Long-range electric vehicles unveiled by Holden

Holden has unveiled the world’s first electric car that can travel a long distance, heralding it as a "game changer" in the automotive industry.

At an event in Sydney, the car manufacturer said the Volt could travel between 60km to 80km, depending on conditions, powered purely on electricity.

The electric car, which will take approximately four hours to recharge at the price of a cup of coffee, is expected to be rolled out in Australia late next year at a price of between $50,000 to $70,000.

Holden was keen to emphasise that it was not a hybrid and will be the industry’s first electric vehicle with long-range capabilities.

An on-board petrol engine working as a generator means the car can extend its range for more than 500km before having to be plugged in.

"The Holden Volt can be the only car you need to own," Holden managing director Mike Devereux said at the car’s unveiling in Sydney today.

He said the car stops "range anxiety" as a reason for not buying electric cars. "Volt is a true game changer for Holden and the entire industry," Mr Devereux said.

Mr Devereux described the five-door hatchback as appealing to early-takers of new technology, such as tablets and smartphones. "It does not look like a science experiment, this is a sexy, cool-looking vehicle," he said.

He said the new technology, which sees the electric car powered by lithium-ion battery packs, would come with an extra cost, saying it would be a "little bit" more expensive than a normal petrol-powered car.

The Volt currently retails between $41,000 and $42,000 in the United States, he said.

Responding media reports that the car had experienced some safety issues in the US, Mr Devereux said the issue was with the lithium-ion batteries rather than Holden.

Authorities in the US crash-tested the Volt in May and completely damaged the battery before leaving it powered for three weeks.

Mr Devereux said this caused a "thermal event", which the industry would have to look at when dealing with lithium-ion batteries.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the launch of the car, which is built in Detroit, saying it served as a reminder of the inventiveness people were capable of.

"Human kind is not this static thing, we are capable of evolving," Mr Albanese said. "It reminds us that the demand of the driving public is changing.

He said people were looking for options that were more fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly. United States Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich said the car was "joy without sin".

"It’s eating a chocolate sundae without getting fat," Mr Bleich quipped. "It’s watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians and actually getting smarter."

The car is powered by a propulsion system which is made up of a 16 kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, weighing 198kg, and an electric drive unit.

The electric car also has a 1.4-litre petrol powered engine, which allows the car to travel up to 500km until the next recharge or refuel point.