Chevrolet Volt

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New hybrid-electric cars: Chevrolet Volt

The Volt won’t be on sale until 2010, but it’s been the subject of so much media attention we included it in our list. GM will take a giant step forward in the EV sweepstakes with the long-anticipated showroom launch. This is the first practical application of GM’s E-Flex hybrid technology that teams a lithium-ion battery with a fuel-based engine. In the Volt, a 400-pound battery pack teams with a three-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine.

The Volt’s battery pack is charged by plugging into a standard household outlet for six hours or a 240-volt outlet — like your clothes dryer uses — for about three hours. Volt will run solely on battery power for 40 miles between charges. No gasoline is burned and no emissions spewed into the air on round trips of 40 miles or less — shorter than most commutes to and from work, says GM.

Once the battery charge is depleted, the engine engages — not to turn the wheels, but to recharge the battery. This is unlike today’s crop of HEVs in which the gas engine and the electric motor power the wheels. Because the gasoline engine runs only as needed, the Volt’s gas mileage is calculated on a sliding scale and shrinks as more continuous miles above 40 are driven: A 60-mile trip garners 150 mpg, while traveling the total 640-mile range burning the entire 12-gallon tank of gas yields fuel economy of about 53 mpg. Recently, GM used a preliminary EPA methodology for plug-in hybrid vehicles to estimate the Volt’s EPA city mileage at 230 miles per gallon. Seating up to five, the Volt has a top speed of 100 mph, and GM says it can reach 60 mph from a standstill in less than 8.5 seconds.

Price: Starting from $35,000 to $40,000 when released late in 2010.

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