Car enthusiasts and environmentally conscious drivers were amped up this morning for the national road tour debut of the Chevrolet Volt, the first electric vehicle with what General Motors calls extended-range capability.
And it happened at Griot’s Garage in Tacoma.
It was a big deal. Two Japanese television stations were there. Two Seattle-area radio stations were on hand and several local TV stations filmed for the news.
Cameras from Nippon TV trained on me as I drove up in my 2010 Prius hybrid to test drive the Volt. Reporter Takuya Katsumura eagerly interviewed me, even when I told him I was a member of the media, too.
The coming out of the Volt is big news in Japan, home to the companies that produce the Toyota Prius, Camry hybrid and soon-to-be-out Nissan Leaf.
I got a preview drive before members of the general public could get behind the wheel, and I loved the car, it’s quiet, smooth ride, compact dash, cool graphics and technology.
A steady line of eager and curious drivers lined up in the garage – out of the rain – for their turns at the wheel of the car, which won’t be available for sale in the U.S. until later this year. And even then, only in six states and the District of Columbia.
Washington isn’t one of them, but GM publicists said they began the car’s 3,400-mile Volt Unplugged tour in the Seattle area because there’s an interest here and they’re certain there will be a demand, when the cars become available in the area.
Scott Winneguth, a 57-year-old engineer for a renewable energy company, drove up from Portland to drive the Volt.
He was excited, he said, to drive a car that can go 25-50 miles without a drop of petrol and then use the gasoline engine to power the electric drive.
“I’ve been waiting for this day since GM droppd the EV1 (previous electric car) program,” he said.
Then, when a publicist walked up to usher him to his test drive, Winneguth gushed: “Is it my turn? I’ve been waiting for 10 years!”
Later, he pronounced the car “fabulous.” “It’s all come together,” he said of the marriage of battery and gasoline technology. “It was better than I thought it would be. You cannot hear or tell if the engine is running. It’s smooth. The car feels extremely stable. It’s everything you would expect from a modern car.”