Tuesday, January 09, 2007

General Motors announces unique plug-in hybrid

Who would've thought that General Motors would wow everyone at the 2007 International North American Auto Show with its electric and hybrid vehicles? I would've expected a Japanese automaker, but was pleasantly surprised to read on Treehugger that the Chevy Volt earned some oohs and ahhs with its electric engine that can be charged by plugging in the car or, when the battery runs out of juice at around 40 miles, by a gasoline generator that recharges the battery (but doesn't directly power the car). When the battery is recharged, the engine shuts off. Even better, the gasoline generator could be replaced by an ethanol or biodiesel one.

But getting excited about these sorts of vehicles can be short-lived. Concept cars are cute, but when are we going to see a plan with some mass production meat to it? Walter McManus, a former GM exec and now the Director of Automotive Analysis at the University of Michigan, was skeptical of the Volt to the Independent:

"The battery technology that they are depending on is not available yet and just pouring money into it is not going to make it happen. They need to take fuel efficiency more seriously. GM and Ford have such technologies in their cars overseas; they should put their own technologies into their cars here."

But GM sees a sunnier outlook. The company claims that the battery needed to run the Volt could be ready for mass production for U.S. cars between 2010 and 2012. Let's hope so.

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