GM making a big splash as it officially launches the Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car. They announced that they’ll be hiring a thousand new engineers, and auctioning one of the first Volts to raise money for the Detroit Schools Foundation for Math and Science.
“Education is our way out. It is our way forward,” said GM North America President Mark Reuss. “It is extremely important to me and our company. And the Volt is a technological wonder.”
Bids will be taken at http://www.bidonthevolt.com.
General Motors calls the Volt an “extended range electric vehicle.” An electric motor runs the wheels, on battery power for 35-50 miles. After that, a four cylinder engine generates electricity to keep the Volt going.
The new jobs will be added over the next few years at GM’s technical center in Warren. They will help GM develop future electric vehicles. No specifics, but one GM executive after another stressing that the Volt was a “game changer” that will impact the future of the industry.
“This is a first step,” said GM CEO Dan Akerson. “Someone will probably look back at this car and say, boy wasn’t that quaint. We also have to have our toe in the water in terms of potential breakthroughs in battery technology.”
Akerson driving Volt number #1 onto the stage at the Detroit Hamtramk plant. That car will remain there on display. Volt #2 was driven by former GM Vice Chair Bob Lutz, who introduced the original Volt concept car as “an inconvenient truth” and pushed other executives to agree to the vehicles production.
“To see this inconvenient truth become reality now and to see the press welcome it, and validate it and to smother it with award is truly, I will say, one of the great pleasures of my life,” said Lutz.
The Volt has already been named “Motor Trend Car of the Year,” one of five awards given to the vehicle even before it was delivered to a customer. That first delivery is still expected in early December.
Volts have been coming off of the assembly line at the large plant on the Detroit-Hamtramk border for several months now, encouraging GM workers, who have seen a lot of ups and downs lately.
“I think we’re finally on the cutting edge of a new technology,” said worker Mike Okanard. “It puts GM in a new position to lead the world again.”
GM has been building Volts at the plant for several months now, starting with pre-production models, and ramping up to vehicle that will actually be sold to customers.
“We go through a series of manufacturing validation builds to make sure that the product is ready to go, that the work force is trained to competently build the best vehicle that we can,” said plant manager Terri Quigley.
The Volt has a steep price tag, around forty thousand dollars before the government’s $7500 tax break. But there’s no shortage of people interested in buying the vehicle, at least at first. The federal government has put the Volt’s fuel economy at 93 miles per gallon when it’s in pure electric mode, and 37 miles per gallon when the range extending gasoline engine is running.
Many of those who intend to buy the Volt, plan to drive it in electric mode as much as possible, using the extended range mode only when they need to make longer trips.
“I don’t want to burn any more gasoline,” said Colin Summers, a member of GM’s Citizen Advisory Board, who’s driving a pre-production Volt, and has ordered one of his own.
Summers, and other electric vehicle enthusiasts see the Volt as a car that’s enjoyable on its own merits, that’s also environmentally friendly.
“It’s just the most advanced car I’ve ever been in,” said Mark Swain, another advisory board member. “Between the electronics packages and the drive system, it’s just simply amazing.”