Can you keep a secret? Apparently, the folks at General Motors can't either. Wieck Media, a clearinghouse for automakers' pictures, Wednesday posted photos of the production 2011 Chevrolet Volt on a media information Web site for just 12 minutes before taking them down, long enough for to grab them and keep them live for the rest of the world to see.

GM's response to the exposure of it new electric car was that the photo release was an "accident." The company will likely release official info on the Volt Sept. 16, the company's 100th anniversary, the Associated Press reports.

Not lost amidst the hoopla is the fact that the Volt in these leaked images looks very different from the concept car that GM has been touting the past few years. Michael Rainey notes on that, "the Volt concept looked something like a Camaro or even a Corvette charged by lightning," he writes. "I suspect that its aggressive looks had a lot to do with the excitement it generated. But the actual Volt sends a very different message, one that emphasizes efficiency and safety over speed and power." As Marty Padgett of points out, something was lost in translation between concept and production.

Indeed, the Volt looks like the sensible car a soccer or hockey mom would drive, if, that is, if she's willing to fork over the rumored $40,000 for battery-powered basic transportation.

The Volt will operate like a plug-in hybrid; it will be rechargeable via a standard 110-volt outlet and able to travel up to 40 miles on electric power alone, reports The Detroit News. The car also will have a gas engine that powers a generator to recharge the battery and keep the vehicle running when its lithium-ion battery pack runs low on power.

Earlier this week, in advance of the Paris International Auto Show in early October, Honda has released photos of its new entry-level hybrid car, which the press has (naturally) labeled the “Prius-fighter.” Reports indicate that the Insight, a five-door family hatchback that is scheduled to hit dealership floors worldwide next year, is to be priced around $18,000, some $3,000 less than Toyota’s vaunted Prius gasoline-electric hybrid.

Photo: Republication Presidential nominee John McCain tours the Chevrolet Volt Design Center in July (courtesy GM)

For new Volt images, visit