Despite its recent financial woes, General Motors has decided to will continue with its plan to release its electric automobile, the Chevrolet Volt. Bob Lutz, GM’s new Vice Chairman of Global Product Development, has insisted that the company will stand by its commitment to add the Volt to its product line. I was excited to hear this news, as it will be the automaker’s best chance at competing with the hybrid auto market that is currently dominated by Toyota and Honda.
After seeing the concept and production versions through news releases and at the North American International Auto Show, I was fascinated by the idea of viable plug-in electric vehicle. General Motors attempted to break into this market with the EV1 in the 1990s, but that particular model just never caught on. The automaker went back to the drawing board for the design of the Volt.
The Chevrolet Volt is one of the first production vehicles to rely entirely on an electric motor for propulsion. A typical hybrid uses the electric engine only during processes that consume a lot of fuel, such as acceleration. Drivers will use a special attachment to plug the vehicle into any standard household outlet. This will charge the lithium ion batteries and offer a zero-emission travel range of up to 40 miles. If a driver has to take a longer trip than the standard 40 miles, the Volt utilizes a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine to recharge the car’s batteries. This process will cause the vehicle to release a small amount of emissions into the environment. Once the battery is charged to an acceptable level, the gasoline engine shuts off and the Volt continues operating solely on the electric engine. The Volt is expected to achieve an equivalent of over 100 miles per gallon based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new fuel efficiency standards. This will be the first production vehicle to reach this mark. Initial estimates indicate that the car will start at $ 40,000.
It’s good to see that General Motors is attempting to pioneer this technology rather than attempt to carve out a niche in the already crowded hybrid market. Detroit has been known for churning out the same types of vehicles year after year. Many critics say that this is part of the reason for the Detroit 3’s recent financial woes. By undertaking a project as revolutionary as the Volt, GM has sent a clear signal to the world that it intends to stay on the cutting edge of technology. Let’s hope it is well received by consumers able to afford that hefty price tag.