Celebrating its 100th birthday, General Motors wheeled out the production version of its Chevrolet Volt, the car and concept it hopes will make the iconic American company profitable for another 100 years.
The concept? Plug-in hybrid electric.
It's unclear whether GM will be the first to market a hybrid plug-in electric car, as other carmakers are also developing them. But no other car has as high a profile as the Chevy Volt.
Like other carmakers, particularly those in America, GM was highly successful hawking SUVs and other gas-guzzlers when gas was cheap, but once prices at the pump started to rise, they started losing money, and market share, to the likes of Toyota, whose hybrid Prius has been the icon of efficiency.
"The Volt symbolizes GM's commitment to the future the kind of technological innovation that our industry needs to respond to today and tomorrow's energy and environmental challenges," Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said at the unveiling, according to Reuters.
While alternative fuel vehicles have been getting some attention, most experts envision the transportation of the future running on the same electric grid that keeps the lights on and the computers humming at home. Pollution can be more easily controlled from central plants than from millions of tailpipes, cars can be charged at night when electricity demand is otherwise low, and distributed energy like rooftop solar and wind systems can ultimately help commuters get to work without using gas.
The biggest technological hitch, at this point, is developing a battery that holds a charge long enough, stays cool enough, and weighs little enough to be practical in a small passenger car. That's the holy grail right now.
Given that, the Volt could well be the car of the future hopefully, for GM's sake and ours, the very near future.
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