Chevrolet has been working hard to advance the electric vehicle market. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January, the automaker introduced its latest electric vehicle — the Chevrolet Volt Concept. Unlike previous EVs that had range, room, and battery life limitations, the only thing limited with the Volt appears to be fuel consumption.

The first vehicle designed around GM’s E-Flex System, this battery-powered, four-passenger electric car creates additional electricity through a gas engine, extending its travel range. The Volt can go from 0 to 60 in 8.0-8.5 seconds and run up to 40 miles on electricity alone.

“More than half of Americans live within 20 miles of where they work,” GM Vice Chairman Robert A. Lutz remarked. “Driving a Volt, you might never burn a drop of gas during the life of the car.”

The Volt Plugs In at Home
After about 40 miles, the range-extending power source kicks in to recharge the lithium ion battery, replenished by a 1L, three-cylinder turbocharged engine.

To fully recharge the 10-year battery, the Volt can be plugged into a 110-volt, 15-amp outlet — the same kind that powers home appliances — for 6-6.5 hours, using either of two charge ports on each side of the vehicle between the front door and front wheel. The Volt’s battery can begin to charge itself while in park with the engine running. Annual fuel and cost savings are estimated in the hundreds of dollars.

Reducing dependence on petroleum, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and eliminating 4.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the tailpipe are other impressive vehicle capabilities. But the Volt’s advantages don’t stop there.

Along with standard driver and front-passenger airbags, are the StabiliTrak stability control system and new non-plug-in convenience features for charging electronic devices.

Advanced Materials Add Style
With 21-inch wheels and taut surfaces, the Volt conveys agility and sophistication from its Camaro/Corvette-like exterior. Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design, explained, “We leveraged our resources around the globe to develop the design aesthetic for the Volt. It was important the design capture the essence of Chevrolet as it’s recognized around the world.”

In January, Bob Boniface, director of GM advanced design and Chevy Volt lead designer, accepted two awards for the design at the Automotive Hall of Fame: The 2007 North American Specialty Concept Vehicle of the Year and Most Significant Concept Vehicle of the Year.

“Whether your concern is energy security, CO2 emissions, or reducing U.S. dependence on oil, it all leads to energy diversity,” Boniface said. “GM wants to be a part of the solution. That’s why we designed the Chevrolet Volt concept.”

The EV range-extender, a 400-lb. battery necessary for the Volt’s operation, should be ready between 2010-2012.