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Chevrolet Volt Concept Aerodynamic Evolution

Chevy first showed its Volt Concept at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. Then, at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, it showed a diesel variant in a different body called the Opel Flextreme. Now, GM is showing its progress on original Volt's body with a teaser shot of the revised front end.

The image shows a nose that is much less blunt than the original, with rounded corners. These changes weren't made for purely aesthetic reasons though; GM has been developing the Volt's shape with the help of wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics work. The changes have been made to reduce aerodynamic forces on the vehicle, thereby improving the vehicle's range.

According to Frank Weber, global chief engineer for the Volt's E-Flex propulsion system, good aerodynamics are the most important aspect of a hybrid electric vehicle's design. The car's weight has much less of an impact on total energy use, since any extra battery mass translates to more kinetic energy that can be recovered with the regenerative braking system. How's that for counter-intuitive?

After the original concept was shown, GM endeavored to improve the aerodynamics of the Volt's body. A one-third-scale model was made of the show car to provide a baseline, and the team went from there to improve the shape. Using GM's wind tunnel, the largest automotive wind tunnel in existence, the team has been able to reduce the Volt's aerodynamic drag by thirty percent.

Since the electric vehicle requires less cooling than a conventional vehicle, the designers were able to close off much of the front grille to improve air flow, leaving what is essentially decorative trim in place of the conventional opening.

Styling won't take a back seat to aerodynamics with this new approach, however. VP of global design Ed Welburn made it clear that designers will seek a balance between visual appeal and aero-friendliness.