How GM's E-Flex Propulsion System Works

E-Flex Onboard Generator and Motor

The E-Flex battery is connected to an electric motor that drives the vehicle's front wheels. It's completely quiet in this mode, and all a driver will hear is the noise of the road.

This motor produces about 120 kilowatts of power, which is roughly equivalent to about 160 horsepower on an internal combustion engine. However, because electric motors provide instant torque -- you won't need to rev the engine to experience its full power -- the Chevrolet Volt will offer considerably better performance.

The Volt is expected to go from zero to 60 mph (97 kilometers per hour) in less than 9 seconds. However, it's the feeling of launching the car that will really impress performance-crazy drivers. The acceleration will feel more like that of a sporty car with a V-6 engine than a small economy car. The car also uses regenerative braking, which means that the car is collecting kinetic energy as it coasts or brakes, and uses this energy to recharge its battery. Having the battery in the bottom of the car means a low center of gravity as well.

The lithium-ion batteries utilized on E-Flex-powered cars are the same ones that operate cellular phones and laptops, only much larger. To charge the battery, simply plug the car into any 110-volt outlet -- any standard household socket will work. GM expects most customers will charge the car overnight in their garages, a process that takes about six hours to complete. On a 220-volt circuit, drivers will need three to four hours to charge the battery.

GM's engineers are trying to build a car that anyone can operate. While the many components of E-Flex vehicles sound complicated, Andrew Farah, the Volt's chief engineer, wants people to understand that keeping the car running is as simple as plugging in an appliance. The Volt has a plug on its side for insertion into wall sockets for charging.

Read on to learn about the role that an internal combustion engine plays in the Chevy Volt.