LeBeau: In Praise of the Chevy Volt

By Bill Moore

Posted: 12 Oct 2010

This week, General Motors began its Chevrolet Volt media blitz, inviting "waves" of journalists to Detroit to test drive its innovative plug-in hybrid electric car. By choice, I'll be in the last wave next week.

One of the first to report is NBC's Phil LeBeau, who broadcast live from the media center in Rochester, Michigan. The video below is instructive in several ways. First, it shows that LeBeau is so thoroughly taken by the car that he could be in GM's employ.

A large part of the reason is that General Motors gave him the chance to drive the car for more than the usual turn around the block. He was able to spend six hours driving the car all around eastern Michigan, which means he drove the car well beyond its advertised 40 miles of 'Electric-First'* driving range. That also meant that he got to see the car operating in its extended range mode, which he estimated as achieving 39-40 mpg, comparable to the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry hybrids.

What we also learn from questions and comments of his colleagues back in NBC's studios (which include CNBC, their business channel, and MSNBC, their opinion channel) is that there is still a lot of misunderstanding of how the Volt actually works. Despite carefully explaining that the car can drive for 40 miles on its electric batteries, and then another 300+ miles on its 9.3 gallons of gasoline that power the onboard generator, Steve Forbes, the erst-while U.S. Presidential candidate and scion of the Forbes publishing dynasty, still didn't get it, asking what happens when the battery runs down.

LeBeau also explains that the transition from all-electric to extended range is seamless, though he noted that six month earlier when driving an engineering prototype, that wasn't the case.

In terms of potential buyers, GM told him that they have a list of 120,000 'hand-raisers'. First year production will be 10,000 units. In 2012, this is increased to 45,000, and potentially more.

CNBC Video

* 'Electric-First' is a service mark of EV World.Com, Inc.

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