An Easy Guide to 2016 Chevrolet Volt’s Hybrid Powertrain

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt’s launch was dominated by the “Next Generation of Electric Hybrid Cars” motto and officials were quick and agile in keeping related praise at the highest levels. They even involved customers in the new Volt’s development and listened to their views on the EV’s shortcomings before making changes accordingly.
2016 Chevrolet Bolt 5 photos
Photo: SAE Slideshow
2016 Chevrolet Volt Powertrain2016 Chevrolet Volt Powertrain2016 Chevrolet Volt Powertrain2016 Chevrolet Volt Powertrain
We want to make sure that the new Volt’s powertrain holds no secrets and its modus operandi is crystal clear, especially because the 2016 Volt is no longer a so-called range-extended electric car but made a step forward to becoming a more conventional plug-in hybrid, where engine torque reaches the wheels by mechanical means when the engine is on, just like it happens with Ford and Toyota rivals.

Engine and electric drive

Engine: 1.5-liter, four valves per cylinder, direct fuel injection, petrol unit, power output - 101 HP.

Electric drive: two-wheel, front-drive, based on two motors, motoring power - 149 HP, generating power - 60 HP, torque - 398 Nm (294 lb-ft).

It is worth noting that for the 2011-2015 Volt, Chevrolet opted for one motor to power the wheels, assisted by a second one acting as an engine-driven generator to produce electricity when battery capacity was drained.

The 2016 Volt, however, uses a pair of motors, relatively equal in size, with the option of one or both powering the vehicle, but the new Volt can still run in exclusively-electric mode for 50 miles before the engine switches on.

In addition, once the battery goes out of juice, the engine is automatically being switched on and contributes a lot more to torque delivery to the wheels in comparison to the previous Volt where it would only intervene on limited occasions, during sessions of high-speed driving.

Operating modes

There are five distinct operating modes offered by the 2016 Volt, thanks to its new Voltec system. Two of them are electric-only and three are combined.

For the two electric-only modes, things should be pretty clear so we won’t focus that much on this aspect. In other words, these exclusive-electric approaches require that either one motor powers the Volt, or both work together to do so.

In comparison to the first Volt, nothing has really changed but the other three combined or range-extended modes used after the electric range is gone behave in a different manner as it follows.

1. Low extended-range mode

This program’s main aim is efficiency as it works non-stop to find the optimum balance between the operating speed for the engine, power desired by the driver, battery’s charge level and the use of one or two electric motors.

In some cases, this mode can even distribute tasks in such a way that one motor is teamed-up with the engine so they power the wheels, while the second motor is left with the task of recharging the battery.

Usually, this mode is active up to 40 mph (64 km/h). In case speed goes over this value, another mode is activated: the fixed-ratio extended-range mode.

2. Fixed-ratio extended-range mode

This mode was introduced on the 2016 Chevrolet Volt and its main purpose is to allow the engine to power the wheels by using a fixed gear ratio. At this point, the two motors may or may not kick in and add the extra torque.

If the system detects that less torque is required, it will automatically re-route torque to recharging the battery.

3. High extended-range mode

As you might have figured out, this mode becomes active at higher speeds. However, this happens up to the 100 mph (161 km/h) limit and the system is continuously working towards finding the best mix of engine speed, electric motors usage and battery charge in order to comply with the driver’s needs by also keeping an eye on efficiency.

Until we actually get to drive the new 2016 Chevrolet Volt, we’re going to sum it up by saying that on paper, the second-generation Volt looks like it made certain steps towards improvement, but we all know that when it comes to EVs, hybrids and efficiency, it all comes down to real-life conditions which are by no means controllable or predictable.
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