In GM: “I told you so” news, General Motors Corp announced on Thursday that the finalized design of the Chevy Volt will be done by mid-September and that 50 working prototypes should be ready by the end of 2008. Amazingly, a handful of prototypes with production-ready parts are hoped to be ready in the next 10 days.
To recap, General Motors has been facing alot of skeptism since it announced that it was planning to have the Volt in production by 2010. The Volt is a huge part of a larger GM plan to move away from SUVs.
In two images (pictured above and below) released with this announcement the Volt appears to be a sleeker version of the concept model GM unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in 2007, with a redesigned front end to improve aerodynamics. According to GM it should be equal in that regard to the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.
Stating the obvious, one engineer says, “By minimizing aero drag, we can maximize the range of the battery. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that my exterior design team spent countless hours in the wind tunnel with our aerodynamicist to refine the Volt’s exterior. We believe this was time well spent. When you’re trying to extend gas-free driving of the vehicle, you’ll take all the efficiency you can get.” The expectation is that the Volt will run for 40 miles on a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged at a standard electric outlet.
While GM’s bold predictions and aggressive approach to develop such a vehicle is commendable, the introduction of thousands of electric vehicles still depends on advances in lithium-ion battery technology that has yet to be engineered at a low enough cost than is currently feasible. According to GM, “The future is to take the same range and the same original 40 miles but then have battery packs about half the size, twice the robustness and half the cost.”
For the Volt to be a success it also must be sold at a volume currently not achieved by the high priced low volume Tesla and other electric vehicles being designed. GM, which has already featured the Volt in its advertising as part of a bid to improve its public image, is planning an initial volume of 10,000 vehicles. According to some unofficial websites the estimated wait list for the Volt is over 30,000. I’m betting that list will continue to get longer.