If you had to think up a slogan for a new electric-powered car, what might it be? Chevrolet’s answer when promoting the upcoming Chevy Volt was The Future Is Electrifying, which is undoubtedly better than What a Shocker!.
To be fair, the interesting Volt is not quite at the production stage, so it’s too early to know if this one will be a triumph or a tragedy. What was clearly apparent from the innovative prototype shown at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is that General Motors has taken the need to develop eco-friendly personal transport very seriously indeed.
Starting from the pioneering work done with the short-run EV1 electric car of the late 1990s, Chevy developed the Volt concept car, a stylish four-door coupe with a curved windscreen, transparent roof and lifting tailgate. Nothing unusual there — just a handsome little car.
The magic was under the skin, where GM’s E-Flec (subsequently Voltec) drivetrain is a clever combo system, whereby an electric motor with a plug-in lithium-iron battery pack is supplemented by a generation source. This means the Volt is not a hybrid (which requires two sources of propulsion) but a pure electric vehicle. However, if it strays outside its one-charge comfort zone of 40 mi (64 km), the generator kicks in, supplying electricity direct to the primary motor and recharging the batteries.
Regenerative braking also helps with battery-charging duties when the car is being driven. Once home, the Volt can be fully recharged overnight from a household supply. In keeping with green objectives, the generator can run on biodiesel, part-ethanol or pure ethanol.Chevrolet updated the Volt concept by creating a pre-production version that has more rounded lines. The Volt (Ampera in Europe) was scheduled for launch in late 2010.
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Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8 secs
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Don’t be surprised if the production Volt doesn’t glide onto the streets of America quite as soon as planned. The credit crunch makes it look rather expensive even for buyers with an eco-conscience, whilst there is still some doubt as to whether sufficiently efficient lithium-ion batteries are yet available.