Chevy Volt Electric Car Comes To Pocahontas

Marlinton, WV – This is the sound of a Chevrolet Volt, starting up.

(low humming noise)

The plug-in hybrid has been available in the US for about a year, but a demonstration car just recently arrived in the local area – at Mitchell Chevrolet in Marlinton.

The American-made hatchback uses two sources of power: a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery and a 1.4 liter gasoline-engine. The gas engine recharges the battery and also kicks in, on demand, to add power to the drivetrain. The Volt achieves an EPA combined city/highway fuel economy of 93 miles per gallon, making it the most fuel-efficient car sold in the U.S. Mitchell representative Brian Tankersly says the Volt will use electricity only, on short trips.

“You can go about 35 miles, depending on three things: the terrain; the temperature and the technique of the driver, which is going to be important,” he said. “Then, after 35 miles, you don’t have to do anything, the vehicle switches over to an onboard gasoline generator and you can then run just like a gasoline-powered car. But, for the first 35 miles or so, you can run without using any gasoline.”

Tankersly demonstrates the car’s power and quiet ride going up Edray Hill.

“As you can see, there’s no problem with acceleration, even on a hill,” he says, “none whatsoever. Actually, that’s one of the first things I wanted to see when we got this vehicle – was – will it take the hills around here? Yes, it will, with surprising results. It’s a wonderful drive and really quiet. You actually hear more things that you never heard before, when you’re driving down the road.

The salesman explains how driving down mountains recharges the Volt’s batteries.

“You have regenerative braking,” he said. “When you apply the brakes, it’s actually using your disk brakes to put power back into your battery. That’s amazing. When you’re going down a hill, instead of just running your motor, burning gasoline, you can actually be putting power back into your vehicle.”

A Volt battery pack costs about $8,000. GM estimates the batteries will lose as much as 30-percent of their capacity within 10 years.

Tankersly says drivers won’t have to worry about the batteries for the first eight years, because GM provides a warranty for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

What about after the warranty expires? The salesman says advances in battery technology likely will reduce the cost of battery replacement.

“How much would it cost to get a big screen TV 10 years ago versus now?” he said. “A flat screen TV 10 years ago versus now. So, we’re talking about a battery – eight years – you know, if you get to go eight years on that one battery, it could be cheap in eight years. It could be twice as good in eight years.”

The Volt could be quite economical for some drivers. The battery has a capacity of 16kWh, but only 10.4 kWh is utilized, to extend battery life. The cost of a kWh of electricity is about nine cents in West Virginia and 11 cents in Virginia. At those prices, it costs between $1.00 – $1.20 to fully charge a depleted battery, which can power the car for up to 35 miles.

Traveling 35 miles in a gasoline-powered car, getting 35 miles per gallon, would cost a gallon of gas, currently about $3.50.

Although the Volt has a base price of $41,000, Tankersly says the car will save people money in fuel costs and that technology will improve to make the car even more efficient.

“I believe it is going to save people money,” he said. “It’s also going to push technology down the road that’s going to save people even more money, and be better for the environment.”

Right now, the Volt is the most fuel efficient car you can buy, but it’s not the best for the environment – at least in areas where most electricity comes from burning coal.

Last year, an Argonne National Laboratory study concluded that plug-in hybrids, like the Volt, will increase greenhouse gas emissions in areas where coal-fired plants provide most of the electricity.

West Virginian gets 96-percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is investigating a potential fire hazard with the battery packs following test crashes of the Volt. The agency said no fires have been reported in real-world use by Volt drivers. GM reiterated its belief that the Volt is a safe car but said it will contact all Volt owners to offer a free loaner car, if the owner is worried about the problem.

GM has been struggling to meet its sales goals for the cutting-edge hybrid, but got a boost in October. The automaker sold 1,108 Volts last month – its best sales month to date.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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