With the long-awaited Chevrolet Volt set to hit showrooms later this year, GM has announced that early adopters (in certain cities) will be eligible for one of 4,400 free home charging stations. The 240-volt fast-charge station deal is tied to a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program which aims to assess electric vehicle charging infrastructure requirements, meaning those who take up the offer will be required to share data on charging and use of their vehicle.

The Volt goes under the name "extended range electric vehicle" (EREV) rather than "hybrid" because its gasoline engine is not directly connected to the drivetrain. Instead the car travels purely on electrical power for the first 40 miles before the gasoline/E85 Ethanol-powered engine/generator kicks-in to recharge the car's lithium-ion battery, extending the range by another 300 miles.

A 120-volt charge cord will be sold with the Volt as standard. Using this option the car can be charged overnight (around 10 hours for a full charge), but with the 240-volt charge station charging time is reduced to approximately four hours.

The 4,400 home charge stations are being set aside for Volt owners as part of ECOtality's EV Project and Coulomb Technologies' ChargePoint America. The latter will provide 1,800 while the EV project will provide 2,600 charge points along with 5,700 for the Nissan LEAF EV. To apply for the 240-volt charge station, Volt buyers must live within the cities covered buy these programs (visit the respective websites for details) and willing to share information about their charging habits. This data will then be studied by the DOE to "optimize future electric vehicle charging infrastructure."

Pricing for the Volt is expected to be around the US$40K mark and GM says that based on the use of electricity at 10 cents per kilowatt hour and gasoline priced at $3.60 per gallon, an electrically driven mile in a Volt will cost about one-sixth that of a conventional gasoline vehicle. The company also points out that according to a 2003 Omnibus Household survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 80 percent (76 percent) of U.S. drivers commute 40 miles or less daily.