Chevy’s Volt Plug-in Hybrid Powers Ahead

General Motors Vice-President Bob Lutz blogs about driving a “test mule” for the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s attempt at a new generation of fuel-efficient vehicle. The car Lutz was driving was rigged up to test the lithium ion batteries that will power the Volt. Lutz calls the experience “electrifying” (of course) although he notes that the batteries need to go through much more testing before they are ready for a production vehicle.

For one thing, they are very expensive.

“They’re over $1,000 a kilowatt hour,” Tom Turrentine, director of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC-Davis, told “The Volt battery is 16 kilowatt hours. That’s $16,000 just for the battery.”

The Volt will be a plug-in hybrid along the lines pioneered by UC Davis engineering professor Andy Frank. The wheels are driven by electric motors, but there is also a small gasoline engine that drives a generator, and you can plug it to mains power overnight to charge the batteries as well. That gives these vehicles 30 to 40 miles of all-electric range, which meets most needs for commuting and short trips around town.

GM hopes to get the Volt into showrooms in 2010.

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