It’s been nearly 100 years, but Thomas Edison’s belief in electricity as a viable propulsion system for automobiles is one step closer to reality due to the efforts of General Motors and General Electric. Today, GE participated in General Motors’ unveiling of its newest concept vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, here at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). The Volt’s E-Flex flexible propulsion system offers a global blended range of transportation energy solutions to regional energy issues and driving behavior.
GE Plastics played the role of a strategic partner in enabling the design and development of the Chevrolet Volt, by contributing the key materials technology to reduce part weight up to 50 percent and design engineering support to help position the vehicle as a way to help the world diversify its energy sources and to reduce the dependence on petroleum.
In the United States alone, almost half the households have a daily mileage of less than 30 miles per day. The Chevrolet Volt concept vehicle is capable of 40 miles of pure electrical vehicle driving, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency, means that, for most city drivers, the Chevrolet Volt will use little or no gasoline. In the spirit of ecomagination*, GE Plastics’ differentiated technologies helped reduce the weight on the Volt and optimize its fuel efficiency so that drivers can now skip the pump to extend their mileage and increase savings.
“GM’s commitment to improving fuel economy, reducing vehicle emissions, and developing electrically-driven vehicles is facilitated with GE Plastics’ weight-reduction technologies on the Chevrolet Volt concept car. We were able to take mass out of the Volt in order to optimize its overall efficiency,” said General Motors’ vice president of Global Program Management, Jon Lauckner. “Through the independent auditor, GreenOrder, we were also able to see clear positive environmental results from working with GE Plastics,” said Lauckner.
“GE’s history and leadership in technology innovation led to this great opportunity to collaborate with GM on the Volt,” said Gregory A. Adams, vice president for the Automotive business at GE Plastics. “We were able to help GM to develope this environmentally-responsible vehicle with outstanding performance, strength, and style. Together with GM, we assembled a joint project team to drive forward the development of this monumental new electric vehicle.”
GE’s fuel saving technologies showcased on the Chevy Volt include:
- Roof made with Lexan* GLX resins and Exatec™ coating technology
- Rear deck lid and fixed side glazing made with Lexan GLX resins and Exatec™ coating technology
- Doors and hood made with Xenoy iQ* high performance thermoplastic composites (HPPC)
- Global energy absorber and hybrid rear energy absorbers with Xenoy iQ resins
- Steering wheel and instrument panel with integrated airbag chute made with Lexan* EXL resins
- Front fenders made with Noryl GTX* resins
- Wire coating made with Flexible Noryl* resins
“GE is driving the next generation of materials: greener, lighter, with aesthetically better properties that enable customers, such as GM to create vehicles with a reduced environmental impact,” said Adams. “This effort builds upon each company’s long-standing commitment to help improve the environment and we are pleased to be working on such a visionary project.”
GE’s High-Tech Plastics Pave the Way to a Greener Chevrolet Volt
GE Plastics understands the tremendous pressures its automotive customers face with respect to developing fuel-efficient vehicles. GE’s resins and newest composite technologies are some of the key lightweight materials that helped GM to reduce mass on the Volt. These materials also allow for less fuel consumption, fewer carbon dioxide emissions, and improved overall performance.
Composites are typically used in the aerospace industry and on racecars due to their super lightweight structure and performance. GE Plastics, in partnership with Azdel*, Inc., premieres its own version of composites made with Xenoy iQ resins on the Volt doors and hood. The composite addresses three critical environmental concerns: conserving energy, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and up-cycling or regenerating post-consumer waste such as polyethylene-terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles.
Amanda Roble, executive director for GE Plastics’ Automotive business stated: “On the Volt, the fender, window glazings, instrument panel, and steering wheel can each offer from 30 to 50 percent weight reduction per part. Wire running throughout the Volt is made from non-halogenated GE plastics and reaches an approximate 25 percent weight reduction compared to traditional wire in automobiles.”
GreenOrder, an environmental strategy firm based in New York, N.Y. that also audited the Volt claims, validated that if 3.2 million passenger vehicles of 3,500 pounds were manufactured making the same use of GE Plastics’ weight reducing components, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by more than 194,000 tons each year - that is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by over 48,000 acres of forest. It would also save more than 20 million gallons of oil each year – an amount equal to 30 Olympic-size swimming pools or more than 470,000 barrels of oil.
Enabling Signature Surfaces and Safety
Design Signature Surfaces
When it comes to improving fuel economy, even the most discreet design features can add up to significant fuel savings and improved safety. GE’s plastics enabled GM Design custom styling cues to differentiate the Volt from any other vehicle concept in the world.
“The overall solid shape, open-air roof, high beltline, and powerful, crisp fender forms of the Volt are made possible only with GE design-enabling materials," said Bob Boniface, director of GM’s Warren Advanced Design Studio.
The transparent plastic window glazings instill a sense of openness, while allowing drivers 360 degrees of clear vision and improved safety. A scalloped hood, high shoulders, sinewy, and tight lines are made possible through select GE Plastics resins, allowing the GM designers to create exciting shapes and forms.
“The distinctive styling of the Volt was the result of allowing the GM design team to explore unique and elegant new possibilities made possible by GE's alternative materials,” states Robert Butterfield, global market director for Design Innovation at GE Plastics’ Automotive business.
Leading-Edge Preventative Occupant and Pedestrian Safety Systems
GM’s challenge in designing the Volt was to make safety an aspirational aspect of the vehicle’s design and, accordingly, two key GE technologies have been employed. The first key occupant protection instrument panel system first premiered in the United States in 2005 with GM, and its proven reliability is what makes it an integral part of the Volt cockpit. With active occupant protection to brace the front passenger, the automatically extending fragment free airbag deployment is designed to keep the passenger safe prior to an impending accident, to prepare both occupants and vehicle for a collision.
The second technology from GE is a global energy absorber designed to meet pedestrian safety regulations worldwide. GE Plastics’ energy absorbers allow the Volt to maintain aggressive vehicle styling architecture, a