General Motor's ground-breaking Chevrolet Volt is on course to be built in the UK, after top-level intervention by the UK government.

The project was given an initial green light in the past few days by business secretary Lord Mandelson. He is keen to see the revolutionary self-charging electric car being manufactured in the UK, report GM sources, and is said to have pledged outline government support.

GM bosses are expected to spend the next few months compiling an outline business plan, before more substantive talks with the government.

>>Read more about the Chevrolet Volt

Earlier this month, GM Europe boss Carl-Peter Forster said, "We would look at assembling Volt at Ellesmere Port if super-credits were included in the EU CO2 legislation - because this would encourage automakers to provide more ultra-low CO2 vehicles earlier and in greater volume. While the CO2 policy is close to finalisation, we will wait to see the final policy before making any further decisions."

Under the plan, the Volt would be made at Vauxhall's Astra plant in Ellesmere Port with production ramping up in early 2011. Even so, UK production of the next-generation Astra would probably not be moved to Russelsheim in Germany, GM sources insist.

Because of the extensive retraining and re-equipping of local suppliers likely to be associated with building the Volt, GM is expected to seek government aid and grants.

The Volt is based on GM's new Astra-sized Delta architecture, making the transfer to Ellesmere Port relatively straightforward.

Furthermore, much of the work converting the plant to build the new-Delta-based Astra, due in early 2010, has already been completed. The Volt is on schedule to be launched in the US in late 2010, and in late 2011 in Europe.

Today, Lord Mandelson will also make a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, which is due to make clear that the government wants to support the private sector in low-carbon industries and high-tech manufacturing.

He is expected to tell the CBI that the UK's manufacturing future lies with the"next industrial revolution and the low-carbon and post-carbon technologies that will define the 21st century".

Hilton Holloway