When GM unveiled the Chevy Volt concept at the 2007 Detroit auto show, it immediately caught the attention of the automotive press and public, causing GM to fast track a production version. The Volt builds on experience GM gained during the 1990s with the development of the EV1 electric car.
As part of its 100th anniversary, GM showed off the production version of the Volt, a 2011 model that should be available in late 2010. Where the concept borrowed styling cues from the new Camaro, the production Volt looks more like the Malibu.
Although not as unique-looking as the concept, GM says the production version is designed for aerodynamics, an important feature for an electric car. GM likely will make use of other technologies it developed for the EV1, such as regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tires.
With cupholders, seatbelts, vents, and power window switches all evident, it's clear that this vehicle includes elements for production, but it is still a long way off before it hits showrooms. Of course, the LCD instrument cluster and center instrument panel look more futuristic.
The LCD instrument cluster shows a digital speed read-out, along with information about battery level and range. This information is vital in a car with a 40-mile range under electric power, and considering that range will change dramatically based on driving style.
A closer look at the center instrument panel reveals planned cabin-tech elements. GM says the car will have an available hard drive-based navigation system. The panel uses touch-sensitive controls rather than traditional switch-gear, for the most part. Navigation, phone, and stereo controls are all evident.
The real innovation of the Volt is in its powertrain. The Volt is primarily an electric vehicle, storing electricity in lithium-ion batteries. Those batteries can be recharged from an AC outlet or from the onboard gas engine. The batteries take three hours to recharge from a 240-volt outlet, but GM hasn't specified the recharge rate from the gas engine.