CALIFORNIA: No product yet, but lots of buzz. Chevron

The Chevrolet Volt is slowly consuming Lyle Dennis' life.
A year after casually launching a blog devoted to General Motors Corp.'s ambitious efforts to build a battery-powered Chevy, Dennis, a neurologist from Suffern, N.Y., has become an online celebrity of sorts.

"I just wanted to do anything I could to make it happen, and I thought it might be fun to have a blog," Dennis said. "I didn't expect all this. It can be challenging."

His Web site,, gets about 100,000 visitors a month, he said. More than 7,400 people have signed a waiting list he's compiling that he says he'll send to the company to convince it that there's a market for the product.

The car, which is still years and some significant scientific advancements away from becoming reality, is developing a quirky, cultlike following in cyberspace. The Volt is also showing up on other Web sites, forums and social networking pages such as

Discouraging pre-orders
One site even claims to be taking pre-orders for the vehicle, though the operation has no link to GM or its dealers. Since GM hasn't even started building the car, paying someone for a spot on any waiting list is a bad idea. GM spokesman Rob Peterson said the automaker is aware of that site and looking into it to ensure that would-be buyers aren't cheated out of money.

The spotlight on Volt adds another dimension to the already intense pressure on GM to deliver the vehicle the automaker has billed as this country's best solution to dependence on foreign oil.

GM has said it's shooting for a 2010 production date and hopes to have early test vehicles ready next spring.

The automaker, fighting an image of environmental apathy in the era of green, announced at last year's Detroit auto show its intention to build the Volt. GM thought it needed a breakthrough product to compete with Toyota Motor Corp.'s wildly successful Prius hybrid.

Depends on the battery
Whether the Volt becomes reality, however, hinges on whether GM can develop a lithium-ion battery capable of powering a mass-market car. A battery would drive the Volt's powertrain, and an onboard fueling system would recharge the battery while on the road. GM is trying to develop fueling systems that would run on gasoline, diesel fuel and hydrogen fuel cells.

Dennis, who said he was fascinated by the possibility of a car powered by batteries that could reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, said he thought GM's efforts to make the Volt a mass-market vehicle could be helped by pooling a large number of would-be buyers before the vehicle enters its production phase.

"It just resonated with me that this vehicle would revolutionize the auto industry," he said.

GM has taken notice.
Blogger's perk
The Detroit automaker arranged for Dennis to meet the Volt team and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz earlier this year, and it provides access and news to Dennis much like it does to the mainstream media.

Dennis now spends his already limited free time — evenings, weekends and breaks between neurology patients — keeping the site fresh with the latest Volt-related news.

The Web site draws mostly supporters but also its share of critics.

Dozens of online debates are ongoing and in many cases drawing hundreds of posts from people arguing about everything from the vehicle's design to whether GM is taking the right approach to battery technology.

'Regular people' excited
Either way, that buzz is what GM was looking for when it introduced the Volt.

"You hear from regular people who are so excited to know when it's coming — it makes you feel good about the company and the future," GM spokesman Scott Fosgard said. "We're in the court of public opinion now."

Blog is devoted to Chevrolet Volt, which is still in development
Via: Detroit News|By SHARON TERLEP

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