Chevrolet has begun a nationwide project to reduce energy costs and help the environment at the same time. Chevy has already begun installing its new Green Zone solar-powered charging stations at 24 dealerships across North America. The Green Zone charging canopies look similar to old-fashioned drive-in restaurants (think Sonic), but the new solar technology is hardly a relic of the past.

The roof of the charging station contains the solar panels, which convert sunlight into enough electricity to completely charge 12 Chevrolet Volt vehicles daily, up to 4,500 total charges per year. The extra electricity generated by the charging stations will help power the dealership building itself, saving the dealer in energy costs.

The Chevy Volt is a revolutionary car because it allows drivers to travel 35 miles of electric, gasoline-free driving before the engine begins using any fuel, making it possible for drivers to travel a total range of 344 miles before stopping. Volt owners are able to recharge their vehicles at home using a standard household electrical outlet. However, the cost for a dealer to maintain a fully charged inventory of Volt models could potentially be very expensive. This is why Chevrolet dealers see the Green Zone initiative as a win-win situation. "The question isn't whether to install a solar canopy, it's where and how many," said Joe Serra, president of Serra Automotive. "It's a win for us because the electricity generated will help reduce operating costs, and it's a win for the environment since solar power helps reduce our carbon footprint."

The stations have already been installed at two dealerships, American Chevrolet in Modesto, Calif., and Al Serra Auto Plaza in Grand Blanc, Mich. The dealerships were very enthusiastic to participate in the project, because they can take advantage of it without investing any capital. The project, funded by GM Ventures, is part of a $7.5 million investment in Sunlogics, a solar panel manufacturer. General Motors has undertaken a commitment to double its reliance on renewable energy, and wants to increase its solar output to 60 megawatts by 2015.

The Green Zone Volt charging stations are the latest innovation from General Motors, who employee renewable energy more than any other automaker. Three GM plants in America features the largest solar fields in the US, while the GM plant in Zaragoza, Spain boasts the world's largest rooftop solar panel.

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Cliff Turner has been an automotive enthusiast ever since high school, where he developed a passion for cars while working for the local Saturn/Hummer dealership. When he isn't writing, he is busy earning his Juris Doctorate at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta.

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