Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chevy Volt Electric Car: Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, According to Chevrolet


"The Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world is no longer just a rumor. In fact, its propulsion system is so revolutionary, it's unlike any other vehicle or electric car that's ever been introduced. And we're making this remarkable vision a reality, so that one day you'll have the freedom to drive gas-free...."

As marketing hype goes, this is fairly mild. Chevrolet used "electrifying" and (twice) "revolutionary," but didn't tell us that their Volt is "amazing," "outstanding," "unparalleled", or "empowering." I suspect that, considering the lithium-ion batteries that energize (another one you don't find in their text) the Volt, someone suggested "empowering" - but decided on the more specific "electrifying."

The Volt page describes how wonderfully efficient it is, how it's great for commuters, and carefully avoids saying how fast the thing goes.

The range between recharges is impressive: 40 miles. It's more impressive if you live in a place like San Francisco or Manhattan, where everything's within a few miles. I grew up near the edge of North Dakota, so that number isn't quite so impressive to me.

But I probably won't be buying a Volt, anyway. It's not that I don't think electric cars are a good idea - for some applications - or that I don't like Chevy products. For what a new Volt will cost, I could buy a small fleet of the sort of vehicles my household uses.

Still, for someone who's got a few tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a short-range electric car - the Volt looks pretty good. My guess, although Chevy is a little shy about performance numbers for acceleration as well as speed, is that the Volt would be comparatively safe and practical to drive in a metropolitan area.

I've seen electric cars change from accessories for little old ladies in cartoons, to laboratory curiosities, to - now - what looks like a practical commercial vehicle.

I'm all for being "green," by the way: but I also have a limited budget, and don't like to waste material. Which is why I didn't buy those expensive high-efficiency light bulbs. Remember them? the ones that didn't last as long as an incandescent bulb and wouldn't fit in a standard light fixture? Fluorescent and LED lighting technology has improved, of course, since then. So have those 'efficient' toilets. I was underwhelmed by the one that used half the water of a standard unit for each flush - and had to be flushed three times to get the job done.

Enough of the rant.

Bottom line? Chevy may not lose money on the Volt.

And we've got some impressive high-efficiency technologies these days. Like the systems running a beach house in the not-all-that-rugged climate of Oregon's coast. (August 4, 2009)

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