Jun 27

GM-Volt EXCLUSIVE Interview/Podcast: Compact Power Inc. Executives Discuss Volt Battery Pack Development

 

In our last post, I presented an interview with Dr. Bart Riley of A123 Systems, one of the two companies GM awarded contracts to in order to develop the Volt’s battery packs. Now I’ve also had the opportunity to discuss the same issues with two top executives from the competitor company, Compact Power Inc. (CPI) which is a subsidiary of LG Chem. CPI has 22 employees an is located in Troy, Michigan. I spoke with Martin Klein, Director of Engineering, and Mohamed Alamgir, Director of Research. A podcast of the full interview follows the post.

In this interview, Mr. Klein and Dr. Alamgir were both candid and clear about the development plans.

CPI uses a proprietary large size cell, about the size of a CD case, which does not use Lithium-Cobalt Dioxide anodes, but rather uses a Manganese oxide anode. They claim their system is not susceptible to thermal runaway (i.e. exploding) because they have developed a proprietary separator that is unique and will not allow a local short circuit to propagate. Is is not exact how many cells will be in the Volt battery pack, but very many was the response. Each has a nominal voltage of 3.8 V. Dr. Alamgir noted that CPI’s cells are more inexpensive to produce because of the free availability of materials and easy preparation process. Although I do not have exact numbers, their cells may be less expensive than A123’s. Also they mentioned and it is important to note, that LG already produces on the order of 1 million cells/day of the cobalt dioxide type for cell phones and laptops and the like.

The men indicate that CPI is quite far along in the development of a prototype pack, and indeed they indicate that small models do exist. They noted that their cells have powered an electric vehicle world record up Pike’s Peak in 2003 and 2004.

They noted that pack development has a lot to do with cooling and electronic systems, to keep the temperature stable in a wide variety of conditions (such as on hot asphalt), and to be able to check on the status of each and every cell to make sure voltage is kept uniform. I asked what would happen if one cell failed, since they are all linked in series, if the whole system would go down. The answer wasn’t so clear.

The men also reiterated that is is GM’s goal for the packs to be able to last 15 years, and Mr. Klein indicated that cells could theoretically even last 40 years!

They noted that they have no outward knowledge of A123/Continentals development process, and that through its affiliation with LG and other companies, the 22 employee CPI will have no problem mass-producing the packs.

A very positive Mr. Klein indicated that he was “very confident” that a pack to GM standards will be produced. And although we’ve heard about a one year timeline to report back to GM, the real timeline may be much sooner. It is clear that GM and CPI are working very closely on a daily basis to help them engineer the system, on a very aggressive schedule, and our interviewees indicate that a working prototype can be expected by year end.

This second interview of the two battery pack companies also indicates that the creation of the Volt’s battery pack really does not appear so far off and uncertain as some statements would have us believe. It really just appear to be a matter of time, and I suspect a short time at that.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2007 at 8:02 pm and is filed under Battery, Latest News, Original GM-Volt Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 21


  1. 1
    Tim

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    Jun 28th, 2007 (9:00 am)

    Thanks, Lyle.

    I love a good horse race. Competition encourages innovation, broadens options, increases quality and reduces costs. Monopoly does just the opposite.

    The sobering fact is that those with the knee-jerk reaction to Social Problems such as Health Care and Retirement Planning who say “there should be a law” or “the Feds should be doing that” or even “I’m entitled to this other thing” need to keep this simple fact in mind. Hello unions… This attitude is exactly why the manufacturing of the e-Flex batteries (and the jobs) will probably follow so many others out of the U.S. Yes, we will get our Volts, but will the key technologies be produced here in the US or will this just add to our widening trade deficit and lowering standard of living? Hey, you “entitled”, you’re killing our ability to compete globally and slitting your own financial throats.

    I can’t wait to own an e-Flex series PHEV-40 with a B100 Range Extender.


  2. 2
    Matt986

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    Jun 28th, 2007 (9:46 am)

    Along the lines of what Tim says… I hope GM kicks the UAW in the balls, and pays them according to their skill levels.

    There are UAW guys that turn bolts that get paid TWICE what I do, and I support servers in Linux and VMWare environments. I have much more education and skill.

    The unions are IMHO a huge part of why American auto manufacturers are not doing well.


  3. 3
    O.Jeff

     

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    Jun 30th, 2007 (2:34 pm)

    Thanks for the interview. I found it very informative. It sounds like GM wants both companies to supply packs by the end of 2007 so GM can spend a great deal of time in 2008 testing the h*ll out of them. Great job GM. This probably sets them up nicely for a decision on the supplier (or suppliers) during 2008, which allows for production during 2008/2009.
    I’d like to hear more about the failure recovery. At a minimum, I’d at least like to have two independent “chains” of batteries so that if Chain A was damaged, Chain B would be available. I wonder if GM’s power electronics will have a “limp” mode where the generator can directly connect to the motor to “limp” to safety (or to the dealer)?

    Interestingly, it sounds like the Volt may have to run a compressor to cool the battery packs to prevent the battery pack from getting too hot just when it is sitting in a parking lot on a super-hot day.

    Good job on the interviews. It does give one hope that GM will be able to produce the Volt.


  4. 4
    O.Jeff

     

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    Jun 30th, 2007 (2:44 pm)

    The whole idea of keeping the battery pack in proper temperature range raises lots of questions. I suppose a very cold day would require active heating to keep the car’s battery warm. You wonder if this would only use available energy in the battery to run a heater, or if the car would start the engine to supply needed energy to avoid harming the battery. But then again, if the engine is turned on, it could produce dangerous levels of CO if in a sealed garage. Perhaps there is an ambient CO sensor that prevents dangerous CO levels from building up. Or, does the car use OnStar to phone the owner and tell them to come and warm up/cool down the car? I suppose it is an intersting balance. When the battery is not in use, you’d probably like to have a lot of insulation to prevent unwanted cold/heat from affecting the batteries. But when the battery is in use, it generates heat that it will need to remove.

    I suppose that is why a chemistry that is tolerant of wide temperature ranges is so appealing.


  5. 5
    kent beuchert

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    Jun 30th, 2007 (10:25 pm)

    After reading the article and listening to the podcast interview, I’d say that CPI/LG
    seems to have the lead in terms of cost, probably the most important consideration since both battery groups seem to have met GM specs. With both groups very confident that their batteries can meet specs, I’d say that the all-important need for a practical battery has been met. If LG’s batteries come in cheaper than expected, would this mean the=at GM would expand the size of teh battery pack. I wonder if GM has plans to option battery pack size. That’s the very first thing I’d do – some out there would pay extra just to make sure that in the normal course of their daily travels they will always only use electric juice.


  6. 6
    Steven B

     

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    Jul 1st, 2007 (12:42 am)

    For using EV-mode all the time, I’m still interested in prospect of the fuel going bad. As I understand it, when gasoline, and I imagine E85, sits for too long, the fuel separates and its quality deteriorates. You can obviously choose not to fill up your gas tank for most of the time then, but I think that the fact gives a definite advantage to diesel/biodiesel engines whose fuel is much, much less prone to that occuring.


  7. 7
    storm connors

     

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    Jul 1st, 2007 (8:17 pm)

    Stevan-The leftover fuel from last summer started my outboard right up so fuel spoilage shouldn\’t be a problem. Worriers could ad a shot of \


  8. 8
    Tim

     

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    Jul 2nd, 2007 (9:06 am)

    When looking at the full light spectrum, only about 0.4% of solar energy is captured by biomass. Subtract inefficiencies in planting, watering, fertilizing, harvesting, processing, shipping, and combusting and one quickly discovers that liquid biofuels are very wasteful. http://www.smartenergyshow.com/?p=24

    Solar PV is between 10% and 15% efficient. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell Electricity can be moved and stored using existing infrastructure. Research & Development should concentrate on (1) reducing the costs associated with Solar PV, http://www.nanosolar.com/economic.htm and (2) the most efficient means of producing, storing and using electrons for transportation.

    V2G PHEVs is a transitional technology to make people feel comfortable with electric vehicles. PHEVs are the last death throws of the ICEs and they will quickly be replaced with pure V2G BEVs as electron storage improves and people become accustomed to the benefits of pure electric cars and learn to trust their BEV’s the way they now trust their ICEs. After that, Liquid biofuels and Hydrogen will only be used for emergency back-up, heavy hauling and long-range travel.

    The 21 Century will be renewable electric.


  9. 9
    storm connors

     

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    Jul 2nd, 2007 (9:35 am)

    I would buy a Volt today if it were available. I last bought a new car in 1963. Unfortunately, GM seems to be hinging the production on a battery development that may or may not occur. (For over 100 years, battery developers have been extreme optimists.)

    The car should be produced now using available technology. Using sealed lead acid batteries, the car might have a battery range of 20 miles and a battery life expectancy of 4 years at a cost of $1000 for the pack. Is this really inferior to a 40 mile range with a 15 year expectancy at a cost of $20,000?

    GM is proceeding like they have to produce a Buick like vehicle that will serve everyone’s needs. The perfect is the enemy of the good. If anyone should understand niche markets it would have to be the producer of the Corvette and the Hummer!

    Please, GM; produce it now, improve it later. You can’t sell me one if you wait till after I’m dead.

    storm


  10. 10
    Brian

     

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    Jul 2nd, 2007 (11:55 am)

    Storm:

    Could you please direct me to your source for the $1000 and $20,000 battery packs? I don’t believe either of those prices.


  11. 11
    John J. Cline

     

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    Jul 3rd, 2007 (4:16 pm)

    Why a battery-packs, how about using Super- Capacitors or has technology not up to the use of them.


  12. 12
    Tim

     

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    Jul 4th, 2007 (8:10 am)

    Hey, GM… “In spite of no longer being eligible for federal tax credits, Prius sales have almost doubled with a 93.7 percent increase since 2006 and up 76.3 percent for June compared to last year.” http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/07/04/toyota-first-half-hybrid-sales-up-69-over-2006/

    Hurry!


  13. 13
    lol

     

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    Feb 2nd, 2008 (2:29 am)

  14. 14
    Gerald Weber

     

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    Mar 21st, 2008 (4:02 pm)

    Monopoly discourages innovation, narrows options and decreases quality?  Is that really the reason why there are two competing battery contracts for GM?  If this logic were true, then there should be more than two vendors for this technology.   Government by its nature is a monopoly.  The Government which promotes monopolistic technologies for years ignored the need for this new technology.   Who is to say that this technology will be held in the hands of the many.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this company and A123 were both subsidiaries of British Petroleum.  Does anyone know?


  15. 15
    Tracking The Chevy Volt - KARL Chevrolet HUMMER

     

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    Tracking The Chevy Volt - KARL Chevrolet HUMMER
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    Jul 21st, 2008 (4:34 pm)

    […] Compact Power Inc. […]


  16. […] Compact Power Inc. […]


  17. 17
    maurice

     

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    Sep 17th, 2008 (12:29 pm)

    I like the attempt, but the milage range is limited. There are other companies that have much stronger batteries with with triple the milage range.


  18. 18
    zenny

     

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    Sep 23rd, 2008 (2:15 pm)

    It’s almost a year since “our interviewees indicate that a working prototype can be expected by year end”. Where’s the update? Do they have a prototype? Since when? Have they gone beyond a prototype?


  19. 19
    InnorkRon

     

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    Feb 28th, 2009 (10:40 pm)

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  20. 20
    Evinrude Outboards

     

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    May 14th, 2009 (3:38 pm)

    I love art glass too!


  21. 21
    Amanda O. Holmes

     

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    Nov 20th, 2009 (12:51 pm)

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