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by Tim Beissmann

Upgrades to the battery of General Motors’ extended-range electric vehicle will bring incremental increases to the driving range of the upcoming Holden Volt but will also extend the time it takes to complete a full charge.

Minor changes to the battery cell chemistry see the pure-electric range of the Volt increase from 35 miles to 38 miles (56.3km to 61.2km), and the overall range rise one mile to 380 miles (612km).

The total storage capacity of the Volt’s lithium-ion battery rises from 16kWh to 16.5kWh, although the downside of this is a slightly longer recharge time. Plugged into a standard 240-volt household power socket, the Holden Volt will take 4hr 15m to charge from ‘empty’, 15 minutes longer than the pre-upgraded model.

General Motors director of global battery systems engineering Bill Wallace likened the changes to the Volt’s battery to the process of making a cake.

“The best way to explain what we’ve done at the cell level is to compare it to a cake batter recipe,” Wallace said.

“Sometimes if you use more sugar and less vanilla you get a better tasting cake. We’ve done some work at the cell level to modify the ‘ingredients’ to make a better end result.”

The upgraded 2013 Volt, which goes on sale in the US in August and launches in Australia in November, gets an improved fuel consumption rating as a result of the enhancements, down from 2.5 litres per 100km-equivalent to 2.4L/100km-equivalent.

Holden and GM describe the Volt as world’s first extended-range electric vehicle, although the technical details of its powertrain remain a topic of debate among some in the industry who claim it is simply a plug-in hybrid. Essentially, when the battery’s initial 61km charge is exhausted, the Volt’s 1.4-litre petrol engine kicks in to power the electric drivetrain, potentially propelling the car for another 551km.

Earlier this week, Holden confirmed the first right-hand-drive Volts are now in Australia and are currently participating in the Victorian Government’s electric vehicle trial.

The Holden Volt is expected to cost around $60,000 when it goes on sale in Australia later this year. Specifications and pricing details will be revealed closer to its local launch.




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