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Our Friends Electric - I Drive the Chevrolet Volt

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Having only previously been a passenger in the fleet of green taxis that shuttle you around London, I was intrigued to see what it was like to be behind the wheel of an electric car.

First impressions of the Chevrolet Volt are that it's a car for someone who cares about appearance as well as green credentials. From the streamlined silhouette, down to the ice blue LED lights and 17" spoked alloy wheels, it definitely looks the part.

Once inside, the Volt is sporty yet substantial, with a dual cockpit layout front and back. Sitting in the driver's seat, the first thing you notice are the two large screens that replace the conventional instruments. It's more like a flight deck and I felt a little like Star Trek's Mr Sulu as I navigated its high tech features via the touch screen.

Starting the day with a fully charged battery, you have a range of 30 to 50 miles, which, I'm told, is enough for about 80% of daily journeys. But the Volt's great innovation comes after the battery has been fully used and an onboard petrol engine kicks in to power an electric generator.

This means that the wheels are only ever powered by electricity, not only making it far more fuel efficient, but also giving you a total range of up to 300 miles. So here we have a car that's green, but isn't going to leave you stranded on the grass verge as soon as you venture out of town.

As you set off, the first thing you notice is the noise - or actually the complete lack of it. I quickly discovered that this makes for a great environment for listening to music: your MP3 player plugs in via a USB port, so you can enjoy your entire music library through a powerful BoseĀ® system.

One of my favourite features is a natty little green spinning 'leaf' ball on the driver's information screen that turns yellow and shoots upwards when the you get a bit too aggressive with your acceleration and plummets downwards when you brake too hard and fast. It's like a spinning ethical conscience and you can't help but play along with the game to try and keep the ball in the green as you go.

There's also a rear view camera, which activates when you are reversing and shows you the angle you should be following when parking. It's a very clever device but I'm way too much of a control freak to surrender my driving to technology to that degree! But maybe trust builds as you and your car get to know each other.

Overall, the drive is very smooth and sleek with good acceleration and braking. In fact it's so sleek it's all very surreal and you feel like you're gliding above the ground rather than making any contact with the tarmac. Driving the Volt was not dissimilar to how I imagined it would feel to fly a spaceship in an episode of the Jetsons and I felt I was navigating solar systems rather than cruising the streets of London.