Holden has given the Australian press a look at its upcoming Volt "Extended Range Electric Vehicle" (EREV) in Sydney today, ahead of its sales launch in late 2012.
Present for the launch were Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, the Federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, United States Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich and Managing Director of Holden, Mike Devereaux.
The Volt's local unveiling follows the arrival last month of a batch of test cars; each in left-hand-drive layout but lightly reconfigured for Australian roads. The carmaker will use these vehicles to finalise the car's local specifications.
All-electric drive, a 111kW/368Nm electric motor sits in the nose of the Volt. Its unique technology is that it is paired with a small 60kW 1.4 litre petrol engine which powers a generator to return charge to the 'T'-shaped Lithium-ion battery pack that sits in the spine.
Other than charging the battery pack, the engine has no part in driving the Volt - it is full-time all-electric drive.
The petrol engine simply chimes in when battery charge begins to drop; the result is a 500km range before having to refuel the small petrol tank.
The Volt however can also be charged from a standard household power-point or charging station. Charging time is four hours at a cost of around $2.50.
Where the Volt differs from other all-electric-drive vehicles like Nissan's Leaf and Mitsubishi's i-MiEV is that these cars rely on access to the power grid for recharging. Only the Volt can keep itself fully charged while 'on a long run'.
On electric power alone (ie. with no recharging from the petrol engine), it also offers a driving range of up to 80 kilometres - half that of the Leaf, but more than enough for the average daily commute.
(US TV host Jay Lenno has reportedly driven 16000km commuting around LA in a Volt without having used any petrol.)
Standard safety features for the Australian-delivered Volt will include:
- Eight air bags: dual-stage driver and passenger air bags; front driver and passenger knee air bags, roof rail side-curtain air bags for side-impact and rollover protection; and seat-mounted thorax and pelvic side air bags.
- Rollover sensing and protection system
- Tip-up sensors proactively predict tip-up on a flat surface and apply brake force to the outside front and rear wheels to reduce lateral force in the vehicle.
- Interior head-impact protection in the pillars, headliner and roof rails.
- Adjustable head restraints for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
- Collapsible pedal assembly to protect against lower leg injuries
- Three-point seatbelts in all four seating positions
- Seatbelt shoulder belt retractor and lap belt pre-tensioners in the driver and front passenger positions
- Anti-lock brakes, traction control and StabiliTrak electronic stability control
While the Volt has been on the US market as the Chevrolet Volt for some time now, GM has taken heat in recent weeks for issues with the Volt's battery that have seen the system catch fire in a small number of on-road accidents.
The carmaker has quickly jumped on the issue however, with GM global product development chief Mary Barra promising a quick solution.
"We are looking to say, 'Are there some design changes we can make, something even more robust in this location or that location or with this component,'" Ms Barra told Reuters this week. "If we have to do something, we will."
"The one thing you don't want to do is jump to conclusions," she added.
Holden boss Mike Devereux is confident that the Volt will be a success in Australia, describing the car as "one of the most technologically advanced cars on the road anywhere in the world".
"Volt is the no-compromise electric car. It’s electric when you want it and petrol when you need it," Devereux said.
He added that more than half of America's Volt owners use the car's electric motor only, rarely driving beyond its range.
“Volt will make driving more economical, more environmentally-friendly and will fundamentally change the way Australia thinks about alternative transport solutions."
“This is the start of something big for Holden and Australia.”
Watch for more details on the Volt as it nears its late 2012 Australian launch.