Some have called it the car that will save General Motors: the Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric sedan set to launch in three test markets (in California, Michigan, and the Washington, D.C., area) by the end of 2010.
GM's Chevy brand was one of the charter sponsors of this week's South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, and it brought a Volt along for the ride. Why, exactly? The 12,000 SXSWi attendees, most of whom are all about the latest high-tech craze, are exactly the people Chevy thinks will want a Volt.
This individual Volt, here driven by CNET's Caroline McCarthy, is one of about 80 Volts that have been hand-built as part of the car's development process. Factory production of test vehicles will begin this spring.
The Volt features a less fuel-efficient but speedier "sport" mode, making it quite a bit zippier than the average hybrid or electric car. It does, however, max out at about 100 mph.
Because it's an electric car, the Volt is extremely quiet and raises subsequent safety concerns: pedestrians, particularly the visually impaired, might not be able to hear it coming. As a result, the Volt has a "pedestrian alert" that can be set off by tugging on a control next to the steering wheel.
You can plug it into any three-pronged household outlet, and it'll take about 8 or 9 hours to charge, or about 3 hours at a specially built 240-volt charging station. GM is working with some third-party charging-station companies as well.
What could be cool down the road, at least for certain drivers: if it posts your scores to Twitter or ranks you against your fellow Volt-owning friends.
Chevrolet Connect will likely be debuting on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry Storm platforms, along with the Volt's launch, and then eventually for other GM cars.