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Volt gains "Sport" mode and works out some of its noise issues

The 2011 GM Volt is generating unprecedented hype as the highest profile upcoming mass-market electric vehicle.  With the U.S. government and automakers worldwide all betting big on electric vehicles, General Motors has done perhaps the best job at promoting its upcoming vehicle.

The vehicle is currently in the pre-production testing phase, in which the final bugs in the prototypes are ironed out via minor changes, largely to the vehicle's software and mechanical settings.  A fleet of prototype Volts completed a long test-drive journey and engineers are now using the data collected to tweak the Volt.  They hope to minimize its problems in the process.

James Riswick, an editor with, recently took one of the mules out for a test drive to measure their progress on this front.  He reports, "[The Volt] is sort of on the more fun to drive hybrid.  The suspension is a little firmer, than say, in the Prius, which is on the floaty, comfortable side.  This is not a sports car by any means, but actually the electric power steering is reasonably direct and well weighted."

In his opinion, the noise when driving under gasoline generator is minimal and seems like "white noise". However, when stopping, a more "rough" unpleasant sound was heard – GM says they're working on this issue.  Overall, Riswick says the car is "pretty darn normal" and that "It drives like a pretty nice car"

However, as many have noted a couple of pivotal unknowns remain -- the Volt's finalized real world gas mileage and cost.  The Volt will be available in all 50 states when it debuts, according to GM.  It will be available for around $40,000, plus a $7,500 federal tax credit, which brings it to approximately $32,500 (excluding additional hybrid tax breaks in certain states).  However, this price could be bumped significantly higher or lower still.

The vehicles will currently recharge in about 8 hours household 120-volt current, while special 240-volt charging stations can charge it in only 3 hours.  GM estimates the car's fuel economy to be 230 mpg, but this value has yet to be confirmed in real world independent testing.  One of GM's top priorities has been trying to tweak the gas mileage upwards during the testing cycle.

One detail that has not been widely publicized is the new vehicle's "sports mode".  Activated by a Sport button on the center stack, the feature makes the throttle more receptive and increases its ultimate limit, bumping 0 to 60 mph acceleration down to 9 seconds.  The Volt's urge to scoot increases in the mode, though.  Like most cars, the Volt also provides an electronic version of a "Low" gear similar to that found in normal cars, which allows faster deceleration.  GM recommends the Low mode for driving on slopes or in stop and go.

One disappointment is that the Volt and other Lithium-ion battery-powered electric vehicles may not be viable in hotter climates, such as some states in the American Southwest.  Despite the fact that Volts will be sold in these states, performance may be significantly undermined due to the heat.  Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah describes, "The Volt may not be right for everyone. If you live in the Southwest, depending on how you use your car, the Volt might not be right for you."

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RE: Toom high a cost
By bjacobson on 11/30/2009 2:59:41 PM , Rating: 4
*ahem* In a true "market economy" GM would not be around, because apparently enough people don't want their cars to justify GM's existence.

RE: Toom high a cost
By room200 on 11/30/09, Rating: 0
RE: Toom high a cost
By cscpianoman on 11/30/2009 3:45:14 PM , Rating: 3
Many companies would exist and thrive if the gov't would keep their hands off. The reason subsidies, tax breaks and bailouts exist is because the gov't is taxing companies and people out of existence and yet in return we are gifted with more and more regulations and a debt that, unless something were to change drastically, will put a not so good economy into utter failure. A true market is about balance and creating competition. Companies rise and fall in a true market and just like evolution, the strong will thrive and the weak collapse.

Now, don't get me wrong you have to have a stable gov't to allow a true market to exist and there has to be monitoring to make sure everyone plays by the rules. But when the gov't gets to the point of handing out tax breaks just to keep a company alive, then you know the gov't has gotten a little out of control in it's taxing, spending and regulating.

RE: Toom high a cost
By IvanAndreevich on 12/1/2009 4:04:26 AM , Rating: 3
I think many Americans may be happy about a company's demise because they respect the constitution, free market economy, and don't want to support failed businesses out of their pocket. Makes good sense to me.

RE: Toom high a cost
By room200 on 12/1/2009 2:10:34 PM , Rating: 2
You know, you guys trumpet this free market, constitution crap as if it makes you some expert on economics. There will never be a true free market economy. The higher ups will always find a way of making things unfair by manipulating EVERY situation or changing laws, or buying politicians, to their advantage. Yet, while suckers like yourself are trumpeting this free market, constitution garbage (because it sounds good and gets the flags a wavin'), big business is laughing all the way to the bank. Free market my ass.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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