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September 22, 2007

Chevy Volt: GM's new electric car


GM might actually bring back the electric car with the Chevy Volt. The Volt features a lithium battery that gives the car a 40 mile range, more than most people drive in a day. The car can then be plugged in and fully recharges in about 6 and a half hours. But, what really makes the car unique is the small on-board internal combustion engine which can recharge the battery as you drive. By utilizing this additional engine, driving range between fill-ups could be as much as 640 miles. Quite frankly, I'm really impressed with the Volt, I think GM, or perhaps I should say BobLutz , got it right. However, I am surprised by the aggressive appearance of the Volt. The big wheels and angular look makes it look like a modern muscle car, it actually looks a lot like the newCamero. In some ways that approach seems totally wrong, given how hybrids are distinguished by their cute and aerodynamic design. But that might be the point, after all people who are really into energy efficiency will probably buy the car no matter what it looks like (cough...honda insight). But for the people who were turned off by the somewhat toy-look appearance of many fuel efficient vehicles, the Volt might just what they're looking for. Again, I think GM got it right.


It will be interesting to see how the Volt plays out over the next few years. I think electronically the design is great, but will probably not be very unique to the Volt. My guess is that many if not most of the plug in hybrids will have a similar design with a small engine being used solely to recharge the battery. Volvo also released a similar design: http://jalopnik.com/cars/top/volvo-recharge-plug+in-hybrid-concept-car-296913.php

The biggest difference in the Volvo design is that there is an electric motor powering each wheel independently. While I think eventually this will be the way to go, I think the Volt's design is more practical for the near future. I also like that the Volt is being designed with a very manageable battery-only drive range which is based upon average daily use of most consumers. This will help keep costs down while maintaining maximum impact in reducing fuel consumption.

As to the car design itself, I think that like most concepts, this one will be scaled back in aggressiveness and especially wheel diameter, which is always exaggerated for showing. Personally, I think they should just make them look similar to their regular line, without trying for the jetsons look, especially on some of the more bubblesome designs out there (see Opel and Toyota). The beltline on the Volt looks really high, and I'm thinking it would be a pain to drive with rather shoddy visibility.

In the end though, I'm mostly just hoping that all these design studies make it to market in the promised 2 to 3 year time span. Hopefully by then there will be some nice pressure from the likes of Tesla and Toyota, and we will finally see the promise of plug in hybrids gain some popularity.

I suppose you have noticed the Tesla auto? Have you also noticed the Chevy "grill that smiles"? I think that is just so cool...

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