Folks in Austin will be among the first consumers in the nation to be able to buy the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric car when the vehicle goes on sale this year, General Motors Co. said.
Other markets to get the Volt this year will be California, the District of Columbia, and the New York metropolitan area. Then, the car will go on sale in the rest of Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, and all of New York in early 2011.
The car won't be available nationwide for at least two years.
Areas will be added as GM ramps up production of the vehicle, which drives solely under electric power but has a small gasoline engine to recharge its battery pack - allowing the car to keep going without having to stop to plug in to an external charger.
Production volume will be severely limited the first few years, so buying a Volt will be difficult. GM said just 10,000 cars will be built through the end of 2011, with an additional 30,000 expected to be available in 2012.
A team of GM engineers brought the Volt to Austin last week, then drove it 1,776 miles to New York City to show off its limitless range.
Unlike Nissan Motor Co.'s Leaf pure electric vehicle that is to go on sale this year, the Volt doesn't have to stop every hour to recharge.
The Volt's trip began in Austin to underscore that city's addition to the list of limited launch areas for the car, but it also was a good starting point for a long road trip to show off the vehicle's range, the company said.
Although very little of the trip was driven with battery power from external electric sources, the drive was intended to show that the Volt is "the only electric vehicle that can operate under a full range of driving conditions and climates without limitations or driver concerns of being stranded by a depleted battery," GM said.
"This drive is a demonstration of the freedom the Volt will provide customers - freedom to drive where you want, when you want," Tony DiSalle, Volt's director of product marketing, said.
The team that drove from Austin to New York - in just four days, with a variety of stops - carried a 120-volt charge cord that could hook up to a standard household outlet for recharging, which takes up to 10 hours at that voltage.
But the car can be recharged in under four hours when connected to a 240-volt outlet, which Volt buyers are expected to install in their homes before they buy the car.
As with the Leaf, early consumers will be eligible for a free residential charger from ECOtality Inc., or Coulomb Technologies. GM says 4,400 of the free chargers will be available under a U.S. Department of Energy program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Volt and Leaf buyers also will be eligible for a federal tax credit of $2,500 for the chargers if they have to buy them.
That will pay all of the cost for most customers, which includes the chargers and wiring in homes to accommodate the devices.
Under battery power alone, the Volt can go about 40 miles on a charge, compared with about 100 miles for the Leaf. But when the Leaf's battery runs down, it has to be recharged from an external source.
With the Volt, though, the battery never runs low enough to keep the car from moving because the gasoline engine kicks in - not to power the drive wheels, but to recharge the battery pack so the car can keep going.
The Volt has a range of about 300 miles between refills of the gasoline tank.
Presumably, though, it could go 340 miles before stopping for fuel if it started the trip with a fully charged battery.