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USA: 2012 Chevrolet Volt – Review

In December 2010, almost four years after GM unveiled a concept for a plug-in electric car with a range-extending engine, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt went on sale in a handful of states. By the end of 2011, it will be available at selected Chevy dealers nationwide.

We’ve driven the 2011 Chevy Volt several times under a variety of conditions, and there’s no questioning the fact: It’s a real car. It seats four in comfort, rides and drives quietly, performs briskly, and comes with all the accessories and features you’d expect of any car. And unlike battery electric cars, it runs as long as you want it to–up through cross-country trips.

Absent some of the interior styling and information displays, in fact, you might never know the Volt had a revolutionary electric powertrain. If you never plug it in, it will run happily on its small gasoline engine for as long as you keep filling the tank. The fact that the engine only generates electricity to power the electric motor that actually turns the wheels isn’t necessarily evident, even from behind the wheel.

But Chevy expects owners to plug their Volts in to 110- or 220-Volt power to recharge their lithium-ion battery packs, most likely overnight. That gives the car 25 to 40 miles of electric range using that stored energy. And GM relentlessly points out that three-quarters of U.S. vehicles travel less than 40 miles per day, so in theory, a Volt recharged daily and used for a commute shorter than that might never burn a drop of gasoline.
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