Over 34,000 People Want to Buy a Chevy Volt

Alternative energy advocate, Dr. Lyle Dennis, loved the idea behind General Motors' (GM) Chevrolet Volt electric concept car so much, that he not only created a Website devoted to it (GM-Volt.com) soon after GM announced the concept vehicle in 2007, but he has spent a significant amount of time leading a grassroots effort to convince GM to commit to building it... Which GM finally did in June 2008.

Part of GM's decision to move forward is a direct result of Dennis's efforts. The primary function of Dennis's GM-Volt.com site was to assemble a list of potential customers interested in purchasing a Volt. Dennis hoped that if enough people expressed interest, GM would respond by committing to manufacture the car. Now that GM has committed to getting the electric car in production before the end of 2010, Dennis's next goal is "to try and compel GM to build enough cars for us," as Dennis claims that GM's "actual production numbers are projected to be modest at first."

 Credit: GM
This next step for Dennis was started by his publicly releasing the metrics from his site's wait list, which had reached 33,000 people potentially interested in purchasing a Chevy Volt. Dennis released this information yesterday in a blog post on his site. As of when this news post was written, that number had already gone up to 34,503 people. Dennis included some other data from the wait list as well:

The states that have the most-interested potential purchasers are California (1,216), Texas (667), and Florida (641). Of those 34,503 people, 10,106 provided "an enthusiasm rating" for the Volt, and the average rating was 9.27 (on a 1 to 10 scale). Perhaps not all 34,503 are seriously considering purchasing a Volt, as only 8,217 people volunteered how much they would be willing to pay for one. The average price of those who did provide an amount was $31,378. If every one of them purchased a Volt for that amount, they would collectively spend almost $258 million. A total of 7,479 people said that they would be willing to put down a deposit for the car; the average of the deposits was $2,533.

Electric cars are quickly becoming a hot commodity. The Tesla Roadster has just started production, and the Mini Copper Clubman is expected next year. Even new companies are being formed to make electric cars, such as U.K.-based, Lightning Car Company with its high-performance Electric Lightning GT, and Philadelphia-based BG Automotive Group with its $16,000 economy car. GM is the first major car manufacturer, however, to plan to produce an electric car; albeit, not the only one, as Toyota has also announced an electric car using a similar technology as the Volt.

 Credit: GM
While the Volt is essentially an electric car, it is not strictly speaking, an electric-only car:

"The electric engine gets its power from a very powerful high-voltage battery pack that can store enough energy to drive the car up to 40 miles in standard driving conditions. That battery pack is recharged by plugging the car into your home 110 (or 220) volt wall outlet, just like you do your iPod or cell phone. The full-charge cycle should take about 6 hours (3 hours at 220). Yes, this will increase your electric bill, but you will charge the car overnight when rates are lower. Much more importantly, you will need NO GASOLINE for drives up to 40 miles. So, if gas prices continue to go through the roof, you really won’t care. In most areas, your electricity costs should amount to a gas equivalent price of 50 cents per gallon. Studies suggest that 78% of drivers drive less than 40 miles per day.

Another very important feature of the Volt, and the reason some people (not GM) still consider it a hybrid, is that it will still have an on-board gasoline/E85 combustion engine. Only in the Volt, this engine is the smaller one, and has only one task, it charges the battery pack when the stored power gets low. The motor is not connected to the wheels, it is only a generator. The brilliance of this feature is that you will have an overall driving range of 400 miles. The efficiency of this motor amounts to about 50 mpg, for each gallon you use to charge the batteries."
--Dr. Lyle Dennis

Some folks call this version of an electric car a "plug-in hybrid," since it also has a gas engine. But as Dennis points out, unlike the hybrid cars on the road today, such as the Toyota Prius, the Volt's gas engine essentially acts only as a "generator" to charge the batteries (for trips over 40 miles) and is not even connected to the vehicle's transmission.

The actions of Dennis and his grassroots movement show that voices of advocates can make a difference. It's also refreshing to see car manufacturers starting to embrace fuel-alternative technologies. Let's just hope that when and if gas prices dip back down below $3/gallon that the fickle whims of consumers don't drive the market back toward inefficient, gas-guzzlers.
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