WASHINGTON -- General Motors Corp. plans to show employees a near-production version of the Chevrolet Volt during the automaker's 100th anniversary celebration in September.
GM, which will mark its centennial on Sept. 16, will let employees take a peek at the extended range electric vehicle but not allow them to use any cameras because of concerns about the competition. GM has been working feverishly on the Volt to begin production in late 2010, with assembly set for its Hamtramck plant.
No final decision has been made on when and where the Volt will be revealed to employees -- and eventually the public, but spokeswoman Karla Coleman said, "It's going to be soon."
The Detroit automaker confirmed Tuesday that it had filed the necessary paperwork to construct a $326 million, 530,000-square-foot plant in Flint to build 1.4-liter turbo engines for the Volt as well as its new compact car, the Chevrolet Cruze. Construction of the plant is pending negotiations with state and local officials on tax incentives.
GM spokeswoman Sharon Basel confirmed the paperwork to build the plant had been filed. The new facility will be built near Flint Engine South and Flint Truck. The Flint City Council will meet on Aug. 25 to consider granting tax incentives for the plant.
The public won't have to wait too long to see a near-production version of the Volt. GM plans to unveil the revised Volt at either the Los Angeles International Auto Show in November or the Detroit auto show in January, a person familiar with the company's plans said.
The production model will be different than the concept version that was first unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2007; the original wasn't aerodynamic enough, according to GM.
GM's board of directors formally approved production of the vehicle last month.
The automaker recently showed a near-production version of the Volt to a focus group in southern California.
"It was very positive," Coleman said. "It's not like we can change the design at this point, but we want to hear feedback about how we're doing."
GM's engineers are driving the "real architecture" of the Volt under the bodies of other GM vehicles.
More than 200 engineers and 50 designers are working on the Volt, and another 400 are working on related subsystems and electric components. The Volt will be able to travel up to 40 miles on electric power alone and will have a gas engine that powers a generator to recharge the battery and keep the vehicle running when its lithium-ion battery pack is low on power.
GM is also working on a plug-in electric Saturn Vue that it also plans to start producing in late 2010. That will be able to go about 10 miles on electric power.
The Volt will operate like a plug-in hybrid; it will be rechargeable by plugging the vehicle into a standard 110-volt outlet. The vehicle could cost as much as $40,000 because of its expensive batteries.
GM announced this month that it is working with a consortium of 34 utilities to overcome technical challenges in introducing tens of thousands of plug-in electric vehicles to the market.
Congress is considering tax breaks for plug-in vehicles that would defray purchase costs of the Volt.
Toyota Motor Corp. announced in January it would produce and begin leasing a limited number of plug-in hybrid vehicles in late 2010 to fleet customers. The experimental version currently has a 7-mile electric range in testing.
GM said it plans to build tens of thousands of Volts beginning in late 2010. The News reported the company currently plans to build up to 200,000 through 2015, with many of them being exported to other markets and some to be sold under different nameplates.
The automaker began road testing the Volt in April after completing its design and cramming 10 years of battery testing into two. Executives lifted a sheet to reveal part of the Volt's restyled front to journalists during a tour in April.
Larry Burns, GM's vice president for research and development, has said the final version would bear "a clear family resemblance" to the concept vehicle "but it won't be a twin." The Volt will have a T-shaped battery, weighing about 400 pounds and in 64 inches in length.
In a related matter, GM won tax breaks in Ohio this week to build the Cruze, which will get 45 miles per gallon, at its Lordstown assembly plant. The automaker won a 15-year, 75 percent state tax credit worth $77.7 million. It also won a $4.4 million tax credit to create at least 200 jobs at the plant.