As so often happens when the first spy shots of a new car surfaces, we jump all over them trying to get them on-line and then we stop and take a closer look at what we have. Then questions start to arise. Is this really what we think it is? If not, what is it? Well, when it comes to one of the most eagerly anticipated new cars to come out Detroit in recent years, the late night availability of the first photos causes us to jump first and look where we're going later. In this case, it was the first spy shots of Chevy Volt mules that turned up late last night. We already knew that GM has been testing various bits and pieces destined for the Volt in previous model year Malibu body shells, but now, we had pics.

As it turns out the gray car that we posted on last night is only a ride and handling mule. It has various suspension components destined for the extended range EV, but the powertrain is bog standard Malibu. The red Malibu you pictured above, however, is one of the powertrain mules. Notice the big lump in front of the driver? That's to provide clearance for the prototype power electronics module that goes along with the electric drive motor and engine/generator set. Tying all of this together is a standard nickel metal hydride hybrid battery that acts as a power buffer. These cars are being used to validate powertrain hardware (aside from the lithium batteries of course) and start development of control software. Sometime in the next few weeks these mules should start going back on the hoist to have the new lithium battery packs installed and then the real fun starts.

[Sources: General Motors, AutoblogGreen]