It's here, but you still can't buy it.
At the close of General Motors' 100th anniversary celebration on Tuesday, CEO Rick Wagoner officially introduced the production version of the much-anticipated Chevrolet Volt electric car, calling it a clear sign that GM intends to lead the reinvention of the automobile in the years to come.
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Driven on stage by GM's Vice Chairman of Global Product Development, Bob Lutz, who has made the success of the Volt a priority for the troubled automaker, the exterior design is modern, but conventional while the interior takes on a more computer-oriented look, using flatscreen monitors in place of traditional instruments.
A true plug-in hybrid, the Volt is driven by an electric motor and will be able to be charged using a home electrical outlet. GM claims that the car will be able to travel up to 40 miles on electricity alone, but it carries a small gasoline-powered engine on board that can replenish the batteries on longer trips. Unlike conventional hybrids, this conventional engine can not propel the vehicle on its own, making the Volt a great technological leap for the automotive industry.
What GM is banking on to make this possible is the use of high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, similar to the ones used in cell phones and laptop computers. GMs challenge will be developing this power source so that it is durable enough to last the typical lifetime of a automobile, while keeping the price low enough to make the Volt commercially viable.
Unfortunately drivers will have to wait a little bit longer to put the car of the future into their garages, the Volt isn't scheduled to go on sale until fall of 2010. At this time, the price for the compact four-seater is expected to be in excess of $40,000, and is unlikely to turn a profit for General Motors in its first generation.