Interior May Be Key To GM's Volt

GM is committing more than $1 billion to its electric car, the Volt, which is expected to be rolled out in 2010. It's not just the battery power that has obsessed its creators. Tim Greig, who designed the car's interior, says he is most proud of its cup holders.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Finally, back to the auto show for one last discovery about car design from our co-host, Robert Siegel.

ROBERT SIEGEL: I met a proud, expectant papa at the GM exhibit at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

Mr. TIM GREIG (Designer Manager, GM): Well, my name is Tim Greig. I'm the design manager for the Volt interior.

SIEGEL: Volt, as in the billion-dollar Chevy Volt, GM's gestating plug-in car, due date November 2010. This is the car that goes 40 miles on a single battery charge without relying on its back-up engine. To recharge, you plug it in at home overnight, when electricity is cheapest. Tim Greig's project was the interior.

Mr. GREIG: And we wanted to make sure that when you look at the interior, it immediately looked like an electric vehicle. But at the same time, it also looked inviting and still warm, so you would want to sit down and continue to explore the depths of the technology instead of being kind of like turned off by them.

SIEGEL: And so the displays look more like computer monitors than like dashboard displays.

Mr. GREIG: Exactly, kind of a like a laptop.

SIEGEL: This should feel like I'm about to open the Mac and I should - about to do some program on my...

Mr. GREIG: That's great, I...

SIEGEL: On my laptop.

Mr. GREIG: I think that's a compliment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: You've got enough cup holders for a party in here in this...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: In this car. In the rear, you have the seat divided that comes down with lots of cup holders.

Mr. GREIG: Well, there was the fear that, you know, it's a regular car, let's say, but it has this battery running down the center of the vehicle, and it Ts out underneath the rear occupants...

SIEGEL: So, you've got to do something over it.

Mr. GREIG: Absolutely, and we were afraid that would take away space. But at the end of the day, you know, you have to have dual cup holders, right? You have to have places for people to store their, their mobile devices, their cell phones, or what have you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: But it's so funny. If it actually works, I mean, if this car takes off...

Mr. GREIG: And it will.

SIEGEL: I've got a car - yeah, you say it will - you've got a car that you can plug in overnight. For 75 cents you can commute back and forth, and it will be, where are the cup holders? How many...

Mr. GREIG: That's still probably one of the highest priorities.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: How many cups of coffee can we put in this car while we're driving?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: The moral of this story? You can send a man to the Moon, but if he doesn't have space for his Starbucks venti, who's going to go? This is Robert Siegel.

(Soundbite of music)

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Coming up: New approaches to training cadets at West Point; that's when we continue with All Things Considered.

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