Advance Copy: The New York Times; Sunday 01/07/07:
Page 12-1; Additional photos are on page 12-2.
Shown: Photo of Chevrolet Volt
Top Speed: 120MPH
0-60 Acceleration: 8.5 Seconds
Range: 640 Miles (with batteries and on-board generator).
Battery only range: 40 Miles
Weight: 3200 pounds
Recharge Time: 6.5 Hours
"General Motors will unveil an electric concept car, the Chevrolet Volt, which has created the most buzz in advance of the (NAIAS) show. GM says the Volt, a plug-in hybrid, could deliver the equivalent of 150 miles a gallon.
The Volt thus promises - at least in theory, given that it would not be produced without a leap in battery technology - three times the mileage of a Toyota Prius."
When General Motors unwraps the Chevrolet Volt for the press today (Sunday 01/07/07), it will be revealing much more than the latest fantasy from its styling studios.
Beyond its striking coupelike lines, the Volt is also a declaration of GM's intent to mass-produce a new type of hybrid-electric vehicle, one that can drive up to 40 miles on batteries alone and recharge itself with an onboard generator - or by plugging into a standard 110-volt household outlet.
The Volt is also less than it appears. The batteries to make it roadworthy do not yet exist, a shortcoming GM acknowledges.
The squat four-seat hybrid sedan previews a new family of plug-in electric drive systems that GM calls E-Flex. The system, which the company plans to begin installing globally when the batter technology is mature, will be capable of delivering the equivalent of 100 miles a gallon or more in urban driving, GM officials said. The Volt's total range is 640 miles using the combined capacity of fully charged batteries and a built-in gasoline-powered generator.
While hybrids like the Toyota Prius can drive short distances on batter power and make longer trips using a thrifty gasoline engine, the Volt's gas engine is not connected to the wheels. It turns only a generator to charge the battery pack, a design typically called a series hybrid, and operates in a narrow RPM range for maximum efficiency.
In the Volt, the E-Flex drive system consists of a small three-cylinder gas engine, a 53-kilowatt generator and a long lithium-ion battery pack that forms a spine down the center of the car's floor.
To maximize batter life, the engine that drives the generator automatically kicks in when the battery's charge falls below 30% of capacity and shuts off when the battery charge reaches 80% of maximum; at that point E-flex reverts to pure electric mode.
"We've dubbed this feature a 'range extender'" said robert A. Lutz, GM's vice chairman for product development. "It also provides a steady flow of electricity to get the vehicle home or to the nearest charging plug."
GM is planning to offer E-flex power systems in all major world markets. The company's next generation compact car platform due in 2009, has been designed to accept an E-Flex battery pack, generator and related hardware.
While development of the new electric drive system has already begun, the company can not set a production schedule until the proper batteries are ready, said Nick Zielinski, the Volt's chief engineer.
Source: General Motors
DETROIT – General Motors Corp. today announced it has awarded advanced battery development contracts to two suppliers to design and test lithium-ion batteries for use in the Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid SUV. (NOTE: This is NOT the current on-sale vehicle).
One contract has been awarded to Johnson Controls – Saft Advanced Power Solutions, LLC, a joint venture between Tier 1 automotive supplier Johnson Controls and Saft. Another agreement was signed with Cobasys, in partnership with A123Systems. Cobasys, based in Orion, Mich., is a joint venture between Chevron Technology Ventures LLC, a subsidiary of Chevron Corp., and Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. A123Systems, based in Watertown, Mass., is a leading manufacturer of high power lithium-ion batteries.
According to Denise Gray, GM’s newly appointed director of hybrid energy storage systems, the companies will be challenged to prove the durability, reliability and potential cost at mass volumes of their technology.
“Thanks to critical relationships with the U.S. government, collaborative research with Ford and DaimlerChrysler under the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), significant progress has been made in battery research,” said Gray. “But a lot of testing and development is still needed. Together, with our suppliers, we intend to address the issues relating to thermal management, storage capacity, recharge times, driving range and cost reduction.”
The two test batteries, one from Cobasys – A123Systems and the other from Johnson Controls – Saft , will be evaluated in prototype Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrids beginning later this year. While both are lithium-ion batteries, the chemistry differs significantly. The suppliers also use unique methods in the design and assembling of the battery packs.
Johnson Controls, Inc., headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., had sales of $32 billion in fiscal year 2006 and employs approximately 136,000 people. Johnson Controls’ power solutions business provides more than 110 million starter batteries globally each year. Saft, headquartered in Paris, employs 4,000 people and had annual sales of more than $700 million in 2005. Saft and Johnson Controls formed the battery joint venture last year. Now, more than 150 people work for the joint venture, based also in Milwaukee. Saft is a world leader in high performance batteries and has a decade of experience in lithium-ion development and manufacturing. Saft provided lithium-ion batteries for the Chevrolet Sequel fuel cell concept vehicle.
Cobasys has facilities in both Michigan and Ohio with approximately 400 employees dedicated to the design, manufacture and integration of advanced energy storage systems for both transportation and stationary power markets. Their headquarters features one of the world’s largest Energy Storage System development and test facilities required for the validation of battery systems. Cobasys is presently supplying nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) systems for the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid SUV and will be supplying NiMH systems for the 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line hybrid sedan.
A123Systems, which employs 250 people, was started in 2001 to commercialize technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A123Systems has quickly grown to be one of the world’s largest suppliers of high power lithium-ion batteries. By the end of 2007, A123Systems will have the annual capacity to make 20 million lithium-ion batteries for use in power tools. It also sells batteries for stationary backup power, jet engine auxiliary power units and hybrid trucks and buses.
GM will be actively looking for more partners to bring lithium-ion technology to production. “It’s important to point out that these two agreements are by no means the only avenues we’re pursuing,” Gray said. “We are fully committed to forging the necessary partnerships to produce battery solutions that will meet our aggressive vehicle program targets.”
GM announced Nov. 29 at the 2006 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show its intention to produce a Saturn Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid that has the potential to achieve double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV. In addition to plug-in technology and a lithium-ion battery pack when ready, the Vue Green Line will use a modified version of GM’s 2-mode hybrid system, powerful electric motors and highly efficient electronics to achieve significant increases in fuel economy.