Tuesday, July 10, 2007

GM Envisions Design For The E-Flex

The General Motors Corp. thinks it can clear technological barriers involved in creating a plug-in electric car for the mass market. Critics said that the automaker's success hinges on whether it can produce battery to make car appealing to the masses.

Now the pool of engineers and designers behind the automaker's Chevy Volt and other environmentally-friendly vehicles is going all out to make sure the cars' visual appeal blends with its ultra-modern magnetism. "GM is once more a design-driven company, so it's only natural that design keeps pace with the engineering development of the E-flex system," Vice Chairman Bob Lutz recently wrote in a blog on GM's Web site.

The E-Flex is the powertrain system behind a new generation of electrically driven vehicles GM intends to manufacture by the end of the decade. The system matches battery power with several different energy sources. The largest American automaker's success is anchored on the development of a lithium ion battery with the durability, endurance, and affordability to make the car appealing to average consumers. While hundreds of engineers and a number of battery suppliers undertake that job, Lutz said that GM's top designers will dig in as well.

The Detroit automaker has opened a design studio inside its Warren Technical Center campus to fine-tune the design of the Volt and vehicles built on the same architecture. Bob Boniface, the GM director of advanced design, will lead the design work on the Volt. He was lead designer for the Chevy Camaro concept vehicle and the hydrogen fuel cell Sequel concept vehicle. Boniface previously worked for DaimlerChrysler's Advanced Product Design Studio, managing the architectural design of Chrysler minivans.

Lutz said that the exterior styling of the Volt is 90 percent complete and will include all the key design cues of the Volt concept GM showed off in January at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The Volt's front end, with its brawny face, wide bumper and narrow headlights separated by the narrow dual port grille, will be slightly less dramatic, he said, to accommodate safety regulations while fitting with GM's global architecture for small cars.

"This vehicle is so important that it is getting maximum attention from all of the top Product Development leadership and from the senior people in powertrain," Lutz noted. "A Volt leadership team meets every two weeks to hammer out glitches and keep up momentum on the project."

The steps taken by GM are not that unusual. The design of the Subaru cold air intake in connection with the company's lineup would also reflect the same. But the level of detail GM is making public is out of the ordinary. GM's strategy aims to cultivate an Earth-friendly image at a time when the environment is a hot-button concern, while discrediting critics who have dismissed the Volt as a publicity feat.

Lutz said last month that GM had probably spent "at this point" $100 million, "but ramping up very fast as it becomes a high-priority product for launch in 2010." GM has spent about $4 billion on advanced propulsion budget the past five or six years, he said.

GM must walk a fine line in designing the Volt, said Rebecca Lindland, a Global Insight analyst in Lexington, Mass. History has reflected that hybrid shoppers gravitate toward distinct vehicles. The Toyota Prius hybrid, for one, looks unlike any other vehicle on the road. It is outselling the Camry hybrid more than three to one this year.

The Volt would not succeed unless it is visually appealing, Lindland said. Lutz has promised that the Volt would not "look like a science experiment." Hybrid buyers, Lindland said, "really want people to know what good people they are."

About the Author
Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive.buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.

First Pontiac G8 Prototypes Roll Off the Line

At this year's Chicago Auto Show, Pontiac (also maker of top of the line Pontiac catalytic converter) - confirming its commitment to style and performance - introduced a show car version of the all-new, rear-wheel drive performance, the G8 GT.

The G8 is the first North American application of GM's new global rear-wheel-drive architecture developed by Holden, GM's Australian subsidiary.

The G8 show car gave everyone a peek of the highly anticipated production GT model, including use of the 362-horsepower (270 kW) 6.0L V-8 engine and optional six-speed manual transmission. The show car also features some unique items not found on the production model, including twenty-inch "shadow chrome" wheels and performance tires, ride height lowered approximately half-inch, high-performance brake rotors with painted brake calipers, custom interior trim color, including a leather-wrapped dash, exclusive exterior paint color: Phantom Grey, and the concept of "modernized" Pontiac badge.

Last week, the first prototype of the Pontiac G8 rolled off General Motors' Australia unit, GM Holden -- ahead of a full production start later in the year. The rear-wheel-drive performance sedan is headed for the United States in early 2008.

Production model details

The 2008 Pontiac G8 lineup will offer two models: G8 and G8 GT. Each will come with a host of standard performance, convenience and safety features, including:

Four-wheel independent suspension Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control Electronic stability control 18-inch aluminum wheels (19-inch wheels available with sport package) Seat-mounted thorax air bags and dual-stage frontal air bags for front passengers, with automatic passenger sensing system Roof rail side-impact air bags for both seating rows OnStar XM Satellite Radio Power-adjustable front seats Fog lamps Chrome exhaust tips Rear lip spoiler

A sport package will also be available for both models and adds features such as specific wheels - including 19-inch aluminum wheels and performance tires on GT - a rear wing spoiler, leather shift knob, leather-wrapped steering wheel and alloy pedals.

Production of the Pontiac G8 is scheduled to commence at the Holden plant in late 2007, bringing the production line to a maximum capacity rate of 620 cars per day.

The G8 will be the first car sold in the U.S. based on the Australia-developed new Zeta global GM architecture. This means that Holden's Elizabeth plant is exporting to every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica.

About GM Holden Ltd GM Holden Ltd or Holden is an Australian automaker based in Melbourne, Victoria, originally independent but now a subsidiary of General Motors (GM). The automotive marque is one of GM's "alpha" brands, taking charge of vehicle operations for General Motors in Australasia, and have partial ownership of GM Daewoo in South Korea.

About the Author
Jason Moore, a 35 year old freelance writer from Austin, Texas. He also works as a marketing analyst for an established auto parts store in the country.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Opel E-Flex System

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Ford Interceptor

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