By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; 1:34 PM
The forthcoming electric car the Chevrolet Volt will cost $41,000, General Motors announced Tuesday, leaving consumers to decide whether its environmental appeal is worth a price far above those of similarly sized conventional autos.
Although electric car technology has been around for years, one of the main obstacles to producing the cars for the mass market has been the cost of making the large batteries that power them. The price announcements for the Volt and its electric rival, the Nissan Leaf, have been highly anticipated. Nissan, the only other major manufacturer expected to bring such a vehicle to market this year, said the Leaf will cost $32,780.
At those prices, the cars are considerably more expensive than comparably sized cars that run on gas, such as the Honda Civic or the Ford Focus, each of which costs under $20,000. The companies are relying on a $7,500 tax credit on the vehicles to make them more palatable to consumers.
Moreover, General Motors is hoping the Volt's added capability will attract buyers who are considering the Leaf. The Volt's battery -- with a range of 40 miles -- is supplemented by a gasoline-powered generator that allows it to go another 340 miles. The Leaf has a range of 100 miles on its battery.
"The Chevrolet Volt will be the best vehicle in its class . . . because it's in a class by itself," said Joel Ewanick, vice president of U.S. marketing for General Motors. "No other automaker offers an electrically driven vehicle that can be your everyday driver, to take you wherever, whenever. The Volt will be packed with premium content and innovation, standard."
The Volt will also be available by lease with a monthly payment of $350 for 36 months and $2,500 due at lease signing, the company said.
In developing the Volt, General Motors is seeking to fulfill its promise to Congress during the government bailout to move beyond gas-guzzlers.
The Obama administration has put its weight, and billions of dollars, behind an effort to develop electric cars and batteries in the United States. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged to put 1 million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015. Whether he succeeds could depend in part on whether the Leaf and the Volt are priced low enough to be quickly embraced by consumers.
The president has expressed optimism that automakers will be able to lower the price tags of electric vehicles, suggesting that major reductions in battery costs are on the horizon.
"Because of advances in the manufacturing, [battery] costs are expected to come down by nearly 70 percent in the next few years," Obama said earlier this month at the site of a planned battery factory in Michigan. "That's going to make electric and hybrid cars and trucks more affordable for more Americans."