It has taken longer than environmentalists may have hoped, but finally the automobile manufacturers realize that they have to change the way cars are made to satisfy the consumers of the future. Going “green” is the byword these days, and General Motors is moving with the times in design of their cars and the plants that manufacture them.

With the upcoming launch of Chevy's 2011 Volt at the end of this year, electric cars are quickly becoming a reality. And although they may look and feel like “regular” gas-powered cars and give drivers the comfort they are used to, under the hood lays the car of the 21st century. Using millions of computer simulations that allow more testing in less time, General Motors was able to build this electric car in less than five years. (General Motors photo)

Ed Whitacre, General Motors CEO, noted that he doesn't know when electric vehicles will become profitable for GM, but that electric vehicles are clearly "the way of the future" and that they will become "a very big part of General Motors."

Continuing its push to market itself as a more environmentally friendly company, General Motors has announced that more than half of the 1,300 patents the automaker filed last year are green.

Recently, GM announced that several of its plants were "zero landfill" certified, meaning that all waste is recycled or reused. And there's the much-hyped Chevrolet Volt, GM's first electric vehicle.

“The move toward electrification is requiring us to reinvent the DNA of the automobile, requiring massive amounts of innovation,” said Alan Taub, vice president of GM Global Research and Development.

“There’s almost no component on the vehicle that is not being reinvented. As a result, our green patent portfolio is helping us achieve world-class technological breakthroughs in the energy and environmental space,” he added.

The Volt's 16 kWh T-shaped lithium-ion battery is roughly 6 feet long (1.8 meters) and weighs nearly 400 pounds (181 kg). (courtesy General Motors)