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GM Puts Electric-Car Testing on Fast Track to 2010

April 08, 2008

DETROIT – General Motors Corp. will road-test technology needed for its Chevrolet Volt electric car this month. However, GM said it may not know for another two years whether its battery technology will be commercially viable. The automaker is trying to bring the Volt to the U.S. market by November 2010.

In late April, GM's Volt project will enter an important phase as the company fits lithium-ion battery packs into a fleet of three-year-old Chevrolet Malibus, and engineers begin driving the test vehicles on test tracks and in other environments. But even as the vehicles hit the road, GM is just beginning a two-year test of the battery system to determine if it will meet consumer demands. The auto maker is aiming to offer a car with a battery that can completely power the vehicle, without the aid of gasoline or other fuels, for a typical commute. The battery should last 10 years or 150,000 miles, according to the company.

GM is speeding up battery testing by raising the temperature in a chamber in which the battery is tested. By doing this, GM will artificially accelerate the aging process of the battery, letting the company evaluate a 10-year lifecycle over the course of two years. GM is testing battery systems from different suppliers for the Volt, according to One is from a U.S. subsidiary of South Korea's LG Chem Ltd., and the other is from Continental AG's Continental Automotive Systems unit, which is using cells developed by A123 Systems Inc.

The results of the test won't be fully known until March 2010, eight months before the vehicles are scheduled for sale. In the meantime, GM will design a special fuel tank, create more capable high-voltage cables, and reduce the power that the air conditioner will use.

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