GM is using the 2015 North American International Auto Show to reaffirm its commitment to electric power. Not only did it reveal the all-electric Bolt concept car, it rolled the second-generation Volt out under the lights. In designing the 2016 Volt, GM relied heavily on feedback from first-generation Volt owners, developing a sportier, higher performance plug-in with an all-electric range boost of more than 30 percent.
The electric side of the revamped Voltec powertain includes a new two-motor drive unit and an 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery. While it's more powerful, the battery shrinks in number of cells, from 288 cells to 192, thanks to higher energy capacity. A revised configuration seats the cells lower in the T-shaped pack for a lower center of gravity in the vehicle.
The two drive motors combine to deliver the same 149 hp (111 kW) as the current Volt and increase available torque up to 294 lb-ft (from 273 lb-ft). The motors can power the front wheels individually or in tandem; a single primary motor drives the car at lower speeds in the city, while the two motors split power duties at moderate speeds or engage completely for higher-load/higher-speed driving.
The new battery and motor layout pushes the 2016 Volt up to 50 miles (80 km) on electric power alone, 12 miles (19 km) farther than the current Volt's battery. A more powerful discharge rate of 120 kW (vs 110 kW) adds to the Volt's performance. The car can hit 30 mph in 2.6 seconds and 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. On the braking side, the new Volt gets the paddle-shift Regen on Demand feature that GM introduced on the Volt-based Cadillac ELR.
"The improvements in the efficiency and performance of the 2016 Volt are driven by what owners said they wanted in the next-generation model: more range, better fuel economy and stronger acceleration," explains Andrew Farah, vehicle chief engineer. "Building on General Motors industry leading battery and drive-unit technologies, we’ve delivered all of that, while also making the Volt more refined and fun to drive."
Fifty all-electric miles is a nice improvement over 38, but it's still not going to be enough for many a drive. That's where the gas side of the Voltec steps in, offering an all-new 101-hp 1.5-liter range extending engine, which increases the car's total range to north of 400 miles (644 km). Technologies like direct injection, a 12.5:1 high-compression ratio and cooled exhaust gas recirculation enhance performance and efficiency. The engine also uses a lightweight aluminum block in place of iron. Chevy estimates that the engine will provide for a 41-mpg combined fuel economy, a bump up from the 37-mpg combined EPA estimate that the current 83-hp range extender offers.
The new Volt wears a full makeover that starts with increased dimensions. It's stretched to 180.4 in (4,582 mm) in length from 177.1 in (4,498 mm) and widened to 71.2 in (1,809 mm) from 70.4 in (1,788 mm). The height drops by about a quarter of an inch (6 mm), helping create a sportier roofline that's swept more dramatically back into the trunk lid. A lot more sculpting, kneading and tweaking has gone on between the extremities, giving the new Volt more dynamic surfaces and aesthetics. The carved body sides, sharply defined fenders, wraparound front fascia and tapered rear-end distinguish the new Volt quite clearly from its predecessor.
"Customers were loud and clear: they wanted a sporty design that also allows for great EV road performance," says John Cafaro, Chevy's global design executive director. "The new Volt’s design is all about windswept surfaces so everything flows together. It’s a theme captured from the flowing lines of the fenders into the hood, to the carved body sides which are aerodynamically tuned and aligned with Chevrolet performance DNA."
Zooming in a bit closer, new elements that pop out include the 17-in wheels, aero-optimized sculpted tail lamps and the enlarged grille with active shutter system. Below the body panels, the reinforced structure features more high-strength steel, which adds integrity while keeping weight down. The car scales in at 3,543 lb (1,607 kg).
The big news inside is the three-seat rear bench that provides an extra spot for a total of five occupants. When the new middle seat isn't needed, a fold-down armrest adds extra comfort for the rear side passengers.
Up front, 8-in digital displays provide key information in the instrument cluster and center stack MyLink infotainment system. The redesigned charge status indicators include a top light for easy view from outside the car.
General updates around the interior include simplified center stack controls, enhanced acoustics, new colors, blue ambient lighting and softer materials. A rear-vision camera comes standard, while heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and wireless smartphone charging are available as options.
The 2016 Volt also gets an updated charging system with GPS-based functionality. Drivers can set their home charging preferences once, and the car will automatically apply them when its GPS system recognizes that it's home. Users can select 8- or 12- amp charging rates and set the system to charge immediately or based around a later time, such as a departure or an off-peak period. Chevy estimates charging time at 4.5 hours via a 240-volt source and 13 hours via a 120-volt source.
The 2016 Volt will go on sale in the second half of 2015. Chevy has yet to announce how the price will compare to that of the $35K 2015 Volt.