Image: Joel Ewanick
Reed Saxon  /  AP
Joel Ewanick, General Motors Co. vice president for U.S. Marketing, holds the award won by the Chevy Volt as 2011 Green Car of the Year.
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updated 11/18/2010 3:36:50 PM ET 2010-11-18T20:36:50

While General Motors Co. was seeing greenbacks in its initial public offering on Wall Street Thursday, its Chevrolet brand was burnishing its green credentials.

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt was named the Green Car of the Year Thursday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It was the first electric car to win the prize, which has been given annually since 2005 by the Green Car Journal.

Separately, the Chevrolet brand announced that it's donating $40 million to locally-based environmental projects across the U.S. with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 8 million metric tons. That's about the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted in one year by the 1.9 million Chevrolet vehicles expected to sell between now and the end of 2011.

Mike Robinson, GM's vice president for environment, energy and safety, said he thinks the program is the first of its kind for any automaker.

"This is something Chevrolet wanted to do to distinguish the brand, to say, 'You're buying into a brand that represents a lot more than the fuel economy and the features that you're getting,'" Robinson told The Associated Press.

Organizations will be able to apply for grants for projects like weatherizing schools or putting up small-scale wind energy projects. Joel Ewanick, GM's vice president of U.S. marketing, said it will probably take two years or longer for the projects to be chosen and the money to be doled out. The company will decide whether to extend the program as it develops.

The green car award was the latest prize for the Volt, which runs on electricity for 40 miles before a backup gas engine kicks in. Earlier this week, Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine named the Volt the 2011 car of the year. It's scheduled to go on sale next month.

The Green Car Journal cited the Volt's unique backup engine, which eliminates drivers' anxiety about running out of electric power.

The five finalists for the prize included another electric car, the Nissan Leaf; two hybrids, the Lincoln MKZ and Hyundai Sonata; and a subcompact, the Ford Fiesta.

In addition to editors from the magazine, judges included Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope, Ocean Futures Society President Jean-Michel Cousteau and "Tonight Show" host and car enthusiast Jay Leno.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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