Cherish the lithium-ion battery, too, however, because its 288 cells, along with former vice chairman Bob Lutz's resilience, are why we have the Volt at all. In 2003, Lutz, who had formerly served as CEO of battery-maker Exide, was convinced that battery technology was finally ripe for electric-vehicle duty, but the General Motors decision makers, still wary from the failed EV1 that cost the company dearly in terms of both money and reputation, were reticent. Three years on, the hardheaded Lutz hadn't given up on the extended-range electric, and his crusade was reinvigorated by the dismissive digs of a California start-up company: In publicizing his plans for the electric Roadster, Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn't pass up a single opportunity to slam Detroit. While Tesla did motivate Lutz, the GM product chief had a bigger target than the small start-up with a big mouth. The Volt would also be an opportunity to steal rival Toyota's golden green image, he argued. GM executives finally bit, and in 2006 work on the concept began. The production car was approved shortly after the well-received debut at the 2007 Detroit auto show.
The naysayers embraced the Volt, too. General Motors has worn a target on its back for decades, and a radical gas/electric hybrid was fresh fodder for the critics judging what next product the company shouldn't, couldn't, and wouldn't be able to execute. Then bankruptcy, taxpayer-backed loans, and government ownership happened, and the Volt's poster-child role became even more prominent. It was both villain and hero, depending on who was talking; either an expensive, unsellable science project or the most innovative car Detroit had ever developed. Did you believe? Because the Volt is real, it's here, and it's definitely not hype.