For the next few years, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car will be the sole focus of GM's advanced powertrain efforts for U.S. car buyers.

But that hasn't stopped it from putting battery electric cars into production elsewhere in the world.

Electric minicars in China

Last week, in China, the company started building pre-production prototypes of an all-electric version of its Chevrolet New Sail minicar. The company's Shanghai-GM joint venture will unveil a prototype New Sail EV before the end of the year, according to Reuters.

2010 Chevrolet New Sail, sold in China

2010 Chevrolet New Sail, sold in China

Like many such new electric cars, GM initially plans to put the New Sail EV into test fleets to accumulate data on how real-world drivers drive, use, and recharge the car.

Production plans will follow based on both cost and Chinese regulations, which strongly encourage automakers to produce electric cars.

GM is the largest non-Chinese automaker in the country. It brings the advantage of a global R&D team and two decades of experience designing and building electric cars, including the ill-fated EV1 two-seater that was the subject of the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?

2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Range-extended only in the States

Back in the States, the company expects to build about 10,000 Volts next year, then 45,000 in 2012. Demand for the car will likely determine production levels beyond that.

GM has said it has no plans to offer "pure" battery electric vehicles in this market, citing U.S. drivers' variable distances covered.

The company feels that the lack of range anxiety provided by the gasoline range-extending 1.4-liter engine in the Volt gives it a major marketing advantage against the 2011 Nissan Leaf battery electric car, with its limited range of up to 100 miles.