We may not be cruising around in Oldsmobiles capable of eclipsing 250 mph (or any new Oldsmobiles, for that matter), but the Aerotech project did have some influence on modern GM vehicles, particularly in aerodynamics.
“Aero is very important to me today,” Welburn notes, “and I credit that push and knowledge to being involved with Aerotech. [Many] of the fundamentals I’ve learned directly came from the opportunity to work directly with aerodynamicists.”
“Ed did spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel, and modeling the car himself,” Schenkel recalls. “That’s fairly uncommon for designer. Usually, clay modelers do this work, but his willingness to jump in and work on the car’s shape did help the job go quicker.”
Indeed, when it came time to evolve the Chevrolet Volt concept into a production vehicle, Welburn knew aero would be an important factor -- and he knew just who to call for advice. Schenkel and other aerodynamicists lent a hand in optimizing the plug-in hybrid’s shape for reducing drag -- an important point, considering the original concept had a drag coefficient of 0.43 cD, which is worse than that of a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (0.36 cD).
A four-seat, five-door family car bears little resemblance to a record-breaking race car, but a number of the tricks employed in the Aerotech’s design do reappear in the Volt’s finalized form. The front corners have been rounded considerably to cut drag, while the fog lamp recesses have been exchanged in favor of a flush design.
The Volt’s sides, especially in front of the rear wheel wells, are remarkably flat; as was the case on Aerotech, this helps direct airflow over -- not into -- the rear wheels. Underneath the car, the Volt utilizes a set of three panels to direct air, although they’re not designed to generate downforce like those on the Oldsmobile.
Will we ever see GM demonstrate new technologies in such a wild fashion? Welburn thinks it’s important to illustrate what the automaker is working on, but thinks a vehicle rooted in reality may do the job better.
“We still have a number of internal concepts that are never shown publicly, and there is still some need to prove ourselves through motorsports, but we can showcase new technologies in actual production vehicles, like the Volt. In the new GM, our teams are able to use such creativity with every project. It’s a refreshing air of change.”