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The Chevrolet Volt has been named the 2011 Car of the Year. The electric/gas hybrid is rolling into dealerships on the East and West Coast, and some select locations in the South. It's expected to be available in our area later this year.

But as the snow falls today, many in this area are wondering how a perceived-weak electric engine will hold up against a Western New York Winter?

Batavia Chevy dealer Ken Barrett tells WBTA the Volt should prosper when it becomes available here. Barrett explained today that the Volt has a 1.4-liter gasoline engine on board - so while the Volt's battery will only take the car about 50 miles on one charge, the gas engine can kick in automatically after that.

However, "(the gas engine) does not drive the wheels," says Barrett. "but drives a generator to charge the batteries. And that's what really makes it different than a hybrid or a pure electric vehicle. When you exhaust the battery charge...the gasoline engine will kick-in and charge the battery, so you can drive another 320 miles."

Barrett says that extra-mileage capability makes the Volt extremely valuable in a harsh winter driving climate, like the one we often see in Genesee County - much more so than a strictly electric vehicle.

"In the wintertime, you've got an electric heater charging your battery," he says. "In the wintertime, batteries don't hold their charge as well as they do in warmer weather. And what if you get stuck in a snowbank? All of a sudden you're spinning your wheels, and it drains your battery.

"With the Volt,"
Barrett says, "because you have the on-board gasoline engine, you don't have to worry about draining the batteries."

Ken Barrett calls the Volt "a game-changer," and says he can't wait to begin selling them.

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