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Technically, the nice-handling Volt is the first plug-in hybrid to reach the mass market. It is a well-equipped four-door hatchback with an all-electric range of 25 to 50 miles per charge depending on weather and driving habits. When the battery runs out of juice, a four-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in, generating electricity to power the Volt an additional 300 miles. The price starts at $41,000. The Volt qualifies for the $7,500 federal tax credit but not the $2,500 California rebate, and it doesn't qualify for carpool lane permits. Chevrolet said changes to the car — expected midway through the 2012 model year — should make it eligible for such incentives. The Volt has earned a "top safety pick" designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.