The future of General Motors — the most electrifying part of it, at least — will be the responsibility of Frank Weber, a self confessed independent thinker and tinkerer.
He will be responsible for the daily operational tasks of bringing the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car to market by 2010. Developing the Volt and its E-Flex powertrain could contribute greatly towards recasting GM as the world’s most advanced and environmental automaker — one that can do what even Toyota can’t.
It’s uncharted territory for Weber’s team of more than 200 engineers and 45 designers, demanding breakthroughs in battery technology and in dozens of other areas, and high expectations for style and value.
GM chose Weber for the Volt project for more than his inner grease monkey. He is credited with skillful leadership as director of advanced-concept engineering in GM’s European Technical Centers. Before that, he worked on the team that planned the global midsize vehicle line that will begin to reach customers later this year, starting with the Opel Insignia, which will eventually replace the Astra in some markets. It comes as no surprise then that only two months after unveiling the Volt at the 2007 Detroit auto show, GM picked him to lead the project.
GM has set a November 2010 deadline for delivering the Volt, less time than it would normally allot to develop a less-complicated, conventionally powered vehicle.
GM says the Volt could travel 60 Kilometers — the average commuter daily travel distance – without a drop of fuel. It would have a small petrol or diesel engine to extend its range beyond that in cycles that would alternate between internal combustion and electrical power generation although only the electrical system would power the vehicle at any time.