PORTLAND – The Chevrolet Volt, brought to market by General Motors in 2011 after years of painstaking engineering development, is a triumph of American engineering ingenuity.

It is the world’s first mass-produced electric automobile with a range-extending on-board gasoline generator. For the first 35 to 40 miles after a full charge, the Volt runs on its massive lithium-ion battery, which powers two electric motors attached to the front wheels.

When the battery becomes about two-thirds depleted, the gasoline-powered generator comes on automatically and pours enough additional juice into the battery to keep the car running indefinitely. It is driven 100 percent of the time by its electric motors, with energy supplied by the battery or by the on-board generator.

Many of us commuting drivers are able to do our workday driving wholly on the battery, which can be recharged each night. We can go weeks and months without consuming any gasoline. But when we need to go on a trip, the gas generator is there, and we can go as far as we like at the equivalent of about 34 miles per gallon.

GM got the utility of the Volt exactly right based on the current state of electric car technology. Many, many of us drive limited distances each day. A 40-mile battery can cover a great deal of our daily driving. But when we have to go on a trip, we can do so.

Those of us who own and drive Volts are the most enthusiastic group of car owners in the U.S. We are glad to be reducing our use of expensive and polluting hydrocarbons in our daily driving. We love the power and silent smoothness of electric drive. We are continually impressed by the quality and ingenuity that GM’s engineers have built into this remarkable car.

The attacks on the Volt by some conservative pundits and tea party political figures are somewhat mystifying. All of us who own and drive Volts do so as a matter of personal choice. No one is saying that anybody should be required to drive a Volt.

While we are very happy with our choices to buy and lease Volts, we fully respect the choices of others who prefer to drive other kinds of vehicles.

If it is the federal energy efficiency tax credit that offends, we should keep in mind that most major technical innovations, whether in drug research, development of military hardware with later civilian applications or in the prospecting for oil and fossil fuels, are supported by government subsidies or tax preferences of some kind. As battery technology improves and costs come down, the need for such pump priming will drop off. Future Volts, like the Toyota Prius and other innovative autos, will compete with conventional vehicles on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

We take no issue with the calculations and projections of those who argue that Volt owners are not likely to recover the additional cost of their cars from fuel savings at present day gasoline prices. Owners of premium quality cars generally buy them for reasons other than cost savings. The quality and pleasure of electric drive are by themselves enough to justify the Volt’s premium price. Savings in gasoline costs, reduction in use of foreign oil and cutting emissions into the atmosphere are all incidental pluses that contribute to the overall Volt-owning experience.

Those who ridicule and poke fun at this remarkable American engineering achievement should take a Volt for a test drive. The torque, power and smoothness of electric drive are immediately, and most pleasurably, evident. Once one has driven electric, it is very hard to go back to a reciprocating gas or diesel engine linked by a transmission to a drive train.

The Volt is the creation of American private industrial enterprise. Conceived and engineered prior to the GM bailout, it shows the world the quality of American innovation and industrial development. Rather than attack our most remarkable recent automotive achievement, we Americans should take our hats off to GM, its farsighted executives and its talented engineers.

As more of us get to know the Volt, its ground-breaking role as America’s first extended range electric car will become evident to all.

Peter L. Murray lives in Portland.