Wade Bryant is the manager of the team that was responsible for the interior design of the Chevy Volt concept at GM. Bryant spoke to AutoblogGreen at the Detroit Auto Show about some the innovations they included in the driver and passenger areas of the car.
ABG: Wade, what's your role in the design of the Volt?
WB: I'm the manager of the Advanced Design Group and basically we have a pretty large staff of designers working on the interior here. Maybe I can point some stuff out to you to make your story a little clearer.
ABG: Let's talk about what the philosophy was with the interior design a little.
WB: Well the main philosophy of the whole part was around the power train and we were asked from an interior standpoint to do anything we could to reinforce the message of the power train, the way the customers would utilize this vehicle with that power train and also trying to come up with vehicle ideas that would support the type of customer that would likely gravitate towards this vehicle. So when they looked at the people that would typically drive this vehicle, when they looked at people that would tend to drive this commute distance, it tended to be mostly people that lived in an urban area or near an urban area and we wanted to design a vehicle that would really accommodate their lifestyle, being connected electronically was important. We incorporated a lot of features in the interior like automatic syncing for your Palm and cell phone, wireless, cordless recharging for the items that are enabled with that same technology.
Learn more about cordless charging and other fascinating tech after the jump.
ABG: Cordless recharging?
WB: Yup. You're not aware of some of those yet? I don't know – I don't have any myself, but we're pretty certain that in the near future, there'll be a lot of wireless charging options.
ABG: Are you talking about like inductive charging where you dock it or set on something?
WB: Precisely. Yeah. It's vicinity based, so you just need to be within the same range of the station and you'll get an inductive charge. Of course, BlueTooth for unwired connectivity. One of the neat features that, if I can get you in there and turn the system on, the instrument cluster is very unique. We do have a traditional cluster that has your speedometer, your fuel gauge and battery level and your gear position indicator, and it's, like most concept cars are, a very highly-designed beautiful piece but it's three dimensional. Just behind that, closer to the driver, is a clear lens that most of the time looks completely transparent when the vehicle's off. When it's activated, there's a coating that's an ultraviolet sensitive ink – it's projected onto, with using a UV laser projector, and it allows us to do full color animation on this clear lens. It looks like a holograph, but it's actually visible from any angle, driver, passengers can see it.
ABG: So that's in the main cluster?
WB: Yes. Right behind it, so we actually have an overlay of information above the speedometer and that information highlights all the power train technology, so it tells you how you're using the power, how you're consuming your power. It will help you interface to make choices. If you would like to, if you want to top your batteries off at any time or if you would prefer to deplete the batteries because you know you're going to be plugging in soon, it gives you that control and it puts it right in front of the driver.
ABG: That sounds like really exciting technology.
WB: The actual technology is very exciting. I don't think anyone has married these technologies of the UV ink and the digital laser projector together before. And we're also using that same technology on the center stack to show navigation, entertainment information, that sort of thing.
ABG: What about the seating area and the rest of the interior?
WB: Well the whole package is kind of neat. You know, there is of course a challenge any time you're designing a vehicle with a large battery pack down the middle, you need to work around it and make sure the customers still have enough room and feel safe and comfortable in there. I think we did a really good job. The tunnel is almost a non-issue when you're in the car. You really don't notice it's there. The seating position is similar to other cars in the small car segment of small cars. The amount of light that you see in the vehicle from all the overhead glass is really nice. It makes it feel pretty open. And we also have a lot of artificial lighting. GE has a material they call Gelcor, which is an encapsulated series of LEDs that's diffused in a really nice way. We ring the upper roof areas with that, so when you don't have natural light coming through, you have this ambient light from overhead. And we also, in the lower parts of the interior, we use this EBA molded foam instead of hard plastic, so you have nice soft surfaces and for access to all your storage, instead of having just an open bin with a hard plastic lip on the edge, we have zippers. And to top it all off, we made the zippers transparent and backlit the cargo areas with this Gelcor lighting. So you can see these zippers illuminated in a tasteful way at night and it provides a little bit of nice atmosphere, light and, of course, you can see what you're trying to get to when you're trying to get into your storage compartments.