California Electric Utilities to Road Test 100 Chevy Volts Beginning in Early 2011

According to General Motors Company vice chairman, Bob Lutz, 100 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids will be delivered to utility companies in California in early 2011.

Speaking at the Los Angeles auto show, Lutz said that production of the fleet will be provided to electric utility companies for their use and for the purpose of road testing them in real-world conditions.

Earlier this week, Chevrolet division president Brent Dewar said the automaker will roll out the eagerly-awaited Volt in selected U.S. markets prior to their nationwide launch. He said the choice of test markets will be determined by a number of factors including infrastructure and available tax credits.

During the first few months of 2011, Lutz said GM will likely only produce between 4,000 and 5,000 units. Production is expected to reach between 8,000 and 10,000 units by 2012. Lutz predicts that production volumes will ultimately reach up to 60,000 units annually.

He also said that the Volt will be “an international car”, designed and engineered to comply with regulations worldwide. GM’s global vision, he said, is to sell between 100,000 and 150,000 plug-in, gas-electric hybrids annually.

Lutz declined to answer the inevitable questions about Fritz Henderson’s abrupt departure from the company. Henderson had been slated to appear at the auto show and deliver the speech that was given, instead, by Lutz. On Tuesday, GM’s new board of directors requested that Henderson step down as the struggling automaker’s chief executive after only eight months in that position.

Last March, Rick Warren tendered his resignation as GM’s president and CEO at the urging of the Obama administration’s Autos Task Force and U.S. Treasury Department. Lutz was mum on the rapid turnover of GM’s executive leadership in recent months.

When asked if additional shake-ups in GM’s management were eminent, Lutz said, “I’m not going to discuss other potential changes.”

Refocusing the discussion to the Volt, Lutz said that he had driven a prototype Volt over the Thanksgiving holiday. He said that the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack is being designed to deliver a 100,000-mile / 10-year life. He went on to say that having the battery pack replaced would cost no more than the typical overhaul of a traditional combustion engine.

Responding to questions and concerns that have arisen over disposal and recycling of depleted batteries Lutz said, “There will be a secondary-use market for spent battery packs.” Some possible uses include hospitals, schools and private residences that rely on battery power in emergency situations when conventional delivery of electric power is interrupted.

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