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State Fair of Texas offers glimpse of cars’ electric future /Feria Estatal de Texas ofrece visión de futuro de los coches eléctricos


The vehicles many Americans may soon be looking to drive are on display at the State Fair of Texas auto show.

And for once, the future is not about the roar of big, brawny trucks that haul hay and tow boats or horse trailers.

The noise of the 2010 auto show is, well, no noise at all. It’s the virtual silence of vehicles powered by electricity, not internal combustion engines, that will provide clean, green transportation.

The first electric cars aimed squarely at the mainstream U.S. auto market, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, are the stars of the show, which opens today in Fair Park.

Both will be on display at the Chevy and Nissan exhibits for the fair’s 24-day run, with marketing staff available to answer consumers’ questions. GM also put a Volt chassis on display, showing the electric drive mechanism and battery built into the vehicle’s frame.

The four-passenger Volt, the size of a standard compact sedan, “is a very practical vehicle” designed for the typical urban and suburban driver, said Britta Gross, a General Motors engineer and director of its Global Energy Systems division.

When the Volt arrives at Chevy dealers’ lots, Gross said, consumers will find that it “has eliminated every excuse” they have had for being reluctant to adopt an electric vehicle.

The Volt’s battery-powered electric drive system offers about 40 miles of range without recharging in most cases, Gross said, enough to meet the daily driving needs of 70 percent of the public. Recharging takes about 10 hours when plugged into a standard 110-volt household outlet.

For longer trips, a gasoline motor kicks in almost imperceptibly, generating electricity to drive the vehicle for hours more.

GM will begin Volt production Nov. 1 at a plant in Hamtramck, Mich. Some of the initial production vehicles are destined for Chevy dealers in Austin, with others going to California, Washington, D.C., Detroit and the New York City area.

By spring, other dealers opting to sell the Volt should be getting their first vehicles. Production will be extremely limited: just 10,000 vehicles for the 2011 model year and 45,000 in 2012.

“Those numbers may seem small to you, but they sound hugely ambitious to us,” Gross said.

Even though few people have seen, let alone driven, the Volt, some Texas dealers have already sold out their entire first year’s allocation, said Craig Eppling, GM’s marketing manager for the Southwest region.

GM had three “pre-production” Volts on hand Thursday for journalists to drive. VIPs will get a chance to drive them today before they are moved to other events.

Nissan will begin production of the Leaf in Japan before year’s end as it tiptoes its way into the U.S. and Japanese markets. Unlike the Volt, the Leaf is all-electric, drawing on a larger battery pack to give it up to 100 miles of range before it has to be recharged. As an all-electric vehicle, it produces no emissions.

“This is a real 100 miles. We’ve done real-world tests,” said Paul Hawson, a Nissan product specialist. The Leaf, Hawson said, represents “an affordable, sustainable capability” that is a major step in the evolution of clean electric vehicles.

Nearly 1,000 consumers in Texas have made reservations to buy a Leaf, ranking third among the states. Nissan is building a battery production plant in Smyrna, Tenn., where it will be assembled in the company’s existing factory.

Production is set to begin in 2012. The company expects to build 150,000 vehicles and 200,000 batteries in Smyrna for the U.S. and other markets.

Nissan will launch a cross-country driving tour with the Leaf in Los Angeles early next month; officials said it will include stops in Texas.

Unlike the Volt, the Leaf will require a 220-volt electrical outlet for recharging.

Nissan and Chevy officials say their electric vehicles will meet one of the most important criteria for Texas drivers: The battery power range includes full use of the air conditioning.

Fuente: Start Telegram

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