- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Drivers can go green — if they have enough green.

General Motors Corp. announced Tuesday that it will start selling its first mass-market electric car, but consumers will have to shell out a bit more for environmental appeal. The Chevrolet Volt has a price tag of $41,000 before government rebates, several thousand dollars more than the comparable electric-powered Nissan Leaf and about twice what a comparable gasoline-powered car costs.

“This is one of the most important days we’ve seen in a long time for General Motors,” Joel Ewanick, GM’s vice president of U.S. marketing, told reporters during a conference call Tuesday. “It’s been 1,297 days since the introduction of the Volt concept car, and every day since we’ve been asked a single question: How much is it going to cost?”

GM began taking orders Tuesday on its website, www.getmyvolt.com. According to the automaker, delivery will begin in certain regions later this year, including New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the Washington, D.C., area.

To compensate for the Leaf’s lower purchase price, which will start at $32,780 when it goes on sale in December, GM will try to lure drivers with attractive lease terms. The Volt can be leased for $350 a month for 36 months with a $2,500 down payment, a deal comparable to the Nissan model.

In addition, several government tax credits and rebates will make the price less formidable. A federal tax credit of $7,500 will be available to most buyers, and GM is guaranteeing the Volt’s battery for eight years or 100,000 miles. In California, buyers may get an additional $5,000 tax rebate through the state’s Air Resources Board.

While that would reduce the Volt’s price in California to a feasible $28,500, it’s still more expensive than a Mitsubishi Galant, which offers comparable engine power and space for about $21,000.

Anthony Pratt, senior analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers Autofacts group, said he wasn’t surprised by the Volt’s premium cost but that it might become an “iconic vehicle” people buy for reasons other than cost.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to promote the Chevrolet brand,” Mr. Pratt said, calling it a “step in the right direction” for GM.

“It may change the image that many may have of the organization,” from a government-subsidized lemon to a forward-thinking innovator, he said.

Although both the Volt and Leaf are electric cars that are powered by connecting with a power outlet, the vehicles run off two different propulsion systems.

The Leaf has a range of 70 to 120 miles, depending on driving conditions, with zero tailpipe emissions. It’s powered by a 24-kilowatt-hour, laminated lithium-ion battery pack that will let the Leaf reach a top speed of 90 mph.

The Volt, however, is run by GM’s new Voltec electric automobile platform, an evolution from earlier GM hybrid systems. For up to the first 40 miles, the Volt is powered by electrical energy stored in its on-board lithium-ion batteries. But to quell the “range anxiety” associated with electric cars, the Volt has a gasoline engine that can generate power to run the car another 300 miles.