During Ward’s 10 Best Engines testing in 2008, I earned the nickname “Green Queen” for my love of Ford’s hybrid-electric vehicle technology (and yes, my obsessive recycling mission).

I loved the technology’s ability to propel the Escape Hybrid tester on electricity only, at speeds as high as 40 mph (64 km/h).

“Cool,” I thought then, “I don’t have to use any gas at real-world speeds.” But those silent spurts didn’t last long before the gasoline engine kicked on.

The Chevy Volt extended-range EV takes that idea even further. So is it any wonder the “Green Queen” was following Volt prototypes around Metro Detroit, staking out houses where they were parked? (Memo to GM officials: Sorry if I scared your kids).

By now, most people – except for AM radio windbags – know how the Volt works: A huge, T-shaped lithium-ion battery stores electricity to propel the vehicle.

Electricity is fed to the battery by charging via a household outlet, and one can drive to their desired speed until the charge is depleted at 25-40 miles (40-64 km), depending on driving style.

This is where other EVs might leave you stranded, but not the Volt. Instead, a small 1.4L gas engine that acts as a generator kicks on and takes over.

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It’s a brilliant idea to quell range anxiety, and a hugely complex one to execute. But GM has done it flawlessly, near as we can tell.

“A technological masterpiece,” writes Ward’s Associate Editor Byron Pope on his score sheet. “Unbelievable low-end torque, plenty of power at any speed and quiet as a church mouse, even with the engine on.”

“I never thought an electric car could be so much fun to drive,” says Ward’s AutoWorld Editor-in-Chief Drew Winter, who praises the Volt’s sport mode for living up to its name.

Several editors praise the “imperceptible” changeover from battery to generator.

The latter point is crucial for the Volt and similar vehicles to become accepted by the masses. People don’t want to drive something that makes weird sounds that are out of step with conventional cars.

Yes, the Volt’s base price of $41,000 (before federal tax credits) might not be for everybody, but its technology sure is.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com

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