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GM, ABB Plan 2012 Test Using Volt Batteries as Smart Grid Backup

“Near-new” batteries could prevent blackouts, level alternative energy sources.

by on Jul.20, 2011

Used Chevy Volt batteries could eventually help prop up the nation's creaky electrical grid.

If all goes according to plan, General Motors will be producing tens of thousands of plug-in hybrids annually in the coming years.  So, what to do with the batteries when it comes time to sent vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt to the scrapyard?

Even after a decade of use, the lithium-ion battery pack in the typical Volt should have 70% of its capacity left, according to Pablo Valencia, GM’s senior manager for battery lifecycle management.  And that means that even as the old Volt is melted down for scrap, those batteries could find new life propping up the nation’s electrical grid.

Starting next year, GM will partner with energy systems giant ABB to begin testing the use of Volt batteries as an energy storage solution that could serve a variety of purposes from preventing blackouts to helping level out the ups-and-downs of alternative energy sources like wind and solar.

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“With 33 batteries, I’d be able to give you an uninterruptible power supply to approximately 50 houses for up to four hours during a blackout,” explained Valencia, during a teleconference briefing from the Plug-In Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.


GM Adds Battery-Electric Vehicles to Plug-ins, Hybrids, E-REVs

Pure battery cars under development, but timing uncertain.

by on Jan.25, 2010

GM is moving forward on a range of pure battery-powered vehicles, well beyond the little NXR it will sell in India as part of a joint venture.

While General Motors plans emphasize hybrids, plug-ins and so-called extended-range electrics, like the Chevrolet Volt, the automaker is quietly at work developing some pure battery-electric models that could hit the road in the next few years, officials have confirmed to

Senior GM officials are still skeptical about the potential for vehicles relying on batteries along, but they also see the need for what product development czar Tom Stephens describes as a “robust product portfolio” that can address the broadest possible mix of energy alternatives and consumer needs.

The key takeaway, GM officials stress, is that electric power, in one form or another, is rapidly becoming an essentially element in the company’s model mix.

“We have to come up with a robust product portfolio that can take advantage of all (the various) energy alternatives and do it efficiently,” said Stephens.

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Until recently, GM officials prefered to direct the media spotlight towards an array of products pairing battery power and the internal combustion engine, such as mild hybrids like the one first introduced on the Saturn Vue, advanced two-mode hybrid-electric systems, such as the one used in the Cadillac Escalade, and extended-range electric vehicles, or E-REVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt.


Volt to Go to California First

National roll-out to follow.

by on Dec.02, 2009

The first production versions of the Chevrolet Volt - a prototype is shown here - will go to California.

The first production versions of the Chevrolet Volt - a prototype is shown here - will go to California.

The first cars off the line will be heading to California, late next year, when General Motors begins production of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

Other markets will follow in a planned nationwide roll-out, the automaker will announce, later today, at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

“It is natural that California is the lead market for Volt. Not only is it the largest automotive market, Californians are known to be leaders in adopting groundbreaking new technologies,” said Brent Dewar, GM vice president, Global Chevrolet Brand.

High-Voltage News!

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There’s yet another reason why Volt will premier in the Golden State and not, say, Michigan or even New York.  The plug-in – GM actually prefers the term, “Extended-Range Electric Vehicle,” or E-REV – uses new lithium-ion batteries, a technology particularly sensitive to temperature variations.


Chevy Won’t Separately Lease Volt Battery

Consumers tell GM they don't want to buy car, lease battery.

by on Dec.01, 2009

Chevrolet will stick to a conventional model when it begins selling the Volt plug-in, next year.

Chevrolet will stick to a conventional model when it begins selling the Volt plug-in, next year.

General Motors has decided that it will charge a set price for its upcoming Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, rather than allowing customers to buy the vehicle and then lease the battery for a set monthly fee.

That alternative approach is the one Nissan appears to be pursuing for its own high-tech car, the Leaf battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, which will charge into U.S. showrooms shortly after GM puts Volt on sale, in late 2010.

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One of the biggest challenges for the auto industry, in the push towards electrification is keeping costs down to a level that consumers will be willing to spend.    “Most people aren’t willing to pay a premium just because a vehicle is green,” cautions Chance Parker, J.D. Power and Associates group vice president and general manager.


Turning Plug-In Hybrids Into a Viable Business

Detroit conference faces challenges to going green.

by on Oct.20, 2009

The first pre-production versions of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid roll off the line at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan.

The first pre-production versions of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in.

Though it’s still a year before it finally rolls into showroom, the Chevrolet Volt may be one of the auto industry’s best-known nameplates.  But gaining publicity for the breakthrough technology is likely to be the easy part.  In the coming months, General Motors will have to transform its plug-in hybrid into a viable business case.

And that, admits Tom Stephens, GM’s director of powertrain operations, won’t be easy.  In its initial incarnation, the dual drive system under Volt’s hood will be expensive and complex.  And, at least for now, there isn’t a well-developed infrastructure that would let Volt buyers readily charge up the vehicle when they’re away from home.  In fact, it may not be easy for some potential customers to charge up even there.

Transforming plug-in technology from a promising, environmentally-friendly concept into a viable business case is the central topic of a well-attended conference, in Detroit, this week.  Originally, organizers hoped to attract about 300 participants to “The Business of Plugging In.”  The final tally is expected to top 700.

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GM isn’t the only maker exploring the options offered by plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, or PHEVs, automobiles meant to let motorists drive for extended periods on electric power, then automatically switch to gasoline when their batteries run down.  Ford plans to bring out a version of its own, as does Toyota, which next year will launch a fleet test of a PHEV version of the popular Prius.