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Chevy Volt to hit the roads (quietly) soon

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Chevy Volt to hit the roads (quietly) soon

Enthusiasts will find plenty to like about the Volt, our reviewer says

By Dan Carney

msnbc.com contributor

updated 8:19 a.m. CT, Mon., Feb. 1, 2010

Since its announcement three years ago, the Chevrolet Volt has seemed like one of those perpetually out-of-reach technologies, like fusion power or flying cars.

No longer.

General Motors is gearing up now to manufacture the Volt beginning this spring, reported Tony Posawatz, Chevrolet Volt and global electric vehicle line director.

The company began manufacturing battery packs to go into the cars in recent weeks. The rest of the manufacturing supply chain is coming together so the factory will start assembling cars within a few months, he said. It will begin slowly, making preproduction models that will be evaluated for their quality and provided as test models for journalists and fleet customers through the Summer and Fall.

By November, GM will be ready to switch to high gear and begin mass production of cars for retail sale to regular consumers. Those early cars will be offered only in limited markets which the company feels are prepared to support the special requirements of an electric car, Posawatz said.

So far, California, Michigan and the Washington D.C., area are the only announced markets where the car will be sold, but Volt sales will open up to the rest of the country next year.

In anticipation of the approaching launch of the car, GM provided a hand-built Volt prototype for a test drive around the former American Le Mans Series race track adjacent to Washington’s RFK stadium.

The driver doesn’t wave a magic wand or operate some unfamiliar control device to drive the Volt; there is no steering-by-joystick or other silly interface. The car powers up with the increasingly common keyless “start” button on the dash. A conventional console shifter slides between the common “Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Low” positions, and the “gas” pedal and brake perform their usual functions.

Result: Anyone can get into the Volt and drive.

Today’s hybrids instantly fire the gas engine if the driver floors the pedal because their electric motors don’t make enough power to accelerate quickly in an emergency. The Volt, in contrast, stays in electric mode until the battery pack is drained. Its electric motor is so powerful that the car is programmed not to use all of the power available when abruptly accelerating from a stop because it could simply spin the car’s tires.

Rest assured, creative gearheads will get into the Volt’s programming as soon as the car falls into their hands, with the guaranteed result being garish burn-out videos posted on YouTube within days of the car going on sale in November. I promise.

Gratuitous, yes. But it illustrates the difference between the Volt and the Toyota Prius or even the more powerful Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Perhaps unexpectedly, enthusiasts will find things to like about the Volt, even if they don’t hack into its computer. The car features a “sport” mode which when selected makes extra engine power available and quickens the electric motor’s response to input on the accelerator pedal. In regular mode there is a maximum of 90 kilowatts of power (that’s 121 horsepower) available, but sport mode ups the maximum power to 111 kW (149 hp).

Switching to sport mode doesn’t, by itself, make the Volt less efficient. Driven moderately in both modes, the Volt will have the same driving range on a charge, Posawatz said. But of course people won’t switch it to sport mode to drive it moderately, so realistically this will probably result in a reduction from the normal range.

CONTINUED : Responsive on twisty roads

link:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35147359/ns/business-autos/

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I just don't understand the thinking derived from these kind of statements.

"For others, it may be that they become enamored of the car’s near-silent operation at neighborhood speeds."

Like cars should be as quiet as a laptop. If and when(I fear the latter)we will see a large increase of vehicular / pedestrian accidents and or fatalities.

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