One of the pressing questions following the spectacular debut of the Chevy Volt focused on why the company won't build the vehicle right away. GM says the battery technology isn't ready. Environmentalists and critics say hogwash.

Although they don't know each other, Steven Cole Smith of the Orlando Sentinel and Doug Korthof, a contributor to freeliberal.com, took up opposing positions on this very subject in Sunday postings.

I've known Smith for many years and respect his knowledge and insight. In his best line, Smith writes: "An executive of another manufacturer told me that had he known building cars that feature nonexistent technology would be such a hit, he would have had several on display."

I don't know Korthof, but he writes intelligently and seems to research his subject thoroughly. He says current NiMH technology can be used to get the Volt in production and takes this interesting position: "Many GM watchers believe that GM's excuse of 'waiting for lithium' means that GM really doesn't intend to produce the Volt, they are just using it just for an answer to their public relations disaster for having killed the electric car."

This round goes to Smith because it doesn't make economic sense to develop powertrain technology that will be outdated with the next-generation Prius. GM certainly isn't going to fund production of a vehicle that will draw more criticism for being behind the times. Nickel metal hydride batteries are fine for improving next year's NEVs but we're talking about mass-production fullsize vehicles that need to be safe for freeways and last 100,000 miles. The cost of more sophisticated battery packs has to come down before a commercially viable EV or PHEV is ready for the market. That's why Tesla is building a premium sports car on a limited edition because only the wealthy can afford the latest battery technology today.

So, could the Volt be built today? Read both stories and post your decision.


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