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GM's Bob Lutz  (Source: Photobucket/willfusion)

Production Chevrolet Volt
GM gives a thumbs up to the Volt's battery pack

General Motors' Bob Lutz made headlines earlier today for his comments on crash testing for European-designed vehicles. Lutz argued that differing crash testing standards are preventing the GM from bringing over smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles from Europe that would help the company boost its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).

When Lutz isn't championing GM's efforts to pump the U.S. market full of high quality, fuel efficient vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines (ICEs) and drivetrains, he is singing the praises of the upcoming Chevrolet Volt. In the latest saga of the Volt's development, Lutz proclaims that testing of the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack is going smoothly.

"We haven't hit any obstacles so far for the batteries," remarked Lutz to Kicking Tires. "They are all performing flawlessly. It's almost scary we are not seeing any problems with the batteries."

Lutz went on to explain that the batteries have been subjected to numerous reliability and durability tests which encompass rigorous road testing and extreme temperature variances. That being said, the battery life of the lithium-ion battery is a concern for GM. As a result, the battery along with other powertrain components will be covered under a 10-year warranty.

"We're being conservative on battery life. For our cost calculations we're assuming each car will need a replacement during the warranty period," added Lutz.

Lithium-ion batteries -- when used to provide 100% propulsion for a vehicle -- have largely been untested on a large scale in the U.S. auto market. There have been niche players like Tesla Motors with its Roadster, which features a 6,381 cell lithium-ion battery pack, but it also carries a hefty $100,000+ price tag.

GM's Volt, on the other hand, is expected to carry a much more palatable price of around $40,000 to $45,000 before the requisite government rebates and tax credits.

The Chevrolet Volt was recently spied on the set of the “Transformers 2” set wearing what appeared to be production bodywork. Shortly before the exterior was spied, picture of the Volt’s interior was also leaked for the world to see.

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Reality will disprove theory
By Beenthere on 9/3/2008 12:08:27 PM , Rating: 0
Unfortunately reality will prove that the current tech electric/hybrid cars are not a cost effective or practical solution to anything. As noted electricity isn't free even if you live where it's relatively cheap. When you figure in the vehicle costs, maintenance, etc. these hybrids don't do much of anything to save money or the planet. It might make the tree huggers happy but it doesn't make any tangible positive change. Fuel cells might offer some hope but the jury is still out on that solution.

RE: Reality will disprove theory
By pauldovi on 9/3/2008 12:25:43 PM , Rating: 1
"Fuel Cells" is a broad term for anything that holds energy. NASCAR refers to the gasoline tank as a fuel cell, so I would be careful with using that word when you probably mean hydrogen power vehicles.

As the SAE Powertrain leader said, Hybrid powertrains are the powertrains of the future, and will always be the powertrains of the future. Their energy density / cost is too high to be a viable solution.

RE: Reality will disprove theory
By Curelom on 9/3/2008 1:02:50 PM , Rating: 2
"hydrogen power vehicles" also isn't specific enough. You can have hydrogen powered vehicles that burn hydrogen, rather than convert it to electricity.

By Misty Dingos on 9/3/2008 12:48:24 PM , Rating: 2
The hybrid car design is as yet to be market proven. It is at the current time a government subsidized market. Until the hybrid designs are stripped of their government blanket it is impossible to tell if they will be a purchase worth making.

One thing I will say is that the hybrids long term costs (battery replacement) is something that hasn't been truly addressed. Once the battery pack is spent it will have to be replaced at great expense. If this cost is foisted on to the used car market it will destroy the resale value of the hybrid cars.

Also hybrid cars life span is in contrast to a public that is buying cars for longer periods of time as opposed to buying new cars every few years. If I were a car manufacturer I would love hybrids. A car with a five year life span and then requires replacement. This in contrast to the new vehicle I bought in 95 and am still driving today and plan to drive to at least 2015.

The cheapest car you will ever own is the one you own today.

RE: Reality will disprove theory
By randomly on 9/3/2008 3:16:35 PM , Rating: 2
I would disagree. The current crop of hybrid vehicles like the Prius are clearly an improvement over standard gas engines. The Plugin hybrids like the Volt are an improvement on that and give you a viable option of using whatever economical source of electricity is or becomes available.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles don't seem to have a very promising future. They are only competitive when compared against gasoline driven vehicles because of the high efficiency of reforming Methane to hydrogen (about 80%). If your primary energy source is electrical (nuclear, solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal etc.) battery powered cars are 3-4X more efficient than fuel cells.

An MIT study found that even with the promised improvements in fuel cell technology that they would be outperformed well to wheels comparison by a simple diesel hybrid through at least the year 2020.

The losses of producing hydrogen from an electrical power source, the energy losses needed to compress and transport the hydrogen, and the practical efficiencies of fuel cells under load in a automotive environment all add up to choke the life out of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Not to mention the cost and complexity is more than the battery vehicles.

I have faith in the batteries myself. The major cost premium of battery powered cars is the battery pack. There are no intrinsically expensive materials in them and as volume production increases the prices will drop. They will also have a high residual value at the end of life, for recycling materials or for derated use in other applications. End of life is considered 80% of original capacity, that means you'd still have an almost 13KwH capacity battery out of a Volt.

RE: Reality will disprove theory
By djxtreme on 9/8/2008 1:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
AS far as this type of car (volt, whatever) entering Canada. I heard the argument it wouldn't happen because of the construction and safety issues. But if ALL cars were of this type thats a mute point, everything has to start somewhere.

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