General Motors has released a teaser image of the car that will become its first battery-powered E-Flex production model – the road-going Chevrolet Volt.The image shows the front end of the car only. It reveals little about its shape, but does suggest that it’ll be a more upright, less overtly sporting vehicle than the original concept.
Charging to a road near you
Development work on the Volt is shifting into a high gear now at GM, with prototypes of the special lithium ion batteries that will power it almost ready for on-road testing. The majority of the work being done on the Volt at the moment is aerodynamic; supplying enough air to cool the underfloor battery pack, while making the car as low-drag as possible, is arguably the biggest challenge facing its designers. “The electric-only range of the Chevrolet Volt is very sensitive to improvements in aero, in contrast to a traditional vehicle in which mass plays a larger role,” explains chief engineer Frank Weber.The more aerodynamic they can make the Volt, then, the further it will go on battery power alone. “After extensive development of the Volt, and more to come, we have achieved a vehicle with more than 30 per cent less drag than the original Volt concept,” said GM design boss Ed Welburn.
E-Flex gets a new home
The General has given over one of its design studios in its Advanced Design Centre in Warren, Michigan, exclusively to working on its E-Flex range-extended battery cars. It’s there that every car that will use this revolutionary propulsion system – including any European Opel or Vauxhall E-Flex model – will be drawn up.The renovated studio was where the original Volt concept was designed for the Detroit auto show this year. There, GM has got some 45 designers, sculptors, design engineers, scientists and administrative staff working on the E-Flex project, to go with the hundreds of powertrain engineers already assigned to it.The Chevrolet Volt will be the first fruit of their labour, and it’s expected on the road in 2010. According to GM’s most up-to-date estimates, it will run up to 40-miles on battery power alone – enough to handle two thirds of America’s commutes. Two versions of the car will be produced, one with a diesel combustion engine, and one with a petrol alternative, as back-up for the batteries. The latter will also be bioethanol-compliant, allowing drivers to reduce their carbon footprint further still by filling up with E85.