GM to Volt Suppliers: Get Us 100 MPG

General Motors sees the upcoming Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid as perhaps the best example of the company’s technical prowess—and as a powerful symbol of the company’s ability to turn itself around. At last month’s Chicago Auto Show, GM added another dimension to the Volt story: the push for suppliers to develop energy-saving components in every nook and cranny of the vehicle.

GM is pushing its suppliers to do everything possible to help the Volt achieve 40-miles of electric range and to elevate the plug-in hybrid’s mileage to 100 mpg—a target for engineers and executives. Speaking in Chicago, Ed Pepper, Chevrolet general manager, said, “Success (for the Volt) depends on capturing…maximum efficiency from every single part on the car.” The company gave two examples: one is fairly obvious but the other surprised the audience.

Tires are obviously critical to fuel economy. Most cars come from the factory with relatively low rolling resistance tires that are a component of the automakers’ EPA mileage certification process. However, traditional low rolling resistance tires too often sacrifice tread wear life and road handling in the name of efficiency. GM challenged Goodyear to not only decrease the rolling resistance of its existing high-mileage tires but also increase grip and wear life. The result is the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max, which incorporates a 4% improvement in fuel economy while simultaneously improving wet weather traction. GM said the tires, which will be standard exclusively on the Volt, are good for an extra 1 mpg.

Volt Stereo

An unexpected contributor to the Volt’s efficiency is the optional Bose sound system. GM’s Volt vehicle line executive, Frank Weber, said that everything on the car that uses electricity has come under intense scrutiny. The idea is to root out any potential drain on the Volt’s EV-only range. So the Bose folks were challenged to come up with a new sound system that cranks heavy tunes with a light touch, putting out a big sound from a small space. The result? The Volt’s Bose Energy Efficient sound system will be 30% smaller, 40% lighter and, most importantly, use 50% less energy than a comparable existing system. It’s like removing 50 pounds from the car’s weight. When trying to reach 100 mpg, every pound counts.

Weber summed up GM’s approach to the efficiency of Volt components: “We want everything.”

It remains to be seen if the Chevy Volt will help save the company for its financial predicament. But that level of pressure on the company—and in turn on its suppliers to produce greener components—could yield innovation that will lead the entire auto industry in a better direction.

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  • Jeddy

    So start selling already, GM! Enough promise and roll-outs. It’s time for GM to put up or shut up.

  • Ross Nicholson

    Cover the wheel wells and make the thing aerodynamic (add boat tail). Doubtless the undercarriage is not smooth, either. Odd that GM knows how to make this car viable, but refuses to do so. The option of bankruptcy is looking better and better.

  • Anonymous

    I liked it better when it was called the EV1. Let GM go under & become the footnote in history that it deserves to be. The only reason why they’re even bothering with the “Volt” is to save their own butts, not save the environment.

    Bye bye, GM. See you on the back of a Trivial Pursuit card.

  • Need2Change

    I suspect that GM is delaying mainly because lithium batteries aren’t ready. Can’t sell half a million Volts and then replace the batteries in five years. My cell phone lithium battery needed replacement after 18 months.

    The 2009 Prius was scheduled to have Lithium batteries, but Toyota backed off which delayed the new Prius without Lithium batteries to 2010.

    I actually thought Bose could do better than 50% wattage reduction. I wonder what was the base wattage. I have a 360 watt system. Surely, Bose can build something under 50 watts. A battery operated boom box must only use a couple watts.

    The side mirrors on the Volt look cute, but I won’t buy a Volt if the side mirrors are fixed, rather than folding.

  • Observer

    GM says “Success (for the Volt) depends on capturing…maximum efficiency from every single part on the car.”

    Nope! Success would come in selling vast amounts of them, and since the Volt isn’t an ‘electric’ Model-T, Beetle,… ‘gamechanger’, success ain’t gonna happen, especially at $30-40K for basically a ‘commuter’ car. If I wanted a commuter car, I’d buy a teeny-tiny ICE for $12-13K and have a LOT of money left over for gas (Actually, I’ve been looking at the hybrid GM Saturn and forthcoming ChryslerJeep small SUVs/crossovers, but apparently they aren’t going to happen for obvious reasons). In any case, Honda, Toyota,.. have bettermainstream hybrid offerings NOW.

  • kerry bradshaw

    When do you suppose the EPA wil hire folks as smart as the average 7 year old? They wrestled with the issue of the Volt’s gas miileage for months and came up with a preposterously inaccurate 150 MPG. Hey, EPA : go over to the DOT and get a hold of their distribution charts for commuter mileages and do the simple calculations (so simple even Obama might be able to handle the elementary math, although he only seems to deal in trillions)
    and, Voila!!! You will clearly see that even without any workplace recharging, a fleet of commuting Volts will achieve 285 MPG.
    Allow 1/3rd to recharge and the number jumps to 400MPG. Assume half can recharge and the number goes to 532MPG, avoiding 99% of any need for gasoline. The numbers are not
    typically as high when non-commuting driving is added to the mix, but the differences are not gigantic – a few simple assumptions and the mileage (without recharging away from home) for the Volt in its non-commuting role is likely to top 222 MPG. Obviously, this won’t be true for those travelling salesman, but there aren’t many of those folks on the highways. The upshot is that a fleet of Volts can eliminate almost all need for oil for private transportation.
    And THAT’s why cars like the Volt (the on-the-road-in-China-now BYD ala Volt with 62 miles of electric range) care so important to this country. Silly (and wildly absurd) studies like CMU’s recently published BS entire;ly miss the point when they talk economics.
    They are looking at a very narrow issue, and make silly assumptions about the extent to which people buy cars based on economics (what a joke – people are buying $40,000 pickup trucks getting 12 MPG !!!).

  • Anonymous

    Why not work with Lotus to build the car .
    Lightness is the key to performance !!!

  • kelsey Birdsong

    It’s quite possible that GM will not be around when the Volt comes to market, assuming that some automaker takes it over. The BYD electrics with range extenders are going to be tough for any automaker (US or Asian) to match – they have a 62 mile driving range and have two models. One very similar to the Volt will retail for around 2/3rds the cost. The other at around half.
    No American (or Japanese, especially Toyota) automakers will be able to compete on price. Any sales they make will be based on high end models, where the cost of the batteries can be hidden somewhat. The Chinese will dominate the auto market in the moderately priced echelons for the next 20 years. At least. Throwing money into American automakers with the bizarre idea that making “green” cars means more profits shows an almost criminal ignorance of the auto business. Green cars need a far cheaper battery (and more capable) in order to make them competitive on the window sticker.

  • DJB

    Plug-in hybrids challenge us to come up with a better way to measure fuel economy. I think 100 MPG assumes the car is fully charged and then driven continuously until empty then recharged and refueled (am I wrong?)

    Of course most people don’t drive their cars like this. If people drive mostly in the all-electric range the car will use dramatically less gasoline.

    PLUG-IN HYBRIDS SHOULD HAVE TWO FUEL ECONOMY SCORES. One for electricity (miles/kwh) and one for gasoline (miles/gallon).

    Not doing this would be confusing for consumers. It’s misleading to say 100 miles per gallon since the car doesn’t get fuel economy that good when it is running on gasoline. Saying the car gets 100 MPG ignores the financial and environmental cost of the electricity that is doing much of the work.

  • Indigo

    The Volt has always been a marketing scheme. If it launches at all, the price tag will likely be $50K and might enen include an extra $100/month for a battery lease. Oh, and GM only plans on making a few hundred in 2010.

  • Anonymous

    Kelsey Birdsong comments:
    “Throwing money into American automakers with the bizarre idea that making “green” cars means more profits shows an almost criminal ignorance of the auto business.”

    Interesting point of view I guess for one I don’t agree on the point again that government investment is wasteful. The Japanese Government invested heavily into Toyota’s Prius in the 1990’s-early 2000’s. If the question is that we may not be able to compete with folks like BYD you maybe on to something but at the same time to try to outsource more American goods and services is somewhat troubling, that is relying more and more on imports even if the Volt is assembled outside the U.S.

    This goes beyond car talk in that our educational system must keep up with the rest of the world. We may need to convert to the metric system, end summer breaks, require all students to be bilingual, and find better ways to fund schools besides the traditional funding from property taxes. Also on the flip side waste from 2-4 institutions must be looked at as well as allowing different ways to operate or fund school projects. Affordability of tuition in a few years maybe unattainable for some while exceptions to maintain a constant standard of living through work pay maybe unrealistic in competing with someone that can produce a car or product for a 1/4 of the cost and smaller labor costs for productive yet highly skilled workers.
    Don’t know the solution to all this but again it goes beyond just domestic car companies, loans, or UAW workers…..

  • Samie

    Oops, that was my comment above 🙂

  • Bryce

    GM has already said the batteries will not be leased. They will be owned by the consumer and come with a 10 year warranty. As for 50k dollars…..somehow, I doubt that. Maybe the Cadillac Converj when/if that ever comes out.

  • JH

    Right now – VOLT=VAPORWARE

    GM is talking bankruptcy and it has had a product – if it were real and ready – that would’ve repaired their image if released.

    Last I heard Volt was due to hit the show rooms in [late?] 2009 …. the question is – will the Volt save GM (no – but a big step) will the Volt hit the showroom before GM hits the bankruptcy mark ???

  • hamilton

    @JH The Volt will *NOT* hit the market before GM’s revenues and cash are insufficient to meet its obligations. In Q4 2008, GM turned for operating loans to the US and other governments to stave off bankruptcy. By the end of March, the Obama admin decides whether to extend the loans, convert the loans into an ownership position in GM (like it has done with several large financial institutions), or force GM into bankruptcy reorganization.

    All of which has little to do with revenues from Volt sales. Many moons will come and go before Volt revenues exceed the ongoing costs of development, engineering and marketing (same is true for Prius3, Insight2, Focus hybrid, F3DM, Roadster, or any other launch vehicle). If anything, the Volt will be a drag on GM income in the short term… will certainly not help stave off bankruptcy in a relevant timeframe.

    BUT viewed in the context of an addition to a portfolio of environmentally-friendly stop/start, two-mode hybrid and biofuel *production* vehicles, GM’s commitment to getting the Volt into 2009 production is a very good thing: one can imagine a reorganized company, unburdened from some mgmt mistakes of the past, offering a fleet of HEV, PHEV and BEV – some biofuel-capable – that meet the environmental, pocketbook and energy security needs of the 21st century. Such an entity will of course have a massive challenge in terms of rebuilding consumer credibility – but solid products to back it up.

    Disclaimer: opinion expressed is my own, not reflective of my employer general motors.

  • anonymous

    hey the EV-1 sucked terribly, all it was was a grocery getter, this new volt is sweet, and so much better looking. GM be proud of yourself and your fine work. and please dont ever make another car as ugly as the EV-1

  • KMCoates

    Re: DJB
    When GM says 100 mpg, it refers to the EPA test-cycle mileage (as opposed to some independent developers who pull numbers out of their calculators). They’re aiming for a car that will have an official window sticker that says 100 mpg (probably city cycle). Of course, your mileage WILL vary…

  • Indigo

    Of course, since the Volt is a vehicle that is never going to be manufactured, all the parts suppliers have to do is simply declare that the Volt gets 100 MPG. Since we’ll never see one in the showroom, who’s the wiser? I don’t see a problem with Vapor-MPG associated with an imaginary car. Hey, the Star Trek Enterprise does Warp 9.5. And I believe in that about as much as I believe in the Volt.

  • bill cosworth

    I liked the way the EV1 looked

    the nice thing about the volt is it will be safe based on a solid platform.

    I would never get a toyota because all my freinds who have them if they get hit in them they crumple like tinfioil.

    They might in a werid way protect the the driver because they do crumple but if someone hits your car its worthless.

    Toyota sells more cars this way.

    The real issue in a high speed impact I am not sure you want a car to crumple over 60 mph.

    When I was driving my rental prius I flexed the hood and it bent with one finger.

    I was like oh now I know why this car gets good millage lol

  • anonymous

    I read Compact Power is the company making the battery packs for the Volt. I’m concerned about elevated temperature performances of these batteries. Does anyone know the cycle count for these cells at 55-60C or rates of 1C/1C and 100% DoD? I have seen some published info for Enerdel, but no one seems to be talking about anything above 60C…..

  • Shines

    Bill, I can’t believe you continue to try and trash Toyotas, especially with such lame arguments. I own a used Camry with over 100K miles on it. It is better than any Ford, Plymouth, Dodge or Chevy I’ve owned. It was in an accident and the front crumpled properly. The repair was paid by my insurance which rightfully thought it was worth more to fix it than to total it. Toyota sells more cars because they are more reliable and less trouble prone than other cars on the market.

  • ACAgal

    If I remember correctly, the Fisker Karma has about a 6 gal. fuel tank. It has a 600 mile range, of which 50+/- is from the battery. The solar roof can add about 6 driving miles if parked in the sun (intended to cool battery and passenger compartment, not power car). Hybrid driving range depends on how the car is driven (as does the ICE). So, if one were taking the car cross country and not recharging the battery, logically the gas generation system should deliver about 550 miles, with the pure plug in only providing the first 50 miles….as I have not actually seen what this car can do via the tank, this is based on comments made by Fisker and the CEO of Quantum.

    Does this come close to guessing an answer for the question: “Plug-in hybrids challenge us to come up with a better way to measure fuel economy. I think 100 MPG assumes the car is fully charged and then driven continuously until empty then recharged and refueled (am I wrong?)”

  • Sytropin

    Why visitors still use to read news papers when in this technological world all is presented on web?