Chevy Volt: Where’s My Test Drive?

A lucky test driver
A rare non-celebrity test driver

I would like to announce a major scandal surrounding the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt “extended range” electric vehicle: there is only one available for test drives.

Last night, this reporter showed up early for a minor press junket on the sidelines of the LA Auto Show in hopes of getting a spot on the test-drive list, only to find out there were no spots available.

This, despite the fact that the Volt was sitting undriven in a parking lot across the street the entire time. Apparently, the vehicle was saving itself for a pair of B-list eco-friendly celebrities who were running late.

David Darovitz, communications for the Volt, said that demand for test drives far outstrips supply. GM has actually made 80 of the cars, but most of them are running various automotive testing regimens around the country — Pike’s Peak, Death Valley, the 405 during rush hour, etc. — with another 20 or so smashed up in crash tests.

Dave promised me a drive in March, when the Volt roadshow will be back in Los Angeles and the company will have more cars to play with. In the meantime, I had to be satisfied with a worn fiber glass mock-up of a Volt that looked like it had seen one too many press events.

Test Press Conference, Not Test Drive

The purpose of last night’s event appeared to be to wow a small batch of bloggers with the vehicle, as well as provide real-world media training for the Volt design and marketing team, which outnumbered the media in attendance.

Also there, like the pretty girl’s plain friend you feel like you have to talk to: the Chevy Cruze, GM’s latest attempt to compete with Corolla and Civic (their last attempt was the mercifully discontinued Cobalt). According to Chevy, the Cruze can get 40 miles to the gallon, and Car & Driver called it “well-designed and -built and doesn’t drive like an afterthought, as small domestics traditionally have.” The Cruze will be available in the US next year.

But enough about the Cruze.

Car-happy California will be the one of the first markets to get the Volt, when it goes on sale in November of 2010.

Chevy is also partnering with three California utilities and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) “as part of an extended, real-world demonstration and research program to introduce customers to electric vehicles, advance vehicle electrification and establish vehicle charging programs to pave the way for consumers,” according to a press release.

The Volt’s price has still not been announced, although $40,000 has been floating around.

Oh, and one more thing, from the release:

Chevrolet will also introduce a new Volt song designed to educate and entertain consumers during the auto show’s public days.

(emphasis added)

As soon as we have audio for the Volt Song, we promise we will make it available on 3P.

LA to Expand EV Charging Network

The Chevy release happily coincides with announcement from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of a new partnership to beef up the LA region’s network of electric vehicle charging stations. From the Los Angeles Times:

Along with a network of partners, the city plans to update 400 existing charging stations around the region while adding 100, Villaraigosa said. Electric vehicle owners also probably would receive tax rebates to construct home chargers and would have access to high-occupancy-vehicle lanes and preferential or free parking.

Once funding sources have been finalized (a big if, given California’s budget situation), the Mayor hopes to have incentives of as much as $2,000 go to the first 5,000 residential customers to install a home EV charging station. Villaraigosa also hopes to add EVs to the city’s fleet of vehicles.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.