In a move that highlights General Motors’ shift away from fossil-fuel sucking vehicles, the company's board of directors agreed to fund production of the much-anticipated plug-in hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt, for a market launch by the end of 2010.
Unlike regular hybrids that switch between an electric motor and a gasoline engine, the Volt concept car is propelled by the electric motor alone. The gasoline engine recharges the battery, but never actually drives the car.
GM CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday that the company would like to produce the Volt in its Hamtramck, Mich. plant. However GM still has to negotiate with state and local governments before a final decision can be reached, he said.
Electric-car advocates cheered upon hearing the news. CalCars.org founder Felix Kramer said the announcement could set the stage for earlier rollouts of the car in California and other markets interested in buying electric.
"It's a milestone day," blogged Kramer.
GM also announced Wednesday that it would close four major S.U.V. and truck plants in North America, as Greentech Media Research Associate Daniel Englander blogged.
GM isn't the only one looking to bring plug-in hybrid vehicles to the consumer market.
Smaller, electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors also said it is developing a family car code-named "WhiteStar."
In February, the San Carlos, Calif. based company said it plans to offer consumers a choice of an all-electric WhiteStar sedan or a gas-electric hybrid version (see Tesla's Second Unveiling).
Tesla expects to start selling WhiteStar at the end of next year, which would beat GM to the market (see Tesla Powertrain Powers Forward).