2008 Paris Auto Show: 2011 Chevrolet Volt
GM's all-electric vehicle has been seen before, but it fit right in with the show's emphasis on oil-free power. Because of the myriad electric cars on hand, the Volt wasn't quite the attention grabber it was when first shown, but the competition couldn't help but refer to the Chevy Volt when discussing electric car technology. Seems the General still earns respect among its peers despite all its struggles.
2011 Chevrolet Volt" src="http://img.autobytel.com/car-reviews/autobytel/digital-assets/Autoshows/2008ParisAutoShow/Chevrolet_Volt_Concept_02.jpg" alt="2011 Chevrolet Volt" />
Why it Matters
When more than 43,000 people place their names on a waiting list to buy a car, that's a very good sign that demand is high. The 2011 Chevrolet Volt promises to deliver to the marketplace a scalable vehicle for around $40,000 that has the potential to make gas stations irrelevant for a majority of drivers. That's not the automotive equivalent of a campaign promise, that's a reality General Motors is staking its reputation on. Talk about change you can believe in.
What it Looks Like
To say aerodynamics are a key part of designing a vehicle like the Chevy Volt is like saying buoyancy is a key factor in designing a boat. The resulting shape is what allows the Chevy Volt to achieve its efficiency target of 40 miles on one charge. Take particular note of futuristic touches such as the use LED light pipes in both the front and rear of the vehicle. Inside the Chevy Volt, the interface is more iPod and laptops than knobs and dashboard needles. There are actually two LCD screens, one where you would expect a navigation unit to be, and one sitting in place of those antiquated things we typically refer to as "gauges." Whatever you grew up thinking the interior of a Plutonian spaceship looked like, this is probably pretty close.
What's Under the Skin
Integral to the Chevy Volt is what General Motors calls its E-Flex system. At the core of the E-Flex system is an electric motor producing 150 horsepower that drives the vehicle's wheels. The electric motor is primarily powered by a collection of 220 lithium-ion battery cells that can carry the Chevy Volt 40 miles on a full charge. In this battery-only mode, the E-Flex system produces no emissions. When the Volt battery reaches 70% depletion, a 1.4-liter gasoline (or potentially E85) engine activates to power a generator, which in turn powers the electric motor in place of the battery. GM believes the battery can be recharged in eight hours using a standard 120-volt outlet. What does all this mean to your wallet? According to a recent study, at peak charging rates of 80 cents a day, driving 15,000 miles a year will work out to roughly $292 in total fuel costs. Charge your car at night, where off peak rates can be a quarter of that, and it's now possible to drive 15,000 miles per year for $73.
What We Think
Here's what we think: Two years. As in we wish the Chevy Volt had gone into production last week, not in two years, because quite frankly, we're kind of overpaying for gasoline all the time. Even when 2010 hits, there will not be enough of these to go around, though know the Chevy Volt will be the first of many GM vehicle to use the E-Flex platform. We're as excited as anyone else though, and if the numbers hold up to real world testing (especially with our 364-pound uncle behind the wheel driving his fat family around town), we'll be ready to call the Volt a home run.
By Elliot Darvick and Greg Brown
Photo credit: Greg Brown