General Motors engineers have squeezed an additional three miles of range out of the Chevrolet Volt's battery pack.
The automaker said Thursday that the 2013 Chevy Volt would be able to travel 38 miles on a single charge of electricity, up from 35 in the current version. After the Volt's battery pack is drained of electricity, the car's small gasoline engine kicks in so the driver doesn't have to stop to recharge.
Engineers have also developed a new feature called hold mode, which gives drivers the option to use gasoline before using the battery pack. That feature, which will be standard on the 2013 Volt, is already available in Europe.
"We had a lot of people say, 'But what if I want to drive from one city to the next city and save my EV miles until I get to the next city?' " Volt chief engineer Andrew Farah said on a conference call. "We think that will make a lot of people happy now that they can control when they use their EV miles if they want to."
Collectively, GM said the Volt's m.p.g. equivalent (MPGe) -- a formula created by the U.S. government to give drivers an idea of average fuel economy -- would rise from 94 to 98 miles. That's better than the plug-in hybrid version of the Toyota Prius.
Engineers made small adjustments to the "material composition of the battery cell chemistry" in the Volt, GM said in a statement.
"The best way to explain what we've done at the cell level is to compare it to a cake batter recipe. 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," said Bill Wallace, GM director of global battery systems engineering, in a statement.
Wallace said the battery weight didn't change and that it wouldn't change in future vehicles "without going to radically new chemistries."
The car's total storage capacity will get a boost from 16 kilowatt hours to 16.5 kWh, but the vehicle will take about an extra half-hour to charge.
GM said it would take about 10.5 hours using the standard 120-volt outlet found in homes or 4.25 hours using a 240-volt system.
The Volt, which is built at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, starts at about $39,000, and that won't change. GM sold 7,057 Volts in the first five months of the year, up 223% from a year earlier.
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