Evidence points to Chevrolet’s new Bolt electric vehicles coming from the moon.
Well, in a roundabout way it did, evolving from the lessons GM learned in helping to develop the first Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) that made the trek to the moon aboard Apollo 15 in 1971. The Lunar Rover also featured a wheel hub motor at each corner, a set-up widely used today on electric all-wheel drive vehicles.
“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,” said Lunar Rover project chief engineer Ferenc Pavlics, now retired. “We pushed the boundaries of automotive technology and worked hand in hand with the astronauts on the vehicle’s design.”
Pavlics sees the connection between his work then and GM’s work on electrified vehicles now, with engineers exhibiting the same commitment to innovation in producing today’s electric vehicles, such as the 2017 Bolt.
Like the LRV, which was designed from a clean sheet with a revolutionary new drivetrain, and unique suspension and 32-inch wheels (made of woven steel), the 2017 Bolt required a new architecture to provide a unique take on the current crop of electric vehicles. It too has a unique drivetrain, including regeneration on demand, 1-pedal operation and electronic precision shift.
On the other hand, the bar has been raised considerably over the nearly half century since the notion of creating an electric vehicle in which astronauts could go joyriding around the moon’s surface.
For example, the Lunar Rover had a range of about 92km, while Bolt’s falls just shy of 385 km. The Bolt’s top speed of 148 km/h is exponentially better than the 13 km/h in the LRV, whose combined power output was a full horsepower. Bolt gets 200. Mind you, it also weighs in at 1,616 kg, nearly eight times that of the LRV, which tipped the scales at 223 kg.
And you do have to pay a lot for that kind of innovation — an estimated $38 million US back then — whereas you can get into a Bolt for as little as $43,195 Canadian (before government rebates). And you don’t have to wear space suits while using it.