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Chevy Blazer Shows How EV Shift Will Transform Vehicle Layouts

Image courtesy of General Motors Co. Chevrolet Blazer EV.png
2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV
Even the styling of EVs like the Blazer will be different, and not just because they don’t need a grille in front.

The styling of new vehicles is a topic of significant focus and attention because it is one of a vehicle’s most obvious attributes. But styling is often substantially dictated by vehicles' engineering, points out Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions.

The need to combine the packaging of front-wheel-drive internal combustion engine powertrains with crash safety and pedestrian protection requirements has pushed vehicle styling to the tall, awkward appearance of so many of today’s vehicles.

“Typically, this gave front-wheel drive vehicles a longer front overhang when rear-wheel drive vehicles could move the axle further forward, providing a longer-looking nose,” Fiorani writes in the AFS Monthly newsletter.

“To balance the look of the long overhang, the rear axle would usually also move toward the center of the vehicle. Shortening the wheelbase, relative to the length of the vehicle, would compromise the ride and could make the vehicle look stubby.”

Battery-electric EVs don’t suffer the architectural constraints that FWD ICE vehicles do, presenting opportunities for increased passenger and cargo volume as well as rebalanced proportions that look better and deliver dynamic advantages. Fiorani cites the example of the new 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV in comparison to the 2022 ICE Blazer.

“Engineers stretched the wheelbase by 331mm, he pointed out. “With the EV and ICE models being similarly sized, the wheels on the EV could now be located much closer to the corners of the vehicle.”

This also contributes to additional cabin space, with the wheel wells moved further outside the cabin. “So often, dramatic design comes at the expense of spaciousness, but the Ultium platform really helped give us the best of both worlds,” said Blazer interior designer Justin Salmon in the vehicle’s introductory video.

The General Motors Ultium electric drive platform delivers on the promise of a “skateboard” platform that GM made when it showed the Autonomy concept car at the 2002 Detroit auto show. The idea was to create a matrix of parts that could be arranged as needed to suit the application.

Image courtesy of AutoForecast Solutions, General MotorsBlazer comparison.png

The 2022 Chevrolet Blazer (top) has a much shorter wheelbase than the 2024 Blazer EV (bottom).

Now, the 2024 Blazer EV will illustrate that capability, as the vehicle will be available with electric motors driving the front wheels, or the rear wheels, or all four wheels, depending on the configuration the buyer selects. The top-of-the-line AWD Blazer SS will feature 557 horsepower and up to 648 lb-ft of torque.

This is obviously more than everyday drivers will want to pay for, which is why they will also be able to buy models that use just a front electric motor for the security of front-drive traction in slippery conditions or just a rear motor for sporty power delivery.

“The great thing about the Blazer EV is that there’s a model for everybody,” explained Bret Dick, Blazer's lead performance engineer. “We have a rear-wheel-drive, a front-wheel-drive, and an all-wheel drive, so it fits your lifestyle,” he said. “That is the advantage of the Ultium platform.”

“Removing a number of the limitations included in internal combustion design, not the least of which are heat removal, exhaust treatment, and removal, and fuel tank protection, will allow for a new level of vehicle design,” Fiorani observed.

Image courtesy of General Motors Co.Cadillac-Lyriq-Chassis-Video-001.jpeg

The Ultium platform's flat layout makes it easy to employ for a variety of vehicles while adding or deleting electric motors and battery modules lets buyers tailor their vehicle to their needs.

Protecting the space for the available front-drive electric motor in the Blazer precludes this model from offering a front trunk storage space as in the Ford F-150 Lightning. While turning space vacated by the ICE powertrain into storage space might sound simple, in practice it is challenging, according to Ford’s vice president of electric vehicle programs, Darren Palmer. “If you think that is easy, think again,” he said at the truck’s media introduction. “Everything you need is in there: brakes, air conditioner, things like that.”

Relocating those items while addressing crash safety and still having a useable storage volume takes effort, but the benefit of having that lockable enclosed storage space is tremendous for pickup trucks like the F-150, making the effort worthwhile.

The ability to include a longer wheelbase, with the dynamic and styling benefits that accrue, along with the flexibility to mix and match drivetrain parts or to provide for additional storage capacity are all examples of the effect that the switch to electric power will have on upcoming cars. If their proportions help them look better at the same time, so much the better.

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