It was a $500 million bet that General Motors could be a leader in technology and environmentalism.
It was championed by some of the automaker's key executives, notably product development czar Bob Lutz and global engineering chief Jim Queen. They just didn't want to call it a hybrid for fear it would be compared to Toyota's vaunted Prius.
Instead, GM called the Chevrolet Volt an "extended-range electric vehicle."
When it debuted at the 2007 auto show in Detroit as a concept, Popular Mechanics said the Volt's technological prowess defined "its own new category, a combination of EV and hybrid that defies conventional definition."
The production version was a "series hybrid." The wheels turned by an electric motor, which received power from a battery pack. The battery pack was recharged by a small gasoline engine that was not connected to the wheels; its sole role was to recharge the batteries.
In fact, it had two electric motors — one primarily to propel the wheels and a second that generated electricity from the gasoline engine.
Like other gasoline-electric hybrid-powered vehicles, the Volt could run as long as it had gasoline in the tank.
GM began building the Volt in 2010 and deliveries began in December 2010 in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and New York.
Beyond its "impressive powertrain," Car and Driver said, the Volt drove "surprisingly well, with a reassuringly steady suspension."
The Volt was named 2011 North American Car of the Year on Jan. 10, 2011, in Detroit, edging out two other finalists — the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Sonata.
It was the third time Chevrolet had captured North American Car of the Year honors, and the fourth time for General Motors.
"Since development began, we believed the Volt had the potential to transform the automotive industry," GM CEO Dan Akerson said at the time. It was also the first electric vehicle to win the North American Car of the Year award.
Citing strong public interest, GM hiked Volt U.S. output to 45,000 in 2012 from 30,000.
The car also put GM on a decadelong electrification path that culminated in the Chevy Bolt, a battery-powered car that presaged a future with driver-assist, emissions-free vehicles that consumers might share rather than own.
With the award, GM hoped to convince customers that the Volt represented a breakthrough by delivering the benefits of electric driving without the range anxiety associated with those vehicles.
It could operate under different weather and driving conditions with little concern of being stranded by a depleted battery. The Volt had a total driving range of up to 379 miles, based on EPA estimates. For the first 35 miles, the Volt could drive gasoline- and tailpipe-emissions-free using a full charge of electricity stored in a 16-kWh lithium ion battery. When the Volt's battery ran low, a gasoline-powered engine/generator seamlessly kicked in to extend the driving range another 344 miles on a full tank.
It was discontinued in March 2019 as part of a sweeping corporate reorganization.
U.S. sales of the Volt peaked at 24,739 in 2016, with total volume of 157,127.