Big news out of General Motors, where Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says engineers have started road-testing Chevrolet Volt test mules with lithium-ion batteries and the company has "growing confidence" the car will be in showrooms before the end of 2010.
Maximum Bob let the battery tidbit slip during an interview with the Detroit News where he told automotive editor Manny Lopez, "We've got the first car running (with lithium-ion batteries) ... and what the guys get on 'sightings' is a picture of an old Malibu with black wheels and a very long extension cord."
We're not sure what he meant by the sightings crack but figure it must be reference to the excitement generated by spy-shots that supposedly showed a Volt test mule testing the E-Flex battery-electric powertrain. GM tells us those pictures, snapped by a photographer for Brenda Priddy and Company, actually showed a chassis development mule.
We've known for awhile that GM is testing lithium-ion battery packs from LG Chem and A123Systems and has put some E-Flex drivetrain components in test mules, but this is the first report that the engineers have li-ion batteries in a road-going car (even if it is a three-year-old Malibu). GM spokesman Robert Peterson said he couldn't comment on the batteries, so we'll take Maximum Bob at his word.
Lutz is cracking the whip hard to get the Volt built by 2010, and CEO Rick Wagoner told reporters at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition that GM will go "down to the wire" meeting that deadline. Still, Lutz told the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) GM should begin production of the Volt by November, 2010. He says the Volt has a "pretty good shot of getting over 100 mpg" but GM doesn't plan to use the E-Flex powertrain technology in a compact car, although it could be placed in a "small pickup truck" if tightening fuel economy rules require it.
Lutz also dropped this bomb in the Detroit News interview, and it's sure to hack off EV 1 fanatics:
"The only things that were wrong with the EV1 (GM's first electric car) was that it was way too expensive to make; it was only a two-passenger; and the battery technology was not ready," Lutz said. "It was a noble effort, but it was a technological force job and at a time when nobody cared. We could not find more than 800 buyers for that thing no matter how hard we tried or no matter how much we dropped the price. Finally we had to lease them out."
Let the flaming begin.
Thanks to Lyle Dennis, editor of GM-Volt.com, for the pic he snapped of the Volt test mule. He's got more pictures and details
Labels: A123, A123Systems, E-Flex, GM, LG, LG Chem, lithium-ion, test