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Electric cars next step in auto evolution

Pratt, Kan. —

They are quiet, fuel efficient, environmentally friendly and the next step in the auto industry.

Electric cars or cars that combine electricity and gas powered engines are making a quiet entry to the Pratt area.

The Chevrolet Volt, a combination electric/gas vehicle, can get 35 miles on a full electric charge, said Dave Hanshew, Doug Reh Chevrolet sales manager.

When the charge runs out the vehicle seamlessly switches to a 9.3-gallon gasoline motor that actually recharges the electric motor while it is running. With the two systems the Volt has a range of 350 miles. Between the two systems the car can get about 40 mpg.

Recharging is done through a special line that connects from the car to a common 110volt outlet. It takes from eight to 12 hours to fully charge the car when the batteries are drained.

An optional 230volt charging system is also available. It takes about four hours to fully charge the car but it does require a special electrical connection, Hanshew said.

One of the obstacles for all electric vehicles is having a place to recharge the vehicle away from home. In order for electric cars to be practical a lot of charging stations have to be put in place.

“Getting the infrastructure in place is the key,” Hanshew said.

While the Volt lacks the familiar rev associated with gas powered vehicles, it does have the power to get down the road and when the accelerator goes down it provides enough torque to push the driver back into the seat.

The vehicle suffers no loss of power just because it’s electric, Hanshew said.

The Volt is quiet compared to a gasoline-powered vehicle. It sounds more like a golf cart. It also has no exhaust pipes because it has no emissions.

To help reduce drag the Volt is aerodynamic to a point that the driver can’t see any portion of the front end of the car from the driver’s seat.

Two things stand out in the Volt. It is very quiet and it is very smooth. The drive system is different from the standard gas powered vehicle. It uses a variable speed clutch that doesn’t have a shift as the vehicle accelerates, it just increases speed in a very fluid manor. The same is true when it slow downs.

On the floor the vehicle looks like any other with an accelerator and a brake pedal. The shift lever to put it in gear is on the console. The “key” doesn’t fit into a slot but it is necessary to start the vehicle.

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