Women in Science

Female Engineers Put Buzz into GM's Volt

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Female automotive engineers recently talked about the nationwide launch this summer of the Chevrolet Volt, the first mass-produced electric car by General Motors. The event was designed to focus on women's interest in engineering.

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An Electric Car First

The goal for the Volt team was to make an electric car with wide-range capability. Although the Volt can use gas, Gross says it is an electric car first.

She says 78 percent of drivers travel less than 40 miles a day. The Volt can travel for 25 to 50 miles on electricity alone depending on conditions.

For the next 340 more miles, the car uses electric and gasoline power, making the four-seater appropriate for a small family, said Pam Fletcher, chief engineer for Volt and Plug-In Hybrid Propulsion Systems.

The car takes up to 10 hours to charge and requires a three-pronged, 120-volt outlet, which can be found in most homes. There is a button to lower the charge to avoid fuse blowouts. A 240-volt charger, which comes with installation costs, can reduce charging time to four hours.

Gross said that General Motors found that 50 percent of cars are parked at home or at work. Based on this, Gross is working to make chargers accessible at home first and then work locations.

The Volt team is also trying to make the car more accessible to apartment residents, who may not have a place to charge the vehicle.

The Web chat was presented as a chance to discuss women's interest in engineering, but the majority of the questions were about the car itself and its operation.

But one participant did describe herself as a female General Motors automotive technician interested in becoming an engineer.

"I just wanted to say that I very much appreciate you all taking the time to talk to us all about the Volt," wrote a woman identified as Tiffany Rose on the Web-hosting page for comments. "And your experience as professional women in the field. It has been an inspiring experience!"

"Tiffany, thanks for your note," Quigley responded. "We all encourage you to continue your formal education for an engineering degree. You've already got the hands-on experience with your current job. All the best in your future endeavors."


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Katherine Rausch is an editorial intern at Women's eNews and a freelance writer with a degree in journalism.

For more information:

Live Chat with Female Leaders of the Chevrolet Volt:

National Science Foundation Statistics:

Engineers' Earnings, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

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I am the 'fly in the ointment' today on this issue.
Electricity availability is often stretched to its limits already, today, given our increasing uses for all manner of electronic and other electric gadgets, appliances, and lighting. We consider these to be necessary, as life would be more simple and less 'efficient' without them.
Electricity is often from dangerous and severely polluting (nuclear and coal) sources.
Electricity production often uses water resources so heavily that inadequate safe water remains for crop production, drinking, and cleaning.
PLEASE, encourage less use of cars altogether. This was an invention of 100 or so years ago, and has steadily been destroying more and more lives, both human and other. To use a car seldom requires a rethink of one's life. That is overdue for many. A message of love.