2011 Chevy Volt - From Show Car to Showroom

The 2007 Chevrolet Volt concept dazzled, even more than General Motors expected. For 2010 production, however, it has to use existing component sets, which naturally make the Volt more mainstream and cheaper to build. The changes also give the car lower drag, more cabin space, and a tighter turning circle. The designer of both vehicles, Bob Boniface, says that concept cars are "not a contract with the general public" and that the commercial product is a much better car. We tend to agree with him. Polarizing design can impress but lose sales. GM needs this car to succeed. So do we all.

From Concept to Production

1 The deeply inset grille and the sharp crease from the lower lamps were terrible for aerodynamics, and the recessed lamps were neither adequate for illumination nor legal.

2 Multiple hard surface-change lines on the front of the concept tended to confuse and retard oncoming air molecules. Smoothing the front end helps aerodynamically and simplifies production.

3 Saab 99-like, the tank-slit wraparound windshield was deemed likely to compete with plans for future Saab products. But GM may sell Saab anyway.

4 The sharp break from windshield to roof was likewise considered too Saab-like, and it was also aerodynamically undesirable, thus the change to uninterrupted flowing glass.

5 Big bulges for oversize - 21-inch - wheels were another drag-increasing styling element that had to go for the production car.

6 The grille shape was retained, but air flows into the engine compartment only through peripheral slots around the grille shield, which retains its diamond texture. Most air enters below the bumper.

7 Headlamps had to be bigger for adequate lighting, and wrapping them around the front end let side markers be incorporated.

8 The impossible-to-clean transparent fairings from the show car have been replaced by painted sheetmetal, which visually extends the height of the side glass.

9 These 17-inch wheels look much like the show car's 21-inch units, but in fact, they have been refined to reduce aerodynamic drag. Small details count when there's not much power available.

10 The continuous sweep of glass from windshield to roof is excellent for aerodynamic drag reduction, but it also gives the car a softer, safer appearance, desirable for a family car.

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