After months of speculation, skeptical claims of vaporware, and leaked photography, GM pulled the wraps off the 2011 Chevrolet Volt - its great green hope - at its centennial celebrations in Detroit.
It's easy to see this isn't the concept Volt, which debuted at the 2007 Detroit auto show. Engineers needed to improve aerodynamics for production, which explains why the flat, sharp surfaces of the show car transformed into long, rounded forms on the final product.
Though it may look somewhat different than the slinky concept shown at the 2007 Detroit auto show, the premise behind the Volt is still the same. Deemed an "extended-range electric vehicle", the car is designed to operate as an electric vehicle until the batteries are depleted. At that point, a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the batteries - not drive the wheels. Owners will also be able to recharge the Volt by plugging it into either a 120- or 240 volt outlet when parked at home or at work.
Electric propulsion comes courtesy of a 150-hp motor, primarily sourcing its power from a T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack which runs the length of the car. GM says the Volt will travel up to forty miles in EV mode, before turning to the gas engine. We've not yet seen official specs on that "generator," but previous reports suggest it's a 1.4-liter I-4 which burns gasoline or E85.
Unlike GM's previous electric car, the EV1, the Volt's chassis isn't entirely unique. Like the 2010 Chevrolet Cruze and the forthcoming Saturn Astra, the Volt makes use of GM's next-generation Delta platform. Though much of the car is unique, sharing some bits - like the McPherson strut front suspension - allows GM to reduce development and production costs.
Designers did try to differentiate the Volt from its siblings inside, carrying over some of the high-tech look from the concept. The main instrument cluster is customizable, while the center console, trimmed with a white finish and fitted with touch-sensitive controls, is reminiscent of an iPod. Bluetooth connectivity for both phones and audio devices is standard, while a navigation system is optional.
Still uncertain are the Volt's production timing and pricing. Last we heard, GM hopes to build the Volt in Hamtramck, Michigan, and should reach dealers with a sticker price of approximately $30,000 to $40,000.