Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) From G.M. Is Nearly Ready for Testing

By dancurranjr On August 15th, 2008

General Motors said Thursday that it had “essentially finished” designing its first plug-in hybrid car, the Chevrolet Volt, and would have production-ready prototypes within 10 days.

The automaker still has considerable work to do on the car’s lithium-ion battery and other technology in the two years before the Volt is scheduled to go on sale, but completing the design is a milestone for what is arguably the most crucial car in decades for G.M.

The Volt would be able to travel at least 40 miles on battery power alone, G.M. said. The battery is recharged by plugging a cord into a household outlet.

Bob Boniface, the director of design for the Volt, showed sketches of the car and photos of its front and rear corners at an industry conference in northern Michigan. He said G.M. had made the Volt more aerodynamic and attractive since displaying it as a concept car at the Detroit auto show in January 2007.

The changes, including a shorter hood and more rounded front end, have increased the car’s battery range by about 6 or 7 miles, Mr. Boniface said. By year’s end, G.M. expects to have 50 prototypes for testing.

The Detroit automakers have been criticized for making gas-thirsty vehicles, and the Volt has gained interest from consumers who see it as a way to save on gasoline.

As of Thursday afternoon, 35,750 people from all 50 states and 63 countries had signed up on an unofficial waiting list for the car at, a Web site run by a neurologist in New Jersey who is not affiliated with G.M. The doctor, Lyle Dennis, started the site as a fan when G.M. announced the car.

G.M. has said it will charge $30,000 to $40,000 for the four-door Volt. Frank Weber, G.M.’s vehicle line executive for the Volt, said that the company did not expect to make money in the near term but that the “E-flex” battery technology will ultimately allow G.M. to sell a profitable line of ultrafuel-efficient vehicles.

G.M. aims to be the first automaker to sell a plug-in hybrid, but Toyota Motor also says it plans to introduce such a vehicle in 2010.

Source: N.Y. Times

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