Fast Company

Chevy Volt Faces Its Uphill Battle With "Mountain Mode"

Chevy Volt PHEV

Still can't decide whether to buy the Chevy Volt PHEV when it goes on sale later this year? GM is offering a unique feature to entice customers that are skeptical of the EV's potential performance: Mountain Mode--an option for drivers who know that they are about to climb a big hill.

The Mountain Mode option gathers an energy reserve in the lithium-ion battery so that the car has the full power of both the gasoline engine and the electric powertrain behind it for, say, navigating a series of San Francisco inclines. If a Volt is climbing thousands of feet at high speeds, Mountain Mode can also run the engine at a higher speed to deliver maximum output. The latter feature requires that drivers select Mountain Mode relatively far in advance so that the car has time to gather electric battery reserves.

Mountain Mode isn't perfect. All Cars Electric tells us that GM's executive director of powertrain engineering Larry Nitz revealed in a conference call today that some especially tough hills could degrade vehicle performance even if Mountain Mode is turned on. The feature could also affect range and fuel economy, although GM declines to disclose the exact numbers.

Nevertheless, this is probably just one of many vehicle features that will be introduced to make EVs feel more like gasoline-powered cars. Expect to see other carmakers introduce Mountain Mode-like options as EVs gain in popularity.

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  • MikeNColo

    Newbie here... Speaking of Mountain Mode and Mountains...
    I wonder how well the Volt will handle a drive from Denver to say Breckenridge? I assume I would have to engage "Mountain Mode" as I left home to allow the gas generator to keep the battery as full as possible.
    Also, how well does the Volt handle regenerative braking on long steep downhill stretches? Can you select how much regeneration is applied (similar to a gas car downshifting to a lower gear)?
    Also, what would happen if the battery reached full charge on such a downhill stretch, are there resistors to take over and aid in the electronic braking, or are the disc brakes the only recoarse (thinking of locomotives having resistors on the roof to aid in braking)?
    I'm really excited about this car. I fell in love with the EV1 when I saw a national commercial on TV back in the 90s.
    Thanks for listening, and hopefully someone has answers!

  • Zach Worthington

    How about the nav system on a predetermined trip factor in altitude changes and automatically prompt/adjust modes accordingly?

  • Jeff DeWitt

    "Mountain Mode" sounds like a good idea, it's also going to interesting to see what kinds of modifications the aftermarket comes up with.

    Also, mountain mode can NOT be made available in a pure EV (like the Nissan Leaf), as it uses the cars gasoline engine to help boost it up the grade, a pure EV has no engine that could be called on to help.