It seems like an interesting attempt! I wonder what the "gas mileage" is in pure gas driven mode (via generating electricity to power the electric motors)? Is it really better than my old (rest in peace) Honda Civic 1300 that got almost 40mpg on the highway? Until charging stations pop up in sufficient quantities and distribution this will remain a niche car for short around town hops.
I have a friend with a 2005 Prius. He has 225k miles on the car, and has only needed to replace tires and the brake pads (once). Frequent "battery replacement" is just another detractor myth to convince people that sucking the ground and oceans dry of oil is the only thing to do today. And the government incentives are the same whether you're buying a Prius, Leaf, Tesla or Volt.
Any idea how many charge/discharge cycles before the battery pack will need to be replaced and the estimated cost of the pack? Don't get me wrong this feels like progress, but at $41k and a $6k battery pack every 100k miles (estimates for argument sake), this doesn't look viable in the least yet. Don't even get me started on our government giving out money that it doesn't have to incent wildly speculative technology in company that it has ownership. What's wrong with this picture!
Cars like this would greatly improve air quality in cities by moving gas-burning activity from inner city to the suburbs or further. States are willing to spend money on air quality, so my guess is that you'll see fleets of government EVs as well as charging stations popping up.
The Volt is said to be the most efficient hybrid car (or EV if you want) so far. I think it is smart to build a "EV" this way as we still has long way to wait for enough charging poles and short enough charging time for the battery. Vehicles like Volt at least can help reducing pollution. I also think it provides good enough data for people to improve the electric motor tailored for vehicles.
The gas engine is not mechanically connected to the wheels. It charges the battery and will drive the electric motors "electrically" if more torque is demanded by the driver's input (pedal). (See the "Chevy Volt Flap" string of comments for more on this.)
Edmund's say the Volt use the gas engine to charge the batteries and that is GM's official line if you look at the GM website. "The Volt hybrid uses a 111-kilowatt electric motor as its primary propulsion system. When the lithium-ion battery pack is depleted — typically after about 40 miles — the 80-horsepower gasoline engine kicks in to generate electricity to the motor and battery pack, extending the vehicle's effective range to 300 miles or more."
Thanks for the early field report! There has been a lot of discussion about what this car does and does not do. Can you confirm that the gasoline "range extender generator" charges the batteries / powers the electric motors and NEVER mechanically drives the vehicle? I thought that claim had been refuted as a marketing ploy until patents were filed on the new planetary gear set. According to www.dailytech.com (Oct 11, 2010) "In a wild twist, Larry Nitz, GM's executive director of electric and hybrid powertrain engineering, has revealed that the gasoline engine actually will drive the Volt mechanically" ... "The internal combustion engine (ICE) ... and AC electric motor both feed into a planetary gear set and three electronically controlled, hydraulically activated multi-plate clutches." The Volt is therefore simply another PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle).