Next-Gen Chevy Volt Could Get 3-Cylinder Turbo


volt-engineChevy Volt sales have picked up a moderate amount of steam in 2013, and the recent $5,000 price cut is sure to bring in even more buyers for the plug-in hybrid. There’s still plenty of room for improvement though, like replacing the 1.4 liter generator that charges the Volt’s batteries. That engine could be replaced by a fresh 1.0 liter, three-cylinder turbo that GM just debuted.

The engine will debut in the Opel Adam, a micro-car rival that had an all-electric version until it was nixed late last year. The three-cylinder turbo engine is expected to replace the 1.6 liter four-cylinder currently found in the adam, while making as much power. The three-banger will deliver at least 115 horsepower and 122 ft-lbs of torque, less than the 123 horsepowe rand 148 ft-lbs of torque found in the 1.0 liter Ford EcoBoost engine. Previously the Adam’s most powerful engine only made 87 horsepower though, so this is a big improvement.


But unlike the Ford motor, GM likely has other aspirations for the 1.0 liter three-cylinder, including powering the Chevy Volt. Made entirely from aluminum and said to be 20% more efficient than the engines that it replaces, this new motor could push the Volt’s fuel economy well into the 40s.

If The Volt achieves the 20% efficiency achievement GM CEO Dan Akerson is pushing for, that would put it right around 42 or 43 mpg when the battery is drained. Should GM chop another $5,000 off of the asking price, and ups the fuel economy and all-electric range, the Volt will be even more attractive to buyers.

The battle of the three-bangers is warming up; which automaker will fire the next round in this war of the little engines?

Source: Opel

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • curly4

    Now wouldn’t it be great if the Volt was a electric car with that 3 cylinder turbo to just feed the battery!

    • egogg

      It’s all about maximum efficiency/economics. If having a purely separate drivetrain were more efficient, they’d have made it that way. The way it was described to me was that there are some instances during acceleration where its more efficient to have a direct engine-to-wheels transmission of power.

      • suprasaloon

        When I 1st started looking into Volts, I thought
        the same thing; that they were like the Prius’. Electric at low low speeds (under 30 mph i think) then ICE during low to freeway speeds. Come to find out the Volt is
        only driven by the electric motor. The ICE is strictly to generate electricity
        for the motor when the batt is depleted. It can charge the battery for ‘extra juice’ for
        steep inclines (a.k.a.mountain mode).

        • Dave M

          The volt runs 100% electric, and uses the engine to generate power, but it can, and does engage the engine to drive the wheels when in electric mode at certain speeds, such as sustained cruising. Step on the accelerator, and there is a brief delay when the clutch disengages the engine so the battery reserve can be tapped into for full power acceleration. You can feel the transition when it happens, and that is generally only sustained cruising between 100 – 120kmh. The car also only does it in normal mode. In mountain, and Sport mode the system doesn’t go into this mode.

          • danwat1234

            But only if the battery is depleted, right? Stepping hard on the accelerator at cruising speed with charge left in the battery, and the engine will not turn on?

          • Dave M

            That is correct. You can floor it right up to top speed 162kmh or 101 mph and the engine does not start. Only after you use up the battery and then it cycles on and off unless you are driving 100 km or more, then it runs constant untill you drop below 100 k.

          • danwat1234

            good info, thanks.

      • Dave M

        Yes this is true, but it only happens during sustained high speed cruising.
        During acceleration the car switches back to battery + generator mode for maximum power.
        If going up a long steep incline, and mountain mode has not been entered it is possible to run the battery down to minimum charge level, and in that case the power is totally limited to what the engine puts out. The engine runs at max speed, is coupled to the wheels. 50% of the engine power is coupled to the wheels, the other 50% spins the generator, which is used up by the electric motor (which still powers the car, as unlike in the competition the electric motor can not be taken out of the drive train) and by the other HV driven electronics such as the AC, power steering, 12v inverter.
        I just did a long road trip, and I intentionally ran the battery flat to see what performance issues I had. My speed, on a very long, steep up hill climb was limited to 100KM, which is about 62.
        For the remainder of my journey I put it in mountain mode about 5 minutes before the hill, and had plenty of power, and never ran out of juice again. A more powerfull, smaller engine wouold be great, but personally I am not a fan of turbo charged engines due to my past experience. I much prefer the reliability of a normal aspirated engine, and for the relatively rare times that my volt runs on gas, that 3 or 4 MPG improvement is nothing. A tank of gas lasts me normally 5-6 months.

        • UncleB

          Seeking inductive ‘on the go’ charging for long hills?

      • UncleB

        See ‘in hub” wheels from Germany. France – alre4ady astounding torque to pave efficiencies?

    • UncleB

      . . . as a stop-gap before “on the go” charging systems give electrics unlimited energy supplies? Already done in Spain! inductive meter-able, and efficient as all get out America, and can be powered from domestic nuclear sources not foreign oil!

      • curly4

        That would be a good idea except many environmentalist have fought to get nuclear power plants shut down ans some still do. In addition there have been no nuclear power plants constructed in how many years? 30, 40? because of the opposition to them. It would take about a decade just build a new one now even if it could be done. There is always NIMBY where people think that is a good idea but build it over there.

  • FINALLY…. a move in the right direction on engine choice. I hope they’re looking at the various opposed piston/generators too. They would be crazy not to.

  • Kelly

    They should be able to do this now with other vehicle maybe even a full size suburban. I can see a combined with electric and gas 50mpg SUV.

    • Sten Seemann

      See Via Motors. GM shells w/plug in and gas engine to recharge the battery.

  • Peter

    Congratulations GM on creating the engine that should have been in the Volt to begin with. Never could take it seriously with the 1.6L V4..too much added weight taken away from more battery capacity / performance.

    • danwat1234


    • Barel

      The engine they use was patched in. They made it in a rush. Plus, this exact engine hadn’t been designed/produced yet at the time.

  • Pingback: Opel And Vauxhall Monza Concept Uses Volt’s Future Drivetrain - Gas 2()

  • Bubby Valentino

    The Volt technology will prove to be the most important and ultimately the most profitable Innovation to come out of GM in its history. It will take 5 years of losses and possibly temporary government assistant, but the comfortable and powerful Volt is the ideal vehicle for 80% of the driving public,

    if GM bows to uninformed haters and media crape hangers like Ms. Sheld, it will do so in ignorance of the hugely positive experience of the growing, perhaps slower than expected, but growing class of Volt owners who understand the value of this remarkable vehicle.

    Can’t wait until I drive the Cadillac ELR!

    Bubby Valentino

  • UncleB

    Piston Engine Schools pulling out all the stops in a ‘death struggle” with the Electrics and the changing economic fortunes for the peons of the U.S.A. They realize that the creeping advances in Electrical Energy Storage and the soon necessary conversion of U.S. trains to Chinese styled electric bullet trains means the demise of the Lincoln Mark IV ‘Land Cruiser’ styles, and reach in admiral fashion to fill the gaps in this transition. They prepare the generators for the hybrids, and secretly work out the fine points on the all electrics. We see a day of en-route charging for Electrics to boost on board storage devices, eliminate the fear of ever running out of power?

  • UncleB

    KIA has a 3 cyl. and a CNG option already and ready to go hybrid electric! If GM doesn’t, they will!