No one can know, with absolute certainty, how electric vehicles' batteries will perform over the long haul. But manufacturers like Chevy, whose Volt hits streets soon, subject their power cells to all manner of torture to find out.
On March 29, Cliff Kuang took GM's much discussed plug-in electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt, for a spin around Manhattan. Scheduled to begin delivery late this year, the car proved to be phenomenally quiet, smooth, and well-engineered. The design and styling, however, is another story, with lines that fail to excite, and a user-interface that looks, in Cliff's words, like a "fake Chinese iPod."
Like everyone else, the design field braced for the fallout from the financial meltdown. At the time, some of us argued that good things could come from a period of constraint and reexamination. The consumer culture of design had become overwrought, with limited edition candleholders that sell for $2,700.