2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010

GM is set to deliver its 2011 Chevrolet Volt to its first batch of owners, but it's just booked a big order sure to keep the extended-range electric car in short supply for the near future.

As its CEO Jeffrey Immelt promised two weeks ago, corporate giant General Electric said today it would purchase 25,000 electric cars over the next five years. The EVs will be used in its fleets in what the company calls the "largest ever" order for electric cars.

GM will grab 12,000 of those orders with the Volt. GE will buy that many Volt hatchbacks from the automaker, and says that as more EVs come on to the market, it will include those in its big EV buy.

The Volt has an electric-only driving range of between 25 and 50 miles. It can be charged through a 110-volt or a 240-volt outlet, or users can let the Volt power recharge itself via electricity generated by an on-board gasoline-powered four-cylinder engine. The engine also contributes power to the Volt more directly under some circumstances.

The 2011 Volt enters production this month, at the same time as the all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf. Both cars qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and are eligible for other green-car credits and perks on a state-by-state basis.