The Chevrolet Bolt Is Less Aerodynamic Than an Impala, but Its Designers Don't Care

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Green cars should cut through the air like a bird, not a wall, but a team of stylists at General Motors’ South Korean design studio wasn’t thinking of that when they put together the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.

The main goal of the team crafting the first “affordable” 200-mile electric vehicle was creating a vehicle with enough interior room to satisfy a nation of crossover fanatics. The result? A veritable brick, but a spacious one at that.

The boys and girls in Incheon worked under a tight deadline to get the final product ready for the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. When complete, the vehicle had a 0.32 coefficient of drag, worse than the Impala’s 0.29 and the Cruze’s 0.28. The slipperiest green vehicle around, the Toyota Prius, enjoys a 0.24 drag coefficient.

While the Bolt won’t win win a medal for its aerodynamics, or lack there of, the team is proud of the interior volume.

“We call it a C-segment interior on a B-segment platform,” lead designer Stuart Norris told Automotive News. “We need to sell more of these electric vehicles, so we need something that has more broad mass appeal.”

One thing crossover buyers don’t think about when they weigh competing models is aerodynamics, so the designers weren’t willing to give up a tall body to reduce drag. Tesla’s EVs make headlines for speed ( and lengthy waits), but Americans carry around a lot of stuff, and any 200-plus mile GM EV with a hatch can’t be cramped.

“It’s a disaster for aero,” Norris said, adding that six versions of the vehicle underwent wind tunnel testing. The team added grille shutters, air dams, underside panels, a spoiler and rear body modifications, then called it a day.

The Bolt’s interior room came by pushing the wheels to the corners, moving the heating and AC units further forward and lowering the floor. Production begins in October, meaning the Bolt beats its Tesla Model 3 competition by a year, though the Tesla has 373,000 orders waiting to be filled.

[Image: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Dave W Dave W on Aug 11, 2016

    An electric Fit that doesn't have back killing Honda seats? I have to check this out. My winter commute is ~60 miles, top speed limits 50mph (including past a hiway patrol barracks) meaning the distance should work for me.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Aug 13, 2016

    To really function as a "soccer-mom-mobile", GM will need to come up with a larger, more spacious crossover and it doesn't need to be a straight EV, as one with the Voltec powertrain will do (Buick Electra?).

  • Bd2 There's Telluride news you could be posting.
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  • Zerofoo “Can the sedan be saved?” Sure - just lift it a bit, add a mild all wheel drive system, and make the trunk a lift back. I don’t know a single middle-aged woman who doesn’t drive a CUV. Precisely none of them want to go back to a sedan. The sedan may not be die completely, but sedans will not replace CUV/SUVs any time in the foreseeable future.
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