Customer confidence in driving the Chevrolet Volt as an everyday vehicle depends on electric utilities providing the uninterrupted power at home and work to support the vehicles. That’s why the first 27 Volts in North Carolina are going to major utilities under a partnership between the Electric Power Research Institute and General Motors.

The GM/EPRI/Utility collaboration with more than 30 major utilities nationwide was announced at the Plug-In 2008 Conference. The utility partnership is working to ensure safe and convenient vehicle charging, raise public awareness and understanding of plug-in electric vehicles, and help public policy leaders plan the transition from petroleum to electricity as a fuel source. The program is made possible in part by a $30.5 million grant administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Recovery Act Transportation Electrification Initiative. 

“In-home and workplace charging experience is critical to market acceptance of electric vehicles,” said Britta Gross, GM director of Global Energy Systems and Infrastructure Commercialization.  “Together with EPRI and leading utility companies such as Duke Energy and Progress Energy, we will transform transportation and make electric vehicles relevant and available to the mass market.”

The deliveries to utilities coincide with the opening of the Plug-In 2011 conference, which opens Tuesday in Raleigh. Volt deliveries to the 128 Chevrolet dealers in the Carolinas will begin in August.  

“The Chevrolet Volts join our rapidly expanding fleet of plug-in electric vehicles and will provide a significant boost to our research efforts,” said Bill Johnson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy.

“We are committed to developing the necessary infrastructure to support the widespread use of electric vehicles because we believe they will save our customers money, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and help protect the environment,” said Johnson, who is also the co-chairman of the Edison Electric Institute CEO Taskforce on Electric Transportation.

Using electricity to power vehicles such as the Volt can reduce the auto industry’s dependence on petroleum and help reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. Consumers benefit from lower energy costs. As a transportation fuel, electricity costs about one-half of gasoline per mile. The national average to charge a Volt is about $1.50 a day, Gross said

About two-thirds of the more than 4 million miles driven by Volt owners to date have been powered by domestically produced electricity, and the typical Volt customers is getting almost 1,000 miles per single tank of gasoline.

The Volt’s extended-range capability offers a total driving range of up to 379 miles, based on EPA estimates. For the first 35 miles, the Volt can drive gas- and tailpipe emissions-free using a full charge of electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas-powered engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the driving range another 344 miles on a full tank.