GM Could Begin Producing Plug-in Hybrids by 2010

GM Could Begin Producing Plug-in Hybrids by 2010

General Motors Corp. makes progress in the race for the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car.

Reuters reported Thursday that General Motors will begin road-testing its Chevy Volt next spring before beginning production by the late 2010. Bob Lutz, the company's global product chief, predicted that lithium-ion batteries would be ready for the Chevy Bolt by October.

Toyota and Ford Motor Co. also are developing technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles but neither has specified a timetable.

GM entered an agreement Thursday with A123Systems Inc. to co-develop nanophosphate battery cells for GM's electric drive E-Flex system to be used in the Chevy Volt.

"Breakthrough battery technology will drive future automotive propulsion, and the company that aligns with the best strategic partners will win. That's what is so important about this deal," said Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of Global Product Development, in a statement. "Whether you’re talking about the Chevy Volt, a fuel cell or even a plug-in hybrid such as our planned Saturn Vue, we need to understand the fundamental battery cell performance."

A123Systems, one of the world’s largest nano-phosphate manufacturers in the world, produces more than 10 million cells each year, most of which are used in rechargeable power tools. Compared to other lithium-ion battery chemistries, the nanophosphate-based cell technology is believed to deliver higher power output, longer life and safer operation.

"We’re talking today about the Volt and implications that it will have on the electrification of passenger vehicles, but the technology goes a lot further than that," said Dave Vieau, A123System's CEO. "The weight, size, safety and performance of these batteries have implications on all transportation, including hybrid buses, trucks and aircraft.”

The Chevy Volt will use the technology to run 40 miles without gasoline or emissions. GM first unveiled the Chevy Volt earlier this year.

"The Chevy Volt will lead the automotive industry in a new direction,” Lutz said. “We see a future where vehicles run on electricity and are equipped with clever ways of making electricity on board, making us less dependent on gasoline. It's the next great paradigm shift in our industry, an opportunity largely due to the rapid advancement in battery cell technology by companies such as A123Systems and LG Chem.”

GM currently produces a diesel hybrid electric system for large city buses, the Saturn Vue, Saturn Aura Green Line hybrid models and the new Chevy Malibu hybrid.

In the fall the company will begin producing the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrid SUVs with a two-mode system to give a 40 percent improvement in city fuel economy.