Volta.......Giugiaro creates a true "Hybrid" Supercar !!
By L.Marvin & A Gardner............Photos by ITALDESIGN & L.Marvin
Jan 15, 2005, 23:59 PST
A high voltage concept & real world technology
Yes, what you see is not some distant technology for another generation. Rather the "VOLTA" is both today's current Hybrid technology from Toyota, but also Fabrizio Giugiaro's reinvention into a modern supercar performance package. Wrapped in an all carbon fiber, F-1 inspired chassis!! What makes this even more amazing is that all of the parts and power systems come straight from the Toyota-Lexus current inventory of production!! What once was a Hybrid power plant for a LX Lexus "SUV" was transplanted and reborn as the first Hybird Supercar of the "green automotive" age!!
Fabrizio Giugiaro explains the finer details to his many fans............Photo L.Marvin 2004
When the Volta was first shown in Geneva at the Auto Salon in spring of this year the Toyota people were running around pulling there hair out over being upstaged. Yet isn't that what defines greatness. The ability to spin straw in gold. The Volta carrys many styling themes seen now in the Scion line from Toyota. Yet these themes are again elevated and combined for an even clear sharper edge. While at Pebble Beach this year, Andrew Gardner and I talked with Fabrizio in depth about the many goals achieved by the Volta project. So as you will see there are many levels of achievement the are crafted in the VOLTA.
The display of expertise in engineering by Italdesign is expected by some, yet comes as a surprise to many. Italdesign is highly acclaimed internationally for its aesthetic achievements, but the great engineering capabilities of this firm are rarely brought to the light. The improvement on carbon fiber chassis construction, the integration of by-wire technology with a hybrid powertrain, and a mechanical steering system which can be moved laterally to accommodate three separate driver positions, are all stuffed into a package of 1150kg and capable of an estimated 300 kph! That's some fantastic engineering.
Success of simplicity of chassis and systems combined
Further design prowess is demonstrated inside the Volta. Fabrizio's latest creation features a 3-seat layout, and a fully customizable driving setup. Much like GM's Hy-Wire concept of 2003, the Volta has a steering unit and pedal group which can be moved from side to side to allow operation of the car from any of the three seats. Then, the steering wheel and the pedals can be moved independently to make a custom fit for drivers of most any proportion.
Fabrizio did improve on one of the Hy-Wire's greatest flaw's n its driver control setup. Where GM's concept had by-wire controls for the steering and the pedals, Mr. Giugiaro used mechanical steering controls, straight out of the upcoming Lexus LX 400h hybrid SUV, in the Volta. Fabrizio said, "I wanted there to be feedback [in the steering]." Thus, he preserved real driving feel for his hot-green-rocket concept. We would expect nothing less.
Fabrizio Giugiaro.........Photo L.Marvin 2004
Fabrizio Giugiaro is on what has to be one of the longest homerun streaks in the world of automotive design. If there is a designer who has the "Midas Touch", Giugiaro's ITALDESIGN continues to redefine the cutting edge of automotive industry. Last year's outstanding Moray Corvette. The Alfa Romeo Brera that won the award as best concept car design. One can only think of what exciting new flavors of automotive passion are possible, on such platfroms like the new Mustang convertible, or maybe a XLR Caddillac, either of which could be sold through dealerships around the world similar to a Saleen.
What strikes us most is that Fabrizio always has the ability to create a new vision of an existing automotive tradition like the Moray Corvette. Yet stay true to the root design passion that is the backbone of a automotive icon brand.
What we got from this desire for electric excitement is a forward thinking design (for a hybrid); a body that is low-slung, with bold, sharp lines, yet is not too wild. It is reminiscent of 1970's Italian concepts, but yet is more fitting of our time than those earlier experimental designs. The Volta's body does not represent a large intellectual leap from current supercars, and is certainly less radical than the Enzo. It is just the first really cool looking car to have electric motors driving the wheels.
In approaching this design, the brilliant son of designer Giorgietto Giurgiaro said he wanted something traditional and Italian, yet not too aggressive. Fabrizio said, "I was thinking of the best Italian way to do it, not extreme. Using big wheels and short overhangs." Big wheels, short overhangs, an Italian-proven formula for great sports cars. But this is the first application of said philosophy to a hybrid-electric platform. Fabrizio's VOLTA has set the "standard" here, if indeed hybrids are the wave of the future.
Carroll Shelby, through his work with Giugiaro on the DeTomaso Pantera project in the 1970's, learned firsthand that Italdesign takes automotive engineering seriously. Shelby said, "I know Giugiaro will spend a million dollars [or more when carbon fiber is involved!] to develop a car." But the general automotive enthusiast world has yet to catch on.
Another surprise in the Volta story is that it is practical, as in the concept car could be fairly easily realized as a production model. It's not some way-out-there one-off. As Fabrizio commented, "I wanted to make this realistic." Not only is the drivetrain borrowed from the upcoming Lexus hybrid SUV, but many of the other parts, such as door handles, have also been drawn from the Lexus parts bin.
So this is how you turn a Lexus SUV into a super(green)car. We have the new sidekick for the Green Hornet here - his politically correct ride for the new millennium. Quick, somebody tell Kevin Smith to work a good chase scene with this car into the script he's working on.
The last question is, can people see this car as a Toyota? Does the badge fit? Well, Fabrizio managed to get the badge to stay on, but is this car believable as a product of a sedan and SUV company? Fabrizio thinks so. He sees this car as, a good expression of [Lexus] technology. Well said. I hope Toyota agrees. I fancy some seat time.
Alessandro Volta did not have global warming in his mind when he invented the battery. He would never have foreseen his invention supplying the juice for a self-propelled vehicle, especially not one that would reach 60 miles per hour from a standing start in four seconds. He would not have dreamt his name would appear stamped on something like this.
Italdesign-Giugiaro's latest masterpiece shows the potential for clean, electric-engine-propelled motoring, and it pays tribute to the man whose name means potential, as in electrical potential.
I feared years ago the extinction of the internal combustion engine and the transition of society to weird looking, slow, electric cars. But, my new hero, Fabrizio Giugiaro, has lit a bright torch to that seemingly dark automotive future.
Fabrizio shared his view saying, "hybrid and electric [cars] are boring, I wanted to do a different hybrid form, create some excitement." Leave it to the Italians to keep the thrill of driving alive. Any automotive product must be exciting in order to be a commerical success. The Volta is the first to live up to that goal, and it's price point could well be within the reach of most consumers!