Representatives from American auto manufacturer General Motors recently were in Washington, D.C. to showcase the electric Chevy Volt. GM says the vehicle will change the way people commute, reducing emissions and America's dependence of foreign oil. VOA's Paul Sisco has today's Searching for Solutions report.
GM representatives say there are only two like it in the world, and one of the automakers joked that you could probably get this one for $5 million or so. The Chevy Volt is a concept car, dependent in part on technology under development.
Bob Boniface is one of the chief designers of the car.
"This is really the heart and soul of the Chevy Volt, the plug that you see here,” says Boniface. “It is primarily an electrically driven vehicle and it has an electric traction motor and it has a large lithium battery pack down the center of the vehicle. So just by simply plugging your car in a standard 110 volt outlet, you can drive 40 miles on pure electricity. No gas at all."
To go beyond that there is a very small gas engine that does not drive the car, as it does in increasingly popular hybrid vehicles. Instead, it recharges the battery.
"It doesn't matter what the motor is in the car,” explains Boniface. “It's just something up there that generates electricity. It can be a fuel cell, it can be bio-diesel, it can be a squirrel on a treadmill. It doesn't really matter. A hybrid vehicle, it's a very important distinction, a hybrid vehicle still has a gas engine that drives the wheels. This car does not have that."
GM hopes to have the Chevy Volt on the market in 2010. As with most electric cars the hang up is the battery. GM did not showcase that for the simple reason it is not yet available.
"We can't just buy the battery and stick it in the car. It requires testing, engineering validation to make sure everything works right. All the things that make the car move are ready. We know how we are going to build the car -- we just have to make sure that the battery meets all our requirements."
U.S. Department of Transportation data show that 78 percent of commuters drive 40 miles or less to and from work. The GM representatives are quick to point out that commuting in a Concept Chevy Volt would be gas and emission free.