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GM Looking Good With New Envision

April 21, 2011

Getting Electric Vehicles Right

In earlier posts I have been tough on GM and its Volt EV. I am happily surprised however by what I see in GM’s new Buick Envision concept EV. A slick looking SUV crossover that complements its stunning good looks with an array of creature comforts and tasty technology. Definitely not your daddy’s Buick Detroit Iron tank of yesteryear.

As often we do on the road with Innovational Musings, we hope to tickle your fancy with glimpses of the past and glimmers of the future. You like like your fancy tickled – don’t you naughty reader. First the future…

Just released from GM…

Shanghai GM announced today that Buick’s new concept SUV, the Envision, will make its global debut in Shanghai on April 18 on the eve of Auto Shanghai 2011.

The Envision was jointly developed by Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC). It integrates global design with local aesthetics for the China market, adhering to Buick’s “dynamic, fluid, quiet and comfortable” design essence. The SUV has an elegant and smooth exterior that emphasizes its modern styling and contemporary sportiness. The Envision is equipped with an advanced plug-in hybrid system and loads of other new technologies, projecting the future of Buick products.

2011 Buick Envision Concept EV & Me

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The highlight of GM’s stand at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show was the Buick Envision SUV Concept that previews design features and technologies that will be used by future Buick models.

The Buick Envision SUV is equipped with GM’s plug-in hybrid system with a direct injection turbocharged 2.0-liter SIDI  engine mated to two electric motors and an 8-speed transmission that can be operated in either automatic or manual modes.

A high-performance lithium battery and a solar energy roof with optical equipment serve as an alternative energy source independent from the engine.

Differing from the plug-in hybrid powertrain, the gasoline engine will power the wheels, but only when significant power is required, such as when driving up a hill or under sudden acceleration. Under low speeds and steady cruising, electricity powers the wheels and when the battery runs out of juice, the gasoline engine will help recharge it.

The Envision’s compact, lightweight chassis is composed of carbon fiber, magnesium and aluminum. Mounted on an MRC electromagnetic suspension with the energy-recycle function, it offers one of the fastest magnetic ride control systems in the world. Damping can be actively regulated according to road conditions to optimize handling. The AWD system lets power be distributed to each 22-inch wheel independently. See more at Edmunds

Buicks and Brushes with the Boss

Buicks & Bosses

1958 Buick Century 50th Anniversary Art Poster

I’ve only owned one Buick. I bought a used 1958 Buick Limited when I got out of the Navy and was going to Ocean County College in 1969. I never met him. But, Bruce Sringsteen was there at the same time and we both wrote for the school’s literary magazine Seascape.

From Springsteen Lyrics site…

Seascape is the literary magazine of Ocean County College, founded in 1964, in Toms River, NJ, where Springsteen spent three semesters  in 1968. He enrolled in September and dropped out in December shortly after his parents moved to California. The January 1969 edition of the magazine contained Springsteen’s first two published writings, a poem presumably entitled “Seascape” and a metaphorical paragraph entitled “My Lady”.

My first two  published works appeared in the May 1969, issue of Seascape. One was a satirical short story (it might have been metaphorical) “Hoer’s Head”  and the other a cheery poem…

“Last Laugh” A Poe-ism

He always got the best of me.

He was always one point up.

I couldn’t beat him anyway

But still, I couldn’t give up.


I caught his laugh in mid-throat.

His face froze in glee.

My fingers knit ’round his neck

But still, he smiles at me.


In August of 1969, I too dropped out and ran from New Jersey and escaped to California. I sold the Buick and headed to San Francisco with my girlfriend and one small box with a couple of records and a pair of boots made of Spanish Leather. I later transfered to SF City College, then graduated from SF State in 1973. During that heady time we lived in Haight-Ashbury and I bought a Harley-Davidson 250 Sprint to cruise the cold foggy streets of SF.

Born to be Wild

SF "69, me and Harley near the old Family Dog and Cliff House on the Great Highway - Those were the Daze...

Buick Built Beauties Before…

Buick is currently the oldest American still-active automotive make, and among the oldest automobile brands in the world. It originated as the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company in 1899, an independent internal combustion engine and motor-car manufacturer, and was later incorporated as the Buick Motor Company on May 19, 1903, by Scottish born David Dunbar Buick in Detroit, Michigan.

1951 Buick LeSabre at Design Dome

This 1951 Buick LeSabre concept car was shot on location at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

Designed by Harley J. Earl’s studio with styling cues from jet fighter planes and used by him for years as an everyday driver, the LeSabre offered a preview of the aircraft styling that followed in the 1950s.

The 1951 LeSabre contained such technological features as a dual gasoline and alcohol fuel system and a moisture sensor, which would raise the convertible top if it began raining when the owner was away from the car.

The GM Technical Center was designed by architect Eero Saarinen and was built in 1950. Occupying 330 acres, its 25 buildings including gatehouses, large laboratories, offices and shop buildings, are arranged along three sides of a 22-acre lake. The one-square-mile complex of engineering facilities is located 12 miles north of Detroit, Michigan.

The Technical Center is the workshop for GM engineers, researchers, stylists, designers, mechanics, machinists, and other specialists. At the Center, the research and engineering projects are conducted over an extended length of time. Engineering staff projects generally look ahead at least three to five years while research projects extend even further into the future.

In addition, the Technical Center handles programs that would be uneconomical or beyond the resources of individual divisions. All styling and design of products is handled exclusively at the Technical Center in individual brand character groups.

Note the Design Dome in the background. The Design Dome’s 188-foot diameter floor can be set up as an auditorium for an audience of more than 1000, or used as an exhibition hall. The outer dome is 65 feet high with a span of 188 feet, and is based on pressure-vessel construction. The aluminum shell is 3/8 of an inch thick-thinner than what an eggshell is to an egg. Official GM Photograph and copy from the General Motors Media Archives.

In 1939, the Styling Division, under Earl’s instruction, styled and built the Buick Y-Job, the motor industry’s first concept car. While many one-off custom automobiles had been made before, the Y-job was the first car built by a mass manufacturer for the sole purpose of determining the public’s reaction to new design ideas. After being shown to the public, the Y-job became Earl’s daily driver

Harley Earl suffered a stroke and died in  April 10, 1969. He was 75 years old.

He is remembered as the first styling chief in the United States automobile industry, the originator of clay modeling of automotive designs, the wraparound windshield, the hardtop sedan, factory two-tone paint, and tail-fins. He said in 1954, “My primary purpose for twenty-eight years has been to lengthen and lower the American automobile, at times in reality and always at least in appearance.” The extremely low and long American cars of the 1960s and 1970s show the extent to which Earl influenced an entire industry and culture. Excerpts from Wikipedia…

Firebirds – Too Cool for School

Two of the three GM firebird concept cars, 1956 and 1959

One of his concept car designs, the turbine-powered Firebird I, is reproduced in miniature on the The Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 Trophy, which goes to the winner of that season-opening NASCAR race.

Harley’s gone, but me and the Boss, well we abide

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2011 1:56 pm

    Just got back from our corporate Earth Day Fair where (among many booths) they had employee owned electric cars on display. Included a Kewet, a 1975 Porsche 914 converted to electric, as well as a few Leafs and Tesla roadsters. You woulda dug it.

    Love the motorcycle shot! Where’s mine?

  2. April 22, 2011 2:27 pm

    Cute Kewet, I hadn’t heard about them. Porsche sounds cool, but I’m loopy for a Shelby Cobra EV. Watch Lisa go.

    Earth Day my compost pile. With me, every day is Earth Day.

    Your bike’s still in the shed running-up a hell of a rental bill. You should have opted for my lesser priced shed.

    Arthur 2Sheds Jackson

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