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GM pouring energy into Volt

January 09, 2008|From Reuters

General Motors Corp.'s planned launch of the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt in 2010 is "a stretch" even though the automaker has not hit any snags in its development of the rechargeable electric car, the automaker's chief executive said Tuesday.

Rick Wagoner said the automaker's initial tests of a new-generation of lithium-ion batteries needed to power the Volt had been favorable.

"From the beginning, going for 2010 was a stretch, and it's still a stretch, but we're putting resources like crazy into it and we haven't seen anything yet that says we've hit a glitch on it," Wagoner said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The Volt represents GM's bid to beat rival Toyota Motor Corp. to the market with a hybrid vehicle that can be recharged at a standard outlet and to win back consumers who have abandoned the Detroit-based automaker's brands because of concern about fuel economy and the environment.

Toyota is working to develop a rechargeable or plug-in version of its market-leading Prius hybrid but has said that the battery technology will not be ready for market by 2010.

Wagoner said the Volt development effort was far more complex than the usual process of turning a concept car into a production model, which typically takes three to four years.

In addition to the standard vehicle engineering, GM is working with suppliers to develop a new generation of lithium-ion batteries, which have been long used in devices such as cellphones, to power vehicles.

At the same time, GM engineers are scrambling to figure out how to run vehicle features such as satellite radio and air conditioning without cutting into the Volt's planned 40-mile range on battery power alone.

"On the battery side, we're progressing very well, and we're basically pushing the technology needle to do everything we want to do from a technology that is emerging rather than developed," Wagoner said.

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