2011 Chevrolet Volt
General Motors had one of the world's most advanced electric-vehicle programs in the 1990s, which produced several hundred EV1 two-seat electric cars. Changing California regulations and the 40- to 70-mile range of their lead-acid batteries led GM to kill the program, which departed CEO Rick Wagoner later said was the decision he regretted most from his tenure.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is GM's penance, and the company protected the program and its timetable even through bankruptcy earlier this year. It has been unusually transparent during the car's development process, publicizing cold-weather tests, offering rides in engineering mules, and regularly putting executives and engineers in front of reporters.
The Volt promises 40 miles of electric range--which is more than the daily distance covered by two-thirds of U.S. drivers--and overnight recharging on either 110-Volt or 220-Volt power. And it'll do another 300 miles, using the gasoline engine to power its electric motor, once the battery is depleted.
Important to note: The Volt is not a traditional hybrid, in the mold of the 2010 Toyota Prius, which powers its wheels with a mix of torque from the engine and electric motors. Instead, the Volt turns its front wheels solely with its electric motor, and the engine only runs a large generator to provide power to that motor--just like a freight locomotive.
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