For a car that has been on the market for little more than half a year, and sold fewer than 5,000 units in a deliberately slow roll-out thus far, the Chevrolet Volt has seen its share of attention.

Because General Motors has a checkered past, and relied on taxpayer money a couple of years ago to get itself out of trouble, the company and its post-bankruptcy doings have created a cottage industry of self-appointed critics.

Attempting to sidestep these negative factors as much as possible, I will share the positive side for why I think it is enlightened self interest to give GM the benefit of the doubt, and why I like the Chevrolet Volt.


I drove the Chevy down to Philly to see the place where America was born. Here the Volt is pictured in front of Independence Hall and the building housing the Liberty Bell (right).
 
 
Every day for the past week, I've driven a 2011 Volt on loan from GM, and can see how a site like GM-Volt grew to popularity from 2007 onward, well before the production car was launched.

The site has scientists, engineers and other insightful people reading it daily – people who have understood what the Volt represents and embraced what it could do for beleaguered America.

The Volt has been heavily reviewed already. Some have criticized it, others have named it car of the year, applauded its exceptional safety, high-tech, class-leading efficiency and more.

Is the Volt perfect? No. Is it the best of its type in the world? In my view, yes it is.

The Volt is an electric car with four-cylinder gasoline engine backup that will not leave you stranded once its 25-55 mile range batteries run out. (Range often averages between 35-45 miles, but like fuel mileage, depends a lot on how hard you drive. Also cold weather can decrease range, although the Volt's battery is thermally managed).

 

 
 
If you are among the approximately 75 percent of people in this society who drive less than 40 miles daily, you can almost stop using gasoline much of the time.

In electric mode, the Volt gets "infinite" miles per gallon (93 MPGe). Its cost of operation depends on how much you pay for electricity. The Volt’s electric bill is much less than a gasoline bill, so that's a big savings, plus it produces no emissions in electric mode – unless you count the emissions from a generating plant.

Either way, studies show total emissions are far less overall, and the car’s carbon footprint is therefore greatly reduced.

Another reason why I like the Volt is it is a well-engineered solution made by the home team.

Ford is also due to launch an electric car and more hybrids, but neither it nor Fiat-owned Chrysler have anything like the Volt with its gasoline-generator backup.

 

 
 
It is an oft-repeated story how the U.S. is seeing manufacturing going offshore. Our gross domestic product is heavily dependent upon consumer spending, and the fundamental strength of domestic manufacturing has been eroding for many years.

For its part, GM has said it intends to keep paying back and investing in U.S. manufacturing. The Volt is already being produced in Michigan and exported for now to the rest of the world. Recently GM began sourcing its engines from Flint, Mich. Presently it assembles battery packs in Brownstown, Mich. using imported battery cells, but next year the battery cells will also be made in the U.S. for the Brownstown-assembled battery packs, further increasing the Volt's domestic content and giving more Americans jobs.

It is not a hard concept to grasp. When you go to a sporting event, you know enough to root for the team you want to win, don’t you?

In an age when ideas like “loyalty” are not as often taught, it might bear considering that the idea ought not be relegated to archaic status, and its value is not dead.

 

 
 
Yes, GM has messed up in the past, and it is still an international company doing business all over the world, so I am not deluded in this line of thought.

That said, GM will continue to invest here, and the benefits to the U.S. economy will be felt if the Volt and it spinoffs succeed.

So, yes, I am taking into account prospects for improving the outlook for the domestic economy.

The other value the Volt offers is a step toward energy independence.

The Volt is the first of a new kind of vehicle that – if the experiment pans out – could lead to all kinds of new vehicles powered by sustainable energy.

This fact is not lost on a growing number of established and start-up companies, as copycat technology is coming along in a variety of forms.

 

 
 
Granted, automakers, including GM, are not putting all their eggs in one basket and are also trying other technologies to improve efficiency and lower emissions, so yes, more yet needs to be proven.

That said, the more you look into electric-powered vehicles, the more reasons you see why electric propulsion is catching on everywhere worldwide.

One study says by 2030, 64 percent of all light vehicles sold in the U.S. will be electrically powered, so this EV phenomenon is not a flash in the pan, and GM is definitely committed to it, that’s for sure.

I can also tell you: After driving an electric car, you start to realize some things about it are better than in a gasoline-powered car.

The Volt spoils you with near silent power. There is something very satisfying about it that you need to drive to experience.

Further, making the financial leap from say, the Volt’s cousin, the Chevrolet Cruze (or any similar class car) to the Volt is not as vast as one might think.

 

 
 
The Volt qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, in some cases state subsidies, and its build quality and amenities make the Volt more like a Buick-class car, even though it’s badged as a humble Chevy.

When weighing in factors like energy savings, incentives, and the good feeling one gets from polluting less, and owning an American solution to a world problem, the cost gap begins to look narrower.

This is my view. If you disagree, I respect that.

In fact, I’ll add if a person cannot afford the $39,995-plus Volt (minus subsidies bringing its net to low 30s), or the car does not meet his or her needs, I’d respect that too. In that case, maybe you should get another vehicle better suited for you.

The Volt, like any car, is not for everyone, and that is why they make vehicles in all sizes and price ranges. If however, it is a class of car you could use, it is worth looking at.

 

In front of the National Memorial Arch at Valley Forge.
 
 
While the Volt was made to feel a lot like a good-handling, well-appointed car, it further stands out as the world’s lowest price extended-range electric vehicle.

Weighing in all factors is an important element besides what ever number crunching and conceptualizing based on other peoples’ opinions you may also do.

Driving the Volt is as important as anything else. Because it is unique, first-hand experience will be vital to a good decision besides what any other reviewer or I might have to say.