Special Reports

Volt preview: future of electric cars?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Action News met the Volt team in an out of the way parking lot in Washington DC. It was nothing fancy; just an RV, a course marking in orange cones and a shiny Chevy Volt with 600 miles on it. For a car that uses cutting edge technology, even called a "game changer" by some in the industry, our first impression was that it appeared very main stream. The Volt has four seats, four doors and is about the size of a Toyota Corolla. Inside you flip a gear selector to drive and go!

One of the first things you notice is how quiet it is, which analysts say is a plus about electric vehicle driving.

General Motors calls the Volt an extended range electric, the first of its kind.

The dashboard looks like a Mac book, with white, shiny, plastic, computer type screens.

Action News reporter John Rawlins took the Volt for a test drive, he describes the steering as precise, the brakes feeling good and the car feeling solid.

As an electric the Volt's range is about 40 miles a charge. General Motor's says if you live in Broomall and commute to Center City Philadelphia, a round trip of 31 miles, unlike a hybrid car you wouldn't burn a drop of gasoline.

The car's charge time is between 3 to 8 hours depending on your outlet voltage. GM estimates the cost of that charge at about a $1.00.

"It can be your everyday vehicle, load up 4 passengers and have room in the back to store your stuff. The difference is you are driving electrically instead of burning gas," said Dave Darovitz of Chevrolet.

But what if your commute is longer or you want to drive to the shore? This is what makes the Volt unique; it has a dashboard icon that signals when it is low on battery power an onboard gasoline engine starts generating power for the batteries. The engine doesn't turn the wheels like a hybrid.

"It's an electric car that won't leave you stranded," said Volt Product Manager Cristi Landy.

The first Volts are expected to go on sale late this year with features like a smart phone app that will allow owners to remotely check on the charging of their Volt's.

But there is a lot we don't know. GM has yet to explain how it calculated the much hyped claim it made last summer that the Volt will get 230 mpg in some cases. Nor has anything official been said about the Volt's warranty or even its price. There is speculation that it could run between $30,000 and $40,000 but GM is not saying yet. They don't plan on making that announcement until a month or so before production.

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