Each and every day, I work with some of the best and brightest people at GM to create electric vehicle technologies that provide our customers with fun to drive cars and reduce their need for petroleum. It’s exciting to see that electrified vehicles of various technologies are gaining attention and market share. We’re seeing various terms used to describe these technologies, including PHEVs, EREVs, pure EVs and, yes, hybrids. It can be confusing to understand how these technologies provide real-world benefits to car buyers. Let me take a shot at trying at clearing things up. Here goes . . .
Let’s break down GM’s electric vehicle options and explain why you want to buy one. We have three electric-based options: eAssist, extended range electric vehicles and electric vehicles.
On average, eAssist provides a 25 percent fuel economy improvement over a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle. We estimate annual fuel costs on an eAssist would be about $1900/year, saving $2500 over five years when compared to average new vehicle. eAssist is available on the Buick Lacrosse and Regal, as well as the Chevrolet Malibu and 2014 Impala. The technology is perfect for individuals who want a large sedan with compact car fuel economy.
We refer to eAssist as a light electrification solution. eAssist aims to redefine what it means to be a “conventional” powertrain by making some of the basic benefits of electrification available on mainstream vehicles. What we did was add a small electric motor and a lithium ion battery to the engine to provide more power and give the car a little “boost”, under heavy accelerating. The boost comes from energy that is captured during braking and stored in the battery. eAssist technology also turns the engine off when the vehicle is idle to save fuel. Why have your engine running if you don’t need it? The engine will automatically restart when the brake is released.
Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs)
Extended Range electric vehicles (EREVs) are powered by both electricity and gas. An EREV operates as an electric vehicle for a certain number of miles, then relies on an electric generator powered by a gas engine after the electric battery runs low. If you want to enjoy pure electric driving during your daily commute but still want the flexibility of traveling longer distances, then an EREV is the perfect solution.
An EREV features a big battery and a small engine. Some of you may think “two sources of energy so it’s a hybrid, right?” Not quite, as an EREV like the Chevrolet Volt runs solely on electricity from the battery for about the first 40 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the engine automatically turns on to provide unlimited range. It’s that simple. To recharge the battery, plug the car into a standard 120 or 240 volt outlet. If the charge is never fully depleted, EREV owners never have to fill up at a gas station. On average, Volt customers visit a gas pump every 900 miles or about every 6 weeks. The annual fuel cost would be about $900, saving you $6850 over five years.*.
Cadillac will launch an EREV later this year, the ELR. It is a beautiful, luxurious coupe wrapped around an enhanced version of our award winning EREV propulsion system. If you want to enjoy pure electric driving during your daily commutes but still want the flexibility to travel longer distances, an EREV is the perfect solution.
Pure Electric Vehicles
Now, let’s talk about pure electric vehicles. The Chevy Spark EV, which recently went on sale in California and Oregon, runs purely on electricity. It does not use any petroleum. The range is greater than that of the Volt — about 82 miles. To recharge the Spark EV, you can plug in to a 120 or 240 V outlet, or, in the near future, a DC fast charge station. DC fast charging allows the vehicle to charge 80 percent in just 20 minutes. So in theory you pull into a coffee shop that has a DC fast charge station, order a soda (for those of you that know me), check your email, check in on your kids on Facebook and you’re ready to go.
This car is targeted at urban and suburban commuters and will initially be sold in California and Oregon. We anticipate a Spark EV owner would have an annual fuel cost of $500, saving you about $9000 over five years.**.
There you have it. Three options to save fuel, reduce the dependence on petroleum, reduce emissions and have a great driving experience. It all depends upon your needs in terms of vehicle size and your daily commute.
* Average fuel and energy rates based upon information obtained from The U.S. Department of Energy.
Pam Fletcher is the GM Executive Director, Electrified Vehicles. She is responsible for the Extended Range Electric Vehicle propulsion system in the Chevrolet Volt as well as the propulsion systems in GM’s upcoming line-up of Plug-In Hybrid Elecrtic Vehicles.