Sneak preview: Chevrolet Volt
General Motors gets back into the electric car business with a sleek four-door hatchback with ample head and legroom. Our intrepid reporter hops in the driver's seat.
Tue, Mar 16 2010 at 3:00 PM
POWER-UP: The Chevrolet Volt will run on electricity for about 40 miles. (Photos: Gerri Miller)
In the late 1990s, General Motors produced the electric EV1 car on a limited, leased basis, but by 2002, the company concluded the experiment was a flop. It stopped production and recalled its leases, literally crushing the EVs out of existence.
Now, with concerns over soaring gas prices and the environmental impact of automobile emissions converging to renew demand for alternatives to the internal combustion engine, GM’s Chevrolet division is back in the electric car business with the Volt, a sleek four-door hatchback.
“This is the second most aerodynamic vehicle General Motors has ever built” after the EV1, said Chevy senior project engineer Timothy Perzanowski, showing off the Volt at a Global Green event in Hollywood. “The junior engineers that designed and worked on the EV1 are managers on this program.
“The power electronics in this are fifth or sixth generation beyond what the EV1 was,” he compared. “It’s not that we stopped developing. We didn’t manufacture any cars, but we haven’t stopped developing the hardware and the software.”
Plugged into a standard 120-volt electric outlet for eight hours or a 240-volt outlet for three, “the battery will hold about eight kilowatts and on that, you’ll go about 40 miles,” said Perzanowski. “After that, the gasoline generator kicks in and you can go another 300 miles.” A single charge costs about $1.
Inside, the inaugural 2011 model has ample leg and headroom, plenty enough for this 6-foot-1-inch writer. “I don’t know if it’s quite as big as the Malibu, but it has more headroom for me than most,” said the even taller Perzanowski, noting that men who are 6 foot, 7 inches tall sat in the car and they were comfortable.
The Volt will be available toward the end of the year, launching first in California, Michigan and Washington, D.C. The base price is yet to be determined, but Perzanowski said it’s going to be priced at the lower end of the market.
“But it is new technology so it will cost a little more than an internal combustion car,” he added.