I’ve got pretty used to talking to excited automotive engineers enthusing about a model that they’ve been working on. But I’ve rarely come across such a jubilant bunch as the Chevrolet Volt team that I was talking to all day yesterday. 

The Volt’s special, they say. Not just for the technological advances it will showcase when we get to see it in 2010. But it’s got a special status inside GM. According to the project leader Frank Weber: ‘it’s our biggest opportunity and our biggest risk’ but he had a big smile on his face when he was telling that so I guess he’s even excited about the pressure he’s under to deliver.

The whole project came about because The General was fed up with taking a beating from the Japanese and from the media in general about its perceived lack of technical prowess. So product boss Bob Lutz banged the desk one day and demanded an electric car. So we got the Volt concept early last year and now they’re all hard at work on the real thing.

Is it special, or just marketing puff? Well, I think that I now know enough about it to be excited; it should, after all, be the world’s first mass produced plug-in electric car. And the whole concept is genius. Battery power will take you for 40 miles (enough for 70 per cent of the population on a daily basis according to GM) and if you need to go any further then a frugal petrol engine takes over. You then charge it up overnight at home.