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Next Chevrolet Volt to Use 1.5-liter Four-Cylinder Range Extender

Sales of the Chevrolet Volt may be waning for now, but General Motors is investing big in the next generation of the plug-in hybrid. GM is setting its sights on a greater all-electric range for the Chevrolet Volt, and the automaker has also announced that the vehicle’s next iteration will employ a larger, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine as a range extender.

The new 1.5-liter engine, which will replace the 1.4-liter four-cylinder at work in the current Volt, is the largest mill within General Motors’ new Ecotec gasoline engine family. We learned back in March that 11 variants of Ecotec engines ranging in size from 1.0 liter to 1.5 liters will be built in at least five factories worldwide, all using aluminum blocks and most featuring gas direct-injection.

Ecotec engines will range in power from 75 to 165 hp, and torque will range from 70 lb-ft to 184 lb-ft, although it’s not clear yet exactly where the next Chevrolet Volt’s 1.5-liter engine will fall on this spectrum. The first engine to emerge from the Ecotec family is a turbocharged, 1.0-liter inline three-cylinder, good for 115 hp and 122 lb-ft of torque, slated for the Europe-only 2014 Opel Adam city car. Currently, the Chevrolet Volt‘s 1.4-liter engine produces 63 hp.

GM’s Warren Transmission facility will build the Voltec Multi-Mode Electric Drive Unit, which will allow the plug-in hybrid to operate in either all-electric or extended-range electric mode. The new 1.5-liter engine has the potential to both improve fuel economy and contribute to a longer overall operational range for the Volt, when driving in extended-range mode.

Former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson previously indicated that the next-generation Chevrolet Volt would target an all-electric driving range 20 percent greater than the current car’s EPA rating of 38 miles. At the same time, current Volt battery pack supplier LG Chem announced that it is planning to introduce new battery cells for electric vehicles with 200-mile ranges, which could coincide with the Chevrolet Volt’s expected 2016 debut as a 2017 model. However it is more likely that the 200-mile LG batteries are destined for one or both of the two new all-electric cars Akerson said were in development as of March 2013.

Given that the Ecotec 1.5-liter will be built at GM’s Flint Engine Operations plant; the LG Chem battery cells are produced in Holland, Michigan; the transmission comes from the Warren facility; and the battery pack is made at GM’s Brownstown Township site, 70 percent of the next Volt’s parts will be made in North America within the first year of production. The Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR are both assembled at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

We’ll see the complete Chevrolet Volt successor at the 2015 Detroit auto show in January, but check back this afternoon for full details on the next Chevrolet Volt’s powertrain.