WARREN, MI --- Andrew Farah, chief engineer on the Chevy Volt, took the first preproduction model out for a test drive Tuesday, June 23 -- a couple of weeks before schedule. The vehicle was taken out again the following day.

The preproduction Volts are being built by the automaker's preproduction operations group in Warren.

"We're producing a few Volts per week now, but we'll quickly ramp up to 10 per week and will have approximately 80 preproduction vehicles built by October," Farah wrote on the GM Fastlane blog. "Most of these vehicles will be used for testing and validating the production intent design as well as developing the final vehicle software and controls -- we'll also use them to tune the vehicle's overall driving experience. Some of these Volts will have very short lives as they'll be used in safety and structural integrity testing."

The Chevy Volt, scheduled to launch in 2010, is an extended-range electric vehicle. It uses a lithium-ion battery with a gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when driven beyond the 40-mile battery range.

Frank Weber, GM global vehicle executive, wrote on the GM Fastlane blog that the battery is designed to last for 10 years or 150,000 miles and that "total battery life could be 20+ years."