Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Chevy Volt: 150 miles per gallon

The anti-car movement will be disappointed to hear it, but the Chevy Volt shows that the electric/hybrid engine technology is almost ready for prime-time. Mayor Lee is doing his "patriotic" duty by using a Volt. It's still too expensive, but advances in battery technology and economies of scale will eventually make it---and other hybrid vehicles---widely available.

A NY Times writer got 300 miles from two gallons of gas when he tried the Volt:

Having said all that, driving it did convince me of two things. The first is that, Consumer Reports notwithstanding, the Volt has a better chance of success than anything else on the market. Yes, G.M.’s track record for making cars people want has not exactly been inspiring in recent years. But the company has been through hell and back, and a good number of the institutional impediments that prevented it from making good cars are now gone.

Though the Volt has its share of flaws, it is unquestionably a good car. More to the point, as I discovered when I drove it, the Volt makes sense for the economic and cultural moment we’re in now. The psychological grip it held me in, the smugness I felt as I drove past gas stations, the way it implicitly encouraged me to stick with battery power as much as I could — others are going to feel that as well. Somewhat to my surprise, I actually felt a pang of enviro-guilt when I gave the car back and returned to my gas-guzzling ways. Mr. Farah told me that Volt owners often drove 1,000 miles or more before they needed to buy gasoline. I believe it. It has extremely high word-of-mouth potential.

The second thing it convinced me of is that the electric car is no longer some environmental pipe dream. Several years ago, I drove the Tesla, and though it was a wonderful experience, its high price and limited utility did not give me confidence that electric cars were ready for prime time. The Volt has made a believer out of me. At this moment of maximum uncertainty about how the future will play out, the Volt is comforting in its combination of new technology and old. Eventually, we’ll have batteries that can get 300 miles per charge, and an infrastructure solution that will replace gas stations. Eventually.

In the meantime, we’ve got the Volt. It’s a start.