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The 230 MPG Volt

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Like most of the country, I did a double-take when I saw the number, then squinted at the screen to make sure I wasn’t reading a typo: The new GM/Chevrolet Volt can conceivably go 230 miles on a gallon of gas.

volt_ext.jpgWow. My first car was a flesh-colored 1972 Ford Pinto, which got pretty good mileage, as I recall, since it never exploded. My second car was a 1964 4-door Lincoln Continental — a car I still regret selling. That had a 460 cubic inch engine and a wheelbase of more than 120 inches — obviously a cruiser made for times when parking spots were more plentiful and gas was something like 20 cents a gallon (leaded, at that).

So, to sit here yesterday and read about a car that can go 40 miles without using a drop of gas or an estimated 230 miles on a gallon struck me as, well, foreign.

I am not used to this. I think I pay 30 bucks to fill up my current car, a 2008 VW Rabbit that gets close to 30 mpg on the highway — pretty good in my book. The Volt charges from a 120 outlet and relies on a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery, a name that vaguely sounds like the ingredients that powered the “She won’t go any faster, Capt’n!Enterprise.

Heady stuff. But I have questions: Is it better to charge a battery from an outlet connected to some coal- or oil-burning power plant, or continue to fill up at the pump? Can the battery packs be recycled or how are the more toxic elements disposed of?

volt_int.jpgA car that runs on electricity may save money over the course of ownership, but it doesn’t necessarily save the environment.

Still, it’s an exciting time, especially given the spectacular collapse of the U.S. auto industry this past year. Score one for us. For an industry that is suspected of quashing early efforts to get off the internal combustion engine, this truly marks a new chapter in the annals of car history.

And retailers, time to review your auto parts sets. I suppose you’ll have to add extension cords at some point.

(Photo credits: GM-Volt.com)

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