Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Goal!


When we started the Plug In Partner initiative, our primary objective was to create a nationwide campaign to urge automakers to accelerate development of plug-in hybrid vehicles. But our goal was to see them manufacturered and in the show rooms.

As stated at the opening press conference by Austin's Mayor Will Wynn in January, 2006, “Plug-in hybrids represent a real near-term solution to America’s over-reliance on foreign oil imports and energy prices that escalate the cost of everything and threaten the very economic life of our nation,”

“The technology exists today,” Wynn says. “This campaign will demonstrate to automakers that the market is also there.”

Now, even as Volvo, Mitsubushi, and Volkswagen join the list of PHEV development announcements of most major automotive manufacturers, an important milestone is reached. And it comes as GM reaches its 100th year. Here's a personal look from Popular Mechanics.

GM Finally Unveils Production Chevy Volt
Popular Mechanics
By Larry Webster
September 16, 2008

After 100 years of making cars, it's party time at the General's house. And despite decades of past innovations and triumphs from General Motors, the guest of honor at today's GM Centennial bash here is a car that won't be in showrooms for at least two years: the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. After generating mountains of buzz since the Volt's debut as a concept 21 months ago, Chevy finally took the wraps off the production version of the car this morning.

GM’s 100th anniversary party so far has been nothing but a stage for the Chevy Volt, but we’ve been able to eke out some details from engineers here on its propulsion technology, sale price and that oh-so-iPod-esque interior. “We think the Volt will stay the test of time," said Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the plug-in car unveiled in production form here today.

“And the beauty of the proportions and the architecture is that there’s the potential for other body designs to be dropped on it." Yes, GM brass are already openly talking about spreading the Volt’s powertrain to other vehicles. What kind of vehicle might follow the Volt is undecided, but a look at the architecture reveals just how easy that might be.

The Volt’s battery pack is shaped like a T with the vertical leg running longitudinally between the seats and the crossbar just behind the rear chairs. Under the hood, there’s the usual gas engine, but on the driver’s side, engineers have managed to package the 150-hp electric motor and its related controls.

So all of the mechanical bits fit in a conventional engine bay, and structurally the Volt is the same as any car based on GM’s new Global Small-Car Architecture. In other words, Volt offspring are all but guaranteed at this point. (We’ve already heard about a potential Volt-based Pontiac.)

But don’t call them hybrids. “The first comment I have to make is I hope I don’t see any headline in the future connecting the Volt to the hybrid segment," said Frank Weber, the car’s chief engineer. “The Volt is not a hybrid, and it’s not a plug-in hybrid. It’s creating a new vehicle called an extended-range electric vehicle." clip

Then there’s the interior, which we learned is also well along its development cycle and very close to its final form. That center stack with looks akin to an iPod with button-free, capacitive-touch technology. While the navigation system will be optional, all Volts will have two screens, one main gauge panel and another on top of the center stack. And of course, those screens will be completely configurative.

In person, the Volt is far sleeker and more attractive than the early pictures suggested. In fact, you could say that styling-wise, it’s on par with the Cadillac CTS.

The five-door body shell is similar to the Prius, but to these eyes, it’s a tick more aggressive—and frankly far more appealing. The gently sloping rear hatch opens to a roomy luggage compartment and the to the rear of the back seats. " more

Whether or not the lines of the Volt appeal to your sense of design or not, the point of bringing these details is this. With this unvealing, a true plug in hybrid with electric seats, windows, and ipod interior and controls is now set to be in Chevrolet showrooms just two years from now, only five years after this campaign was kicked off.

Another goal of the campaign was to create a legislative environment which helped buyers make the jump to this new revolution in transportation. And, with the passing of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, a credit for the early purchase of plug-in electric drive vehicles is now law.

Credit Amount/Criteria: Plug-in electric drive vehicles with batteries of at least 4 kWh qualify for a $2,500 credit. An additional $417 is provided for each additional kWh, up to $7,500 for vehicles up to 10, 000 lbs. Vehicles up to 14,000 lbs qualify for a $10,000 credit. Vehicles between 14,000 and 26,000 lbs qualify for a $12,500 credit. Vehicles over 26,000 lbs qualify for a $15,000 credit.

Phase-out: The credit begins to phase out after 250,000 qualifying vehicles are sold in the U.S.

So in the course of a couple of weeks, we now have a car, and we have a law that rewards early adopters.

We'll have a Volt in Austin on October 17th and 18th at the Austin Alt Car Conference.

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editors note: Check out the links, they include a wide variety of PHEV stories since our last post.

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