GM refers to this family of propulsion systems as the "E-Flex System." "While mechanical propulsion will be with us for many decades to come, GM sees a market for various forms of electric vehicles, including fuel cells and electric vehicles using gas and diesel engines to extend the range. With our new E-Flex concept, we can produce electricity from gasoline, ethanol, bio-diesel or hydrogen," said Larry Burns, GM vice president of research and development and strategic planning. "We can tailor the propulsion to meet the specific needs and infrastructure of a given market. For example, somebody in Brazil might use 100 percent ethanol to power an engine generator and battery. A customer in Shanghai might get hydrogen from the sun and create electricity in a fuel cell. Meanwhile, a customer in Sweden might use wood to create bio-diesel." The Chevrolet Volt, introduced at the North American International Auto Show, is just the first variant of the E-Flex System.
The Volt uses a large battery and a small, 1-litre turbo gasoline engine to produce enough electricity to go up to 640 miles and provide triple digit fuel economy. GM will show other variations of the propulsion systems at future motor shows. While the Volt points to a flexible fuel future, this is also one good looking vehicle. The Volt conveys an immediate message of agility and sophistication, with exterior proportions more commonly associated with classic sports cars. Twenty-one-inch wheels and sheer, taut surface relationships reiterate the statement. The Chevrolet Volt's athletic design challenges the notion that an environmentally conscious vehicle can't be beautiful and possess an aesthetic spirit that matches its driving characteristics. Inside, a host of current or near term technologies and materials, combined with ingenious use of ambient light, creates an interior environment that's light, airy and thoughtful.
"First and foremost, this is an advanced technology vehicle that uses little or no fuel at all. But we didn't see any reason why that should compromise its design," said Anne Asensio, executive director, GM Design. "The configuration of the drive and energy components dictated we push the front wheels forward and outward to the corners," said Bob Boniface, design director, GM Design. The Volt's proportions, combined with large wheels, wide front and rear tracks (163 mm, front and rear) and a tight wheel to body relationship, enable a sporty, confident stance. Other key proportional highlights include a dash to axle length that positions the driver far rearward of the front wheels; large 21-inch by 7.5-inch wheels, short front and rear overhangs and departure angles that deliver a sense of taut, compact energy.