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The Voltage

Chevrolet’s wonder car is real. And it’s right here

October 02, 2008|By Wheelbase Communications

The battery connects to an electric motor rated at 111 kilowatts, the equivalent of 150 horsepower, and produces 273 pound-feet of instantaneous twisting force (torque). Zero-to-60-mph times are estimated at 8.5 seconds and top speed is about 100 mph.

Whenever the Volt exceeds its 40-mile range, at which point the batteries are all done, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline-fueled (or E85 gas/ethanol blend) generator takes over supplying juice to the electric drive motor while at the same time recharging the battery. The gas engine does not drive the wheels, but operates purely as a distance-extending supplement to the battery pack.

Overall-driving range is expected to be about 400 miles with the gas engine/generator consuming fuel at the rate of one gallon per 50 miles traveled.

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Since the Volt is electrically powered, there’s no transmission, just a controller to engage the drive wheels. The accelerator and brake pedals work the same as in a conventional car.

 The only sound you’ll hear while heading down the road is the whirring from the Volt’s electric-drive motor and even that noise will be muted through the use of special sound-deadening material.

When parked, the Volt can be plugged into a wall socket at home. It takes about about eight hours to fully recharge, but time is  reduced to less than three hours if a 240-volt outlet is used. GM estimates that cost of recharging (based on typical peak daytime rates), would be about two cents per mile driven compared with an average 12 cents per mile for the typical 30-mpg gas-powered sedan, based on $3.60 per gallon. Using that math, the Volt would then cost the same to operate as a gas-powered car that gets 180 mpg.

The Volt is expected to arrive with climate control plus the usual amenities. Some unique features will also be added, such as a driver-configurable instrument display and a seven-inch touch-screen information display, presumably to indicate voltage and/or gasoline consumption. Another touch screen will control ventilation, communication and audio systems. A navigation package with a hard drive that includes mapping plus downloaded music storage space will be optional.

That might not seem like a lot of features for $40,000, but the Volt offers the potential for enormous cost savings in terms of day-to-day operation. And if enough “early adapters” snap up the vehicle and other manufacturers introduce similar products, prices will eventually drop, increasing the attractiveness of this new techology.

Whatever happens, the automobile as we know it is about to undergo fundamental and remarkable change with the Volt leading the charge.

Malcolm Gunn is a feature writer with Wheelbase Communications. He can be reached at: www.wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html. Wheelbase Communications supplies automotive news and features to newspapers across North America.

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