Beginning December 2010, the Chevrolet Volt will be on sale in limited quantitites and in limited markets in the United States. This unique car, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and supplemented by a 1.4-liter four cylinder engine, has been in the works for several years. The hype has far exceeded the product’s impact, nonetheless the Chevy Volt could eventually lay the groundwork for future vehicles utilizing what GM calls its Voltec technology.
What is so special about the Volt? Many things including that it will allow GM to finally say that it has built and sold an electric car. GM did build a modern electric car dubbed the EV1 beginning in the 1990s, but that program was canceled. GM never got beyond the test phase for those vehicles and received criticism for “killing the electric car” with some people suggesting a widespread conspiracy with the oil companies.
Conspiracy theory aside, the earlier electric vehicle or EV likely cost too much to produce and that technology wasn’t as advanced as what will be found in the Chevy Volt. For one, the lithium-ion battery pack is far superior than the nickel-cadmium pack used in the EV1, offering better range and lighter materials. In addition, the testing GM has been doing with the Volt demonstrates that the car won’t wilt under Arizona desert driving conditions or freeze up in a Minnesota winter.
The Volt shares the same platform underpinning its Chevrolet Cruze compact, but these two models are starkly different from each other. The Chevy Volt has a unique body, aerodynamically designed to enhance fuel economy at all times. As designed, the Volt will run on battery only power for the first 40 miles of drive before the supplemental gas engine kicks in. This extended range electric vehicle should be able to travel more than 340 miles on a full tank of gas and much further with additional fill ups. A nightly recharge will replenish the battery allowing the car to operate in electric-only mode once again.
So why buy a Volt and not a conventional hybrid vehicle such as the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight? Well, the Chevy Volt will offer far superior fuel economy, consuming less than half of the amount of gasoline the typical hybrid uses. In addition, when operating in electric-only mode, the Volt will emit zero emissions, something no hybrid can claim.
Certainly, the $41,000 price tag will limit the number of people willing to give the Volt a try. But, that price tag is reduced by $7,500 for people eligible to take the federal rebate. In addition, in some states, such as California, a $5,000 rebate is also available. That means your Volt, which will come with all of the amenities you want, will cost you about $28,500 plus license, taxes and tags.
Lastly, fuel savings should amount to about 500 gallons annually for the person who drives her Volt 15,000 miles annually. With gas prices averaging $3 per gallon that is an additional savings of $1500 per year or $15,000 for ten years.