At this year's Detroit Auto Show, I was invited by GM to tour the E-Flex design studio on GM's corporate campus. It was a simple enough event, but a couple of things stuck out that I'd like to share.
First, we got a little peek under the tarp to see what the production design of the Volt might look like. Bob Lutz has already said that the production design is going to look a lot "slipperier" than the concept, but I just want to emphasize that. The Camaro-inspired blunt nose is pretty much gone. To reduce wind resistance, we're looking at a car that's going to resemble a Prius more than a Camaro.
But don't let that fool you. It's still a bold design, far more inspired than the Prius in my opinion. Of course, a lot could still change.
Second, Drew from Left Lane News had his eyes open wide and noticed a schematic that had the the large clear roof of the Volt as self-darkening glass. We've talked about electrochromics here before, but the idea is that a small voltage can change glass from entirely clear to entirely opaque. This could be useful, especially in warm climates, to keep the car from needing a huge initial burst of AC to cool it down.
Of course, Bob Boniface, the head of the design team, just said, "I'm not going to talk about that." It seems like the sort of thing that would increase the costs of the car significantly. But we'll see.
The other big item of Volt-related news is that the car might not manage to stay below $30,000, as was the initial goal of GM. Lutz recently told Wired Magazine that in order to bring the first generation of the Volt to the market on time, they might have to be closer to $40k than $30k.
That would indeed limit the car's penetration into the market but I'm still confident that, as a first generation, we'll see the Volt eating up a lot of enthusiast dollars (including, very possibly, mine). But then we'll see the same thing that happened with tht Prius, a three- to four-year ramp up to really significant market penetration, followed by Range Extended EV systems in tons of cars.
Note: GM paid for my travel to attend the Detroit Auto Show.
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