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Innovative Chevy Volt makes its way to rural markets

The Volt is on display at Thielen Motors in Park Rapids. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

The first thing you notice upon starting up a Chevy Volt is how absolutely soundless they are.

The minute you put them into gear, they soundlessly move - quickly.

For generations of folks used to the puttering, humming, accelerating motions and automotive sounds of a century of vehicles, the Volt could be a bit disconcerting, but it's a silence that's golden.

As the first electric car you can drive cross-country, the Volt, actually, a plug-in hybrid, is in line to spawn a whole new generation of drivers, based on the buzz it's generated.

Thielen Motors in Park Rapids took delivery of its two models a couple weeks ago and the buzz followed right through the showroom doors.

One Volt came with all the bells and whistles. It carries decals with the car's name boldly, but tastefully, affixed to each side.

Volts are testimony to green technology, according to its slick brochure.

For a moderate daily commute of 40 miles or less the Volt can run gas-free. It has "regenerative braking" that actually helps generate electric power when you tap on the brakes.

It can be plugged into a normal household outlet for eight hours to recharge the electricity or into a 220-volt for half that time.

"Charging stations" will be the lingo of the future - pull in, plug in.

"If you're driving less than 40 miles a day it'll cost you peanuts," said Marc Thielen.

The gas engine doesn't kick in until the lithium ion battery is depleted, so you could theoretically take short commutes without ever buying a tank of gas.

The dashboard lets you know what your mileage range is for that to happen.

The high tech dash also lets you know lifetime mileage. The tricked-out Volt at Thielens says 188 mpg, but that can vary wildly depending on how the car is used. Actual gas mileage for the front-wheel drive Volt is around 37 mpg.

"Cool car," said a couple eyeing the model on Thielen's showroom floor. But no, they weren't interested. They'd just purchased a different model they were happy with.

Many vehicles have gone high tech, Thielen points out, so the on-screen tutorial, keyless entry and the 30 gb audio hard drive are not new features. Neither is the touch screen dashboard or many of the other high tech gadgets such as the power flow indicator. Only this one measures gas and electricity.

A government tax credit of $7,500 can be used to offset the $40,000 starting price.

And what self-respecting car wouldn't have its own applications?

Volt has two mobile applications that can be used for climate settings and minimal trouble-shooting if needed.

Want heated seats or a heated cabin by the time you leave? Pull out your iPhone and have at it.

There are no tailpipe emissions when the car is run electrically, something else that may take adjustment. All that belching and smoking could be a remnant of the past.

Thielen said the car has so far attracted lots of interest but no actual buyers yet.

The car came out last year to national acclaim. It's just reaching secondary markets now, Thielen said.

On the General Motors Volt website, Aubrey wrote: "Hi I have had my Volt for about a month have 1200 miles on it. I will say that it has to be the coolest and most fun car I have ever had, I love this..."

But many of the online user questions are of a technical nature as the company and owners swap tips and idiosyncrasies.

Time will tell whether it's the car of the future.

Just make sure you're ready when you put it into gear.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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