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The 2011 Chevy Volt from GM is the first American-made mass-market electric vehicle.  (Source: GM)
Two top auto magazines agree -- the Volt is a groundbreaking achievement

"Nobody will buy a Volt." "You can't make a profitable electric vehicle."

General Motors has heard it all.  But it has defied its critics and persisted, completing the world's first mass-market plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid.  The vehicle survived an economic downturn, the largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history, and perpetually noisy critics, and is on course to go on sale at dealerships on November 30, 2010.

Now the car has received the distinction of being named the car of the year by two top American automotive publications 
Motor Trend and Automobile.

Motor Trends writes:

In the 61-year history of the Car of the Year award, there have been few contenders as hyped -- or as controversial -- as the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt started life an Old GM project, then arrived fully formed as a symbol of New GM, carrying all the emotional and political baggage of that profound and painful transition. As a result, a lot of the sound and fury that has surrounded the Volt's launch has tended to obscure a simple truth: This automobile is a game-changer.

Chris Theodore, a seasoned automotive engineer and one of the panel judges, enthuses about his surprise at how impressive the Volt's final results were.  He states, "I expected a science fair experiment. But this is a moonshot."

Automobile comments:

In its metamorphosis from 2007 concept car to 2011 production car, the Volt has gone through a reckoning. The turbocharged three-cylinder engine and chunky, Camaro-esque styling have been traded for a normally aspirated four-cylinder and a decidedly pedestrian shape. Claims of 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, a 120-mph top speed, and a total driving range of 640 miles turned out to be the usual concept-car lore. The true numbers are 9.0 seconds, 102 mph, and 350 miles. But the Volt is far deeper than an eco-numbers car. In fact, it's more than just a car. It's an idea. And during the past three years, that idea -- blend the environmental benefits of electric driving with the convenience of gasoline -- didn't change at all.

We've been following the Volt since its first days as a concept.  Given its evolution it's pretty easy to see why the car won these distinctions.

While there were some minor tweaks to the powertrain from the original concept, GM delivered on virtually all of its primary objectives with the vehicle being able to travel approximately 40 miles on a charge and an additional 310 miles on a fuel-efficient gasoline engine.  The price is also right near the long speculated $40K mark, coming in at $40,280 USD, before tax credits, factory incentives, or other subsidies.

The Volt is definitely a groundbreaking work by the American auto industry, which will hopefully soon be followed by Ford's Focus Electric battery EV.  The Volt will go head to head with the 2011 Nissan LEAF EV plug-in which is gasoline-free, but has a shorter 100-mile range.

The Volt could win all the awards in the world and that wouldn't convince some of its detractors.  But for those on the fence, it's important to recall that similar criticisms were leveled against the Toyota Prius.  But that mid-to-low volume mass-market hybrid established Toyota as the world leader in hybrids, a position that it has since profited on tremendously as the technology matured and became profitable.  Now GM is poised in a similar position and this time, it is ready to be the one to take the lead.

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It's not a hybrid
By ralniv on 11/17/2010 7:50:46 PM , Rating: 2
The comparisons with a Toyota Prius are deceptive. The Prius is a gasoline-electric hybrid with limited battery capacity. This means that it consumes gas for nearly all real-world driving situations. The Volt is a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid with substantial battery capacity (hence the bigger price tag). It gives you the choice of operating it as a plug-in EV (with limited range) or a hybrid with extended range. For extended range driving the Prius gives better fuel efficiency. For typical daily driving (for the average person) the Volt gives far better fuel efficiency.

My commute is 28 miles each direction and I have access to high voltage EV charging at work. For me this means that the vast majority of my driving can be in EV mode. Even if I didn't have access to electrical power at work, the Volt would still provide better fuel economy because roughly 2/3 of my commute would be in EV mode and 1/3 in hybrid.

Keep things in perspective. This is the first mass production plug-in hybrid gas-electric car. This platform, and others like it, will make progress in the future. I applaud GM for developing a mass production plug-in EV that offers extended range capability in hybrid mode. It's very pricey compared to a Prius, but it has a lot more battery capacity.

RE: It's not a hybrid
By walk2k on 11/18/2010 4:52:44 PM , Rating: 1
First in the US maybe, you can already buy plug-in Hybrids in Japan and Europe for MANY years now. There is even a plug-in conversion kit for the Prius in US.

There is NOTHING new in the Volt except maybe the idea of using a much larger battery (at the cost of extra expense and weight of course) so you can go faster/longer in electric-only mode.

IF GM had gone with the ORIGINAL design of electric motors driving the wheels and a gasoline generator to recharge the battery on longer trips it would be, but they changed the design at the last minute (aka they LIED).

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