A car powered by sunshine

Our family purchased a Chevy Volt LT, a plug-in hybrid car with a gasoline generator that greatly extends its range. A plug-in hybrid car differs from an ordinary hybrid car in that its battery, in addition to being charged by gasoline, can be charged by plugging it into an electrical outlet. Most plug-in hybrids can go only about 25 miles on a charge before switching to gasoline. The Chevy Volt goes 53 miles on a charge, which covers about 90 percent of our driving. It can go an additional 367 miles on a full tank of gas, so we can take long trips without getting stranded.

To charge up our Chevy Volt more rapidly, we had a 220-volt outlet installed in our garage. Some of our household electricity comes from our rooftop solar panels, and the rest comes from a community solar project (sharonsaves.org). Thus our Volt effectively runs on sunshine 90 percent of the time, which takes a big bite out of our carbon footprint.

The list price of the Chevy Volt LT is about $34,000. Mass Energy’s Drive Green program (massenergy.org /drivegreen) gave us a $7,000 discount

off the list price. On top of that, we got a $7,500 credit off our federal income tax, and a $2,500 rebate from the state of Massachusetts. Our total net cost for the car was under $20,000 including delivery charge, sales tax, and document fees. Installing a 220-volt charger in our garage cost about $1,100.

The Chevy Volt is fun to drive. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and it comes with many features. We opted for heated seats for comfort in winter. Go for a test drive and see for yourself. Keep in mind that government incentives will be phased out as sales volume increases. An additional incentive recently identified: a purchaser of a hybrid Volt or an all-electric Bolt will get $100 cash-back and $100 donated to his/her preferred environ-mental nonprofit (think SFOC!); ask your local car dealer about it (or call me).

Paul Lauenstein