior discounting GM already was offering, as well as to keep up with Nissan which set the tone in January this year by cutting 2013 Leaf prices.

But GM could justify the official MSRP decrease, Akerson said, because batteries were $800 per kilowatt-hour when the Volt was launched, and without stating the current price, he said GM’s cost is now much less with more savings expected in time.

Next Gen Volt

Regarding the gen-2 range increase, Akerson was asked by Bloomberg if the 2014 would get more range. Akerson predictably answered no given we know the specs are the same as for 2013, but he then tipped his hand by initially saying a 20 percent range increase could be in “3-4” years, but finished his quote talking about only a “couple” of years until this is a reality.

“The next generation we hope to extend that [all-electric range] significantly, said Akerson, to which Bloomberg asked him to specify what he meant.

“For something to be significant to me, I’ve got to get at least a 20-percent improvement in performance. So, if we can get it up to 50-60 miles – or more – we will, but that’s going to be another 3-4 years out. So we’ll watch evolutions,” Akerson said. “We’re a great research and development company; we are the number one patenter in the automotive space in the United States. So we’re working on battery technology feverously. And hopefully there’ll be further breakthroughs, not only in performance, but in cost over the next couple of years.”

Has Akerson been coached by his communications department to hedge more?

The vagueness of the time frame between maybe a “couple” years – when the next gen is expected to come out – and “3-4 years” also stated was not further clarified.

Previous unofficial comments by GM personnel have suggested GM has test mules now with up to 400 Wh/kg energy density, which compares favorably to approximately 140 Wh/kg in the current Volt.

As for what is possible and what will happen remains to be seen. The Volt’s liquid heated and cooled LG chem pack is already believed to be potentially more robust against climate extremes than the air-cooled Nissan Leaf battery.

However the all-electric Leaf offers 84 miles electric range with a full charge according to federal testing, and the Volt offers only 38 according to EPA tests, though Volt owners have seen in excess of 50 with careful driving.

If GM gets an honest EPA-rated “50-60″ miles range – note this is actually in excess of “20-percent” more than the current Volt’s range – that might even put real-world EV range under ideal conditions as high as the lower range of the Leaf – and the Volt has gasoline backup.

That said, Akerson cited familiar studies showing “80 percent” of Americans can get by on the Volt’s present electric range for daily driving needs, but no doubt a lower price Volt that offers “50-60, or more” electric miles would make the car much more attractive to present-day fence sitters.

Meanwhile we do not know what Nissan is doing, but don’t expect the Leaf to, er, rest on its laurels. And then you have Tesla promising a $35,000 EV with trickle-down tech from the Model S and 200 miles range by 2016.

It would appear things are only now just heating up for electrified vehicles that actually will be accepted by more mainstream consumers, but we shall see where it all goes in months and years to come.