2011 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
The Chevrolet Volt gets a lot of press for a car that won’t be available for almost two years. Today, continuing its pattern of dribbling out little bits and pieces of Volt info, GM announced it will launch the car in San Francisco; Washington, DC; and other areas that offer charging plugs, special utility rates, and other necessary backing for electric-drive cars.
The Volt design is followed all over the web by fanboys and their detractors, but the nuts and bolts of electric-car infrastructure get much less attention. While drivers thrash more than 30 Volt “mules” around GM’s Milford Proving Grounds, the less glamorous work includes:
- consumer incentives to lower the Volt’s estimated $40,000 sticker price;
- charging plugs for the public (in malls, office buildings, etc.) and for individual owners;
- lower electric rates to encourage off-peak (night-time) charging;
- large purchases by government and private fleets, to increase demand; and
- access to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, a huge Prius incentive in the Bay Area.
If early Volt owners are to have a good experience, GM has to work with a whole slew of public, nonprofit, and private groups: local and regional governments, electric utilities, universities, even EV fanatics, known as the “true believers”.
But GM’s efforts are paying off. In October, Congress enacted a $7,500 tax credit for anyone who buys a vehicle with a 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack—which, quite coincidentally, just happens to be the exact size of the Volt’s battery. Just happenstance, we’re sure. A month later, the cities of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland revealed a plan to build infrastructure and offer incentives to residents who drive electric-powered vehicles. And the state of Michigan, where job losses have increased from a trickle to a torrent, just enacted hefty incentives for battery R&D and manufacturing in the state.
So if you want to be first in line for a Volt—and don’t live in San Francisco or DC—now’s the time! Call up City Hall and ask about their plans for public charging points. Suggest that the building department needs a fleet of extended-range electric vehicles. And make sure your power company knows you want to recharge your Volt between midnight and 6 am. Let us know how it goes …