The first 40 miles you drive in a fully charged 2011 Chevrolet Volt uses energy stored in the 16kWh battery to propel the vehicle, with the 1.4-liter gas engine kicking in only when the battery is drained and needs to be recharged. But GM engineers are working on a switch for the British version of the Volt, the Vauxhall Ampera slated for 2012, that will let U.K. drivers decide when to drive in electric-only mode and when to use the gas engine, according to an article in TheGreenCarWebsite.co.uk.
The tweak is designed to suit the driving needs of British customers, who may want to travel on highways in extended-range mode and save the 40 or so miles of electric range for in-city driving, which may or may not come at the beginning of their commute. The move would be similar to the EV mode button that existed on early Japanese and European Toyota Prius models, but was absent in the U.S.
That EV switch won't be an option for U.S. customers when the Volt goes on sale next year, but it could make it onto future versions of the plug-in. It took a few years, but Toyota finally introduced the EV mode button on several U.S. model hybrid vehicles, including the Prius.