By Phil LeBeau, CNBC Correspondent
As soon as GM announced the price of the new Chevy Volt at $41,000, I could hear skeptics scoff, "Are you kidding me? Who will pay that for an electric car?" Personally, I think there are enough early adopters out there and the Volt's performance will be strong enough to make sure the electric car sells (or leases) well, at least initially. What's more intriguing is the marketing approach GM is taking with the Volt. Essentially, it will come down to unplugging the "electric" aspect of the Volt. GM hopes that pushing the Volt as a car that is not limited by how far you can drive it on electric power alone (40 miles) will make people more comfortable buying it. Basically, GM is trying to remove the biggest obstacle that could stop someone from committing to an electric car: range anxiety. As someone who has driven the Volt, and the all-electric Nissan LEAF, I'm convinced that the driving performance of both will win over skeptics. They both are cars you could see yourself driving day in, day out. So what's the problem? The problem is America has spent most of the last 100 years driving cars powered by cheap gas. More importantly, we've always loved the idea that if we want to take a road trip, we can do it at the drop of a hat. Can you do that with the Volt? Technically, yes. With the gas assist engine to power the electric motor, the Volt can go another 300 miles. And when you are running low on gas, you simply fill up again. So you won't need to stop and plug in to re-charge the Volt in order to drive where you want, when you want. That said, it will be tough for GM (and all automakers) to get Americans over their range anxiety with electric cars. Just as it will be tough to convince buyers in cold weather markets that the Volt can handle being driven day in and day out in the dead of winter. Neither is impossible to overcome. By going after the range anxiety issue head on, GM is making a smart move. Changing a decades-old attitude of an entire country won't happen overnight, but the Volt is a good start.
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