Chevy Volt May Cure Gas Pains
Fuel-Efficient Hybrid Concept Car
The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is hanging around four dollars a gallon, an indication that driving is going to get more expensive in the future. No matter what your opinion is on politics or the world’s oil barons, the U.S. is undeniably edging closer to what other countries around the world have had to deal with for years: insanely high fuel prices.
So what do you do? Besides the usual driving and vehicle maintenance tips to maximize fuel mileage, the best course of action is to make a rational choice when buying a new vehicle. For instance, forget about a V8 when a V6 will do, or consider a smaller and more fuel-efficient crossover instead of an SUV. Diesel-fueled vehicles are an economically viable alternative, not only for the approximately 30-percent improvement in fuel economy, but because diesel fuel can be cheaper — up to 40 cents a gallon less in some parts of the country — than gasoline. Yet diesel offerings are few, and sweeping regulatory changes in emissions have caused manufacturers to re-think their game plan for diesel products. Hybrids offer excellent fuel economy by letting an electric motor do some of the work and are available in an ever-widening range of models.
When GM first unveiled the Chevy Volt at Detroit's 2007 North American International Auto Show, we saw a futuristic design skinned with composite body panels. Nevertheless, even for a concept car, that wasn't the good stuff. The buzz with the Volt is the technology. To infer from the name that the Volt is an electric car is somewhat correct. It's a plug-in series-hybrid that incorporates both an electric motor and a small internal combustion engine. Nick Zielinski, chief engineer for the Chevy Volt, clarifies: “We like to think of it as an electric vehicle that has range extension. What’s unique about the Volt is that the engine never mechanically drives the wheels. It drives a generator which recharges the batteries, so it’s always operating as an electric vehicle.”
Notably, the Volt rides on an E-Flex platform, and the 2012 production model features a gasoline/E85-capable engine. At the 2007 Shanghai Auto Show, GM showed off other possibilities by unveiling a fuel cell variant of E-Flex, where a hydrogen fuel cell was used instead of a gasoline engine to charge the batteries.