Skip to main content

GM Considers Three-Cylinder Engine for Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR

Just the Facts:
  • GM is eyeing a three-cylinder engine for the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR, industry sources tell Edmunds.
  • It's part of a major effort by the automaker to reduce the fuel consumption and weight of its vehicles by 2016.
  • GM says it's too early to talk about its three-cylinder-engine strategy.

DETROIT — General Motors is considering a three-cylinder engine for its Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrids as part of a companywide strategy to reduce fuel consumption and vehicle weight, industry sources tell Edmunds.

The proposal, which has not been approved, would replace the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine in the Volt and ELR with either a 1.0- or 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine that GM and its partners in China are developing, the sources — who asked to remain unnamed due to the confidential nature of the subject — said.

If approved for production, the Volt would receive the three-cylinder engine in 2015, about the time the vehicle is due for a face-lift, according to one source. The ELR's engine swap would appear in 2016. No details were given as to the weight or fuel savings if the three-cylinder engine is selected.

Contacted by Edmunds, GM declined to talk about its engine strategy.

GM announced in October 2011 it would create a family of three- and four-cylinder engines, ranging from 1.0- to 1.5-liters. However, specifics such as engine displacement, horsepower and the vehicles that will be powered by the engines have not been announced.

"We're not ready to talk about any applications," said Tom Read, a GM spokesman. "We don't have one right now for the U.S. and I wouldn't be able to say that we have one planned for the U.S. at this point either. We have not announced any of that."

GM is making a major effort to chop the fuel consumption of its vehicles over the next several years. Speaking at a Houston energy conference last week, GM Chairman Dan Akerson pledged that the automaker "will reduce vehicle mass."

"A good rule of thumb is that a 10 percent reduction in curb weight will reduce fuel consumption by about 6.5 percent," Akerson said in a copy of the speech that was released by GM. "Our target is to reduce weight by up to 15 percent."

He added that everything is being studied including powertrains and lighter-weight materials.

In addition to the three-cylinder engines, a source told Edmunds that GM, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., Shanghai General Motors and Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center are developing 1.3- and 1.5-liter four-cylinder engines. The four engines will be used in vehicles globally.

The 2013 Volt is powered by an 84-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is mated to an electric motor. The electric motor is rated at 149 hp (111 kilowatts). The Cadillac ELR, a sleek coupe, is set for production late this year with sales starting in early 2014. It uses the same powertrain.

The Chevrolet Volt is a four-passenger, five-door hatchback that is rebadged and sold globally. The car is marketed as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera in Europe and Holden Volt in Australia and New Zealand.

The Volt has been named one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles of the 2013 model year by the EPA. The EPA says it returns a combined 98 mpg equivalent in electric mode. The Volt returns 35 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway in gasoline mode.

Edmunds says: If a three-cylinder performs as well as a four-banger, look for one less cylinder under the hood.

What our partners recommend


Tow confidently with the available 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 and Allison® 10-speed transmission.

Latest car news from our experts

See all car news