Cadillac ELR: Here's The Chevy Volt 2.0, Due Jan. 15

Tickers in this article: GM
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tuesday morning, General Motors (GM) notified the world it will be unveiling the Cadillac ELR in Detroit on Jan. 15.

It enclosed a semi-blurry picture confirming the spy photos that have been circulating over the last year.

It is expected the Cadillac ELR will enter production in the second half of 2013, more likely the fourth quarter than the third. It should be in showrooms by January 2014, perhaps earlier. I estimate the price before tax adjustments will start at $47,400.

How will the Cadillac ELR differ from the current Chevrolet Volt?

1. It's a two-door coupe, with dimensions otherwise similar to the current Volt. This means the rear seat room will be even smaller than the current Volt. In the Volt, two adults who are 5'11" can sit comfortably, even though there is no extra space -- but they fit sitting straight up, which you can't say about many other compact cars.

In the Cadillac ELR, the rear headroom looks to be constrained, so I suspect that you would have to be meaningfully shorter than 5'11" in order to fit comfortably. Add the inconvenience of only two doors, and the reasonable practicality of the Volt has been compromised. Luggage space is estimated to be similar to the Volt, which is to say acceptable.

2. The dashboard and interior will be better than the Volt. From the leather seats to the knobs, dials and the displays there will be obvious advancements here. Given the learning curve as well as Moore's Law, it may even be cheaper to assemble. So if you are strictly two people and you don't need the rear seat access, the Cadillac ELR will represent a strong improvement.

3. Powertrain: This is the biggie. The ELR likely has obtained an evolved Volt drivetrain, breaking into the following parts:

A. Battery: Capacity will be 16 kWh, because that's where the tax benefits max out ($7,500 Federal tax credit). However, the actual battery will at a minimum be cheaper to manufacture, and it may have an improved cooling/heating system. It will likely be lighter, and it may be slightly smaller.

B. Gasoline generator: It will most likely be beefier than the current 1.4 liter derived from what is in the Chevy Cruze. Rumors have suggested a 2.0 liter engine, and this sounds reasonable.

C. Electric motor(s): It will likely be beefed up from the current 111 kW (main traction motor) and 55 kW for the generator-motor. This is what determines acceleration, so it will be needed in order to differentiate from the Volt.

D. Transmission: Most likely, it will remain unchanged in principle from the Volt. It may be modified in some direction, but GM has a lot invested in this architecture, and it seems to have performed superior to the competition in the real world, with approximately 50,000 Volts manufactured for world-wide consumption, and some 40,000 sold world-wide to date.