Tony Posawatz, engineer who oversaw the Chevrolet Volt, retires from GM

Article by Christian A., on July 4, 2012

Tony Posawatz concluded his 30th year in General Motors with a decision to retire to take the time to “see what opportunities exist” beyond GM. Posawatz, aged 52, has held different roles in GM, particularly for vehicle-development and other positions. Posawatz has represented the Chevrolet Volt since before the plug-in hybrid debuted as a concept car.

Posawatz had served as the vehicle line director of the Volt since 2006. He recently told Automotive News that he is taking the time to pause and evaluate his situation and options. Posawatz became the leader of the Volt’s development in March 2006. The Volt was presented as a concept in January 2007 at the Detroit auto show and was launched in December 2010.

Ever since the car made its debut, he has had a major role to discuss its extended-range technology to the public. He has also been representing the Volt during meetings with environmental groups and related topics.

He said that he has had to take on new roles and responsibilities that a vehicle line director typically isn’t concerned about, such as teaming up with utilities on the build-out of charging stations. He has been heading a team that concentrated on cutting costs for the next-generation Volt. He also aided in a plan to make use of the Volt’s technology in other GM vehicles. The Volt is intended to run mainly on battery power.

As soon as the battery power is cut by around 65%, a gasoline generator kicks in to supply electricity to the motors. The Volt has an electric-only range of 25 to 50 miles but when the gasoline engine comes in, the Volt can be driven a hundreds of miles more.

Posawatz had previously served as the planning director for GM’s full-sized trucks. In this capacity, he headed the development of the Chevrolet Avalanche, which was introduced in the 2002 model year. He was a GM scholar when he took his engineering degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. He later got his MBA from Dartmouth College with the assistance of a GM fellowship.

In addition to being a midsize luxury sport sedan, pure electric capacity of the Chevrolet Volt can be seen in its performance-oriented and sleek stance. Making this possible is the combination of a sculpted belt line, with wheels being placed out on the corners and a premium execution. It helps as well that the wheelbase measures 105.7 inches (2,685 mm) with the track in the front widened by 61.2 inches (1,556 mm) and the one in the rear widened as well by 62.1 inches (1,578 mm).

With the front fascia being level and rounded then combined with the grille and the narrowed corners, the air is allowed to easily move around the Volt resulting in a lower drag. On the rear, the edges have been made sharper and with the addition of an excellently designed spoiler, allows for the air flow to be controlled. The back glass and the fact that the windshield has an aggressive rake to it aids as well in lowering not only the drag but even the turbulence.

In developing the Volt, both the design team and the engineering team wanted it be to be the most aerodynamic model in the history of the brand. To make this possible, the team worked in tandem with aerodynamicists and used the wind tunnel of GM in order to come out with its shape.

Since there is less energy used in overcoming the air resistance, this meant it could be used for other functions and this allowed the electric range to have an additional 8 miles with extended range increased by 50 miles.

Director of Design Bob Boniface said that considering that the Volt was set up to be an innovative model, the brand wanted the design to give out that dynamic and smooth statement. He added that you will see at once how refined and technical the execution was. It uses a number of interrelating surfaces, he continued, resulting in crisp, clean creases and edges.

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