Electric Vehicles
The Chevy Volt: Coming Soon to a Dealership Near You

By Lisa Wojnovich
The Inspired Economist
January 21, 2009

Last week at the Detroit auto show, new, battery-powered, green cars reigned
supreme. General Motors announced finalized plans for its Chevrolet Volt, which
will be on the market in both fully electric and plug-in hybrid forms by late
2010. LG Chem, a South Korean company, won the much anticipated contract to
manufacture the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries, beating out several other
contenders, including Massachusetts’s A123Systems and Germany’s Continental AG.

LG Chem plans to manufacture the batteries in Ochang, South Korea, and then ship
them to the U.S. for final assembly and installation. GM will assemble the final
400 pound, T-shaped batteries in a new plant they hope to build in Michigan,
benefiting from the tax credits that state’s governor signed into law after she
herself toured the show.

The Volt will be able to travel up to 40 miles in a single charge, and GM plans
to offer a 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty, a guarantee which the batteries’
manufacturers claim they will match.

Of course, lithium-ion batteries have their detractors. As with all batteries,
they generate large quantities of heat and are still extremely large — though
they are considerably smaller than their nickel-metal-hydride counterparts.
Nonetheless, the American auto manufacturers seem to prefer this design to other
green car concepts involving biofuels or fuel cells thus far. For better or
worse, with GM’s further announcement that it will open a 31,000 square foot
automotive battery research facility in conjunction with the University of
Michigan and the state offering viable tax incentives to establish a battery
industry there, it seems likely that in the coming years we’ll all be driving
lithium-ion powered cars around town.


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