The New Car on the Block

In the coming months, Birmingham area consumers looking to purchase a new car will have one more available option to consider-one in the rapidly growing alternative vehicle market. The much anticipated Chevrolet Volt, the newest to emerge among the electric car market, will begin making its way onto dozens of Alabama car lots before the 2011 year’s end. “It looks great and drives great,” says Marty Phillips, assistant general sales manager at Edwards Chevrolet in Birmingham, regarding the Chevy Volt.

Electric cars offer consumers a range of benefits, including energy efficiency fueled by an electric motor that is powered by rechargeable battery packs. The Chevy Volt in particular, has been praised for being gas-free and for its zero tailpipe emissions. Another of the many appealing benefits, is that drivers of the Chevy Volt can can save thousands of dollars a year in commuting costs by paying an average of just $1.50 of electricity per day. A common misconception associated with electric cars is that when the battery dies, so too, does the car’s ability to function. In the Volt however, when the battery is depleted, a small, quiet on-board gas generator works to create the electricity needed to power the vehicle for several hundred additional miles.

Low emissions and great mileage are both appealing aspects of the Chevrolet Volt. Yet, another value added incentive is the low level of service needed to maintain this electric car each year. In fact, explains David Passmore, a service advisor with Edwards Chevrolet, “typically, the Volt only needs its oil changed every two years.”

Both Passmore and Phillips took part in a Chevrolet sponsored training course aimed to better educate company employees about electric cars. Phillips admits that at first, he was not necessarily a believer. “Then I drove the (Volt), and it really, really impressed me,” he says. Phillips is not alone in his admiration for the quality and overall function of the electric Volt. Randy Johnson, director of electric transportation at Alabama Power, also sees a great deal of excitement brewing among Birmingham communities. Johnson says that he and his team place a great deal of emphasis upon working to educate various types of consumers about the electric car market. “At many of these events, we’ve been speaking to packed houses. We expect the interest and excitement will continue to grow as the technology becomes more readily available and more electric vehicle models arrive in local showrooms.”

Back at Lee Edwards Chevrolet, Marty Phillips and his co-workers are gearing up for the first of the Volts to arrive sometime in the next few weeks.  Although the first one or two to take its place on the Edwards Chevrolet lot will be primarily used for test driving and demonstration purposes, Phillips says that his team is already receiving order requests for the Chevy Volt.

In terms of local support geared toward the electric car market, Passmore believes more could be done publicly to increase awareness, and to boost consumer interest as well. “Birmingham is one of the slower areas to catch onto this kind of market,” he says. “More publicity would definitely be a good thing.” That is exactly what Johnson, and members of his electric transportation team, aim to achieve. “Wherever we speak about electric transportation, we see growing interest and excitement – especially when people realize they can save 60 percent or more on fuel costs compared to gasoline or diesel,” says Johnson. “Right now,” he explains, “the biggest challenge is continuing to educate consumers about electric vehicles, so they understand the growing number of options that are now entering the market, the fuel savings, and other benefits such as fewer emissions and reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Despite consumer readiness, the electric car market has officially arrived in Birmingham. With continual efforts to raise awareness and educate our local communities about electric cars, people like Johnson, Phillips, and Passmore are among the many here in Birmingham who are helping this city as a whole in its initial steps to embrace the alternative vehicle market.

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