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Chevy Volt No Longer an 'Electric Camaro'

By · June 17, 2008

This past April, Chevrolet offered a detailed update on the progress of its much-touted Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle. The company not only discussed the progress of its battery testing, but teased reporters with a glimpse of the latest Volt styling.

At that event, General Motors product czar Bob Lutz admitted that the Volt concept’s “electric Camaro” shape was far from aerodynamic. That car turned out to have a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.43, far higher than most cars today. “It was a shoebox,” he said ruefully, but promised a Cd well below 0.30—among the best in class—for the final Volt.

Now the Volt concept car has been put out to stud. Its final public appearance was last week, at the Brookings Institute plug-in hybrid conference held June 11-12 in Washington, DC. Since it was revealed to huge public acclaim at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2007, that car—and a twin—has traveled across North America and to multiple continents. GM then announced it will no longer be shown in public, and that the styling of the production Volt will be unveiled “soon."

So what will the actual Volt look like? In December, GM showed reporters a front corner of the latest styling model. Then in April, chief E-Flex designer Bob Boniface briefly lifted the cover away from a rear corner of the clay model being shaped by a milling arm as reporters watched.

Volt Wind Test

Photo: GM-VOLT.com

More revealing, a wind tunnel demonstration used a third-scale model of the Volt, covered in patterned camouflage tape. Low aerodynamic drag is key to extending the Volt’s range—at speed, it’s more important than lower weight, due to aggressive regenerative braking that recaptures energy for recharging. To show the airflow, an aerodynamics expert wielded a hose that sent propylene glycol mist swirling over the scale model as a 30-mph wind roared.

If these models are indicative—Boniface said at the time, “the body’s not frozen yet, but it’s close”—the production Volt is shorter and stubbier than the concept. The front wheels are just ahead of the doors, with a long overhang and a very steeply angled windshield. Its Kamm tail is an abrupt vertical behind the rear wheels, with a high hatchback. The smooth, rounded, swept front has a remarkable resemblance to current Saabs.

Overall, the shape somewhat resembles another aerodynamic five-door with a battery pack. Yes: The shape of the Volt may just end up somewhat like a… Toyota Prius.

The Cd of the Prius, by the way, is 0.26. There’s your number to beat, Mr. Boniface.

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