A jury of automotive journalists from Canada and the United states, representing newspapers, magazines, websites and television and radio shows, selected the Chevrolet Volt as the 2011 North American Car of the Year. The distinction was bestowed at a ceremony on the first day of media previews for Detroit’s 2011 North American International Auto Show in January.

The Volt is General Motor’s recently released electric vehicle that drives gasoline- and tailpipe-emissions-free for the first 35 miles. It is powered by a 16-kilowatt hour (kWh), lithium-ion battery. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gasoline-powered engine/generator operates to extend the driving range another 344 miles on a full tank.

The Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range capability was named the 2011 North American Car of the Year at Detroit’s 2011 North American International Auto Show in January. Credit: Chevrolet/John F. Martin

“It’s a great honor to be recognized as the North American Car of the Year,” said GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson. “Since development began, we believed the Volt had the potential to transform the automotive industry. Today, the Volt is the first electric vehicle to win the prestigious North American Car of the Year award, and the first vehicle ever to receive the industry’s highest automotive, technology and environmental recognitions.”

The 2011 North American Car of the Year award joins other distinctions the Volt has captured since its introduction last year. At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show held in November, the Volt was named the Green Car of the Year. Meanwhile, Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine also named the Volt the 2011 car of the year last November.

GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens said the Volt “represents the soul” of the new GM. He said the Volt is not a “science experiment” but “meant to be a high volume vehicle” and the first of many as the industry makes early moves beyond petroleum as a primary fuel source.

In December, the first Volts were delivered to retail customers in California, Texas, Washington, D.C. and New York. GM predicts it will sell 10,000 of them in 2011 and between 35,000 and 45,000 in 2012.

To learn more about the Volt’s pricing and features, read the previous eNews story about the vehicle’s launch. If you want to know more about how the Volt works, check out this issue’s “Let’s Clear the Air” by National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium Assistant Director of Operations Bill Davis.

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