What Exactly Is GM’s Chevy Volt?

In case you haven’t heard by now, GM has unveiled the Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle with a plug-in design supplemented by a range-extending on board engine. We only mention this because the Detroit automaker decided today to formally unveil the vehicle, with lots of details about features, functions and rationale for why you’ll want to own one when it goes on sale at Chevrolet dealers before the end of 2010 for around $41,000 before any tax rebates or incentives.

Much of what GM said people already know from the tons of Volt coverage we and others in the green media have been giving this vehicle. Interestingly, GM specifically goes out of its way to say that the Volt is not a hybrid or an electric only vehicle, but rather “a one-of-a-kind, all-electrically driven vehicle designed and engineered to operate in all climates. Powered by GM’s revolutionary Voltec propulsion system, it consists of a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric drive unit that provide pure electric range between 25 and 50 miles, depending on terrain, driving techniques and temperature. A 1.4L gasoline-powered engine extends the range up to an additional 310 miles on a full tank of fuel by operating the vehicle’s electric drive system until the car can be plugged in and recharged or refueled. This distinguishes the Volt from electric-only vehicles, which cannot be operated when recharging is not immediately available – such as during a power interruption or on a long-distance trip.”

Chevy Volt

image via GM

Does that therefore make this vehicle a plug-in hybrid instead? It is hard to say, based upon how GM is trying to position this vehicle, but it may add yet more confusion to consumers already unsure on the alternative fuel vehicle types out there. GM did said the Volt will reach a top speed of 100 mph and that the electric drive unit’s low speed torque of 273 lb.-ft. (368 Nm) takes it from 0 to 60 mph in less than 9.0 seconds and the quarter mile in less than 17.0 seconds. There will also be on board technologies galore, including two seven-inch, color display screens; navigation radio with 60-GB (30 GB for music storage) hard disc drive; XM satellite radio; OnStar; a key fob that allows drivers to remotely start the vehicle and precondition the cabin based on outside temperatures; and a mobile app that enables owners to engage with the Volt functions using a smart phone.

“The Chevrolet Volt can be the only car you own,” said Mark Reuss, president, GM North America, in a statement. “The Volt delivers it all: a revolutionary propulsion system, progressive styling, industry-leading safety, premium amenities and user-friendly technologies, and spirited driving dynamics.”

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I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.


  • Reply October 10, 2010


    this is basicly a day to day driver and has to be charged almost daily. the good thing is that it cuts emissions in the city but once you travel outside of 25 to 50 miles. i think this car needs a couple more batteries in order to be more than just a regular car that can go electric for a little while.

  • Reply October 10, 2010


    Have to disagree with you. The Prius is far less efficient that the upcoming Volt (including its plug-in version) yet almost every green advocate owns one.

    As it is right now, no electric vehicle can cover significant range with out being over $100k in cost.

    The Volt blends the best of both worlds, being able to drive almost daily with out any fuel used, while at the same time obtain great mpg if you need to drive to grandma’s house an hour away. No EV can do that or any hybrid.

    All they need to do is concentrate on reducing the cost of the vehicle and you have a car that can substantially reduce our dependency on foreign oil. Remember this is the very first generation of this vehicle, there is lots of room for improvements and cost reduction.

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