Series Hybrid Platforms: Voltec vs ENVI

They’re all the rage: Cars that can travel 40 miles on battery power obtained by plugging the vehicle into a standard outlet, then extend that range with an on-board engine recharging the battery. We call them series (or serial) hybrids—meaning the gas engine has no direct relationship with the wheels. Let’s briefly put two such platforms, from GM and Chrysler, head-to-head and see who comes out on top. GM recently changed the name of their series hybrid platfom; what was E-Flex is now Voltec. To highlight the point, they introduced the Voltec-powered Cadillac Converj concept (pronounced ‘Converge’), which they reportedly threw together in around seven months—a last-minute decision in the auto industry. That gives them four vehicles on this platfom: The Chevy Volt, the Converj, the Saturn Flextreme, and the Cadillac Provoq. GM dislikes the term ‘series hybrid’ so they call them E-REVs, or extended-range electric vehicles. The Saturn Flextreme uses a diesel engine to charge the battery, while the unsightly Provoq uses a hydrogen fuel cell. Only the Volt is slated for production. ENVI, on the other hand, is Chrysler’s series hybrid platform and features a line of 4 vehicles: The Jeep Patriot EV, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV, the Chrysler Town & Country EV and the Chrysler 200C concept (the Dodge Circuit EV, while part of the ENVI family, is a dedicated electric vehicle). Chrysler too, dislikes ‘series hybrid’, so they’ve gone with R-EEVs, or range-extended electric vehicles. All use a gasoline engine to recharge the battery. Chrysler says all 5—including the Circuit EV—a ‘production-intent’ vehicles. And the winners are: -For technological diversity: GM (for the diesel and fuel cell applications) -For advanced design: GM (for the Volt and Converj) -For commercial potential: Chrysler (for all 5. They look like any car you’d see at a dealership) -For public relations: Chrysler (for the term “production-intent”. Cleverly non-committal) Overall winner: Chrysler, by a Detroit 8-mile. They introduced all 5 cars within months of one another, and are on the ball with this, big time. GM just looks a little desperate.

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