EV1 backer Chelsea Sexton to test drive GM’s Chevy Volt USATODAY com

18 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи EV1 backer Chelsea Sexton to test drive GM’s Chevy Volt USATODAY com отключены
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USA TODAY Drive On: A conversation about the cars and trucks we drive

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. Until a few years ago, demure Chelsea Sexton posed a threat to General Motors as an activist leader in protests about its decision to walk away from its 1990s electric car, the EV1.

But driving near her home Thursday in this Los Angeles suburb, Sexton was all smiles. Her protests weren’t in vain: She is among 15 members of a GM advisory board who this week got pre-production Chevrolet Volts, Chevy’s extended-range electric car, to try for three months.

With Volt customer deliveries to start in a few weeks, GM is placing the breakthrough $41,000 car in the hands of electric-car advocates and other opinion leaders for evaluation, feedback and hopefully, kind words.

Sexton is pumped. When a driver in a red Toyota Prius pulled alongside at a stop sign on Main Street and asked the price of Volt, Sexton was happy to reply. She expects lots of questions everywhere she drives.

Sexton and other advisory board members in California, New York and Washington, D.C. will report in once a week via the car’s OnStar satellite link on their experiences driving the car and charging it, said GM spokesman David Darovitz. This is the final step before we start production, he said.

Sexton was a bold choice for the board. Leader of advocacy group Plug In America, she has been one of GM’s fiercest critics. She and three others picked up their Volts on Wednesday at the same GM facility in Burbank, Calif. that she picketed in 2005 in an EV1 protest.

When she arrived Wednesday, there were lots of jokes about being on the wrong side of the fence, she said.

The protesters, some of whom were arrested, unsuccessfully tried to keep GM from destroying the remaining Saturn EV1 electric cars it had leased to people in a pilot program, then had taken back. The protests, and Sexton, were featured in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? . which took … aim at GM.

Darovitz said including Sexton shows GM has really embraced former EV1 drivers. It’s smart for us to listen to folks who are passionate about the movement.

Just after the film came out in 2006, GM announced it was working on the Volt, a plug-in electric that can go 25 to 50 miles on a full charge before a backup gas-engine-powered generator kicks in to provide juice.

Including the gas engine has irked some activist electric-car purists. Sexton says she’s had … threats for supporting Volt and GM. But she says that even when the EV1 protests were most heated, she was measured in her opposition to GM.

General Motors EV1

As much as I’ve given GM a black eye, I’m the person who never encouraged a boycott, she says. (I) never said GM was a bad company. They just made bad decisions.

She knew the company from the inside. She had gone to work for the Saturn division in 1993 and was assigned to the EV1 pilot program from 1996 until 2001. The EV1 was a futuristic electric car for its time, but lacked the advanced batteries and power control systems of today. Still, she and others believe the company erred by withdrawing all the EV1s it leased in California and Arizona and crushing them.

In killing the program, GM argued that the EV1 lacked the range and convenience customers wanted and could not be profitable.

Today, Sexton remains an electric car advocate through her Lightning Rod Foundation, and still serves as an adviser to Plug In America. She’s also a consulting producer for the follow-up film from director Chris Paine, Revenge of the Electric Car . due out next year.

She’s not the only electric car fanatic in the Volt group. Colin Summers, an architect from Santa Monica, says he thinks the Volt will suit his traveling lifestyle. This is perfect for me, he says.

It’s a long-range car disguised as an EV for almost all of my use.

To stay true to his EV roots, he’s going to try to drive the Volt during the week so that it never uses any gasoline, only taking longer trips on the weekends.

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