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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GM begins selling electric car - Chevrolet Volt

General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicleA US car company has finally launched an electric vehicle to the public that may be able to compete with Japanese electric hybrids. I'm glad to see a US company looking at new consumer economic realities and demands. Lets hope that electric cars are the wave of the future and are here to stay....


DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle on Tuesday, allowing outsiders their first full look at the car GM says will go on sale in 2010.

"The Volt symbolizes GM's commitment to the future," said Rick Wagoner, the company's chairman and CEO.

The Volt will be driven by electricity stored in a large T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack running the length of the car. After charging for several hours, the Volt will be able to run for up to about 40 miles without using gasoline.

GM did not announce pricing for the car, which will have the equivalent of about 150 horsepower and a top speed of 100 mph, the automaker said.

To charge the batteries, drivers will plug a cord into one of the ports just ahead of the driver's side mirror. The cord can then be attached to an ordinary home electrical outlet.

The car will cost "less than purchasing a cup of your favorite coffee" to recharge, and use less electricity annually than a refrigerator. The Volt should cost less than 2 cents per mile to drive on electricity, GM said, compared to 12 cents a mile on gasoline at a price of $3.60 a gallon.

As the battery begins to run down as the car is in use, a small gasoline engine will turn on and generate enough electricity to drive the car about 300 miles.

The car's zero-to-sixty time will be under nine seconds, said GM vehicle line director Tony Posawatz. That would make the performance about average for a modern car.

"The center of gravity of the car, with the center battery pack, it's going to have real great ride and handling," said Posawatz.

Disappointed fans
Unlike hybrid cars, or plug-in hybrids, the Volt is driven only be electricity. The gasoline engine never directly drives the car's wheels.

Based on photos released last week - inadvertently, GM says - many people posting comments on car blogs have expressed disappointment that the production car does not look as angular and aggressive as the original concept vehicle.

"The majority of [the comments] are negative," Lyle Dennis, a New Jersey neurologist who runs the blog GM-Volt.com, said last week. "A lot of people are saying they're very disappointed and 'take me off the [waiting] list.' "

2011 Chevrolet VoltGM regularly uses the Volt concept car, introduced at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, in its advertising, identifying it as "future product."

That concept car's angular face wasn't aerodynamically efficient enough to make it to the final version as GM engineers and designers tried to extract every extra foot of "all electric" range from the car, GM designers have said.

Keeping it simple
Beyond its advanced electric drive system, the Volt isn't particularly high-tech. Engineers and designers wanted to keep the experience as familiar to drivers as possible. Besides, lots of electronic gadgetry inside the car would have used electric power needed to offer the maximum gasoline-free driving range.

Other companies, including Toyota and Nissan, have also announced plans to have plug-in cars of some type on the market by 2010. So far, the Volt is the only one of its type, running on electricity only but with on-board power generating capability.

This first-generation Chevy Volt is expected to be fairly expensive, Posawatz conceded. (Some reports have put the price at $40,000.) But GM is not looking to make much money, if any, on the car, he said.

GM is expecting to produce at least 10,000 Volts in the car's first year and higher numbers after that, he said.



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Author's Note: Toyota's first production electric vehicle, the Prius, appeared in Japan in 1997. Prius debuted in American showrooms in 2000. The second-generation Prius that we know today arrived in 2003, and was the first vehicle with Hybrid Synergy DriveĀ®. The rest, as they say, is automotive history.

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