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The Buzz on Electric Cars: What's New This Week

General Motors has previously tried to dispel rumors that bankruptcy will affect plans for the hybrid-electric Volt, insisting pre-production and planning will continue. Volt-enthusiast Lyle Dennis may be helping to do just that.

Dennis, a neurosurgeon and author of the Chevy Volt fan site, tweeted this morning about touring the company's Advanced Battery Laboratory, including the eight-minute video he shot of battery pack. (Hint: skip to 2:30 minutes to get to the show-and-tell).

The company spokesperson notes there are 155 unique parts within the sealed battery pack, 147 of which are designed by GM. There are 200 Lithium Ion cells within the battery pack, designed by LG Chem, he notes, with a dig at Tesla, saying "You can't reliably attach 6,000 cells over a large number of batteries."

According to spokesperson in Dennis' video, the company spokesperson noted the current design is the fifth iteration of the Volt's battery pack since the the original iteration 18 months ago. The pack is mounted underneath the vehicle, and is sealed from dust and water. A poster in the background notes that more than 100 battery packs have been built to date and the company projects that more than 300 will be built by the end of the third quarter of this year.

In a slicker video promotion on GM's website, two test engineers roll the battery pack into thermal chamber for extreme temperature testing. The company announced the opening of the battery lab in Warren, Mich., on June 08.

"The new global GM battery lab will benefit consumers across America by helping us advance the development of battery technology in the United States and put cleaner, more efficient vehicles on the road more quickly and affordably," said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO, in a prepared statement.

"Our new lab improves GM's competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt," Henderson continued.

In other electric car news, GreenTech Media reports the company Electrovaya will roll out its Maya 300 all-electric vehicle in 2011.

The company, which makes batteries, will use ExxonMobil's battery separator film, which is: "an integral part of battery system design and critical to overall performance," according to a press release (PDF) from January 2008.

The article reports: "The car will run on lithium-ion batteries, charge in about eight to 10 hours, run for 60 miles and plug into regular 110-volt outlets. It will cost around $20,000 to $25,000. An extended-range battery option will run for 120 miles on a charge and cost $30,000 to $35,000."

And it appears the big announcement will come on Wednesday, but information on both ExxonMobil's and Electrovaya's website is sparse. On the dedicated site,, the only portion that is not under construction links back to Electrovaya's site about Lithium Ion SuperPolymer(R) technology.

But it is hard to see where a $20,000 low speed plug-in vehicle could gain market share. Other around-town electric cars such as Chrysler's GEM car are cheaper (about half the price) despite the top speed of only 25 mph with a range of about 30 miles. Is it worth two or three times the sticker price to have twice the range? Maybe it depends on how the vehicle is used.

In the meantime, electric and hybrid vehicle fans will continue to wait for more affordable, longer-range, higher-speed options are available.

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