Gearheads Go Gaga
The automotive press loves the soon-to-be released Chevrolet Volt, whose innovative powertrain allows most owners to drive on electric power for up to 40 miles, then shifts to a gasoline-powered generator that extends the vehicle’s range up to 300 miles. The accolades are piling up: The Volt recently received awards for Automobile of the Year from Automobile magazine, and Car of the Year from Motor Trend magazine.
Sure, there are some detractors, like perpetually grimacing conservative pundit George Will. The Volt is expensive: Even with federal tax credits, consumers will pay some $33,000 for the four-seater. But its technology is being recognized as a “game changer” in gear-head bastions that normally froth over off-the-line power, not gas-sipping technology.
As Motor Trend’s editors put it: “The genius of the Volt's powertrain is that it is actually capable of operating as a pure EV, a series hybrid, or as a parallel hybrid to deliver the best possible efficiency, depending on your duty cycle. For want of a better technical descriptor, this is world's first intelligent hybrid. And the investment in the technology that drives this car is also an investment in the long-term future of automaking in America.”
If the Volt’s pricetag is too steep, or the 100-mile range of the upcoming all-electric $25,280 (after federal credits) Nissan Leaf seems too limited, we can exult in the fact that the renewed interest in fuel efficiency is broad. Ford is trumpeting the news that four of its 2011 vehicles are rated at 40 miles per gallon or better, and Hyundai announced recently that every model of its 2012 Elantra will achieve 40 miles per gallon on the highway.