The Chevrolet Volt has begun its final development phase to integrate its complex electric, electronic and mechanical drive components into their final production form. GM's revolutionary extended-range electric car, which is due to launch in 2010, presently contains around 20 separate microprocessors destined to comprise one, unique "architecture".
When complete, the car will have a top speed around 100 mph, a 0-60 mph time of around 9.0 seconds, and a typical battery range of 40 miles, before the European-derived 1.4 litre four-cylinder "Family Zero" engine needs to be started to extend its range by generating more power.
Until now, GM engineers have been developing Volt systems in larger experimental cars, dubbed 'Malivolts' because they use the bodies and running gear of the recently superseded Chevy Malibu saloon.
The task now is simplify and miniaturise the components to fit a smaller, Astra-derived package, including a 180 kilogram T-shaped battery pack that fits along the transmission tunnel and under the rear seat. At around 1600kg the Volt is substantially heavier than an Astra, but its overall weight distribution is closer to 50:50. Chevrolet Volt design chief Bob Boniface has revealed that the production car will look "a lot" like the original prototype, but will be more aerodynamic, with simplified surfaces, rounder corners, a lower roofline, a sealed grille, a minimised frontal area and "considerably better" all-round than the Toyota Prius.
The production Volt's aerodynamic performance improves on the concept by over "120 aerodynamic counts", the equivalent of reducing its mass by 120kg, or adding six miles to its range under electric power. The production model will carry enough fuel for a total range close to 400 miles. GM engineers, who also revealed details of an instrument pack and interior stack featuring lots of iPod-style touch switches, but with a conventional, mechanical PRND transmission shift, plan to build a new engine plant near Detroit to cater for the expected high demand for Volt's European-derived 1.4 litre engine.
The company is expected to show a near-complete car at a motor show around the end of 2009. The Astra-related design, which will eventually carry Chevrolet, Opel and Vauxhall brands, should be on sale in the US before the end of 2010 at a price GM says will attract genuine family car buyers, not just early-adopters.