OK, let's get first things first, I wasn't first. It was Matt Lauer from the Today Show. So officially I was the second person outside of General Motors to drive the company's electric car, the Chevy Volt. Will talk more about being second in just a bit, but let me first tell you my impression from driving the Volt. Impressive. Very impressive.
I spent part of Wednesday afternoon tooling around GM's tech center in a "mule" version of the Volt. When I hit the gas, the acceleration was instant. Like all electric cars, the torque and response from the car is immediate. The Volt will deliver the same performance you would get from a car with 250 horse power.
The other thing that stands out about the Volt is how smooth and quiet it is. There is not the whirring sound that I have heard in other electric cars I have driven. It also feels effortless when you are driving it. All around, I can see why executives at GM have growing confidence the Volt will deliver everything that's been promised.
This is not to say I think the Chevy Volt is a slam dunk hit.
There are too many variables that could change between now and November 2010 when it hits showrooms. Will the final design, interior, and image of the Volt win over buyers? Will low gas prices make an electric car less appealing? Will people be ready to pay roughly $40,000 to "go electric" in the Volt?
Those questions aside, make no mistake electric cars are coming. The Volt is leading the charge, but it's not alone. Within the next five years almost all the major auto companies will have an all electric or electric extended range car. The technology IS coming and that's the biggest impression I took away from driving the Volt. The batteries and technology are clearing the hurdles that have long made electric cars seem like science projects.
As for being second to Matt Lauer when it come to driving the Volt, I can live with it. It was good to see him and the Today Show broadcast from GM's tech center. We are in the midst of some wild times for the auto industry, and the national shows are taking a great interest in what happens to the Big 3 and the industry as a whole.
Next time, we'll get Meredith and Al behind the wheel.
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