While the hostility toward "Government Motors" won't dissipate anytime soon, the Volt's arrival should at least silence those who insisted that the car couldn't or wouldn't be built. Those who argue it shouldn't exist have yet to drive it. Despite the Volt's imperfections, it takes only a single mile behind the wheel to realize that you are reveling in the experience. Forty, eighty, and 200 miles later, you'll still be marveling at the seamless technology. It is not fast nor is it fun in the typical sense, yet it still has all the brainwashing abilities of a Porsche Cayman. The Volt is unique, but more convincingly, it instills an overwhelming sense that you're driving something significant.
Complex ideas can't be revolutionary until they're accessible enough for mass consumption. There are three separate thermal loops to heat and cool the powertrain components. GM applied for more than 200 patents during the Volt's development. And the advanced battery pack is believed to cost somewhere around $10,000. Yet the Volt packages the game-changing technology in a manner that's nothing short of revolutionary.
Over the past century, the evolution of the automobile has been about more content for less money, faster lap times, more luxury, or better fuel efficiency. The Volt's accomplishments aren't even in the same realm. It won't just change what we drive, but also how we drive. Owners will plug in at night, heat or cool their cabin before they leave the garage, and adopt new driving styles to maximize their electric range. Then, when the battery is depleted, they'll mindlessly motor on, free of the limitations that accompany pure-electric vehicles.
This is the most sophisticated, most important vehicle on the road today. The Volt model could very well be the standard of the future: a smartly sized battery backed by a frugal range extender, whether that's a diesel, a turbine, or a gas engine. In fact, several automakers already have plans to develop similar plug-ins with usable electric driving range and supplemental fossil-fuel power. For being an automotive pioneer, the Chevrolet Volt is the 2011 Automobile of the Year.