My Predictions for the next Volt Generation

Word has spread that the GM’s new compact car platform is being worked on, named “D2XX” (for now at least). The current “Delta” platform underlying the Volt and the Cruze compact cards will make its final appearances in the 2014 model year vehicles, making way for this new platform in the 2015MY vehicles.

GM’s goal is to design the platform so that in addition to traditional compact cars, it can also accommodate the small-SUV category – currently filled by cars like the Equinox in the US.

So this leads us to believe that The Next Generation Volts are likely to arrive at the end of 2014 for the 2015 model year vehicle. What will it be like? While I will put down exact numbers, its pretty difficult to figure exactly what they’ll do two years from now, so figure a plus/minus 5% after each number I write.

First is the battery size and rage. I’d expect the new Volt to have a 17kWh, 11kWh usable Li-Ion battery. The battery will provide for a 40 mile EPA rated range, and 40-45 mile real-world range, with much better cold/warm wether performance than the first generation battery. Improvements in the battery’s ability to perform under varied thermal conditions, as well as upgrades to the vehicle’s electric heating and cooling system will reduce the range variation significantly from the first generation. The battery pack itself will be more space and weight efficient compared to the original 2010 Volt. The current pack is about 200kg, or 435 pounds for 16kWh. The new battery pack will weigh approximately 140kg for 17kWh, increasing the pack-level Wh/kg from 80 to 120. The cells themselves are likely to be around 180-200Wh/kg but the pack and cooling system and weight overhead to the cells. This will also reduce the volume of the battery from 100L (160 Wh/L) in the current model to 70L (240 Wh/L) in the second generation. Again the batteries themselves will be more volume efficient, but the pack wiring and cooling adds overhead.

This reduced weight and volume allow the 5th seat to return to the Volt. The battery will likely be stored under the bench of the rear seat, as well as into the trunk like the current model. I’d expect the Volt battery to be made in rectangular segments (similar to the top of the current battery’s “T”) with various segment lengths. This will allow the battery platform to be more modular.

The range extender will likely get a little bigger too, though not that much bigger. Probably 1.6L up from 1.4L now, along with direct injection to make burning fuel more efficient. I’d expect an gas MPG around 43-45, and a slightly smaller gas tank (8.5 gallons) for a gas-only range of 380 miles, up from 360 today.

I don’t expect the Volt to get any larger, at least not until the third generation where battery efficiency gains another 50% or more (sometime around 2020). However we will see follow-on models like an small SUV style vehicle with another modular row of batteries underfloor to give it 35-40 mile range despite increased size, weight, and aerodynamic drag. Likewise, this vehicle will get a slightly bigger gas tank as well.

The biggest factor in all this of course, is price. By 2015 I’d expect that the current tax credit will expire, and the volume of cars will have picked up enough (~50K/yr) where they can bring the price down in a meaningful way – probably around $30,000 (in 2012 USD). The small SUV style vehicle will probably be $6,000 more.

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