This summer will see GM start testing its plug-in hybrid system in actual Volt bodies

This summer will see GM start testing its plug-in hybrid system in actual Volt bodies

The much anticipated Chevrolet Volt, the car pegged with rescuing GM from impending financial doom, is about to start the next phase of testing despite threats of bankruptcy looming on the horizon. Development work on the Volt is continuing uninterrupted and the first fleet of prototypes with actual Volt bodies and interiors will begin testing by the middle of the year. Until now GM had been using Chevrolet Cruze bodies to test the upcoming Volt powertrain.

At the moment, the car is slated to hit dealerships in late 2010 and this goal appears to be on track. "At this point in time, I know of no reason why we can't be in production by November of 2010," GM product development chief Tom Stephens told Automotive News.

Something that has been delayed, however, is which of the three other surviving GM brands - Cadillac, Buick or GMC - would get a vehicle with the Volt's hybrid powertrain. The most likely option will be Cadillac, which reportedly is planning to produce a version of its Converj plug-in hybrid concept.

GM is also working on the second-generation Volt already, displaying the high hopes that upper management is pinning on the car.

Meanwhile, making the Volt as efficient as possible is of key concern to GM - this means examining every aspect of the car for any points where energy consumption can be reduced. Following this tack, GM is even putting a more frugal stereo in the car to make the Volt's electric-only range as high as possible, among other things.

Along with its current financial troubles, another thorn in the side of GM lies in the expected take-up rate on the Volt, and whether consumers will embrace it as much as upper management is hoping. One of the key concerns in this area is the infrastructure needed for the Volt, such as charging points. Incentives such as free parking in certain places may be put in place to entice customers more readily to the Volt.

Conversely, concerns about infrastructure far outweigh any concerns about the effect on the electrical grid - in fact, the largest problem for the Volt lies in the lack of charging facilities in urban areas where the Volt is most likely to be used. Whatever solution GM comes up for this, it'll have to come quick if the Volt is to be as big a success as they are hoping.