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Car's Future Looks to the Past

It turns out the automobile industry's newest concept isn't all that new. According to Leo Karl of Karl Chevrolet Hummer, cars like the Chevy Volt might be the most recent innovation, but in many ways they represent a return to the industry's roots.

"If you go back to the 1800s, the first cars were electric. They had a battery and would go a short distance. It's sort of like we are going back to the future," said Karl in his New Canaan dealership.

New concept or not, the technology has improved and what's more, so has the hype machine. Karl said he has never seen a vehicle build so much grassroots interest before any official marketing had even begun. Waiting lists in many areas are already six months out for a vehicle not expected to roll off lots until the end of November at the earliest.

Karl said he is happy to see that General Motors has opened a factory stateside to help produce more of the batteries needed for the Volt. Not only will that help boost production from a first-year run of 10,000 cars to a planned 45,000. The Volt uses lithium-ion batteries, the same technology as a cell phone, to power the engine up to 40 miles a day. After that, a gas generator can keep the extended-range electric vehicle rolling up to another 300 miles. Karl estimated that it takes about $1.50 worth of electricity a day to keep the car charged. "It's roughly equivalent to the same amount of power you would use if you had a second refrigerator in your garage."

As a means of lowering carbon footprints and weaning us off foreign oil, Karl said he expects cars like the Volt to gain in popularity. That is, until the next batch of technology comes out. "It's definitely the future for the next couple of decades," said Karl.

Karl Chevrolet Hummer has joined Main Street Connect by purchasing an annual visibility package.

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