A new lease on life for Chevy Volt as demand picks up?

As GM restarts production of its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, will this reduce the decibel level of some the harsher criticism?

General Motors

The Chevy Volt will restart production "earlier than previously planned" due to an uptick in demand, General Motors announced earlier this week, but will this help to quiet critics?

The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle had been slated for a five-week production suspension, but that will be cut to four weeks, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

This is "due to increased Volt sales since January and the need to meet demand in our strong markets, including California," GM said in a statement, according to the Free Press.

The Volt came under withering criticism from some in the media when GM suspended production in March.

And the car's creator, Bob Lutz, has been battling in the blog trenches to educate critics (though he has become more than a little exasperated at the relentlessness of the attacks).

"Wow! I guess I didn't realize that no Volt, (other than ones deliberately destroyed), ever showed as much as a wisp of smoke! I guess I had better retune my rhetoric," he said in Forbes column, referring to a crash test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that resulted in a fire at the test center. There have been no reported cases of owner fires.

Proponents laud the car as a marvel of engineering: it combines a 400-pound battery with a 9.3-gallon gas tank. While the battery has limited range, (as much as 40 miles per charge -- or more) the gas engine can kick in. This mitigates the range anxiety associated with a pure plug-in.

Maybe more importantly, the Chevy Volt is an American car and creates American manufacturing jobs. Toyota makes its Prius hybrid in Japan. (Toyota postponed plans to make the Prius in the U.S.)

And GM should be able to compete more effectively with the Prius in big markets like California. A new Low Emissions Package offered on 2012 Chevy Volts sold in California offers upgrades that reduce exhaust emissions, making the Volt eligible for access to California's carpool lanes. It also adds a $1,500 California state tax rebate.

The Volt retails for $32,495 after a $7,500 federal tax rebate.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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