CANADA/GERMANY: Obstacles slow GM and Toyota 'plug-in' hybrids
The Chevrolet Volt Concept made its Canadian debut on Wednesday at the Energy and Environment Conference (EECO) in Toronto, just a few weeks after a Toyota official told reporters in Germany that there were still obstacles in the way of making the technology a commercial reality, as GM has also acknowledged.
The "technologically-advanced and stylish" Volt has the potential to virtually eliminate the need for daily commuters to visit a refuelling station, GM said in a statement.
"If you are like most Canadians who live and work within a 64 kilometre [45-mile] round trip the Volt is a gas [petrol] free, emission free car," said David Paterson, vice president, corporate and environmental affairs, General Motors of Canada. "Drivers will simply unplug and go each morning - much as we do with our cell phones today."
The Volt Concept can be fully charged by plugging into a 110-volt domestic power outlet for approximately six hours a day. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged, the Volt can deliver 64 kilometres of pure electric vehicle range. If drivers need to travel more than 64 kilometres, a range extending power source (which creates electricity from petrol, ethanol, hydrogen or biodiesel fuels) seamlessly kicks in to recharge the lithium ion battery pack when required, for an impressive driving range of more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles).
"At GM we believe that tomorrow's automobile must be flexible to accommodate many different energy sources and choices for consumers, and a key part of that flexibility will be enabled by electrically driven cars" added Paterson. "With battery contracts in place and a dedicated team of engineers, General Motors is moving to bring the Volt closer to reality.
"The signing of advanced development battery contracts and our announcement to move fuel cell engineers from research and development work to our powertrain and engineering organisations for the E-Flex system are the latest proof points in GM's commitment to providing more green choices for consumers."
Earlier this month, Toyota - which recently overtook GM as the world's largest car maker by sales volume - told reporters at a technical seminar in Germany that it, too, was developing similar plug-in hybrid technology "in which external charging is added to the hybrid vehicle which is our key technology".
Toyota Motor Corporation managing officer Shinzo Kobuki said the automaker's vehicle was being designed, like the Volt, so it could be charged externally from any household power point, would operate mainly on electricity on short town trips and would operate as a hybrid for longer distances or at higher speeds.
The vehicle could also be adapted to use biofuels, Kobuki added, but cautioned that there were still "obstacles" to be overcome before such a vehicle was a "commercial reality".
"Not least" of these was the need to downsize batteries and lengthen battery lifespan "but we do believe it could become a vital solution in the near future," he said.