GM starts new design shop for Volt
December 11 2007: 9:53 AM EST
WARREN, Mich. (AP) -- GM has taken another step toward bringing its Volt
plug-in electric car to market by opening a new studio where work is
being done exclusively on its next generation of electric vehicles.
The studio, made from a former management training center on the grounds
of GM's (Charts, Fortune 500) Warren Technical Center, has clay and
vinyl models of the next generation Volt, which is to be powered by an
electric motor run from lithium-ion batteries. A small gasoline motor or
a hydrogen fuel cell would be used to charge the batteries when they
The Volt, a Chevrolet unveiled at the 2007 auto show in Detroit, will be
designed so it can be plugged in to a home outlet to recharge the
battery pack, giving the electric motor a range of about 40 miles. The
motor would then kick in and recharge the battery pack, extending its range.
Designers using computer and small clay models already have cut 30
percent from the wind drag of the original concept, said Ed Welburn,
vice president of global design.
"The easier it is to push this vehicle through the air, the less energy
you use," said Nina Tortosa, the aerodynamic development engineer on the
GM still has a target of bringing the Volt to market sometime in 2010
and is now testing the first of two competing versions of batteries made
by outside companies. In the past, the company has said the only thing
holding back the vehicle from production is a battery that is small,
powerful and safe.
Bob Boniface, design director for the company's flexible electric
vehicles, told reporters that a separate facility was needed because the
Volt has so many unique features and challenges compared with other GM
Designers working on the new prototypes are trying to make the car look
different from others so it makes a statement, "but it can't look like a
science project. It's got to be something that people want to buy."
The center now has 45 designers and sculptors working on the Volt.
Company spokesman Rob Peterson said the battery development is on
schedule. GM engineers are testing one version now that has performed up
to expectations. Another version is expected in early 2008.
The company hopes to have drivable versions of the Volt for testing in
the second quarter of next year.
Earlier this year, GM (Charts, Fortune 500) signed two battery
development contracts with Compact Power Inc. of Troy, Mich., and
Frankfurt, Germany-based Continental Automotive Systems.
Compact Power will develop battery cells with its parent, LG Chem of
Korea. Continental will use cells being developed jointly by GM and A123.
The batteries being tested are made by Compact Power, while the A123
battery is expected early next year, Peterson said.