Aerodynamic Development of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt 2011-01-0168
This paper presents some of the challenges and successful outcomes in developing the aerodynamic characteristics of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric vehicle with an extended-range capability. While the Volt's propulsion system doesn't directly affect its shape efficiency, it does make aerodynamics much more important than in traditional vehicles. Aerodynamic performance is the second largest contributor to electric range, behind vehicle mass. Therefore, it was critical to reduce aerodynamic drag as much as possible while maintaining the key styling cues from the original concept car. This presented a number of challenges during the development, such as evaluating drag due to underbody features, balancing aerodynamics with wind noise and cooling flow, and interfacing with other engineering requirements. These issues were resolved by spending hundreds of hours in the wind tunnel and running numerous Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analyses. The end result is a unique electric vehicle that, at start of production, has the lowest coefficient of drag, CD, of any Chevrolet sedan.