General Motors has unveiled the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, the much-anticipated combination electric-gasoline that will be able to run up to 40 miles without using its small gasoline engine to produce electricity. 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 operate about 40 miles without using gasoline.
“The Volt symbolizes GM’s commitment to the future,” said Rick Wagoner, GM’s chairman and CEO.
General Motors did not announce pricing for the car, which will have the equivalent of about 150 horsepower and a top speed of 100 mph, accordin to GM.
To charge the batteries, drivers will plug a cord into one of the ports just ahead of each of the side mirrors. The cord can then be attached to an ordinary home electrical outlet.
The car, according to a GM release, will cost “less than purchasing a cup of your favorite coffee” to recharge. It will 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.
Unlike hybrid cars, or plug-in hybrids, the Volt wiill be driver only be electricity. The gasoline engine will never directly drive the car’s wheels.
The Volt will seat four, not five as some other cars its size can, according to GM. The space required by the battery pack would not allow for a back center seating position.
The Volt’s battery pack goes where the “transmission tunnel” would be in a conventional rear-wheel-drive car. That means the batteries don’t take up cargo space as they do in some hybrid cars. Unlike its smoothly rounded front, the back end of the car has a sharp, angular shape. In the rear, where air flows together as it trails off from the vehicle, sharp angles help smooth air flow.
Beyond its advanced electric drive system, the Volt isn’t 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.
The Volt will have a central display screen, similar to one in a Toyota Prius hybrid. It will show how the car is using electric power, when the batteries are being charged and whether the gasoline engine is turned on.
GM is also planning to introduce another plug-in vehicle in 2009, the Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid SUV. It will be a standard hybrid vehicle, utilizing gasoline and electric power.
Press Release courtesy of www.gm.com.
Article Last Updated: September 16, 2008.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.