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Chevrolet Volt's New Electric Vehicle Previews at West Philadelphia High School

Recently, Chevrolet visited West Philadelphia High School’s Academy of Automotive & Mechanical Engineering to show students their new electronic vehicle, the Chevy Volt.  We were able to catch up with Mel Fox, an Engineer for General Motors and Carolyn Markey from GM Communications to hear about the visit and Chevy’s cleaner auto-alternatives (for those of us who HAVE to drive).  Enjoy!

Green Philly Blog: How did you get involved with this project? (I see you’re a fellow Penn State Grad – any inspiration or experienced gained from our alma mater?)

Mel Fox, Engineer for General Motors: I was a part of Penn State’s “ChallengeX” team in grad school.  ChallengeX was a hybrid vehicle 4-year competition funded by General Motors & the US DOE.  I was recruited to work on the Volt when I was at the GM Proving Grounds During the Year 3 competition in June 2007.

I obviously gained a ton of experience while on the ChallengeX team, not to mention that it was invaluable and much more “real world” than I could have comprehended.  Half of my graduate research focused on alternative fuel combustion in spark-ignited engines, so that certainly helped me to learn about the fuel/engine/emissions side of the world.  Now that I am working on diesel combustion development at GM, I am learning how to apply my fundamental research-type knowledge here to future products.  I have a Penn State flag in my cube, proudly displayed for all to see! (Julie/Editors note: Me too!) As it turns out, several of the combustion gurus here at GM are also from Penn State.

GPB: Would the Volt be more ideal for city-dwellers or suburbanites?

Carolyn Markey, GM Communications:: Nearly 80% of Americans commute less than 40 miles/day – the Volt allows a gas- and tailpipe emissions-free drive for the 1st 40 miles.  So most people, urban dwellers or suburbanites, can drive gas and emissions free the majority of the time.  What’s revolutionary about the Chevy Volt is that after the battery is depleted, a gas-powered engine generator extends the range for about another 300 miles until you refuel or recharge the battery. Cities will provide more recharging opportunities, but the Volt’s range extender will eliminate range anxiety and prove useful to more rural areas.

GPB: How did the West Philly students react?

Mel Fox, Engineer for General Motors: The West Philly students blew me away.  They were respectful, enthusiastic and very smart! They had excellent questions and clearly very engaged – not only with regards to the Volt, but also in terms of their connection with the vehicles they are working on.  I appreciated that there was so much interaction!

GPB: It’s great to see that Chevy’s making Strides for emissions-free vehicles.  Do you know if there are plans to integrate ‘charging-stations” in Philadelphia?

Carolyn:  Chevrolet will start by selling Volts in key markets including California, Michigan & Washington, DC.  We have ongoing efforts with a number of U.S. cities as part of our “Plug-in Ready” initiatives that encourage enablers, such as engagement with local utilities and incentives to help smooth out the consumer process and prepare communities for the Volt and other electric vehicles and look forward to announcing more markets.

GPB: What other eco-friendly options does Chevy have for Philadelphia Greenies?

Carolyn: This is an exciting time for Chevy offering a range of vehicles that will appeal to consumers wanting safe, reliable vehicles that look good and provide outstanding fuel economy.  This summer we’re launching the Chevy Cruze, a mid-size sedan; the Cruze Eco is expected to have a fuel economy of 40 mpg.  We currently offer the Chevy Equinox crossover at 32 mpg (best-in-segment fuel economy), hybrid trucks (50% improvement in highway fuel economy), and Flexfuel vehicles running on E85 ethanol (more than any other manufacturer).  We’ll introduce the new Chevy Spark mini-car in 2012.

GPB: Thanks for all your answers!

Posted by Julie

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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