WARREN, Michigan (AP) -- The lithium-ion batteries to be used in General Motors' Chevrolet Volt electric car will soon be installed and tested in specially-equipped versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, the company said. This will allow the automaker to test the batteries in actual driving situations, the company said during a media event in the Detroit suburb of Warren.
According to GM's plans, the Volt will be produced as a mainstream electric vehicle that can be recharged by being plugged into a household outlet. It will have a small gasoline engine that will be used only to recharge the vehicle's batteries if they run down while driving. Because of the extreme power demands involved in driving a car in the real world, the vehicle would be powered by lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and can store and release more power than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today's hybrid cars. Fully charged, the Volt should drive about 40 miles without using any gasoline, according to GM (GM
, Fortune 500
). The small conventional engine would extend that range allowing the car to get as much 150 miles per gallon, depending on the distance driven.
The Volt will be a four-seat car. Not having a center seating position in the back will allow room for the car's battery to run longitudinally down the center of the car while keeping the roof low for better aerodynamics, according to a GM press release. The T-shaped battery will also extend out under the back seats.
"After extensive aerodynamic testing of the Volt, the vehicle now has a coefficient of drag that is 30% lower than the original concept," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president, Global Design. "It's not easy, but it is a necessity."
GM also announced a new computer algorithm to speed laboratory-based durability testing of the batteries. "Production timing of the Volt is directly related to our ability to predict how this battery will perform over the life of the vehicle. The challenge is predicting 10 years of battery life with just over two years of testing time," said Frank Weber, global vehicle chief engineer for the Volt.
GM recently announced that it will begin using lithium-ion batteries in mild-hybrid vehicles such as the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and Saturn Vue Hybrid. While those vehicles will still run under gasoline power, with just an assist from electric motors, using lithium-ion batteries will greatly boost fuel economy.
The company also expects to release a plug-in hybrid version of its Saturn Vue Green Line in 2009. Unlike the Volt, the Saturn Vue plug-in will operate like a typical hybrid car, with a gasoline engine and electric motor working together to power the vehicle.