Chevy’s 2016 Volt gets more efficient with powertrain updates

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is just a few months away from its launch at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, and General Motors decided to release few details about its extended-range electric powertrain early.

The Volt will once again be powered by electricity with a gasoline engine acting as a generator, but GM hopes to squeeze even more efficiency out of the updated hatchback.

The changes start with a new 1.5-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine. Chevy was reportedly considering a smaller 1.0-liter turbocharged unit, but decided to go with the bigger engine to ensure that it could provide the same performance as in battery mode under all circumstances.

On the electric side, both motors can now be used to power the car or act as generators. In the current Volt, one motor is used for power, while the other is lashed to the gasoline engine to generate electricity.

Chevy says this will yield both efficiency and performance benefits, but it won’t reveal any specifics until the 2016 Volt’s debut in Detroit.

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LG Chem will continue to supply lithium-ion cells for the Volt’s battery pack, but their energy density has increased, requiring fewer cells to store a given amount of electricity.

The new pack is slightly smaller, lighter, and has a lower center of gravity. It still has the “T” shape before, meaning the new car will likely have a pronounced central tunnel and no center rear seat like the current Volt.

The battery pack’s actual capacity is also a mystery for now, but it may be able to improve on the 2015 Volt’s 17.1-kilowatt-hours, which gives that car 38 miles of electric-only range.

All of these updates should help further refine the formula of the first-generation Volt, which not only became one of the first modern electric cars to be sold in large numbers, but was also a point of pride for GM as it tried to pull itself up from bankruptcy.

The next Volt is expected to be more evolution than revolution, but we’ll have to wait until January’s Detroit Auto Show to find out all of the electrifying details.