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GM Has Big Plans for Expanded Battery Lab

Detroit maker expands R&D center in push for better range.

by on Sep.17, 2013

Work gets underway at GM's expanded battery research center in suburban Detroit.

Facing increasing competition in the battery car market as global makers like Nissan, Volkswagen and Toyota begin fielding an array of hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, General Motors has launched a major expansion of its battery development lab.

The move could prove critical not only in going up against GM’s traditional competitors but also new players in the alternative powertrain space, such as California battery-car start-up Tesla Motors. GM has confirmed plans to develop a vehicles that will deliver the extended range to challenge Tesla’s well-reviewed Model S.

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The research lab will also target ways to reduce charging times in an effort to make plug-based vehicles more practical in everyday use.

“GM is committed to vehicle electrification and our products in this area must continue to excite customers. A critical part of this plan is to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy storage systems,” said Larry Nitz, GM’s executive director of global electrification engineering.


Late Update: Explosion at GM Tech Center Battery Lab

One worker hospitalized, battery lab indefinitely closed.

by on Apr.11, 2012

A lithium-ion battery being tested at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.

This is the latest update of’s initial report, posted at 5:30 PM EDT.

An explosion at a battery vehicle research lab at the General Motors Technical Center resulted in six injuries, including one hospitalization.  The lab was evacuated and it and adjoining offices will remain closed at least for another day.  The automaker says the incident was the result of “extreme testing on a prototype battery.”

Though the maker stresses that its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid was not involved in the incident, the explosion could prove another setback considering the brouhaha that followed reports of several fires involving the Volt last year subsequent to crash testing by federal safety regulators.

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“An incident occurred about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday inside a test chamber at the General Motors Alternative Energy Center during extreme testing of an experimental battery,” the maker stated in a news release. “Chemical gases from the battery cells were released and ignited in the enclosed chamber. The battery itself was intact. The battery tested and the incident have no connection with the Chevrolet Volt or any other GM production vehicle.”

The automaker reports five employees were treated at the scene with another worker’s injuries requiring hospitalization.


GM Investing $8 Million to Expand Battery Lab

by on Apr.12, 2010

With the expansion of its battery lab, GM hopes to come up with better, cheaper batteries for vehicles like the Chevy Volt.

General Motors is investing $8 million to double the size of the battery research lab at its Warren, Michigan technical center. 

The expansion of the facility, which will grow to 30,000 square feet, will not only make it easier for the automaker to improve on-site testing, but also help it develop more advanced batteries for an expanding line-up of electric vehicles it plans to bring to market in the coming years, said Micky Bly, the executive in charge of GM’s various battery vehicle programs.

The carmaker’s push into “electrification” begins in November, when it launches production of the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle, or EREV.  Chevy has already begun so-called pre-production of Volt prototypes and, in a Monday news briefing, GM officials confirmed that the battery car will deliver an average range of 40 miles per charge, while it is expected to yield an average 50 miles per gallon using its small internal combustion engine, once the batteries are discharged.


GM Debuts New Battery Lab

Center will support development of Chevy Volt and other battery vehicles.

by on Jun.08, 2009

GM CEO with Chevy Volt "mule" during dedication of the automaker's new battery lab. Governor Jennifer Granholm and product engineering chief Jim Queen are to Henderson's left.

GM CEO with Chevy Volt "mule" during dedication of the automaker's new battery lab. Governor Jennifer Granholm and product engineering chief Jim Queen are to Henderson's left.

Calling it “the lifeblood of our future,” General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson officially opened the automaker’s new battery lab, at the GM Technical Center, this morning.

The facility is designed to help develop the next-generation lithium-ion batteries that the automaker hopes to use in future products, such as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range-electric vehicle, or E-REV, which it plans to put on the market around November 2010.

The lab was opened at least five months ahead of schedule, GM officials noted, during a dedication ceremony and subsequent tour, and should help ensure that the Volt makes it to market on time.

“Electrically-driven vehicles provide the best alternative for a sustainable future,” declared Jim Queen, the bankrupt automaker’s top engineer.  The challenge, he and other company officials later added, is making sure that GM can come up with batteries that meet public expectation for range, cost and durability.

That’s the role of the new battery lab, which is housed on the sprawling Tech Center campus, in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan.  It replaces a smaller and less technically sophisticated facility only a quarter of its size.  The new lab measures 33,000 square feet and can put more than 200 battery packs through their paces at a time, on test stands and thermal chambers designed to simulate the worst possible conditions a vehicle like the Volt might face.

This has resulted in the drastic reduction in development time and will significant speed up time to market,” asserted Queen.

In all, the lab can draw as much as 6 megawatts from the electric grid-enough for 1500 typical homes – though about 90 percent of that energy can also be pumped back out, as much of the testing involves seeing how well the batteries can store and then release energy. (more…)