Volume 12, Issue 5 - September/October 2010


It's Electric
Inside the Glass Used in Chevy’s New E-Car Volt
by Penny Stacey



Chevrolet estimates that the Volt will save its owners about 500 gallons of gasoline based on 40 miles of daily driving and 15,000 miles annually.

The all-electric Chevrolet Volt has been one of the most anticipated vehicle launches in recent years, and, though hybrid

vehicles have become more mainstream than in years past, the Volt actually isn’t a hybrid at all. It uses electricity as its primary power source and gasoline as its secondary source to power the vehicle.

Based on its ground-breaking capabilities, it’s no surprise that every single component of the vehicle is engineered to the

The Volt is not a hybrid. Hybrid vehicles require both an engine and a battery to provide full vehicle performance capability, according
to GM.

highest specifications—including the glass. According to Tom Hagen, Chevrolet Volt glass engineer, the company started researching what glass would be used, who would supply it, and more, early in the design process.Pilkington was chosen to supply the glass, based on “quality, cost, service and technical knowledge,” according to Hagen.


As a baseline comparison, Chevrolet estimates that the cost per mile to operate the Chevrolet Volt is approximately two cents per mile electrically.

Glass Stats
The vehicle utilizes solar-resistant glass in all facets—from the windshield to sidelites and backlites—in an effort to not only keep the vehicle cool but also to reduce the load on the vehicle’s air conditioner and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. And Hagen expects we’ll be seeing more of this on vehicles in the future.

“There is an industry and an [Environmental Protection Agency] trend toward achieving solar control in vehicles,” says Hagen.
In addition, the vehicle has an acoustic windshield to reduce the amount of noise that is transmitted through the glass. While acoustic glass is growing in popularity, the Volt had a special need for this due to its electronic design.

“A non-internal combustion vehicle creates a different noise signature than a standard internal combustion vehicle, and, because of that noise signature, we applied these technologies in order to improve the customer experience in the vehicle,” says Hagen.

Hagen says glass has a consistent density per mass of unit, but the thickness does vary—and for the Volt this was no different.

“The only things you can change are the size of the glass and the thickness of the glass. The thickness was optimized for the Volt as we do for all vehicles,” he says.

Aerodynamics also was a key factor in the vehicle’s design.

“The windshield is what we would call a ‘fast rake’ windshield … A more traditional sedan would have a more vertical windshield,” Hagen says. “This one is a little more horizontal and that is done for the aerodynamics of the vehicle.”

This is standard for most fuel-efficient vehicles.

“You’ll find that they’re all very similar,” says Hagen. “In the case of the back window, the installation angle is extremely low—between 14 and 15 degrees; this has been designed this way for aerodynamics. That compares to a sedan, which would be in the 35- to 45-degree angle range.”

The Aftermarket
So what happens when the Volt’s windshield needs to be replaced? Hagen says the process should be somewhat conventional.

“We cannot ignore in our designs that the windshield of the vehicle will be replaced in the life of the vehicle,” he says. “I frequently remove and replace the glass in our vehicles just to prove to myself that our criteria for serviceability is being met.”

Repair should be standard as well, according to Hagen.

And, though the backlite’s defroster is optimized to minimize power consumption and maximize performance, Hagen says it utilizes “similar technology as other vehicles, so from a service standpoint, it’s very similar.”

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine.

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