There’s a lot riding on next year’s highly-publicized launch of the Chevrolet Volt. General Motors’ new plug-in technology could revolutionize what and how Americans drive – or it could prove a resounding dud.
But a growing number of manufacturers are betting on some form of “electrification,” the transformation of the traditionally mechanical automotive drivetrain into a battery-powered or battery-assisted system that can improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Virtually every automaker is working on some sort of battery-based technology, including GM’s arch-rival, Toyota, which plans to launch a plug-in hybrid version of its popular Prius.
The transition won’t be easy, nor will it be cheap. An entire industry is emerging to supply the batteries, motors, controller systems and other technology needed for tomorrow’s battery vehicles. There’ll also be need for charging stations, and for an upgraded national electrical grid.