Two is company, three’s a crowd

A smaller engine for the next Volt?

Despite having dabbled in electric vehicles with the EV1 and ‘mild’ hybrids, the Chevy Volt was GM’s first real foray into the world of alternative-energy vehicles. Though GM was quite adventurous in going for a 40 mile electric only range and a sophisticated interface between the engine, transmission and the battery motor, it played it very safe by opting for a 4 banger engine. Too safe in my view but that’s the way GM is. May be it had to factor in getting the public used to a smaller engine in a mid-size car.

Partly thanks to the Ford EcoBoost and the BMW/Mercedes/Audi turbos in their mainstream cars, the car buying population is now comfortable with the idea of sanity in the case of engine displacement. So I am not surprised by the news that GM is contemplating a three cylinder for the next Volt. I am not sure it is turbocharged but you could even get away with a naturally aspirated three-banger. By having a larger electric charge as reserve so the battery motor can cut in earlier, you can mask the relative power deficiency of a 3-cylinder.

Twin cylinders for the Cinquecento. I mean inside the engine bay, not outside!

I think GM needs to push the envelope by going for a twin cylinder instead. The TwinAir has already shown promise in a non-hybrid Fiat 500 so there is no reason it should not work in a Volt. Think of the potential advantages –
1. Lower weight (over the front axle) means better mileage/range, better handling.
2. More passenger space
3. More crush space to manage forces in an accident.

As Steve Jobs once said, the customer frequently does not know what he wants. But GM should know in this case. And have the courage to take that step.


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