The April 2008 Chevy Volt update: Breezing through the GM Aero lab/wind tunnel

If you'd like to know just how a fan the size of the one in the image above (yes, those are humans walking under it) helps move wind around a giant rectangle at the GM Aero Lab, Frank Meinert is the guy you want to listen to. You can do so here:

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Meinert gave us a tour of the wind tunnel and described how the decades-old fan is used to build the cars of tomorrow (if you're rather read about the tunnel, click here). That's interesting and all, but we were there to hear how the Areo Lab is helping design the Chevy Volt. Remember, the impact that drag has on the efficiency of the car is much greater than expected. A 400-pound decrease would increase the EV-only range of the Volt from 39 to 40 on the highway and 41 to 43 in the city. But improved aerodynamics (of 80 counts) ups the range from 37 to 43 miles on the highway and 40 to 43+ in the city. To explain where things are today is where Nina Tortosa stepped in. Tortosa is the performance engineer in the Aero Lab, and gave us a demonstration of the smoke wand being used on the 1/3rd scale Chevy Volt (see a video shot on the day of our visit here). Decked out in some duct-tape camo, the model didn't reveal any secrets about what the Volt will look like, but we did get a glimpse of the tunnel in action.

All day long, we heard about how the Volt if GM's top priority, and in a lot of areas this seemed to be the case. Don't tell this to the wind tunnel crews who need to work on the Volt during the third shift, though. Time in the wind tunnel is expensive and the Volt sometimes needs to take a back seat to making sure that the latest Malibu or Vue (or whatever) has a quiet enough interior. GM may be moving forward on all fronts with the Chevy Volt, but there are some things they can't leave behind.

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Nina Tortosa

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