A Mere Tinge of Green

Motor City is abuzz over alternate-power cars. But automakers still love their overweight, overpowered vehicles.

Published: 18-Jan-2007

DETROIT -- GENERAL MOTORS -- the bad-daddy patriarch of Detroit, the strangler of electric cars, the 800-pound plaintiff against air-quality rules from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento -- reached out and hugged a tree last week.

On the floor of Cobo Hall, site of the North American International Auto Show (ending Sunday), GM unveiled its Chevy Volt concept car, a wind-cheating, four-seat electric vehicle that was the sensation of the show. The Volt utters all the sacred shibboleths that EV enthusiasts have longed to hear: The Volt is a plug-in hybrid, which when charged from a wall socket should be able to travel 40 miles in all-electric mode -- more than enough to cover most people's daily driving using nary a drop of gas.

Should the vehicle need to go farther, a super-efficient one-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine onboard will act like a range-extending generator. The numbers suggest the Volt could be capable of up to 150 miles per gallon on trips of 60 miles or less, and 50 mpg on long-distance drives.

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