Gene Weingarten tries to jump-start his car with a Chevy Volt, a gas-electric hybrid that was voted car of the year by automotive writers.

Gene Weingarten tries to jump-start his car with a Chevy Volt, a gas-electric hybrid that was voted car of the year by automotive writers.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

Gene takes the Volt for a spin at Howard University. For an eco-friendly car, Gene says, the Volt is sleek and growly-looking. It's on the streets in five markets, including the Washington area, and only 10,000 will be sold in 2011.

Gene takes the Volt for a spin at Howard University. For an eco-friendly car, Gene says, the Volt is sleek and growly-looking. It's on the streets in five markets, including the Washington area, and only 10,000 will be sold in 2011.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

Gene tools around town. Fully charged, the Volt can travel 30 or 40 miles.  After that initial charge, the gas engine acts as a generator to recharge the battery, keeping the car going about another 300 miles. So that road trip to Philly for cheese steaks is doable.

Gene tools around town. Fully charged, the Volt can travel 30 or 40 miles. After that initial charge, the gas engine acts as a generator to recharge the battery, keeping the car going about another 300 miles. So that road trip to Philly for cheese steaks is doable.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

Anyone can build a simple electric motor at home ...

Anyone can build a simple electric motor at home ...

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

... right?

... right?

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

Can Gene get his home-made machine in working order? After some tweaking (and advice from Andrew Farah, the chief engineer of the Volt), yes.

Can Gene get his home-made machine in working order? After some tweaking (and advice from Andrew Farah, the chief engineer of the Volt), yes.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

The battery inside the trunk of a Chevy Volt. The ads tout the car's alternative nature, but electric power isn't all that clean.

The battery inside the trunk of a Chevy Volt. The ads tout the car's alternative nature, but electric power isn't all that clean.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

The Volt's dashboard display shows an estimate of the miles remaining before the battery power is exhausted.

The Volt's dashboard display shows an estimate of the miles remaining before the battery power is exhausted.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

A 220-volt charging station can recharge the Volt in about four hours. Using a regular wall plug, you can charge a Volt overnight.

A 220-volt charging station can recharge the Volt in about four hours. Using a regular wall plug, you can charge a Volt overnight.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post

To discover what no one else will tell him about the Volt, Gene meets another Volt-driving source in a secretive meeting at a garage in Rosslyn.

To discover what no one else will tell him about the Volt, Gene meets another Volt-driving source in a secretive meeting at a garage in Rosslyn.

Dustin Fenstermacher-for The Washington Post