GM debuts the Chevy Volt
By Peter Valdes-Dapena
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.
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 Volt
GM 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.
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 center seating position in the back.
The interior has a futuristic design, but it maintains the twin-cockpit look derived from the classic Corvette sports car, which has become a trademark design in recent Chevrolet cars.
The gear selector, when pushed forward into the “Park” position, sits in an opening in the car’s dashboard creating a smooth appearance. Once the car is turned on, it can be pulled back to “Drive.”
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.
A wing incorporated into the trailing edge of the roof also helps to smooth airflow helping fuel economy.
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.
The Volt will have a central display screen – similar to one in a Toyota Prius hybrid – that 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 roll out another plug-in vehicle in 2009, the Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid SUV. That vehicle will be a standard hybrid vehicle, meaning that both gasoline and electric power will move the wheels.
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.
Ford Motor Co. has exhibited a vehicle with a drive system similar to the Volt’s and has allowed journalists to drive the vehicle. But Ford has not announced any plans to produce such a vehicle for consumers, citing the high price of battery technology.
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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