The Rebirth of the Electric Car

In a bold move likened in this article to the Apollo program, General Motors is throwing everything it has into the development of the Volt, a revolutionary plug-in electric hybrid.

"When one of the world's mightiest corporations throws everything it's got at a project, and when it shreds its rule book in the process, the results are likely to be impressive. Still, even for General Motors, the Volt is a reach. If it meets specifications, it will charge up overnight from any standard electrical socket. It will go 40 miles on a charge. Then a small gasoline engine will ignite. The engine's sole job will be to drive a generator, whose sole job will be to maintain the battery's charge-not to drive the wheels, which will never see anything but electricity. In generator mode, the car will drive hundreds of miles on a tank of gas, at about 50 miles per gallon. But about three-fourths of Americans commute less than 40 miles a day, so on most days most Volt drivers would use no gas at all...to squeeze 40 miles out of its battery, the Volt will need to be the most aerodynamically efficient car GM has ever built.

Because it will have both an electric and a gasoline motor on board, the Volt will be a hybrid. But it will be like no hybrid on the road today. Existing hybrids are gasoline-powered cars, with an electric assist to improve the gas mileage. The Volt will be an electric-powered car, with a gasoline assist to increase the battery's range.

Given the challenges, standard procedure dictates first building and testing the battery, and only then designing a car around it. That process, however, would take until 2012 or 2013-time GM does not have if it wants to beat Toyota. The only hope of meeting the 2010 deadline is to invent the battery while simultaneously designing the car. Just-in-time inventory is common now in the car business, but just-in-time invention on the Volt's scale is new to GM and probably to the modern automotive industry."

Full Story: Electro-Shock Therapy

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