By David Thomas on January 6, 2007
You can tell fuel efficiency is a big deal when Detroit’s largest automaker makes its biggest surprise unveiling in years a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle called the Chevrolet Volt. The small coupe is definitely in GM's production pipeline. There’s just one little problem: The battery technology that will make this car run doesn’t exist yet.
That may seem like a big problem, but with the speed in battery development — think how much smaller your laptop is now than it used to be, and how much longer it lasts — we could see this happening in the project in a two- to three-year time frame. A small gas generator — that you would fill up at the gas station — will recharge a string of lithium batteries that line the floor of the car and power it after it's run its initial charge from being plugged in at a regular 110-volt outlet at home.
Theoretically, the vehicle could get up to 150 mpg with a range of 640 miles, but there are still the energy costs of plugging the car in at home. Imagine paying those Christmas light bills all year long — and that’s still a wild guess. We love GM’s boldness here, and it certainly one-ups Ford’s Airstream hydrogen plug-in hybrid concept with its even shakier production likelihood. If the Volt is produced, it will certainly have Toyota taking the Prius back to the drawing board.
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David