Hallman believes his work as a crashworthiness engineer will continue. “We’ll always need to plan for the scenario where a tree falls in front of you at highway speeds,” he told us. “There are a certain number of crashes that can’t be predicted or prevented.”
Delivering EVs to the Masses
GM engineer Josh Tavel wants the Chevy Bolt to appeal to more than enthusiasts.
Josh Tavel, chief engineer of the Chevy Bolt, holds the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award. (Source: General Motors)
Josh Tavel doesn’t want the Chevy Bolt to appeal only to early adopters. He doesn’t want only environmentalists or enthusiasts to buy it.
He wants the mainstream.
A self-described “car guy” and a racing buff, Tavel foresees the battery-electric Bolt having a broad customer base. Consumers who like the Bolt’s cost, range, torque and recharge time, as well as those who never want to visit a gas station again, are all potential customers, he says. “I’ve failed if this only appeals to customers who previously owned a Volt or Leaf,” he told Design News . “I want this to appeal to everybody who has a lifestyle that fits it.”
That, of course, is a tall order for a technology that has yet to pique the interest of the car-buying public. Last year, pure electric cars still made up less than 0.5% of US new car sales.
But Tavel sees good reason for optimism. As chief engineer of the all-electric Bolt, Tavel oversaw the inclusion of features that make for a better car, no matter what the power source. The 60-kWh battery, for example, is engineered in a way that creates more cabin space. The car’s rockers are eliminated, so egress and ingress is easier. The Bolt even offers a “one-pedal mode,” which allows drivers to stop the vehicle without using the brake pedal under certain conditions. Tavel says he uses the one-pedal feature himself, seldom employing the brake pedal on his nightly drives home.
Such features, he says, aren’t obvious to the user, but they serve as design elements that quietly contribute to a better overall experience. “When you have a good product – like an Apple phone – it’s intuitive, but you don’t notice it’s intuitive,” he told us. “It just works. That’s the sign of great engineering.”
Tavel should know, having had a whirlwind ride through GM on numerous product launches. At 37, he has already served as chief engineer on the Bolt and Volt, has managed vehicle integration, chassis controls and vehicle dynamics at GM’s operations in Brazil, has done vehicle dynamics at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds, and has designed steering systems at the automaker’s Janesville, WI, facilities.
None of that comes as a surprise to Tavel, who holds a B.S. in engineering technology from Minnesota State and an M.S. in engineering from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Even while living in Minnesota, he said, he was a fan of the Detroit Lions football team, knowing that he would one day live and work in Detroit. “My parents will