GM Compares Chevrolet Bolt To Lunar Rover

Chevrolet Bolt


General Motors reminds us that its EV engineers continue with top-notch innovation 45 years after they helped develop the electric Lunar Rover.

Chevrolet Bolt

2017 Bolt EV alongside a view of the Apollo 17 Lunar Rover Vehicle at Sample 8135, taken during Extravehicular Activity EVA 3. (Image and Caption Credit: Chevrolet)

Way back in 1971, the $38 million electric Lunar Rover (built in partnership with GM) allowed Apollo 15 astronauts the opportunity to explore the moon.

Little do many know that GM had its hands in the development, design, and testing of the first Lunar Rover. The fact that it was an EV is the icing on the cake. The automaker worked alongside partner companies to create a brand-new electric motor drive system, suspension, and mesh wire wheels, along with a special drive controller to work with lunar gloves. GM writes:

“The same innovative spirit that drove the company to engineer an electric vehicle for the moon lives on in the Bolt EV. Except today’s EV drivers don’t have to wear space suits.”

The engineers, led by Ferenc Pavlics, had to work through the challenges of designing for space travel and assisting astronauts, which paved the way for the company’s future EV pursuits. In a sense, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is the grandchild to the original electric Lunar Rover Vehicle. Pavlics, now retired, recounts the time:

Side-by-side comparison of the 1971 Lunar Rover and 2017 Chevy Bolt EV. (Image and Caption Credit: Chevrolet)

“When our team began engineering for the Lunar Rover, there were so many unknowns, including varied terrain, extreme temperatures and the effect of reduced gravity. We pushed the boundaries of automotive technology and worked hand in hand with the astronauts on the vehicle’s design.”

He sees a clear connection between his team’s early work on the moon-vehicle project, and the recent award-winning Chevrolet Bolt. Michael Lelli, chief engineer for the Bolt EV shared:

“The Bolt EV required a new architecture to upend the status quo on electric driving. We drew on our deep electrification expertise to provide Chevrolet customers the first long-range, affordable electric car.”

The Chevrolet Bolt’s official details via General Motors:

Starting at an MSRP of $37,495 before federal tax incentives of up to $7,500 depending upon individual tax situation, the 2017 Bolt EV offers an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range on a single charge. Standard features include electronic precision shift, one-pedal driving, Regen on Demand™ steering wheel paddle, 10.2-inch-diagonal color touchscreen and an 8 year/100,000 mile battery and propulsion system limited warranty (whichever comes first, see dealer for details). The top-trim Premier model adds leather-appointed seats, front and rear heated seats, Surround Vision Camera, Rear Camera Mirror and more.

Source: Chevrolet

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54 Comments on "GM Compares Chevrolet Bolt To Lunar Rover"

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Note parabolic antenna. GM even included an early version of Onstar, just in case the astronauts became stranded:)

I bet the tow fee would be pretty outrageous.

tow fee! :-))

also ‘air cooled’ – is there air on the moon and we didn’t know? Or…?!

Actually, the moon does technically have a very thin atmosphere. 🙂

It is not the same as that of the earth of course, but ‘air’ does not necessarily refer to the same gasses that make up the earth’s atmosphere.

From NASA:

“Just as the discovery of water on the moon transformed our textbook knowledge of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor, recent studies confirm that our moon does indeed have an atmosphere consisting of some unusual gases, including sodium and potassium, which are not found in the atmospheres of Earth, Mars or Venus.Apr 12, 2013”

It’s technically impossible to create a total vacuum. So, the moon does have some air.

Yeah, that “very thin atmosphere” on Luna (Earth’s moon) is a far better vacuum than can be created in a laboratory without very specialized equipment, and in most contexts would be described as a very hard vacuum.

Yeah, I presume the lunar rover was mostly cooled through radiation, not convection.


I’m kind of a heat transfer nut so I did a little googling and found an interesting pdf that describes the cooling scheme.
They used aluminum thermal straps to conduct heat away from the electronics and stored the heat in the batteries and fusible mass heat sinks. Then at the end of the mission they used thermal mirrors to radiate the heat out of the batteries.

p16 thermal control description (link)

That’s interesting. It seems like it’d be easier to get the thing to cool down if you could just get it out of the sunlight.

Also interesting that the system seems to work mostly when it isn’t being driven. That they drive it, then configure it to radiate while it sits still and then go back to driving it.

Thanks for the link.

Truly both are outstanding engineering accomplishments. Way to go GM engineers!

Wow, what slowed down progress for 45 years?

Battery technology.

People want cars and not just a go-kart they sit on top of?

Simple. The prototypes with some miles on them were left on the moon. The LADA (Lunar Automotive Dealer Association) made sure of it that no more of those Lunar Rover EVs were built or allowed to be imported to the moon.
They also complained about the direct sale from GM to NASA without involving an earth based stealership…
GM marketing then ralized, after the astronauts returned: There is no man left (on the moon) who wants to buy an EV. When they told this to the CEO, they left out the moon part…

I LOLed. Thanks

Yea, GM is waiting to go back to the moon so they can crush those cars.

Very, very nice! Thanks. 🙂

This is fascinating to technophiles, but seriously bad marketing. Americans don’t want to drive in a Lunar Rover.

The Bolt is a hot hatch. Sell it as one. Sell it as one of the fastest hatches on the market. Tweak next years Bolt to smoke a GTI and sell it as a performance car. Duh.

This isnt bad marketing. Just a fun little way to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the moon rover that GM had a hand in developing. 🙂

Lowest common denominator…Can’t just be “fun” for geeks, you have to make it “fun” for everyone including the millions of potential customers who follow the Kardashians on twitter…

Reality is there’s probably less than 5000 people in the entire world who care about this and if they drive an EV their salaries are most likely high enough to afford a Tesla…

Poke more fun at it, explain how if the Rover and Bolt EV “raced for pinks” who the Bolt would “smoke” the Rover…But no, they focus on the different tires…

I don’t think the best way to honor this historical event would be to poke fun and say ‘look how crappy this stupid thing we made half a century ago is.’

Instead, it is trying to show that GM was, and is, a technological leader. And that EVs have advanced a lot over the decades. Not all marketing needs to reach all audiences all of the time. 😉

It is bad marketing.

It’s just repeating the same things they’ve been repeating:
– Range
– 1-pedal driving!
– We have great engineers!
They _never_ mention handling or performance. They have the 0-60 on their website’s blurb page, but it’s not in the specs.

While I agree that marketing performance is the way to go as you need to chip away at the granola stigma, don’t need to compare it to the GTI or any other vehicle…Just show it doing well at an autocross course with a well known driver (Even someone like Jay Leno who owns a Gen1 Volt)…

The problem with this current strategy is that it appears to be a humorless real comparison, not a light hearted humorous mock…

“This is fascinating to technophiles, but seriously bad marketing.”

No, dude, it’s just you. Lighten up.

If it’s just me then why does Chevy have a Bolt inventory glut in California?

GM is directly speaking to me! Thank goodness they engineered the Bolt EV so that I don’t have to wear a spacesuit since they don’t make them with V-Necks or with slim fit…

They left out…

8 MPH ——- TOP SPEED ——- 91 MPH

But maybe they didn’t want to advertise that the Bolt EV won’t do 100 MPH?

I think the Bolt top speed is 93.

Annoying it can’t do 100, but it’s probably because of tire ratings. 93 is exactly 150km/h, the limit of a P-rated tire.

It may also have to do with power curve. While SparkEV makes peak 140 HP, gearing makes it top out at around 100 MPH even if there’s no electronics limit. Bolt with almost twice the RPM of SparkEV motor may have even steeper drop in power at higher speed. Discussion of SparkEV power curve and relation to speed is in this blog post.

“I think the Bolt top speed is 93.”

GM says top speed is 91 MPH; Motor Trend says 93. I’m certainly not going to argue about it, either way.

I’ve had mine up to 93. On flat ground.

I just remembered the last time i did 93 …Mojave desert….all alone, the road was all mine…until i saw a cop breaking hard on the opposite way, jumping through brush medium and chasing me…almost got arrested…good times!

The rover is actually travelling 1000 mph relative to the surface of the Earth. 😀

Unless they just changed it, I believe you overlooked…On the graphic the third yellow lines says top speed is 8.7 vs 92MPH…

Ack! 😳

I must have missed it, despite looking for it. Another sign I’m getting old… 🙁

Leave it to GM marketing to paint themselves into a corner on their own ad.

This is why GM stinks at marketing.

Driving the lunar rover is not exciting to list people. Associate the bolt with a car that can barely move. Vs a sexy sleek fast performance car that tesla implies.

At this rate GM is doomed.

Remember when they were doomed but the US Government bailed them out?

I would go for the Bolt any day. But yet not available here.

These hypocrites should place a shot of their beloved EV1 between those two pictures to give the whole story.

Let’s hear from all the other car makers that built an EV in the 90’s……crickets

Also the S10 EV and the Spark EV…

How are they hypocrites? They worked on the lunar rover, went on to introduce the only EV of the 90s, and now offer the best PHEV on the road and the first sub-$40K EV with over 200 mile range.

GM engineering are right to brag. I don’t think this lunar rover ad is good marketing but it sure isn’t hypocritical.

Why does it say the lunar rover is air cooled? What air?!

Yawn. Anyone can make one off EV for millions of dollars. Making one that costs about the same as comparable gasser and perform a lot better is impressive, especially in lower cost end of the spectrum. SparkEV is by far the biggest achievement in EV among any so far.

Perhaps this explains why the Bolt is today without access to a convenient & reliable Supercharger Network…the Lunar Rover was never intended to make long-distance trips away from Home (the Lunar Lander).

The relationship to the Lunar Rover explains why the seats and interior is so cramped and uncomfortable on the Bolt

Lunar Rover history explains why the seats and interior is so cramped and uncomfortable on the Bolt

Wasn’t the Lunar Rover AWD?

If only the Bolt has AWD, I wonder how much better it would have sold…

AWD on it’s own would hardly affect sales…Fits/Versa/Sonic hatchback owner aren’t exactly demanding AWD…What would affect sales with AWD are the benefits they bring and the cost…$4995, roughly what Tesla charges for the X/S is fairly expensive relative to the MSRP of the Bolt EV…Yet gain a 20% boost in range or sub 4 second 0-60 and it makes far more sense…

People in the market for a performance “hot hatch” usually care about style far more than the average buyer…

I don’t know exactly what GM is trying to accomplish here, but it sounds too much like they are full of themselves – and the only people who would care about that anyway is themselves.

Contrary to opinion here, the auto industry was amoung the last industries to use PWM drives – when they should have been one of the first since electricity in a mobile object is expensive. ALthough until recently they haven’t needed it much.

Advances in semiconductor power technology did not happen due to electrically driven vehicles, but hybrids and evs have benefited from the advances.

Who cares if they were early or late to use PWM motor control?

No one here even used the letters “PWM” before you and no one made any claims about it. You’ve brought up a completely irrelevant point out of nowhere.

Just because you don’t know what something is doesn’t mean everyone else is as uninitiated.

My comment was germaine since GM is taking credit for something which is not due them.

“The wise person speaks since he has something to say…

The fool speaks since he must say something.”