Back in 2006, the X-Prize Foundation offered a bundle of cash to any group that could build a 250 miles-per-gallon, non-polluting car. It was a monumental challenge, and one that even three years ago, seemed out of reach. Welcome to 2009, the year of the battery- and gas-powered Chevrolet Volt.
Today, GM officially unveiled the Volt, which reps said can travel up to 40 miles on a single battery charge. The car, pictured above – and in the video below – will likely start production later this year. According to GM, the Volt will get city fuel economy of at least 230 miles-per-gallon, and come packaged with a flex fuel-powered engine-generator. The range of the Volt will be 300 miles, GM said.
"From the data we've seen, many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas," GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson said in a statement. "EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare the fuel efficiency of vehicles. So a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer."
The statement pointed to a recent Department of Transportation study, which showed eight of 10 Americans commute fewer than 40 miles a day. As GM acknowledged, the actual gas mileage of the Volt will depend on a variety of variables, including cargo load, the number of passengers, the use of the air-conditioner and other accessories. Still, the company stressed that the Volt has consistently achieved 40 miles of "electric-only, petroleum-free driving in both EPA city and highway test cycles."
Today, the Associated Press reported that EPA had not tested a Volt "and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM." A spokesman for the EPA told the AP that "GM's commitment to designing and building the car of the future — an American made car that will save families money, significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create good-paying American jobs."
The GM announcement was greeted warmly in the blogosphere, where analysts said the Volt was a step in the right direction. "If we want to reduce our use of foreign oil in a meaningful way, this is exactly the kind of innovation that could do it," Chad Brand wrote at Seeking Alpha. "Not only will less of our money go to the Middle East region, but we will be reducing pollution and Americans will be able to keep more money in their pockets by saving on the cost of gas. Count me as very much looking forward to the launch of more electric cars in the United States."
But another Seeking Alpha blogger, Matt Burns, wasn't so sure. "The methodology behind the 230 MPG rating haven’t been released. There is no telling how the Volt’s 40 mile electric-only mode factored into this ranking," Burns wrote. "The EPA revised its formulas in order to generate a more accurate real-world representation of what EVs can achieve and the Volt’s the first car to benefit from this revision." In other words, let's wait to see how all of this shakes out before we bust out the streamers.
This is the second major announcement for GM this week. Yesterday, the ailing company, which has been hit especially hard by the recession, said it had partnered with eBay, the online auction house. Starting today, residents of California will be able to purchase GM vehicles through specially-branded pages such as gm.ebay.com and chevy.ebay.com. The deal runs from Aug. 11 through Sept. 8, and includes a wide range of California Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Pontiac vehicles.
Would you consider forking over the cash for a Chevy Volt? Talk to us in the comments section, or on Twitter.