General Motors calls the Chevy Volt an “extended-range electric vehicle,” underlining this “hybrid’s” crucial point of separation from pure electric cars like the LEAF, and from conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius. The Volt operates entirely as an electric car for its first 40 miles after a full charge. It burns no gasoline during those miles, drawing energy from a 400-pound, 16 kWh lithium ion battery pack.
But a 40-mile range isn’t enough to make a car practical, so the Volt also carries a 1.4-liter gas-powered engine that drives a generator—not the wheels—to charge the battery enough to give another 300 miles of range. And that only happens once the battery is exhausted to about 8 kWh of capacity.
When the Volt concept car was unveiled in 2007, it had a muscular, Camaro-like appearance. Since then, GM engineers have modified the car’s shape for greater aerodynamics—resulting in something more similar to the new Chevy Malibu or Cruze. One important factor: The main column of Volt’s T-shaped battery pack runs down through the center of the cabin’s floorboard, limiting seating to four passengers.
GM continues to report that production Volts are on schedule, going on sale in November 2010. In late July, GM announced that the Volt will sell for $41,000, or lease for $350 a month for 36 months with a $2,500 down payment. Like other electric-drive cars that carry at least a 16 kWh battery, the Volt will receive a federal consumer tax credit of $7,500. Early availability will be limited to California; Michigan; Austin, Texas; New York City; and Washington, D.C.—with widening availability to follow in 2011.
Web site: www.chevrolet.com/pages/open/default/future/volt.do
No. of passengers: 4
Battery size: 16 kWh
Range: 40 miles all-electric, plus 300 miles per tank of gas
Max. speed: 100 mph
Availability: December 2010