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Honey - have you plugged the car in?

In Motoring News

By system on Friday, 22 August 2008

GM has confirmed the all electric Volt is going into production and could be in American showrooms from 2010, GM Holden are also said to be seriously considering bringing it to Australia in 2011.

The latest hint comes from Larry Burns, the vice-president for R&D and planning with General Motors, who says his company is close to locking down the final specification of the Volt – which will use a petrol engine to charge on-board lithium-ion batteries – to begin genuine sales.

The recently-installed chairman of Holden, Mark Reuss, has an aggressive plan for greening the company and – together with everything from cylinder deactivation to advanced LPG systems on the flagship Commodore – is keen to see the Volt downunder.

The biggest hurdle to overcome, according to Burns, is a giant battery pack which is bigger than a person and takes considerable cooling. It gives the car a 70-kilometre range but takes hours to recharge.

GM intends to begin Volt sales in Washington and California in 2010 and will then do a global roll-out which could easily include Australia. Burns confirmed the basics but would not be drawn on a commitment down under. “We’re keeping our options open with what we do with the Volt on a worldwide basis,” he said.

“Our immediate focus is to get this car developed and get it in the market in the United States. We’re not getting preoccupied with other possibilities.”

But one company is pushing ahead rapidly with an electric-style hybrid and could easily beat the American contender to Australia. Mazda has developed a version of its Mazda5 people mover in Japan which uses a hydrogen-powered rotary engine to charge onboard batteries for full electric operation.

It is actually part of a major hydrogen push by Mazda which has already seen development of a hydrogen-fueled RX-8 sports car, which will soon be shipped to Norway.

The hydbrid Mazda5 is one of the first and will be released in Japan in 2009, with large-scale sales from 2010.