Revealed: 2011 Chevy Volt Plug-In Electric

By David Thomas  on September 16, 2008

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Today, we get our first official look at GM’s upcoming plug-in electric hybrid, the Chevy Volt. The four-door hatchback looks remarkably different from the sleek concept vehicle that debuted at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. GM says the production Volt needed to be more aerodynamic to achieve the efficiency the company was aiming for.

As previously announced by GM, the Volt will have a range of 40 miles on a full-electric charge. Then a gasoline/E85 capable engine will kick on to recharge the battery. All power to the drive system is electric, so the gasoline engine works like a generator.

GM did unveil some specifications today. The electric motor will achieve the power equivalent of 150 horsepower (a Toyota Prius puts out 110 hp) and a maximum speed of 100 mph. We also learned that there will be 220 lithium-ion battery cells powering this unit.

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The Volt can be fully recharged in eight hours via a standard household 120-volt outlet. If you have a 240-volt outlet, the charge takes just three hours. Obviously, the charge time is shorter if the battery is not fully depleted.

When the gasoline engine is not charging the motor, Chevy says the Volt will be exceptionally quiet on the road. The company also added sound deadening materials to keep road and wind noise at a minimum.

GM says it will cost 2 cents per mile to drive the Volt less than 40 miles per day versus 12 cents per mile for gasoline at a price of $3.60. The national average for gasoline is actually higher than that at $3.85. For people who drive 40 miles a day and put on 15,000 miles per year in the Volt, they’ll save $1,500 a year in gasoline costs. We checked into it: You’d have to drive 41 miles a day for a year (365 days) to hit 15,000 miles, but that’s just splitting hairs.

Sizewise, the Volt is 177 inches long or 2 inches longer than a Prius. It’s also more than 2 inches wider than a Prius. However, the electric batteries eat up cargo space. The Volt has just 10.6 cubic feet of cargo space versus the Prius’ 14.4 cubic feet. Interior volume figures were not released. 

But not all is rosy. While the Volt is ready to start prepping for production, GM said in its press release that its future is “subject to GM successfully negotiating satisfactory government incentives.” Basically, the Volt’s existence hinges on government help for emerging technology. We’re not sure if that means getting a new tax incentive on the books or if it has to do with the $25 billion in low interest loans that U.S. automakers are trying to push through Congress over the next two weeks.

More photos are below, and we’ll have reactions from our staff on the car’s looks later today.

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Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David