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Chevrolet Volt -- the Art of Driving for Free

Stocks in this article: GM

The other dubious design choice is the rubber spoiler up front. It is so low, optimized for freeway speeds, that it will touch something with the slightest bump in the road. At least it's made in flexible soft heavy-duty rubber. We will see how much abuse it can take over time, as it's impossible to prevent such abuse.

The gasoline generator is very interesting, in that in the rare event you can hear it, you will feel that it's totally disconnected at most times from your use of the accelerator. You will go faster or slower, and the generator will either be on or off independent of whatever you do with the accelerator. It's a very strange feeling -- but it warms an an engineer's heart when you realize how much more efficient this arrangement is.

What's the bottom line on the Chevrolet Volt? First, you have to decide if a very low four-seat car with a small back seat and a small trunk space is for you. If it is, and you disregard the price for a moment, I give the Chevrolet Volt essentially a 10 out of 10. That said, $43,000 is a lot of money compared to the otherwise easy choice: Toyota Prius. It's hard to justify the price premium on pure economic grounds, unless you believe gasoline will go significantly above $5 per gallon while electricity prices won't increase as much. But the Volt feels like so much of a richer car than the Prius, and it drives much better (faster, quieter, more comfortable, etc.). Overall, $43,000 for the Volt is not totally unfair, but does reduce the overall grade to something below 10. Perhaps an 8.

More importantly, perhaps: Like so many other people, I think the minivan is the ideal body form factor. That may mean a "regular" size minivan such as the Toyota Sienna, or a smaller version such as the Mazda 5. One of these years, the Volt's electric-but-range-extender architecture will make it into one of these minivan form factors. Ford's C-Max may be the first one.

At the time of publication, Wahlman had no positions in the companies mentioned.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

Anton Wahlman was a sell-side equity research analyst covering the communications technology industries from 1996 to 2008: UBS 1996-2002, Needham & Company 2002-2006, and ThinkEquity 2006-2008.

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