Doing a bit of investigative journalism over the weekend I decided to take a deeper look into the proposed Washington State EV Fee. If passed, Senate Bill 5251 would impose a 100 dollar annual fee on all registered electric vehicles that travel over 35 miles per hour.
There had been some talk on the net as to whether this would apply to the Volt. The Volt is mainly an electric vehicle that happens to have a gasoline range extender. Now up until just a few months ago GM had led us to believe the Volt was always powered by electricity, even when the battery had run out. We all assumed that when the generator kicked on it's sole purpose was to provide electricity to the battery. Then the battery would continue to supply energy to the Volts electric motor. If this had turned out to be the case then one could argue the Volt would not be fee exempt.
To protect the corporations intellectual property, GM kept secret the advanced drivetrain that should eliminate Volts from this particular fee's contention. Once the battery is drained and the generator/engine has kicked on, the generator/engine provides electricity via a second smaller generator/electric motor to sustain a minimal state of charge in the battery. However, according to an October 12th GM-Volt.com article, Lyle Dennis wrote that when the car passes the 70 mph mark and the battery is at the minimum charge level, "the engine becomes coupled with both electric motors and all three work together to turn the driveshaft. Thus the gas engine participates in turning the wheels mechanically although indirectly."
In this low charge high speed state the Volts main electric motor is the main driver of the car. However, the direct mechanical connection of the gas engine to the smaller generator which then connects to the driveshaft ads 10 to 20 percent more efficiency. In short, when the battery is very low the Volt is at least minimally powered directly from gasoline.
How does this convince me that the Volt will be eliminated from the fee? Section two paragraph one of the Bill states.
Before accepting an application for a vehicle registration for an electric vehicle that uses propulsion units powered solely by electricity, the department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent appointed by the director shall require the applicant to pay a one hundred dollar fee in addition to any other fees and taxes required by law.
"Solely by electricity" is the key phrase. So if this Bill passes in it's current form the Chevy Volt should be excluded. Whether or not the politicians want the Volt to apply is a mystery. If they do, they're gonna have to hire an engineer/lawyer to help them decipher how to include this brilliantly designed car.
If you'd like a refresher on how the Volt's drivetrain works here's a link to the Lyle Dennis' explanation at GM-Volt.com, but make sure to comeback and leave a comment! http://gm-volt.com/2010/10/12/chevrolet-volt-electric-drive-propulsion-system-unveiled/ Photo borrowed from dherrera_96's at Flickr.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/dph1110/with/472778842/
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