Many of the technologies resulting from the development of the ground-breaking EV1 in the 1990s, the Two-Mode hybrid SUVs and pickup trucks and the fuel cell Chevrolet Equinox used for the Project Driveway program are part of the Volt.
"The band is back together - only this time there are fans," said former EV1 chief engineer Jon Bereisa.
Regardless of whether a vehicle uses a hydrogen-powered fuel cell, a battery charged from the grid or just recovered kinetic energy from a hybrid drive system, the electric propulsion systems feature many common components and sub-systems. Traction motors and generators, power electronics and battery management systems work in much the same way for each. Improving one type can benefit all. Each alternative drive vehicle also relies on systems like electric power assisted steering, electronic brake control and electric climate control.
While earlier vehicles were not built in mass-production numbers, many of the engineers that created them also contributed to the Volt development, including chief engineer Andrew Farah.
"By adapting sub-systems such as the EV1-descended motors developed for the front-wheel drive hybrid system and electronically controlled brakes from the fuel cell Equinox, the engineers were able to focus more resources on the new lithium ion battery and overall vehicle integration," said Farah. The hardware engineers weren't the only ones to benefit from the earlier programs. "A new drive system like this involves a lot of complex control software such as the regenerative brake blending which benefited from the Two-Mode hybrid development."
As the transportation ecosystem moves from a dependence on petroleum over the coming decades, electrification will allow vehicle engineers to separate the propulsion and energy storage systems.
"In the future, vehicles will likely combine different energy systems including batteries, ultra capacitors and hydrogen fuel cells with common and scalable electric drives systems depending on regional and application needs," said Daniel O'Connell, director of fuel cell commercialization.
And the advancements will pay off in future generations of the Volt and other electric and hybrid vehicles coming to market. Even traditional internal combustion vehicles like the new Chevrolet Cruze and the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist consume and pollute less thanks to the use of more energy efficient systems developed for electrified vehicles.
"Throughout GM's first century, internal combustion engines were the heart of the company's products. GM engineers are now using the lessons learned over the past two decades to make electric propulsion and energy storage systems a core competency for the next century," said Jamie Hresko, vice president of Global Powertrain Engineering.
"It's been a consistent winner for us," said Ron Chaudoin, general manager of Lou LaRiche Chevrolet in Plymouth, Mich. "Whether it's safety, availability, price point or lease offers, the Malibu just satisfies a majority of customers."
The Malibu is the only mid-sized car in the industry to win the Consumers Digest award for the third consecutive year. Consumers Digest "Best Buys" are based on behind-the-wheel assessment, safety ratings, ownership costs, warranty, price, comfort, ergonomics, styling and amenities. They reflect Consumers Digest's view of which vehicles offer the most value for the money. The Malibu won the award for 2009, 2010 and 2011 model year vehicles.
To determine how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. In addition, the winning vehicles must offer electronic stability control. The Malibu received a "good" rating in all four Institute tests.
"The Chevrolet Malibu offers consumers a tremendous value, impressive fuel economy, class-leading safety features, and an unexpected amount of standard features that separate it from the competition," said Jon Hahn, Chevrolet Malibu marketing manager.
The Malibu is Chevrolet's and General Motors best-selling car in the U.S., representing nearly 10 percent of GM total vehicle sales and about 13 percent of Chevrolet total sales this year. Over the last two years Malibu has grown in total sales from 161,568 in 2009 to 187,250 through November this year. Malibu also has increased market share within the mid-car segment over the last two years from 8 percent in 2008 to 11 percent currently.
The 2011 Malibu is offered in LS, LT and LTZ models. All models have a standard, fuel-efficient, four-cylinder 2.4L Ecotec engine mated to a fuel-saving six-speed transmission that deliver 33 mpg highway. A 252-horsepower 3.6L V-6 is available on 2LT and LTZ models. All Malibu powertrains are backed by GM's five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the best and most comprehensive in the industry.
The Chevrolet Malibu is the only midsize sedan with standard OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation. Also standard on all models are four-wheel anti-lock brakes; StabiliTrak electronic stability control; AM/FM stereo with CD player and MP3 playback; XM Satellite Radio; OnStar 9.0 with six months of Directions and Connections service; power height driver seat adjuster with power lumbar; Remote Keyless Entry and cruise control.
The Cruze was tested under NHTSA's revised New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) implemented this fall for the 2011 model year. The rating is based on more rigorous frontal and side crash tests in addition to rollover resistance testing. Under the new system, the three test conditions are combined mathematically into an "Overall Vehicle Score."
The Cruze is the first vehicle tested under the new rating system to achieve five stars in each of the individual crash impact conditions, leading to an overall vehicle score of five stars - the highest rating possible.
"Cruze has achieved five-star crash safety scores everywhere it is rated in the world. This is the direct result of our global engineering team's focused effort," said Jeff Boyer, General Motors' executive director of vehicle safety. "These safety ratings reflect the confidence we have in Cruze's state-of-the-art safety technologies and overall crashworthiness."
The 2011 Cruze offers more standard safety features than any vehicle in its class and represents Chevrolet's commitment to continuous safety - before, during and after a crash. Standard features include StabiliTrak electronic stability control, Panic Brake Assist and Enhanced Smart Pedal / Brake Override. The Cruze is the first car in its class with 10 standard air bags, including front knee air bags - a segment first. OnStar's safety and security package is standard.
"Cruze is winning over consumers with its design, amenities, fuel economy and strong value for the money," said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet Marketing. "The five-star overall vehicle safety score provides another great reason for small car buyers to consider Cruze."
The Cruze also received the highest-possible ratings of "Good" in front, side, rear and rollover crash protection tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which recognized Cruze as a 2011 Top Safety Pick.
Quite simply, they hated it.
Chevrolet was quick to respond, commissioning a self-described antenna freak named Don Hibbard to find a way to fix it. "Antennas are a beautiful thing to me," says Hibbard, an antenna test performance engineer.
Engineers working on Camaro are passionate to drive perfection into every aspect of the vehicle. Hibbard and colleague Gregg Kittinger had to do what some thought was impossible: conceal the AM/FM antenna without sacrificing radio reception, while not putting it inside the Camaro's windows. The two, who share three other patents, happily accepted the challenge.
"We weren't sure that it would be possible," said Kittinger. "Typically antennas are hidden in a vehicle's rear window, but with a retractable soft-top roof, that's not an option."
So they came up with a novel approach - hide the antenna inside the rear spoiler. No one had tried that on a Chevrolet before because of the hit to radio reception.
"We responded to a legitimate criticism from devoted Chevrolet Camaro enthusiasts and in 10 months found an innovative way to improve the overall aesthetics of the vehicle without sacrificing performance and quality," said Kittinger.
While the shark fin antenna that transmits XM Satellite Radio, OnStar and cellular signals is still present on the car's deck lid, the built-in spoiler antenna eliminates the need for a longer, separate whip antenna to receive AM and FM radio signals.
Hibbard, a lifelong Ham radio enthusiast, says the unorthodox placement of the antenna within the body of the vehicle created a number of technical challenges, such as balancing form by preserving the car's styling and function of unimpeded audio reception.
"Where other automakers have tried and failed, Chevy succeeded," said Hibbard. "We hope to take what we've learned with the Camaro Convertible, build on it and apply it to future vehicles."
The 2011 Camaro Convertible arrives in dealer showrooms this February.