Who Will Kill the Plug-In Hybrid?

| Tue Jan. 9, 2007 8:45 AM EST

Hopefully no one. As we move toward $3/gallon, at the Detroit Auto Show yesterday General Motors unveiled the Chevrolet Volt, a commuter concept car with the curves of Corvette and the credo of a Prius. GM boasts that the Volt's hybrid-electric battery will be able to plug into the electrical grid. When charged, the car can run independent of its fuel engine, only needing to draw on petrol if traveling 40 miles or more.

Not bad, but efficiency enthusiasts may be skeptical. Many are still smarting over GM's forced-recall and demolition of its first fleet of electric cars. The ill-fated life of that model, the EV-1—including the manner in which the State of California's Air Resource Board caved to automakers instead of standing by its zero-emissions mandate—is well documented in Who Killed the Electric Car?.

The Volt "is not a public relations ploy," GM's vice-president told the New York Times. "We are dead serious about taking this technology into high-volume production."

But GM is vague about the car's future, including a not-so speedy release date. GM says the lithium battery it envisions still needs to be invented. Godspeed if GM is to get out the Volt in time to compete with Toyota, which has already announced that it's readying a hybrid of its own. In any event, you need not wait for a concept car to improve your gas mileage. Check out our latest issue for some fuel-saving tips from Wayne Gerdes, the World's Most Efficient Driver.

—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell