"GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, “green” powertrain development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable ..."One of the problems is that the Volt tries to combine the functions of a hybrid car and an electric car. The Volt is designed with an electric motor and battery pack large enough to travel a reasonable distance (64.4 km) and speed (more than 100 k/hr) as an electric car, plus it also has a petrol engine. In contrast the Toyota Prius can only travel a couple of kilometres on battery power alone and only at up to 40 km. Many other hybrids cannot be driven at all without their petrol engine running. As a result these hybrids can have a smaller, lower cost electric engine and battery.
From: Determination of Viability, General Motors Corporation, Summary, March 30, 2009
As designed, the Volt will need a battery about 30 times the capacity of the one in the Prius and so costing about 30 times as much. The difference in size of the electric motor: 111 kW versus 57 kW, is less significant in terms of cost. One solution for GM would therefore be to sell a lower cost model of the Volt with fewer batteries. GM could then advertise the Volt as having an electric range much longer that the Prius, but starting at a comparable price.
A smaller battery pack would also be much quicker to charge and could be done from an ordinary power point. Smaller lower cost charges could double the range of the electric Volt if there is a charger at each end of a regular trip. As an example, if there is a charger at the office car park a commuter could travel to work on battery power and then plug the car in to recharge for the trip home.
Of course a hybrid plug-in electric car might be trying to do too much. If you want an electric car for short runs at 40 km/h, then India already makes the REVA Electric Car. If you want a hybrid which can go longer at higher speeds, then Toyota already make these, along with Honda (Civic Hybrid) and Ford (Escape Hybrid using technology from Toyota).