The ongoing crisis in Japan may disrupt the supply of transmissions for the Chevrolet Volt, with GM President Mark Reuss stating that the supply of transmissions may be interrupted.
According to the New York Times, Reuss stated “We just don’t know from a supply standpoint,” when pressed about possible supply chain interruptions regarding the Volt. The Volt’s window sticker states that its electric drive unit comes from Japan.
A GM spokesman told Inside Line that “Volt production is currently not impacted by the crisis in Japan. We continue to monitor the situation closely as we do for all GM products.” Nevertheless, the possibility of a disruption remains, as Reuss went on to state in the Detroit Free Press that contingency plans are being created. Reuss also noted that one possibility is that shipments from Japan arrive at U.S. ports with unacceptable radiation levels.
On a positive note, Reuss said that GM’s plan to hire 1,000 engineers to work on electric cars in Michigan is still in place, but could change based on future events.
Recently GM announced it had obtained a licensing agreement with Argonne National Labs to use its new advanced technology cathode material for lithium ion batteries. That compound would allow for up to double the energy density of the current Chevy Volt battery pack. Supplier LG Chem was also given access to the technology.
Earlier this week, GM’s investment arm called GM Ventures announced it would invest 7 million dollars in a small California company that also develops and does research on advanced lithium ion cathodes.
The company called Envia Systems in Newark, California is focused on researching new cathode material that would reduce cost and increase energy density of future lithium cells. In addition to this investment, in a separate agreement GM secured the right to use Envia cathode technology in future electrically-driven vehicles.
“Skeptics have suggested it would probably be many years before lithium-ion batteries with significantly lower cost and higher capability are available, potentially limiting sales of electric vehicles for the
foreseeable future,” said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. “In fact, our announcement today demonstrates that major improvements are already on the horizon.
The new cathode material is composed of low cost material and has the potential to improve the energy density of future electric cars by at least one third allowing greater range, reduced cost, or both compared to present models.
“Our test results on small-format cells show that Envia’s high-capacity composite cathode material can increase the energy density of lithium-ion cells by up to one-third, at an equivalent level of reliability,
safety and durability,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director for Electrical and Battery Systems. “We estimate this improvement in cell energy density and less expensive material will drive a substantial
reduction in cell cost, leading to lower cost battery packs like the one in the Chevy Volt.” Envia’s cathode technology also will offer benefits for other devices and applications where low-cost, high-energy density storage solutions are needed.”
Asked whether these technological advances would be use to either increase range or reduce cost in future generations of the Chevy Volt Bly told GM-Volt “too early to announce how and when we will use this.” He ensures us however there will be “more to come.”
[ad#post_ad]General Motors reached a worldwide licensing agreement with Argonne National Labs to use their advanced patented cathode material for lithium-ion batteries.
The new cathode material has been demonstrated to increase energy storage capacity, lifetime, and safety of lithium cells. It is composed of a mixture of lithium-rich, and manganese and cobalt-rich oxide materials.
What particularly makes this cathode material unique is that cells using it can be charged at higher voltages allowing them to have a higher specific energy and thus lower cost per unit weight.
The Argonne-developed technology offers the longest-lasting energy available in the smallest, lightest package: a 50–100 percent increase in energy storage capacity over conventional cathode material. Further, its unique lithium- and manganese-rich mixed-metal oxide combination extends the operating time between charges, increases the calendar life and improves the inherent safety of lithium-ion cells.
-Argonne National Labs
The licensing agreement is extended not only to GM but to battery partner LG Chem as well for use in the next generation Chevrolet Volt. This cathode can then be combined with LG Chem’s anode materials and electrolyte to produce a better cell.
Use of these cells will allow the next generation Volt to be less expensive, require less battery management, and to potentially achieve greater range.
“The agreement with Argonne builds on GM’s commitment to lead the development of vehicle electrification technologies designed to meet the diverse needs of customers around the world,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director – Electric Systems, Hybrids, Electric Vehicles and Batteries. “Engineers and researchers at General Motors are working on next-generation battery systems that will reduce cost while providing improved performance, expanding the practicality and affordability of electric vehicles in the future.”
This patented material is part of a larger suite of materials developed at the Argonne National Lab, and this agreement demonstrates an important success for the DOE in fundgin US-based battery research in the lab.
“The creation of this battery technology represents an important return on the American investment in innovative vehicle and battery research,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This agreement gives General Motors the ability to use cutting-edge battery technology throughout its supply chain. The licensing of this technology will also spur the renewal of the American battery industry, creating hundreds of new jobs where they are needed most.”
The Argonne license will allow GM to continue to work on next-generation battery systems to reduce cost and improve performance. We still have work to do, and development and validation that remains to be done.
The roadmap to more capable batteries requires improvements in [cathodes, anodes and electrolytes]. We need developments in all three. This is the most capable cathode that we have seen out there from a lot of different corners. That is why we think it is critical that we get working with it now to get it on the road. It will take us some years. We want to get it on the road for the next generation of battery packs.
[ad#post_ad]I recently have been able to experience a function of the Volt that I have only imagined about for some time.
One of the advantages of the Volt over a pure electric car is its ability to use the engine at times to help condition the battery.
Extremes of temperature reduce the energy and power storing capacity of lithium ion cells. So when the ambient temperature is very low, the Volt can power up the gas engine to help heat the cells to their optimum operating temperature, around 70 degrees F.
I had my first experience with this function the other night when it was cold outside and the car had been sitting in an outdoor parking lot.
I arrived to the car and it was 25 degrees. Immediately after turning the car on, a screen popped up on the dash which read ”Engine Running Due to Temperature.” The normally prominent battery state of charge display was faded and reduced into the background (shown above).
The engine clearly was revving at a higher than ususal speed making it quite audible, more so than I ever heard during routine driving.
It ran for about a minute and a half and then shut off, placing the car back into EV mode.
On the next day, the car was in my garage where it was warmer and the engine did not go on at start. A few minutes after leaving home when the temperature dropped, the car repeated the engine on routine. The temperature below which the engine will turn on is 26 degrees F.
It happened a second time after I briefly stopped off for coffee and came back to the car. I also found surpsisingly during the middle of my 30 mile commute it happended one more time for minute and a half while I was at highway speed.
For the total of the three minute and a half engine runs, the screen indicated 0.1 gallons of gas were used.
I have included a brief video of what the sound was like, as captured on my iPhone, below.
In the end, the experience was no big deal, and actually kind of cool and reassuring to see this advanced and careful engineering in action. Also there was peace of mind knowing the big battery is being so carefully pampered, and that this car was truly built for any climate.
[ad#post_ad]With the release of the EPA testing result we finally have a good idea how much electrical energy the Chevy Volt will consume.
Its lithium-ion battery back contains 288 cells which combine to a total of 16 kwh of energy storage capacity when full. From the days of the concept GM said it would only use half of that energy to travel 40 miles, keeping the rest as a gradually receding buffer to keep the battery healthy. Over time engineers realized they were comfortable using more of that energy safely.
In the final configuration, according to GM’s Director of Battery Systems Mickey Bly, “we moved the state of charge usage from 50% (8kwh) to around 65% (little over 10kwh) during the development and validation phase as we learned how capable this battery really was.”
Sixty-five percent of 16 is 10.4 kwh.
That is the exact amount of energy the Volt has at its disposal to complete its full range of pure electric driving. The EPA has determined that will be 35 miles on average. They also report that energy use works out to 37 kwh/100 miles, or 2.7 miles per kwh. This will depend on driving style, cabin climate control use, and terrain. Most people will see between 25 and 50 miles of range. In my experience at mostly high speed highway driving, I range from 32 to 38 miles of range (40 degrees outside and 72 degrees cabin mostly).
One member of the Volt consumer advisory board was able to get more than that when he really tried. ”The most miles I drove on battery mode was 53.8 miles,” said NY CAB member Robert Becker. “It was 53 degrees outside during the trip.”
“I made an effort to drive as efficiently as I could during this trip,” he said. “I tried to keep the car between 40 and 50 mph and used as little braking as possible during the trip.”
The lowest range I have gotten was 31 miles when I was really hightailing it in the 70-75 mph range on the highway in sports mode and using 72 degree comfort mode HVAC setting on a 32 degree day.
It turns out, however, that the energy in the battery isn’t all the energy the car consumes. The EPA’s testing shows that the car will consume 12.9 kwh from the grid to fully recharge a depleted battery, considerably more than the aforementioned 10.4 kwh.
“On the EPA rating of 12.9 kwh used, you need to remember they are measuring total energy pulled out of the wall, not what makes it to the battery,” said Bly. ”(This is) so you know your consumption on electricity.”
“There are losses from the house to the battery from transportation and conversion over the cords, charger, conditioner, and inverter,” he added.
Thus when determining the cost of electricity in driving the Volt one must use the cost of 12.9 kwh divided by the total number of miles it allows you drive, even though the car is going those miles on only 10.4 kwh of on-board energy.
Proposed LG Chem Battery Plant in Holland Michigan
[ad#post_ad]After living with the Volt for several days and seeing the reaction of others to it, it seems likely to me GM has a smash hit on their hands.
Certainly there are a group of early adopters who would prefer the purity of a BEV like the LEAF, but the Volt offers the best of both world. It allows one to drive the majority of the time on electricity yet has strong mainstream appeal. Though pricing of the first generation is a bit high, at least 7% of the auto buying public is believed to be capable of affording the car, even more at the lease price of $350 per month.
GM has only thus far committed to building 10 to 15,000 Volts in 2011, and 45,000 in 2012 but there are strong indicators both demand and production will outstrip those numbers.
GE’s recent announcement it will buy 12,000 Volts by 2015 will also help spark sales.
GMs Hamtramck plant where the Volt is being built is capable of churning out one volt per minute. Running 3 lines and 3 shifts, the plant could build 250,000 Volts per year. Most of the parts of the Volt are readily available, the only component of tight supply is the lithium-ion battery cells.
According to a report in Reuters, however, Volt battery supplier LG Chem say it expect GM will be asking for more cells than initially anticipated. The Korean manufacture has entered into a 6-year contract with GM to build cells for the Volt.
“(GM said that) its Volt has drawn good response from consumers,” Ham Jae-gynun, LGs senior VP of car batteries told Reuters. ”GM is likely to order far more batteries than we have previously planned for next year.” Jae-gynun did not disclose the size fo the order.
“”We expect GM to ask for more batteries,” he added. ”We hope to supply additional car batteries for Volt.”
LG Chem has the capacity to produce 60 million cells per year in Korea. They have already begun building a plant in Michigan which it self will be capable of producing 20 million annual cells. That plant will start production in 2012. 20 million cells is about what is needed to produce battery packs for 70,000 Chevy Volts which use 288 cells a peice.
GM has to be able to package cells into the battery packs which include controlling and conditioning systems. Their Brownstown plans is believed to be capable of at least 60,000 packs per year at present, but has significant potential for expansion if needed.
Besides GM LG Chem has already received a plethora of order from other car makers including Hyundai, Ford, Volvo and Renault.
Due to all the demand LG Chem is planning construction of a second automotive battery plant in the US, as well as other new plants in China and Europe.