General Motors has long proffered that the wheels on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt could only be turned by pure electricity. However, it seems that's not always the case. With a final bunch of patents on the Voltec system moving from "pending" to "granted" status, the automaker now admits that under certain specific circumstances, the 1.4-liter gasoline engine/generator unit in the vehicle actually can -- and periodically will -- step up to provide additional motive force. A quick chat with Pat Morrissey, Chevrolet's Director of Product Communications, helped clarify exactly how this all takes place and the potential effect it can have on the basic Volt driving experience.
As previously indicated, the operation of the Volt's highly touted E-REV (extended-range electric vehicle) system remains unchanged in all city-type driving regimens. But at speeds of 70 mph and beyond -- and then only when the Volt is switched into its extended-range mode -- Chevy confirms that its gasoline engine is programmed to kick in and engage via a series of planetary gearing elements that help optimize overall efficiency of the Voltec system. Using both power sources in this manner allows the Volt to travel up to 10-15 percent further before requiring a refill/recharge. However, Morrissey stresses that the engine itself is only capable of providing supplemental assistance, and that it can never be used as the primary or exclusive source of power for the vehicle. This latest bit of news about the 2011 Chevrolet Volt news came as its official press rollout began over the weekend. There's still no word on what EPA fuel economy numbers the car will carry when it finally goes on sale towards the end of the year.