General Motors has been "refining" the now infamous Chevrolet Volt for quite a long time. Long enough, in fact, that the company is now talking about the next iteration of electrically powered people mover.
According to a recent interview with Karl Stracke, the new VP of Global Vehicle Engineering, GM is looking at the current drivetrain choice for the Volt much more critically. The intent of the Volt is to complete with the Toyota Prius but, with a battery pack that costs close $10,000 to replace, it won't be able to do so successfully. Especially considering that even after the $7,500 tax credit, the effective price of the Volt is close to the $30,000 mark.
GM's answer to this is swapping out the current 1.4 liter internal combustion engine with a smaller rotary powerplant. The choice was made because rotary engines are well known for making more power by volume than traditional internal combustion engines. Even though they are also known for using more fuel, reducing the displacement should be able to offset this. The use of a single rotor has also been discussed.
Another possibility that is apparently being tossed around by GM's Engineers is making use of a two cylinder petroleum engine in place of the inline-4. GM has tested such a motor already, and was able to coax up to 25 horsepower out of the little guy.
Rotary Engine Internals
The use of a diesel engine was also brought up, but this would increase the overall cost of the drivetrain. That isn't to say it will never happen, but for the next generation of the Volt it is highly unlikely.
As of now, General Motors is still planning on having the first generation Volts onto the showroom floors by the end of this year. However, with the second generation already in the works and looking to be better than the first, the initial round of sales may suffer just a bit. Inside Line