How the Chevy Volt works

January 28, 2011 6:36:14 AM PST
As the Chevrolet Volt grows in popularity, more people are starting to pay attention to the unique features of the car and are asking questions about them.Take a look at the technology inside the four-passenger vehicle.

People have been test driving the two Volts available at McDonald Chevrolet in Millington, but some don't understand the science behind the all-electric car.

"Does it have a gas engine? Not everybody knows it has a gas engine. What's the range?" said Mark Prokopenko from McDonald Chevrolet.

Kettering University professor Mark Thompson explained that 500 pounds of lithium-ion batteries running from below the back seat to the engine compartment power the car for the first 30 to 40 miles. "When the battery becomes discharged, then you draw the energy from the gasoline engine that's turning a generator, producing electricity to drive the wheels."

Under the hood, the 1.4 liter four cylinder engine is located on the left side, while the electrical conversion unit is on the right. The orange cables are coming from the battery bank. You can charge up the batteries by plugging in the car to an electric outlet.

"Let's say you forgot to plug it in at night, and you get up in the morning. Will that vehicle run? Yes, you'll start it up and the internal combustion engine will start immediately producing the electricity to drive the electric drive train," Thompson explained.

We put the Volt on a hoist to see what it looks like underneath. There's not a lot the average person would recognize.

"This is the transmission and electric drive motor-generator. This is, basically, what the car runs off of," McDonald auto service technician Fred Lyden pointed out.

A nine-gallon gas tank is located toward the rear. The bottom of the car is fairly smooth compared to conventional vehicles.

Volt technology really isn't all that new. A diesel locomotive uses its engine to power a generator that provides electricity to the wheels.

General Motors says when the batteries are fully charged and the gas tank is full, the Volt can travel up to 379 miles.