Musings on the Chevy Volt Motor

by Larry Siebert
(Ann Arbor, MI)

What basic type of electric motor does the GM Volt use? And what does it weigh? How could I get a schematic diagram?

Hi, Larry -
A 3-phase AC induction motor.

Here's an interesting tidbit you might not have heard: According to GM Volt's website, the Chevy Volt actually has two electric motors; a 111 kw drive motor, and a 54 kw generator motor.

I'm not sure about the weight and the diagram, sorry.

Next interesting tidbit: According to this Motor Trend article, the gas engine DOES drive the wheels under some circumstances. GM originally said it didn't, and then last year sometime they said it does, and now I'm not sure if we're back to "doesn't" or not. If you find out, let me know before it changes again.

That same article illuminates another aspect of the Chevy Volt's hybrid system that I thought was interesting: their use of planetary gears.


"The Voltโ€™s 149-horse electric motor spins the sun gear. When starting off, the ring is locked to the case and power flows to the wheels through the planet carrier, providing more mechanical advantage than the Priusโ€™ 80-horse electric motor gets driving the wheels directly."

Sometimes I think that by trying to sell themselves (a little dishonestly) to America's electric car drivers, GM missed the opportunity to stake their claim as the maker of an honest plug-in hybrid that's...I don't know...kind of macho looking.

That's gotta count for something.


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Chevy Volt - Drive Train Eplanation
by: Anonymous

the gas engine DOES drive the wheels under some circumstances

Under some circumstances because the gas engine is not coupled to the drive wheels as is the case of the Prius.

The gas engine, if they followed my suggestion when I contacted them during the design phase, is coupled directly to the 54 kw generator motor.

The "some circumstances" occur when the batteries are depleted and no longer have sufficient energy to drive the 111 kw drive motor. At this point, the gas engine auto-starts and produces the needed power to both run the drive motor and rechage the batteries at the same time. Under this circumstance, the gas motor is driving the wheels, though indirectly via driving the drive motor.

This desing by the way, goes back to an electric car that was in a Popular Mechanics issue back in teh 80s.

This is also the method that locomotives use.
The diesel engines run generators that then power electric motors which drive the trains.

There are now, Semi-trucks diesel hybrids with the same setup.

In all honesty, they might have already been considering this design prior to my contacting them, but at least I made the effort.

Have a good day.

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