Plant flowers in the old SUV — Chevy's betting America will get turned on by its electric Volt.
Automaking giant General Motors on Tuesday said it was preparing to cut production of gas-guzzling SUVs while clearing the road for the electric hybrid Volt.
The plug-in vehicle, introduced as a concept car in January 2007, will be powered by a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged either via a regular electrical socket when parked or by an onboard generator while driving.
The standard Volt generator will be configured to run on E85 fuel (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline), but other fuel sources, such as diesel, gasoline or even fuel cells are possible.
The Volt's internal-combustion generator engine powers only the batteries, not the car's wheels, meaning that it needs to run at only one speed, maximizing efficiency. Modern diesel-electric rail locomotives have used the same principle for decades.
Fully charged, the Volt should be able to drive about 40 miles before the generator kicks in. The generator's fuel tank should enable the car to go 400 miles before refueling, allowing it to get the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon.
The automaker said Tuesday it would idle pickup and SUV factories in Janesville, Wis.; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; Moraine, Ohio; and Toluca, Mexico, as it tries to deal with a shift to smaller vehicles brought on by $4 per gallon gasoline prices.
GM also took aim at the Hummer, one off the largest vehicles on U.S. highways, saying that division would either be sold off or the vehicle overhauled.
The Volt, with an initial production run of 10,000, is expected to hit showrooms in 2010. After that, GM plans to build tens of thousands per year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.