volttop.jpgGeneral Motors is apparently serious about introducing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which I have repeatedly argued is the car of the future (PDF). The race is now on between Toyota and GM as to who will be the first to introduce this game-changing vehicle.

The Chevy Volt is to be the "legacy" of Robert Lutz, GM’s vice chair of product development, according to Business Week‘s "Auto Beat" column. The Volt will go about 40 miles on an electric charge before reverting to being a regular gasoline-powered hybrid.

Given that the vast majority of drives are under 20 miles round trip, the Volt will consume very little gasoline most of the time. And the per-mile cost of running a car on electricity is under one third that of running on gasoline — plug-ins are indeed more than a game-changer.

Business Week shares our enthusiasm for plug-ins:

I can’t help thinking that this technology will make the current crop of hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape look like Ford Excursions … The technology would create viable vehicles that get the equivalent of more than 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

Even game-changer isn’t strong enough: Make that a "world changer."

If they are serious about plug-ins and beat Toyota to market, they will have reasserted their leadership in electric drivetrain technology, which they abandoned so short-sightedly several years ago.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.