California will be the "lead market" for the Chevy Volt when the electrically driven car is available at the end of next year, General Motors said Wednesday.
California was chosen because the state has the largest U.S. car market, and Californians are "known to be leaders in adopting groundbreaking new technologies," GM's vice president of global Chevrolet brand, Brent Deware, said in a statement pegged to this week's Los Angeles International Auto Show.
Production of the Volt is scheduled to start in late 2010. GM has not announced pricing for the 2011 model, though newly dethroned CEO Fritz Henderson acknowledged earlier this fall that the price would be about $40,000. (GM's board on Tuesday asked Henderson to resign, effective immediately.)
As part of the California rollout, GM plans to make 100 Volts available to three utilities for testing. The cars will be used as fleet vehicles, and performance data will be collected via GM's OnStar in-car communications for a Department of Energy-run research program.
Financially strapped GM has a lot riding on the Chevy Volt. The car is designed to run for 40 miles on its lithium ion batteries and then use an engine-generator combination for longer rides. GM expects that most customers will do the majority of their driving on electric charge only, making the cost per mile cheaper than gas-only cars.
Even with the public excitement over electric cars, automakers are still not totally sure how consumers will adjust to the new technology and how electric components will operate in real-world conditions.
GM, as well as other automakers, plans to offer electric vehicles in certain regions that will invest in the infrastructure to support them. The California research program calls for the installation of 500 charging stations at people's homes, at businesses, and in public places.