$40,000 car to revolutionize American commute

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This jump is brought to you by: Joy.Courtesy tbonzzz_6
Get your bells out, everybody, and ring them! The Chevy Volt is here! (In a year.)

GM released new details today about its new gas and electric hybrid car, the Chevy Volt. Using a plug-in battery (as opposed to current, unmodified hybrid cars, which recharge only via the gas engine), GM claims that the Volt should be able to achieve approximately 320 miles to the gallon during city driving. Estimates haven’t been completed for combined city and highway driving, by officials are confident that fuel economy will remain in the triple digits.

The car should have a range of about 40 miles, using its battery alone, at which point the gas engine would kick in. Nearly 80% of Americans, however, commute less than 40 miles each day, so most of the expended energy could come from the electrical grid (the car will plug into a standard outlet), instead of from gasoline.

GM’s chief executive calls the Volt a “game changer.”

Finally, a game-changing American car. Not like those sissy Prius drivers, making smug environmental statements by purchasing impractically expensive vehicles. Sure, the Volt will be entering the game about 9 years late, but it does so with the confidence that every environmentally conscious working-class American with $40,000 to drop on a sweet new car will… wait, what?

What about the rest of GM’s 2010 lineup? They’re cutting more than half of their 30+ mpg cars? But a few Volts on the road should bring that fleet average up, right?

And GM is pushing for environmental responsibility in other areas, at least, right? Oh, they’re pulling out of a partnership that collects toxic mercury from their old scrapped cars?

Well, it was a nice thought. And it’s comforting to hear someone say something like “game changer” now and again.

Weeellllll... it looks like the volt may be kind of an unremarkable car after all. Despite their claims last year that it would get something like 230 miles to the gallon, auto trade magazines are test driving it now, and saying it actually gets mileage in the 30 - 40 mpg range. That's less than a Prius. But don't worry, it's still super expensive. Huh. I mean, I couldn't design a "game-changing" car, but, then again, I never said I would. It turns out, too, that even though GM insisted that it wasn't really a hybrid car, and that the gasoline powered engine would only drive a generator for the battery... that's all not true. The gas engine does charge the battery, but it also will drive the wheels. Prove me wrong, Chevy (or commenters), but is this actually a crappy idea, and not a significant step towards changing our energy use?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Whoops. In the post I say that the volt is a hybrid car. It's not, at least not in the same way as vehicles like the Prius or Insight.

The Volt runs on an electric engine only. The car uses gasoline to power a generator, which in turn recharges the battery. So it still uses gas and electricity, just not in the same way other hybrid cars do. (Other hybrids split vehicle propulsion between a gas-fueled internal combustion engine, and an electric motor.)

posted on Tue, 08/11/2009 - 12:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What a shocking story. I am ex-static that in another 6 years or so I may be able to buy my first used electric motor/gas powered generator hybrid. zzzzt.

posted on Wed, 08/12/2009 - 9:12pm
JackU's picture
JackU says:

The way the Volt works is the way a gas/electric hybrid should work. It's the way most diesel locomotives work. Most of the diesel locomotives around here are really "diesel-electric" locomotives. The diesel part is just a big generator that provides electricity for the drive motors as well as the rest of the train (particularly on passenger trains). The positive thing about the Volt design is that it is much more flexible when it comes to changing the fuel source. When/if hydrogen fuel cells become viable the fossil fuel powered generator can be replaced by a fuel cell. Also the fossil or renewable hydrocarbon fuel of choice might be adaptable down the line.

Now I wasn't aware that GM was dumping half its high mileage cars. But how does that compare to the overall cut in models offered? How is that related to the brand closures? How many of the cut models are Saturns that won't be made because Saturn is going away? What is GM's fleet rating after the model eliminations? If they drop more models at the bottom then the fleet rating could go up even without the Volt.

posted on Mon, 08/17/2009 - 12:01pm

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