Even before General Motors entered chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, they announced plans for the first fully electric car, the Chevy Volt. While GM had experimented with a fully electric car before and basically failed,  (anyone remember the EV1?) their new car is widely expected to be a huge hit. There are many reasons for this, a couple of the obvious being that the public is much more environmentally conscious and because the technology is much better.

Granted, the Volt would still have a gasoline engine, but that engine wouldn’t activate until the car had exhausted the batteries. For the first 40 miles of the journey the car will be fully powered by the lithium ion batteries. Once the batteries are dead the gasoline engine kicks in and powers a generator, expanding the maximum daily range of the car to more than 300 miles (483 km). This marks a huge improvement compared to the EV1 because the car isn’t limited to the range of the battery.

GM announced yesterday that the price tag for the Volt will be $41,000. The car would be eligible for a $7500 federal tax in the U.S., as well as additional tax credits in several states. There will also be a lease option of $350 per month for 36 months with $2500 due at signing. This allows someone to drive the Volt at an affordable price tag.

The car will only be introduced in 7 states at first. GM plans to offer the car almost everywhere else within a year. So if you’re chomping at the bit to buy one you may have to wait a little while. If you get the chance to buy one right away, what should you do?

There’s always a risk of buying the first issue of a brand new model of car. Even though the company does vigorous for years before it releases the car to the public, there’s always a chance of something going wrong. If you add in the new, unproven battery technology, you can very easily envision all sorts of recalls.

The mileage the car will get is debatable. The EPA has yet to issue an official fuel mileage for the Volt. General Motors has come up with 85 miles per gallon, which combines highway and city driving and battery and gas driving. Sure, that’s pretty darn good gas mileage, assuming you believe the company’s numbers. The actual numbers could end up much different, either positively or negatively.

A new Chevy Cruze will get about 45 miles per gallon. If the Volt ends up being double that, the person who drives 10,000 miles per year will save 111 gallons of fuel. If a gallon of gas costs $3.75 the savings add up to over $416 dollars per year. If you’re someone who drives a lot of miles then the Volt will have an impact on your gas costs.

GM also claims that the Volt saves 4.4 metric tons of CO2 emissions compared to a regular car. If you care about the environment at all, that also has to be a consideration.

At the end of the day, I can buy a brand new Ford Focus for around $20,000 that would average around 40 MPG. To make the Volt a better deal on the gas savings alone would take a long time and an awful lot of miles. If you really care about the environment then perhaps the Volt is a smart purchase. You’re making a statement with the car, just like people do with their Prius’. If you’re buying it to save on gas though, the price tag just isn’t worth it.

Tell everyone, yo!