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Local dealer sells first electric car in Turlock
Volt pic1
Lee Smith of Smith Chevrolet explains all the features of the 2011 Chevy Volt electric hybrid car to new owner Kristen Santos. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Rob and Kristen Santos are starting the new year — and new decade — out right. They are striving to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet, and to begin living that goal they leased the very first Chevrolet Volt electric hybrid car available in Turlock.

“My philosophy is always to be less dependent on foreign oil and to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Rob Santos, a local veterinarian, Turlock Irrigation District director and Chatom Union School District trustee.

The Volt has a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, as well as an on-board generator and internal combustion engine. According to GM, the car can go 35 miles gas free and up to 375 miles on battery and gas power before needing to be recharged.

Theoretically, a Volt owner could never have to buy another drop of gas — if he or she only drove 35 miles or less between charges.

To recharge the Volt, an owner simply plugs it into any standard 120V household outlet, and in about 10 hours, it will be fully charged and ready to go. A faster charge can be done when the car is plugged into a 240V outlet or charging station.

Local dealer Smith Chevrolet signed up to get four of the 10,000 Volts Chevrolet released in December 2010 — and they have been inundated with calls about the new car ever since.

“We’ve had huge interest,” Lee Smith of Smith Chevrolet said. “They’ve been calling us for a year now.”

The first Volt Smith Chevrolet received was presold to the Santos family. But they will soon be receiving two more that will be for sale and a third that will serve as a demonstration car. Smith has been an outspoken advocate for the hybrid vehicle and its benefits for the environment, and plans to show Turlockers how much money they can save driving the electric car.

“City leaders will have the opportunity to drive the Volt overnight,” Smith said.

Smith Chevrolet has invested time and money into the car of the future, sending a majority of their sales staff and service technicians to training courses. They also plan to install a charging station at their showroom that will be available for any electric car owner to use at no cost.

“This is the car of the future. This is where we’re going and we want to be the best there is,” Smith said.

Kristen Santos and her children, Nick, Phoebe and Teddy, picked up their new Volt on Monday at Smith Chevrolet.

“I’m excited that it’s environmentally friendly and I’m excited about the gas mileage,” she said.

While the car is being touted for its benefits as a commuter vehicle, with nightly charging at home, the Santos’ plan to test the Volt’s limits by driving it to Las Vegas in the spring. Before the road trip, however, Rob Santos will need to familiarize himself with all the car’s features.

“The first thing I asked was, ‘Where do I plug my iPod in?’”

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.