Finally, after months of speculation, marketing hoopla, and just plain old media hype, the first GM Chevrolet Volt electric cars went out to waiting Chevy dealerships and the customers who ordered them months before. The Volts, containing an electric engine as the main power driver, with a small gasoline or biofuel “range extender” engine to charge the car’s lithium ion battery pack when it runs out of “steam”, can enable the vehicle to travel as much as 379 miles before recharging the batteries and refilling the car’s small fuel tank according to sources at GM.
When comparing this car with other electric models, including the Renault Fluence all electric car using Israel entrepreneur Shai Aggasi’s Better Place’s exchangeable battery pack system the new Chevy Volt is more like a hybrid car than one whose total power is based on electricity only.
Volts on their way to market
Hybrid type or not, GM’s gamble to introduce an American made electric car to the USA is something that GM’s marketing people are taking very seriously, especially Chevrolet’s Volt marketing director, Tony DiSalle, who was quoted as saying:
“Today is a historic milestone for Chevrolet. We have redefined automotive transportation with the Volt, and soon the first customers will be able to experience gas-free commuting with the freedom to take an extended trip whenever or wherever they want.”
The announced shipment was not the first delivery of these cars, as earlier this year, 15 Volts were delivered to people who had ordered them under a special preview campaign. They became the first test cases for the car which can go for 35 miles on a single battery charge before the fuel driven range extender engine is needed. The range extender does not actually power the car, as it does in a hybrid car like a Toyota Prius that are commonplace in many countries, including Israel.
Meanwhile, total electric cars like Renault’s Fluence and Nissan’s Leaf models are only expected to be commercially on the road sometime next year.
General Motors, once the largest automotive corporation in the world, has undergone significant changes since filing for bankruptcy in early 2009. Once the “bread and butter” stock portfolio darling of many portfolio investors, GM’s stock actually ceased trading after plunging to virtually nothing.
From five major automobile manufacturing divisions, GM now only has three: Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac, with many of the lower end Chevrolet models made offshore in Korea. The Volt is a big gamble for GM and one that the company cannot afford to lose. Being America’s only mass-produced electric vehicle, as those like the Tesla Motors luxury electric sports models are virtually hand made, and cost an average of $ 100,000 each.
GM ‘s Electrifying Gamble
The Volt has already been voted by both Motor Trend and Green Car Journal as their 2011 Car of the Year. It will take more than a good car magazine write up though to convince the fickle American Public that “going electric” in their personal cars is the way of the future.
As less and less oil becomes available, alternative power sources will be put more into use; and this is what GM is hoping for, with this car. As far as the Volt’s eventual success, only time till tell.
Read more on the Volt and other electric cars: