Having invested heavily in the Chevy Volt's plug-in hybrid Voltec powertrain, GM plans to leverage the technology as much as it can. A fashionably tweaked version of the Volt will be sold in Europe as the Opel Ampera, while the regular Volt goes on sale in China next year. The Volt MPV5 concept, making its debut at the Beijing Show, shows a Voltec-powered crossover is probably in the works, too.
Though officially a concept, the somewhat unimaginatively named Volt MPV5 is built using a lot of existing Volt hardware, and wouldn't be difficult to turn into a production vehicle. The big changes are all dimensional - the Volt MPV5 features a 0.6in stretch in the wheelbase, compared with the regular Volt, and is 7.1in longer, 2.8in wider, and 7.2in taller. While the regular Volt is a strict four seater, the MPV5 has room aboard for five passengers. The flip and fold second row seating also allows a significant increase in load carrying capacity.
The styling of the MPV5, which was done in GM's Holden studio in Melbourne, Australia, borrows key visual and aerodynamic cues from the Volt. GM claims the Volt MPV5's front fascia is among the most aerodynamic of any crossover. A full-length belly pan, extended rocker panel cladding, creased tail lights, and unique blades on the rear quarter panels also help boost aerodynamic efficiency. "The Volt MPV5 concept takes the efficient design of the Chevrolet Volt and adapts it to the family vehicle crossover segment," says Bob Boniface, director of GM North America crossover exterior design.
Inside, the Volt MPV5 features the same Apple-inspired center stack and digital instrument cluster as the Volt, plus two-tone leather seats.
GM claims the Volt MPV5 will travel 32 miles on pure electric power. That's about eight miles less than the regular Volt, no doubt due to the bigger car's increased mass and aerodynamic drag, but roughly double the distance the average Chinese commuter travels every day, GM says. With the 1.4-liter gas engine running, the MPV5 will reportedly go 300 miles, again slightly less than the regular Volt.
The Volt MPV5 sends a politically correct message to the Chinese government, which is looking to impose some of the toughest emissions and fuel economy standards in the world within the next decade. China wants its domestic auto industry to be a world leader in fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, primarily because it realizes it will not be able to rely on cheap oil as an energy supply as its domestic auto market continues its explosive growth.
"Rapidly growing demand for personal transportation across China is creating new environmental and energy security challenges," says Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group. "The world premiere of the Volt MPV5 concept in Beijing demonstrates GM's desire to make China a global focus of its advanced technology strategy."
GM has recently launched the China Automotive Energy Research Center (CAERC) in Beijing, a joint venture with Chinese automaker SAIC and Tsinghua University, that is developing a comprehensive automotive energy strategy for China. The GM China Science Lab, which opened last November, is carrying out advanced automotive-related research, including battery development. In March, GM introduced the EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) concepts in Shanghai. A centerpiece of the SAIC-GM Pavilion at World Expo 2010 Shanghai, EN-V embodies GM's vision for personal urban mobility in 2030.
Against that background, it logical to assume both the Volt and the Volt MPV5 -- and other Voltec-powered plug-in hybrids -- have a big future in China.