2011 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
Last weekend, we finally got the chance to drive the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. By and large, we liked it; see our full First Drive report for more details.
Riding shotgun was Andrew Farah, the chief engineer for the 2011 Volt. During our ride and after, we asked him five questions--just as we did Volt Vehicle Line Director Tony Posawatz six weeks ago.
What was the biggest engineering challenge in creating the 2011 Chevrolet Volt?
Andrew Farah: Two, really. One was packaging a compact car containing a large lithium-ion battery pack in a way that was aerodynamic (and attractive). Then there was writing and testing the huge amount of software to get all the controls and systems interacting properly, so battery range and fuel efficiency were maximized, with a driving experience that was good for passengers.
Were there big conceptual changes during development?
AF: The biggest ones were to the customer interactions for things like the plug-in charging. We had some misconceptions, and a lack of information on how users would want to interact, that led to some major improvements over time. One example: We changed the visual indicator for charge status several times, and adding an audio cue for a good charging connection. That's way beyond what we had started with, which was software ported over from the EV1 program.
What changed for the Volt program when General Motors went through bankruptcy?
AF: Nothing. There was zero impact. The company was 123 percent commmitted to the Volt program throughout. We worked to be fiscally responsible, and not do more than we needed to. I wouldn't have minded a few more test cars. But the company met our needs and, even more, kept asking, "Is this enough? Do you need more?"
What's the biggest remaining hurdle between now and Job One?
AF: Finishing up the fine points of the software control systems, and getting ready for volume manufacturing. Things like supply-line logistics, and handling late changes. The final sheetmetal froze last autumn, but we still have a lot of changes we can make in the software.
What would you change about the Volt if you could?
AF: I wish we could have done more to make the rear seat bigger. It's OK for me (I'm 5'10"), but our former chief Frank Weber is 6'4", and Bob Lutz is 6'5". It's really tight for them back there. But that came with using a lot of the basic structure of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze.