GM Talks About Camouflaging The Chevrolet Volt

SEP 29 2014 BY JAY COLE 15

General Motors, in a rare interaction with the media that reminds us of the early days with the first iteration of the Chevrolet Volt, talks about the upcoming 2nd generation of their extended range car, and the necessity of camouflaging the vehicle.

After The First Gen Chevy Volt Accidently Broke Cover On The Set Of The Transformers, GM Hopes To Make It All The Way To The NAIAS With Gen 2

After The First Gen Chevy Volt Accidently Broke Cover On The Set Of The Transformers, GM Hopes To Make It All The Way To The NAIAS With Then Gen 2 Car

And while the camo’d Volt has been spotted several times in and around Michigan, we have to hand it to GM for keeping the 2016 Chevrolet Volt under wraps.

The car officially debuts at the 2015 NAIAS in Detroit in January, and this time there is no Transformer movie to blow its cover.

GM says that the act of camouflaging the car itself is the job of the engineers to accomplish, not the designers.  A position of which the engineers aren’t particularly thrilled about.

“If it were up to me it would be a shoebox driving down the road,” said Lionel Perkins, GM camouflage engineer. (Yes that is a real job)  

“The design team wants us to cover more of the vehicle and the engineering team needs to have enough of the vehicle’s weight and aero exposed so that the tests in the development process are consistent with the product that will come to market.”

To Date, This Is The Only "Un-Camo'd" Look At The 2016 Chevrolet Volt - courtesy of GM

To Date, This Is The Only “Un-Camo’d” Look At The 2016 Chevrolet Volt – courtesy of GM

The company also notes some “tricks of the trade”:

  • Black and white patterns The color scheme creates a shadow that hides vehicle design elements.
  • 3D – Layered camouflage throws off onlookers, but has to be applied without interrupting airflow around the car.
  • Swirls – In the old days of car camouflage, the design relied mainly on a grid pattern, but over the years engineers discovered that girds are difficult to realign if a piece is removed to make a change to the car. Swirl patterns better hide such developments.
  • Bubble wrap – Camouflage can be made from many different materials including plastics, vinyl and foam. Good, old bubble wrap is a lightweight, easily attachable three-dimensional material used to confuse prying eyes.

In addition to stating that the camo on the next-generation Volt was started six months in advance of early development, Engineer Perkins says:

“Each car is unique. We are like a dress maker, and the car is our model.  No two models are the same. We need to make the right dress that fits the body we are dealing with.”

So, will the 2016 Chevrolet Volt make its NAIAS in January without being seen?  Probably not – but GM has done a pretty great job getting this far.


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15 Comments on "GM Talks About Camouflaging The Chevrolet Volt"

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Interesting finds. Plenty that I was not aware of.

Maybe if GM camouflaged the Volt as a CUV, people would just think it was the new Buick Encore instead. Please, please, make an EREV CUV!

that would be so cool… an EREV Encore or Trax. 😀

GM should just kill the Volt and offer voltec as a drive train for all major vehicles. It will be quite an engineering challenge but if they did it, their fleet would set the standard for the world. If the reports of the next-gen EREV of 60-100 miles electric then fossil are true, assuming the cost of the ownership of their cars makes them the leader in TCO a true cost advantage over ALL competitors.

I don’t want a Volt, I want a tahoe, a Caddy XTS or a Buick Enclave with voltec. Put that on the silverado and bigger trucks and they will eat Ford and Toyota alive. Workers who run their big trucks 100+ miles a day and spend $30 a day in gas will see that drop to $10-12 a day or over $3600 a year.

Don’t do anything unless it will change the world.

And Andrew – to POSE in front of the camo job…WOW! It’s like a big “nayhh nayhh, you can’t see it!”

First gen was all out there – test Volts in caravans going down the highway in plain view. Wow! What a contrast to this iron-clad, test at midnight, use “camo engineer” ways of old!

It’s amazing how spy photographers have used HELICOPTERS to get aerial shots of Volt. These photographers make a good living taking photos of yet-to-be-released car models. I wonder if some spies are using Ghillie Suits such as this guy –

or such extremes to get closer to the cars, night vision goggles n’all….hmmmm, Spy vs. Spy style!

– Phew! I admit I have all sorts of fears GM will screw it up. But the camo’d Volt 2s do look very aerodynamic and sleek from what I’ve seen ( as sleek as a swirly wrap can look, that is ). The biggest ? for me is that weird box-like structure over the grille area! I mean – it is the personality of the car, basically.

They also try to use drones over the Milford proving grounds to get pictures.

Aha! That explains the aerial shots! Plus, the guy in the photo above would probably have a lens the size of four coffee cans glued end-to-end.

I remember a certain car test video on YouTube where you could see this shadow briefly on the pavement that turned out to be their effort to use a quadcopter drone get aerial shots. Later in the video, you see the drone crash and bust into pieces! L 🙂 L.

I know a lot of people believed GM created such an open, revealing atmosphere during Volt 1’s development as a carrot to get the government bailout, and watching the YouTube Congressional hearings, I cannot say that wasn’t one of their motivations. That said, it’s pretty obvious GM didn’t have an existing model out there at dealerships needing to be sold as motivation to keep it’s successor under wraps for as long as possible.

Good points. They also didn’t have any competitors in the space at the time of Volt 1. Now they have to maintain their lead against the Energi, PiP and any number of other PHEVs that are headed this way.

Exactly. As frustrating as it is, I understand why they have to do it. Kind of makes me feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to see what Santa has come up with!

dont like that chunky plastic the mirror is attatched to

could easily make it look cleaner

Agree, it makes the car look cheap and it is not a good sign for the direction of the next Volt. I like the mirrors on the current Volt. GM did the same thing with the side mirrors on the Saturn Vue/Chevy Equinox

Hmmm… One thing they can’t cover up is the fact the size of the side windows still look small. Unless they are covering up part of the side windows too…

The reason the side windows are small is that all new cars have to meet rollover protection standards. The days of the large greenhouses are over

The specs of the VOLT are great for me except that it is a Chevy with dowdy styling. The Caddy version is too expensive and reminds me of putting lipstick on a pig.

Put a decent body on it, or sell the drive-train to others who will.

When the VOLT was not ready when I needed a new car, I bought an Infinity G37 instead. Put a Volt drive-train in something like that G37 shape and styling, add decent electronics and sell it for $50k or less. Then you would have a winner.