Chevy Volt Design Details Slowly Emerge

Bob Boniface, director of design for the Volt, showed side-by-side comparisons between the concept and the production vehicle. (Photo: John Voelcker. All rights reserved.)

Chevy Volt Design August 2008
Chevy Volt Design August 2008

Traverse City, Michigan – Continuing to tease the public and the media with details on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the car’s designer today showed a handful of slides that revealed further details of the car’s design. The entire car won’t be revealed until the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

Bob Boniface, director of design for the Volt, showed side-by-side comparisons between the concept and the production vehicle. The front corners are now much more rounded, to keep the airflow attached to the sides of the car as much as possible, minimizing energy-sapping turbulence. The side mirrors are now on posts, rather than so-called patch mountings, and the shape of the rear spoiler has been modified significantly.

Perhaps most interesting, the Volt’s mesh “grille” is actually no more than a pattern screened onto plastic. The cooling for the vehicle’s heat-generating elements—the battery pack, the electric drive motor, the power electronics, and so forth—is distributed so differently from that in a conventional car that all frontal airflow can be directed around to the sides of the car.

Overall, Boniface said, airflow improvements have taken out 120 “counts” of aerodynamic drag, each count imposing a range penalty of roughly 0.025 miles in the city and 0.055 miles on the highway. In other words, those improvements have added 6 to 7 miles to the production car’s all-electric range. He did not, however quote a coefficient of drag.

Missing from the presentation was the overall shape of the car, which is likely to be taller and blockier than the concept shown in January 2007 at the Detroit Auto Show.

Boniface also showed a picture of the instrument panel center stack that will be used in the production Volt. The shiny white plastic panel has few actual switches; instead, most of the controls are activated by “capacitive touch” switches that sense light pressure from a finger.

Does that remind you of any particular digital-music device? Any resemblance to Apple’s iPod is, no doubt, purely intentional.