back to article GM Volt to get regular software-style updates

General Motors has given some insights into how it plans to squeeze every last mile from the Chevrolet Volt's battery back - and how it hopes to develop the model. According to Frank Weber, “vehicle line executive” for the Volt's Voltec propulsion system, it's all about “maximizing its mechanical, electrical and thermal …


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  1. Richard
    Paris Hilton

    What a pain

    Apart from the concerns about bricking the gearbox in an update. I for one don't like the idea that this is yet another piece of software we will have to maintain. I have to waste far too much time updating stuff on my computer, i don't want to have to do it with my car too.

  2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    In need of software updates?

    Doing 90mph on the motorway and BSOD gets a completely new meaning.

    That's why.


  3. Danny
    Paris Hilton


    "GM reckons 40 miles of battery-only endurance is more than sufficient "

    errr, what? I wont even get home on that.

  4. s
    Dead Vulture

    Where's the news?

    Cars have had software updates for years. Search any of the car forums and you'll find people complaining about poor running / stereo issues / electric window issues / electric seat issues etc etc etc etc being solved with a software update.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    40 miles on bataries ONLY.... its a hybrid as far as i know.

  6. Pete James

    Bit obvious but still welcome

    In some ways - and as mentioned above - the titbits handed out by GM aren't al that new. Software updates on vehicles aren't actually performed all that often but they do occur on sub systems such as built-in satnav for example. Also, some vehicles have a limit to the number of times their systems can be updated before demanding more serious inspection or replacement.

    A good bit of news was slightly buried in here. The ICE from Bose will be measurably lighter and more efficient than previous offerings. Now, while this again isn't revolutionary (Gordon Murray demanded the ICE system in the F1 be lightened by 50% for example) it's a good sign that auto makers may start getting serious about the weight and energy use of components. The less drain on the energy pack, then obviously the longer its range.

    I would be expecting to see some rethinking at some point of the various restraint and crash systems vehicles have to stuffed with, along with the weightier solutions for passenger protection built into the bodyshell. If they can get really serious about shedding weight, and it's not going to be that hard to do actually, then the performance of these vehicles will start to improve markedly.

  7. Richard Rae
    Gates Horns


    please please tell me that this is not running windows.

    I can just see the exchange time bug all over again. You have 50 minutes juice left, now you have76789578268952346578056843582375785 hours

  8. Lionel Baden

    oh well

    Ill be sticking to my 2cv

    when no fuell left ill just stick some batteries and emotor in it

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Yank cars...

    "Volt's fun-to-drive characteristics"

    Translation for the UK market:

    It handles like an oil tanker, has an interior like a yoghurt pot and the build quality of a Lada.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GM Should know the market anyone remember the EV1

    Title says it all the EV1 was the first production electric car, made by GM, reseach showed it needed a 80 mile range for 95% of the population. Pity they only made it to get round California's laws, leased rather than sold it, and then crushed every one as soon as they could. By all accounts (and lets face it it was niche and only the treehuggers leased it) it was fun to drive and drove well.

    You would hope the batteries for the drive train were seperate to the electronics batteries, I'd hope that my driving range wasn't reduced just because I had the radio on loud or had to put the headlights on...

  11. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Pete James

    They have In Car Entertainment systems in F1? Who knew?

    Bit of understeer, adjust wing, poke KERS button, down to 5th, retune to Radio 4 for The Archers, up to 6th, check pit board, busy, busy.........

  12. Danny van der Weide

    Weight savings ?

    [quote]The Volt will also see the début of a Bose sound system that's also heralded as "energy efficient" and said to be 30 per cent smaller, 40 per cent lighter and to use half as much energy as conventional Bose sound systems do.[/quote]

    That's all nice and good!

    Too bad that the rest of the car is made of traditional and heavy.... STEEL!!!!

    So someone can explain me what saving 3kg on an audio system is going to change on a 1000+kg car anyway.

    And then the energy savings: I don't know how much leccy an average car system consumes, but i'm sure its absolutely peanuts compared to a 100KW engine.

    Yeah, all nice and good but utterly insignificant.

  13. JDub

    Will there be an app store?

    For, I, motorway racing games??

  14. Mutiny


    BETA era spreads to the automotive industry!

  15. The BigYin
    Thumb Down


    Oh, how quaint. Call me when they wake up and smell the hydrogen.

  16. daz disley

    hahaha BOSE sound system

    BOSE = Bring Other Sound Equipment

  17. Pete James

    @ TeeCee

    Sorry TeeCee, I mean the McLaren F1 road car. As much as Lewis Hamilton may enjoy the company of his current squeeze I don't think he would be allowed to barrell down Hangar Straight listeningto the latest single from the Pussycat Dolls.

    One or two other F1 drivers rather like girl groups too. Ahem....

  18. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Up


    I spent a while thinking that too- maybe he'd misread the acronyms for In Car Entertainment and Internal Combustion Engine- some bloke called Murray was asking for the engine weight to be halved, GM were installing a lighter speaker system, both referred to as ICE hence a direct comparison.

    He was actually talking about the McLaren F1, which I believe had an In Car Entertainment system.


    Being able to update something like the drivetrain sounds a little... err... dangerous. Especially if the user has no control over when- or if- it's updated. I guess doing it at MOT time wouldn't be too bad, by a trained technician who knew what to do when it went wrong.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Costs and uses

    First off, I would imaging that any climate that needs heavy-duty heating or air-conditioning won't be a market for electric cars. Which is a bit of a pity, but I can't see batteries being up to those tasks.

    Secondly, what about using batteries up to, say 40mph only. Electric seems great for stop-start 1st and 2nd gear work but the range is just to small. You have to be able to fall back to petrol.

    Thirdly, cars are used mostly for commuting, but also for taking the kids on holiday to France. Unless your electric thingy will do both functions, almost no-one will buy it. If you can't make it do both functions, you need to make it cheap enough that people will buy them in addition to a car, i.e. very cheap indeed.

    Perhaps rail-less trams-cars are the way to go. Run an electric cable around the M25 and down the M1 and M4 and any car with an electric pickup can use it, keeping batteries for roads without cables and perhaps providing enough power for airconditioning. If you only cable the inside lane you've got a built-in incentive to keep left unless overtaking...

    While using electric may seem to just move the fuel use to a power-station, electric cars should use almost no power when stationary and they tend to be lighter. Unlike petrol cars which are heavier and whose engines run while sitting in traffic jams.

    Right, that's the environment fixed. Now to sort out those arabs and israelis...

  20. Tom Simnett

    Updates, not software updates

    To me, you're all missing the point. They're saying that over the period of time in which they manufacture the car, there will me small updates that improve performance, handling, battery longevity etc. These are *not* software updates, but akin to them. Heads on chaps and chapettes. I know it's Friday, but still!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Unless it has AWD...

    Unless it has AWD, GM won't sell many even in Detroit. Anyone who lives in a part of the US or Canada that gets snow for much of the year who has owned an AWD car can never revert to a 2-wheel drive car. Never.

  22. Dale

    Old joke

    "Welcome to your car."

    "Starting up..."

    "There are updates for your vehicle. If you have any luggage in the boot, please remove it before continuing."

    "Installing updates..."

    "Finished. It is now necessary for you to exit the vehicle and re-enter it in order to complete the update process."

    "Welcome to your car."

    "Starting up..."

    "Your battery is low. Remove any unnecessary luggage or save your current journey and exit the vehicle now."


  23. Stevie

    4 Richard Rae

    Exactly my thought Richard. Not to worry though. I understand that Windows Freeway Edition bundles with Norton SynchoMesh, a development of their Internet Security product said (but not in any way guaranteed, on no) to prevent malicious disgruntled mechanics (like there are any other kind) from downloading harmful patches to the transmission, possibly resulting in the much-feared "bricked gearbox".

    True, you'll never know from one platform upgrade to the next which pedal is the decelatrix or which lever is now the handbrake, but you can't have everything.

    When you come to think of it, the traditional arrangement of controlls is only a historic formality forced on the puiblic by antequated mechanical requirements that no longer apply in the digital age. Studies might show that the proper place for the footbrake would indeed be on the passenger side of the vehicle for example, or that steering would best be achieved from the keypad of a blackberry.

    A brave new world beckons.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AWD = 4x4 for the rest of us.

    Still, far better than calling it an SUV, SUV just sounds like a car for big girls, certified to not work off road. Merkin's, sorry but you make shite 4x4's.

    Sorry, bad day, stuck using vista today and lost two hours work trying to optimise it.

  25. Pete James

    @ Danny van der Weide

    Danny, steel per se isn't heavy, it's the usage of the material through over-engineering and/or poor design that is the issue. In fact if you want to look at traditional and heavy materials, take a peak at the weight per square metre of glass and compare that to steel. Then try thinking about the significant weight savings that could be found by use of plastics. You may also want to take a look at the technology involved in making a bodyshell, such as variable thickness pressings (now actually quite an old idea but still not used anywhere near enough).

    Obviously clever use of more advanced or exotic materials could make the Volt lighter, but it could well make it less efficient to make, service, repair and recycle. Steel performs well across all these areas. That's not to say other materials couldn't be used more extensively of course, but sometiems the headline advantage becomes irrelevant when other factors come into play.

    You're very, very wrong to be so dissmissive about the contribution sub-components can make to saving weight and thus energy consumption. The success of the GB cycle team in the Olympics was attibuted to the attention paid on the details and not just the fitness of the cyclist. Now apply that idea to the automotive sector. It's those details that can make a vehicle travel further, consume less energy and be more efficient in the space they utilise. Now, widen your scope to seats, interior trim, suspension, wiring, sound proofing, safety equipment, engine ancilliaries, transmissions, even paint, and you begin to get an idea of the multitude of areas where Kilos can be shaved off. So the 3Kg (where on earth did you get that figure? A head unit weighs nowhere near that!) saving suddenly transforms into upwards of 100Kg. That's heading towards the the weight of a medium sized Japanese engine - or well over the weight of the über-light K Series lump.

    Significant, isn't it?

  26. Fred
    Thumb Down

    Volt vs other Electrics

    Aptera claims a 100 mile range on a smaller (10-13kwhr) battery pack than Volt (16kwhr)

    Aptera claims (2h) 300 miles a gallon for their plugin hybrid, I have yet see a mileage number for GM's volt.

    Miles Automotive (Canada), also claims 100+ miles (2 hours) running time for their electric.

    Come on GM - give us crap is NOT going to fix your company

  27. Fred

    @Pete J

    Steel has all the good things you mention

    BUT -

    Aluminum (Al U Min e um), has similar traits, is lighter for similar strength, AND - it doesnt corrode in the same manner or speed as steel.

    I dont know about the EU - but in the states - if there is a single snow flake in the air there are tons, metric or otherwise, of Sodium Cloride or Calcium Cloride on the roads. Either of which *eats* steel.

    That said - many of the newer plastics, ceramics, and fiber compounds exceed both of these materials in strength to weight ratios, and they dont corrode at all. Although recycling them may be more difficult.

  28. Stevie


    Anyone who thinks Aluminium is a nifty thing to use on a car body has never owned an aluminium-bodied car. Aluminium is not a great long-term solution for automotive styling, no matter how you pronounce or spell it (and do people really get their underwear in a twist over that in this day and age? How provincial!). Especially when it comes time to fasten it to something, like a chassis or subframe. Especially when brine from salty winter roads becomes a factor, oh blimey yes. Been there, done that.

    No, what's needed is a nice, modern composite material. Light, strong and rot-proof (well, unless you leave them out in bright sun for 25 years, but that's another issue). Good enough for James Bond, good enough for me. Not that I'm suggesting all cars now be able to undertake lengthy sumberged operations or have anti-helicopter rocketry as standard.

  29. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    AWD isn't 4x4

    AWD isn't 4x4. There's a minor but important difference. A 4x4 (or 4 wheel drive) system here is typically considered to be one where there is NOT a center differential, when 4WD is engaged all 4 wheels are simply locked together and run at the same speed. You (are supposed to) engage 4 wheel drive before you are driving through DEEP snow or going off-road, it will basically lock all 4 wheels together so you won't get stuck... But, since it just locks all 4 wheels together, if you engage this type of system on ice, or light snow, it tends to force the vehicle off line and into a ditch. On dry pavement it'll tear up your tires a bit every time you corner and eventually destroy the 4WD system. A lot of trucks and SUVs have this.. here around Iowa City, college students buy 4x4s, then a month later you see the tow trucks running full time loading the ones with destroyed 4WD systems onto flatbeds. Then a while later after the first snow or ice storm, the tow trucks come back out to tow the rest of them out of the ditch, since 4WD is not for use on ice.

    AWD is what Subaru and most non-2-wheel-drive cars use. With the center differential and all, you just don't worry about it... some run only 2 wheels until they start slipping or bogging down in the snow, some run all 4 wheels full-time, but the systems on the car take care of power distribution and all that so it's basically "on" full-time.

  30. Dave

    Aluminium bodied vehicles

    Aren't new in the slightest. Hell Landrover has been making them for the last 60 years FFS.

    And before anyone starts going on about how great the material is, it doesn't handle salt that well, and dents and work hardens easily. You can also forget trying to weld it with home equipment.

    And once you start seeing the white fungus, cleaning and repainting like you would with steel is pretty futile

  31. Richard Porter
    Gates Horns

    Volt 1.3.1 PS2?

    You mean 3.1.1 surely?

  32. Mike Hocker

    AWD vs. 4WD

    4WD isn't going to force your car off the road into a ditch even in ice and light snow. If the user has a locking front differential, the story is considerably different-- but there are no production consumer cars or trucks with that particular feature (nice to have ARB front and rear lockers off road though).

    With insurance rates the way they are, one car needs to do it all, and without AWD or 4WD it isn't going to make it in snow climates except for those rich types who can afford multiple vehicles.

    And it is a pity GM is working on the Volt, maybe we need an open platform concept like the Borg from Google (comes with a free Android!).

  33. Ed

    Re: GM Should know the market anyone remember the EV1

    Personally, I'd hope that I'd never find myself out of juice for the motor, but the sound system still works great. Keep in mind that an additional battery for the entertainment system is going to weigh the system down more, and so will decrease the car's overall efficiency.

    In any event, these same gadgets decrease your range in a gas-powered vehicle also - your car has more power generation capability in the alternator than it would need just for the engine, so that it can play your radio, run your headlights, and keep its passenger compartment comfortably warm/cool. Worse, it's balanced so that, on average, it's generating more electricity than the car is using, This is done so that your car won't possibly run the battery down because you wanted to drive with the lights on, the wipers on, the rear defrost on, the heater on, and the radio on. After all, it wasn't possible to design the car such that it could easily change the power generation based on any realistic potential power use change. Having one alternate setting (for if you want the A/C on, as it uses the most power) is the most I've heard of cars having.

    The only real differences are that with a primarily electric car, you are much more aware of that cause and effect, and in the primarily electric car, shutting off the radio actually helps.

    Still, it would be nice to be able to jack into the radio system, and turn off the big speakers.

  34. Charles Manning

    plugin hybrid mpg == bollocks

    Quoting hundreds of mpg for plug in hybrids is very misleading because they don't include the energy input from the mains.

    Using a similar fudgery, my diesel SUV gets 1000 mph, so long as I get some mates to push it to the top of the hill it and don't include the sandwiches consumed as part of the energy.

    Plug-in is a fine idea for a few first movers who want to out-green their friends but is not practical for mass uptake. Puttng a leccy in the driveway will double, triple, or more, the electricity usage of most households. Most electrical supply systems are already near breaking and a big move to leccies would require beefing up all power lines, generation and whatever.

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