When General Motors eliminated half its brands, essentially overnight, it created turmoil in its product development program. For one thing, the sale of the Saturn division meant there’d be no home for the plug-in hybrid system that was supposed to be used on the brand’s 2011 Vue.
GM officials briefly considered giving a rebadged version of the Vue plug-in to Buick, one of the company’s four surviving North American brands, but pulled the plug on that idea, as well. However, sources confirmed for TheDetroitBureau.com last week that the technology won’t be abandoned, and while a final decision on where to use it has not been made, it would almost certainly show up in a Chevrolet or GMC model, most likely by the originally planned, 2011 model-year.
The latest confirmation of this comes from suppliers to the program. GM is telling them to move ahead with plans for a plug-in hybrid despite the automaker’s decision to kill a Buick version of the plug-in hybrid that had garnered negative comments from potential consumers.
GM is now looking for new slot in its current lineup for the plug-in hybrid, according to Prabhakar Patil, the chief executive officer of Compact Power Inc. in Troy, Michigan.
Compact Power also is collaborating with GM on the Volt, and is in discussions with Eaton Corporation about producing lithium-ion batteries for trucks and commercial vehicles.
Compact Power is the North American subsidiary of LG Chem, one of the world’s largest producers of lithium-ion batteries for automotive hybrid electric vehicles and commercial and military markets.
LG Chem senior vice president for research and development M.H. Kim said he started a lithium-ion battery business from scratch 10 years ago. At the time, 99% of all lithium-ion batteries were made in Japan. Now LG Chem is one of the top three makers of lithium-ion batteries in the world building them in Korea.
“We think the same kind of growth will happen here (in Michigan),” Patil said.
GM officials also said they battery program behind the Volt in which Compact Power is GM’s key partner is moving ahead right on schedule. GM and Compact power now have done thousands of miles of durability and other testing on the lithium-ion battery that will power the Volt.
Meanwhile, Compact Power is searching for a site in Michigan for a new plant for assembling the basic lithium-ion battery cells that will come from Korea. A final decision on the plant could come relatively quickly, Compact Power officials said. The plant is expected to build cells for batteries for an entire array of electric and hybrid vehicles, they said.