General Motors: Next Century Will Be Electrifying

Chevy VoltGeneral Motors is linking its 100th birthday this week to a very early marketing push for the production version of a car it hopes will leapfrog hybrids--a market owned mostly by imports; in particular, Toyota.


  The car, which GM unveiled Tuesday morning (although it won't go on sale until the fourth quarter of 2010) is an E-REV (for extended-range electric vehicle): it is a pure electric-powertrain vehicle that uses gasoline to power and recharge the drive battery only when the battery has run out of juice. It can be plugged either into a standard household 120v outlet or use 240v for charging.

Prior to Volt--and GM's "Gas Friendly to Gas Free" mantra with which GM has touted the Volt--the company had made its fuel-cell concepts Autonomy and Sequel the poster cars for its futurist efforts. Those vehicles, featured at auto shows and regional events, were sort of fuel-cell automotive roller skates that, because of their drive-by-wire technology, could "wear" any number of switchable body styles. The idea was that the vehicles--or one like them--would be ready for production when hydrogen infrastructure was ready for prime time.



A spokesperson for the company says that while Autonomy and Sequel have been shelved, they live on in the Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle, which the company has been testing through its "Project Driveway"--in which consumers get to "own" the vehicle for test purposes. "We are still pursuing the fuel cell pathway," a spokesperson says.

GM chairman Rick Wagoner said in a release: "Revealing the production version of the Chevy Volt is a great way to open our second century. The Volt is symbolic of GM's strong commitment to the future ... just the kind of technology innovation that our industry needs to respond to today's and tomorrow's energy and environmental challenges."

The company started running a centennial ad for Chevrolet during the summer Olympics that showed--in accelerated time--a gas station evolving through the years, getting bigger and more elaborate as a rural landscape becomes suburban. But at the very end of the TV spot, the gas station disappears and the landscape becomes green again, with a Chevy Volt--the concept--sitting in the middle of a field.

The spokesperson says that ad, which has lived on the Web since, will soon run again, featuring the production version of the Volt. The ad also features the hybrid version of the Chevy Tahoe SUV and the Chevy Aveo sub-compact car.

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