The Electric Car Isn't Dead! Here Comes the Chevy Volt

By Eliza Strickland | September 17, 2008 7:17 am

Chevy VoltDuring a celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of General Motors, the company unveiled a prototype of its long-awaited electric car, the Chevy Volt. Experts say the Volt, which is expected to hit showrooms in late 2010, has the potential to both revitalize the struggling car company and to change American’s expectations of what an automobile can do: GM has said that the Volt should be able to drive 400 miles on a full charge and a full tank. “We’re reinventing the automobile,” [GM executive Rick] Wagoner said…. GM has placed huge bets on the car, reportedly investing at least $500 million in its development [Los Angeles Times blog].

The Volt’s technology differs from the system used in Toyota’s hybrid Prius, which has two motors. The Volt will have only one electric motor, powered by its new battery, and will go up to 40 miles without using a drop of gas. For the nearly 80% of Americans who drive less than 40 miles a day, that would mean they could effectively eliminate gasoline from their lives. After 40 miles, the Volt’s gas engine switches on, but unlike the Prius’s, it doesn’t make the car move so much as an inch [Time]. Instead, the gas engine generates electricity to charge the car’s battery, allowing the driver to go several hundred more miles before either filling up the gas tank or plugging in the car.

GM officials say that their ace in the hole bears the Chevrolet badge for a reason: From the Aveo to the Corvette ZR1, every product branded as a Chevy should be “as American as apple pie and baseball.” That means widespread consumer appeal is critical. But with its initial production limited, can the Volt really become a mass-audience game changer? [Popular Mechanics] GM officials have said that they plan to produce 10,000 Volt sedans in the first year, and will gradually increase production to 60,000 per year, but some experts have questioned whether the critical lithium-ion battery technology is ready for mass production.

GM hasn’t announced the Volt’s pricing, but it’s expected to cost between $30,000 and $40,000 [AP]. That price tag doesn’t seem to be scaring off some enthusiasts, though; as of today, over 40,000 people have signed up to an unofficial Chevy Volt wait list run by fans.

Image: © GM Corp.

  • Jalal

    thats great, hope we can see cheaper electric cars soon without even using the gas

  • Randy Scott

    Once again the pop media, including technology writers, demonstrate that they don’t understand the difference between an electric vehicle, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.

    The Prius does not have “two motors” – it has a large electric motor and a small gasoline engine – as does the latest promise of the Chevy Volt. This is a hybrid, but with plug-in capability, and technologically under-educated writers are still calling it an electric car.

    These writers also have not caught on to the fact that Detroit automakers have no intention of producing electric cars. If they did, then Chevy would not have crushed all their EV1s, a successful electric vehicle that was described by corporate stooges as “unsuccessful”.

  • Tom

    ‘Hybrid’ implies that the car can move from more than one source of energy, such as electricity AND gasoline. The Prius does this: the electric motor can move the wheels, as can the gasoline engine. The transmission has a splitter.

    The Chevy Volt ONLY has the electric motor able to move the wheels. The gasoline engine is used solely for turning the generator which makes electricity for the batteries and the electric motor. The gasoline engine has no connection to the wheels, so in this sense, the Volt is an ELECTRIC car. You plug it in to charge the batteries for an ELECTRIC car. Once the batteries are depleted, you can recharge them on the fly with the onboard generator. If you have no gasoline, it is a pure electric car. With the Prius, if you have no gasoline, it won’t go.

    GM did not sell the EV1 because it cost $80,000 to make last century. The battery technology was not there (nickel metal hydride back then).

    With the new automotive lithium-ion batteries, it’s a game changer. Even now, they are NOT QUITE ready, but should be by 2010.

  • greenskidusautoparts

    As electric cars take off, you will probably start to see parking lots equipped with charging stations. These existed in California before they abandoned their electric vehicle mandate. It’s a gradual transition that will take some time.

  • The Daily Times

    An interesting view of the automotive industry. Where do you see the future of the industry, will it ever recover or will there be major casulties?

  • Terry

    Before we see a large number of parking lots offering to charge your car while you shop, the electrical grid will need to be upgraded to handle the demand.

  • Goutheesh Bir

    Thank you for your wonderful article! It has been extremely useful. I wish that you will continue sharing your knowledge with us.


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