GM Exec: Chevy Volt Battery's Performance 'Flawless'

Volt270

At a media introduction to GM's 2009 model line last week, GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said the company's lithium-ion battery development "is progressing nicely" and that the company has chosen but not announced a supplier. The lightweight battery technology is the linchpin of the Chevrolet Volt electric car that GM has promised for 2010. The Volt will drive up to 40 miles on a charge before its gasoline-powered onboard generator is needed to extend its range.

While lithium-ion batteries are already common in cellular phones and laptop computers, GM has undertaken an aggressive program to adapt and test the technology in the harsh automotive environment. "We haven't hit any obstacles so far for the batteries," Lutz said. "They are all performing flawlessly. It's almost scary we are not seeing any problems with the batteries."

The experimental batteries are being subjected to the kind of durability and temperature extremes that portable electronics never experience. They are under heavy scrutiny for thermal performance due to the technology's history of overheating in some consumer-electronics applications. Of the many characteristics under review, battery life is the most difficult to judge in a short timeframe.

"Longevity is the unanswered question," Lutz allowed, but he added that simulations have left him optimistic that a lithium-ion battery’s life expectancy will be competitive with nickel-metal hydride, the current standard in hybrids. As a backup, he said, "We're being conservative on battery life. For our cost calculations we're assuming each car will need a replacement during the warranty period." The Volt will have a 10-year powertrain warranty.

Though lithium-ion batteries are currently more expensive than nickel-metal hydride, Lutz predicted that they will become more affordable thanks to changes in lithium-ion chemistry and economies of scale in the face of rising nickel costs. Between this assumption and the fact that current parallel hybrids effectively have both electric and gas powertrains, he sees more potential for profitability in a car like the Volt, which has only one true powertrain and a simple gas-powered generator. Lutz declined to predict a timeframe for Volt profitability, but said the first generation is out of the question. He said the program is on schedule for an on-sale date of November 2010 for consumers, but that a substantial fleet of Volts will be on the road in 2009 for further development and validation.

Comments 

segfault

One replacement in five years? Try five! 18-24 months is the average life expectancy for a lithium ion battery.

segfault,
where do you get that information from?

GoBlue

He pulled it from his Toyota Salesman Handbook on how to continue to smear your competitors.

ziggy

I think he's going by the average life expectancy for a lithium battery in a laptop is 18-24 months if used daily.

Are you GM fans so desperate that you have to put down Toyota every chance you get? The first poster casually mentioned that "18-24 months is the average life expectancy for a lithium ion battery".

so touchy you guys are. It's not a laptop battery. Similar chemistry, but entirely different implementation. Don't write "facts" just opinions...

J

GoBlue,

All I've read from seafault was: One replacement in five years? Try five! 18-24 months is the average life expectancy for a lithium ion battery.

Where did you see Toyota in his comment is a total mystery.
You can support GM while disliking Toyota all you want. But please refrain from acusing others of something that they didn't do.

Did a little search on google, first result: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_ion_battery
Read it before bashing. Thank you very much.

Folks: Can you please lay off the brand-war comments -- and try not to take the bait when it's dangled? It accomplishes nothing, and we'd really like this to be a forum where people can share ideas and maybe learn something. (It makes me long for the good old days of Letters to the Editor, where we got to pick what was published, but that would limit what gets said, and how much, and we don't want to revert to that any more than you do.)

The idea of a Li-ion battery lasting two years probably does come from mobile-electronics applications, where they do seem to crap out pretty quickly. For what it's worth, though, Lutz said that by keeping the charge and discharge extremes between 80 and 30 percent capacity, the life expectancy is greatly increased. Yes, this means they're using (if I remember correctly without my notes) 8 kW of a 16 kW battery, which might seem inefficient, but a similar strategy is what led to the remarkable longevity of nickel-metal hydride batts in current hybrids. In smaller applications, manufacturers probably sacrifice battery longevity for higher capacity, i.e. talk time, computing time, etc. For that matter, an electric car with a longer range and/or without a range-extending generator probably couldn't afford to use so little of the battery's capacity.

More of a concern to me is the issue of shelf life, which is an inherent shortcoming of current Li-ion batteries -- they lose capacity with age whether you use them or not. Maybe that's why Lutz said GM is accounting for the battery pack to be replaced once during the 10-year warranty rather than once within a certain number of miles. Hmmmm.

There's a lot of development left to be done, and when you recognize how science has overcome so many of the drawbacks in existing battery types, it's easier to fathom how an industry with a real need can find a way to make the most of a technology. Take Tony Stark for example; he replaced the car battery connected to the electromagnet in his heart with a tiny arc reactor that could power both it and a full gold-titanium exoskeleton outfitted with one-way force projection thrusters and multiple weapons systems. OK, that might not be the best example, but I'm a little obsessed with "Iron Man." --JW

Adam

The batteries are based on A123as Li-Fe technology not currently in use by any consumer electronics except Dewalt drills. The life and durability of these batteries is greatly improved.

my cell phone which was my wife's old cell phone is going on 3+ years. Never had a battery problem and one of the longest charged phones I've ever had. Can go a weekend without charging.

As always, Joe is exactly right. It's quite obviously an "apples to oranges" comparison to compare cell phones & laptops to Plug-in cars.

Cell phones are only expected to to have a life span of 18-24 months so it doesn't make any sense to have a battery that lasts longer than that. If there wasn't so much emphasis on compact size and low cost cell phones and laptops could have longer lasting batteries.

Angelo

What’s the problem guys? It will be under warranty for 10 years. By then, technology will catch up.

Always remember that it’s a new technology. Now that they appear to be serious about moving these newer technologies, things will improve.

Casadore

Remember Edison was for D.C. current ,but A.C. won out in the end, because it was better for America. This battery problem will be ironed out by americans on the road, backed uop by G.M.

How much do I love Lil'Tom?

J

Lil'Tom,

How about the lithium ion battery on a laptop?

Barry

The ultimate problem behind this new technology is not the technology itself but rather it's GM. If they had a track record like the Japanese I would have no reason to doubt them. My experience with GM is You are the beta tester even when they say otherwise. I'll never forget when Bob Lutz stated that the new Cobalt would set new standards for the car industry. He's right it did. For rebates. I'll wait for Toyota or Honda to produce a "Volt" type car and then I'll buy. GM's stock is worth approximately 1/10th of Toyota for many reasons.

Barry

The ultimate problem behind this new technology is not the technology itself but rather it's GM. If they had a track record like the Japanese I would have no reason to doubt them. My experience with GM is You are the beta tester even when they say otherwise. I'll never forget when Bob Lutz stated that the new Cobalt would set new standards for the car industry. He's right it did. For rebates. I'll wait for Toyota or Honda to produce a "Volt" type car and then I'll buy. GM's stock is worth approximately 1/10th of Toyota for many reasons.

johnnyyumma

there is a better way to keep the battery charged!so if you want to know,that! chevy people i hope you read this and inquire of me at my email adress.

Brian

Hey Barry,
If you want to talk about track records, why don't you also consider full size trucks. Tell me again who is using who for the beta testers. Wait, what's that? Toyota used the consumer as the beta tester? Oh, yes. That explains camshafts snapping and tailgates crumpling like tin foil. Why don't you go back to swinging on Toyota's nuts and stop posting useless comments here.

Brian

Hey Barry,
If you want to talk about track records, why don't you also consider full size trucks. Tell me again who is using who for the beta testers. Wait, what's that? Toyota used the consumer as the beta tester? Oh, yes. That explains camshafts snapping and tailgates crumpling like tin foil. Why don't you go back to swinging on Toyota's nuts and stop posting useless comments here.

Truth

The battery under question will likely have the life expectancy of A123's LiFePO4(or around there: They're likely not going to settle for less), an entirely different chemistry than your cobalt-based laptop batteries. Those laptop Li-Ions are really only rated for 400-700 cycles; A123's are rated for 7000+. We're talking about an entirely different league here.

Chuck

I have a power pack that would recharge the volt while moving, than the mileages would be unrestricted...If you are interested GM email me.

Red

Chuck, that sounds an awful lot like a perpetual motion machine and we all know how successful that idea is. Have you been talking to Neil Young's mechanic?

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Joe, VERY NICE explanation on the Battery tech.It is not hard to imagine in a few years with them tinkering with the battery materials that they could get the 'run' time to 60-80 miles on batteries alone, next step is to simplify the recycling of the old batteries and making 'battery swaps' an oil change like experience.If they can refurbish the old worn batteries cheap they can then 'unlock' the full battery capacity allowing maybe 160 or so miles on a charge.Of course the batteries will die quick but i'd pay $2-500 every two years to be able to run 99% of the time on battery power, the fuel savings should make this a =/= proposition. Exciting times ahead, hope GM survives to see it happen.

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I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Joannah

http://myscones.com

The experimental batteries are being subjected to the kind of durability and temperature extremes that portable electronics never experience. They are under heavy scrutiny for thermal performance due to the technology's history of overheating in http://www.wholesaleeshop.com.au/MP5/ some consumer-electronics applications. Of the many characteristics under review, battery life is the most difficult to judge in a short timeframe.

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