Archive for the ‘Battery’ Category

 

Sep 29

Compact Power/LG Chem to Produce and Assemble Battery Packs for GMs 2-Mode Plugin Hybrid, Not GM

 

GM has been developing a plugin 2-mode hybrid since 2006. It was at first to be deployed in the Saturn VUE.  The host vehicle was later changed to a compact Buick SUV when the Saturn division was sold. That decision too was scrapped, however, GM still intends to sell the drivetrain in some vehicle in 2011.

Although GM has decided to do pack assembly in-house for the Chevy Volt, apparently they have decided to let LG Chem subsidiary Compact Power assemble the packs for the plugin hybrid themselves.

“We will be supplying the production packs,” Compact Power CEO Prabahkar Patil told GM-Volt.com.  “Those production packs will not be made by GM. We will actually be making them but in volume production.”

He explains that LG Chem and GM’s “relationship of course goes well beyond the Volt.”

The 2-mode plugin pack will be half the size of the Volt’s, consisting of 8 kwh of lithium ion cells.

“It’s a different form factor because its tailored to fit in the vehicle its intended for,” says Patil. “It is a different configuration, but there is quite a bit that is shared with Volt in terms of technology. The cell for example will be the same.”

He says that the thermal management system will also be “very similar” to the one used in the Volt.

“We try to commonize as much as we can,” he says. “That will always be our approach, to bring the cost down because of the volumes being higher and secondly because when you are reusing something it doesn’t require as much additional validation and testing and that also helps being the cost down and actually make the quality more robust.”

Patil says the packs will be made in a facility in Michigan that LG Chem just acquired in the past few months and refurbished.  He says that right now the facility is “still in the prototype phase as that’s where we are also making the Volt prototype packs.”

GM has not announced what production volume they expect for the 2-mode plugin hybrid.

Patil gives some guidance be explaining that when the current LG facility “gets some automation by the end of next year, it will have the capacity of 2500 of the large Volt type packs or as much as 10,000 of smaller packs.”

“The capacity depends on the nature and size of the pack,” he says.

 

Sep 23

Zenn Motors CEO Announces Change in Company Plans, Says EESU Development Remains On Target

 

Zenn Motors is the Toronto-based electric car company that was founded by Ian Clifford.

To date the company has only produced low volumes of low speed neighborhood electric vehicles, but had been planning to introduce a highway capable electric car called the cityZENN.

Zenn has based its future and that car on a partnership with EEStor, which is known to be secretly working on mass producing a new type of battery that would surpass lithium ion in every way. Its far cheaper to produce, several times more energy dense, can be recharged in minutes and has a functionally unlimited lifetime.

Zenn has taken incrementally greater ownership stakes in EEStor based on milestones for producing that battery or EESU. At this point no batteries have ever been publicly demonstrated, but Zenn holds a 10.7% stake.

Clifford has just announced that his company would no longer be pursuing mass production of the cityZENN car.  I had the chance to discuss this with him.

“Our decisions regarding cityZENN continue to evolve in response to advancements in electric vehicle deployment across the industry since we announced cityZENN a couple of years ago,” said Clifford.

He notes the plethora of new EV manufacturers that have exploded on the scene including Tesla, Fisker, and Think, fresh with billions of dollars of government aid.

“Why people would want ZENN to become another OEM is beyond me,” he said.

Instead Zenn will focus on producing electric drivetrains called ZENNergy Drive systems that will be EEStor-powered and would be supplied to automakers.

“Integration of ZENNergy Drive in Tier 1 and OEM product has always been our long term objective,” says Clifford. “The cityZENN program was always designed as a proof of concept for ZENNergy Drive.”

“Now that virtually every OEM around the world has announced some form of battery EV or plug-in hybrid program it makes sense for the Company to focus entirely on ZENNergy Drive’s unique value proposition to maximize ZMC’s penetration throughout the industry, working in conjunction with Tier 1 and OEM’s around the world,” he said.

He is enthusiastic about the potential of that business model.

“Leveraging ZENNergy Drive, powered by EEStor, across the industry is such a massive opportunity,” he says. “Last year 48,000,000 new cars built fit within our 1400 kg exclusivity on EEStor’s technology.”

Clifford denies that there has been any material change in EEStor’s development and assembly of EESUs.

“With respect to the anticipated timeline of EEStor’s technology,” said Clifford.  “EEStor has publicly stated that they expect to complete initial component testing in September 2009 and deliver functional technology to ZMC by the end of the year.”

He clarifies that although EEStor will do component testing in September they may or may not reveal those results publicly.

“With respect to the initial Component testing, it is up to EEStor to announce the results,” he said.  “It should be noted that while EEStor publicly stated their intention to complete component testing, they did not indicate if they would publicly disclose those results. Component testing is not a milestone in our technology agreement with EEStor.”

 

Sep 19

Nissan to Lease LEAF EV Battery for Under $150 per Month

 

When Nissan debuted its all electric Leaf on August 2nd, the indication was that they intended to sell the car and then lease the battery separately for most parts of the world.

At the time, Carlos Ghosn (Nissan’s CEO) told the media that the price of the car would be competitive with its peers, and that “the monthly cost to lease the battery and fill it with electrons will be less than an average month of fill-ups at the gas station,” but declined to ballpark that in actual dollars.

However, when speaking to Le Journal du Dimanche earlier in the week, Mr. Ghosn was again asked if Nissan’s electric cars would be more expensive than similar conventional cars? To which he answered:

No. The electric car only makes sense if everyone can benefit. It must be for the customer at the same price as his gasoline equivalent in particular thanks to government aid. The battery will be leased for just under 100 euros ($150USD) per month. The cost of electricity consumption and the leasing of the battery will be lower than the cost of gasoline.” (translated from french)

In the United States the decision has not yet been made on whether the Leaf will be lease only on the battery, or if they will offer the car and battery as one package for outright purchase. When asked, a representative from Nissan USA said:

We are considering the options to provide the best value to our customers. We will say more when we can. ” /big help

As for GM’s take on the subject, Andrew Farah (who is the Volt’s chief engineer) had this to say about the option of leasing the battery inside the Volt:

We’re designing for the battery pack to have a 10-year life and there has been discussion of all sorts of battery business models, but we’re working from the perspective that it will be sold with the car.

One thing is for sure, the merits of leasing over buying is a hotly contested debate in EV circles. Leasing of the battery itself puts the driver’s mind at ease when it comes to the long term reliability and performance of the battery, but does so at the cost of a never-ending monthly fee.

How many charging ports should the Chevy Volt have?

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Aug 25

Chevy Volt Underwater Testing

 

I previously had a discussion with Lance Turner, lead engineer in the Volt battery lab who also worked on the EV-1 program.

I asked him if there are any special considerations about the Volt and its high power battery getting exposed to water, such as in a flood, or accident where the car gets submerged.

Lance advised me that the battery pack is, although not hermetically sealed, sealed to be maximally waterproof. Special attention is given to the connection between the high voltage lines coming out of the front of the pack to the inverter, and these are sealed especially well. The pack also has the means of detecting water seeping into the pack allowing it to shut down.

Lance described one way the EV-1 was water tested. GM actually put a working EV-1 inside a large vat of sea-water, because it contains electrolyte and in theory one could drive into it.

Once the car was in, it was turned on and the seawater was gradually added. There was an extensive system of monitors including current detectors placed over test dummies in the seats, and noxious gas detectors.

As soon as the water level reached the battery, it shut down. There were some crackles and pops sounds, but in the end no significant current flowed into the dummies.

Will this be applied to the Volt?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Below is a new video GM released along the same theme showing the Volt IVer prototypes getting soaked in a test chamber. This of course isn’t to test the battery’s safety underwater but to check the final Volt design for leaks so that they can be fixed.

 

Aug 19

Volt Runs Without Gas Though Needs it Occasionally, Can’t Run Without Battery

 

Since the Volt is at its core and electric car, people often ask whether it will be able to run without any gas in its tank.

According to Volt vehicle line engineer Tony Posawatz, “the VOLT can run without gas since it is an EV.”

Here’s how he explains it:

We will provide many tips to customers on how they can get the most out of their VOLT as we continue the education process, work our demo programs and train our dealers and customers at the point of sale. For example, we will recommend that they keep some gas in their tank to avoid range anxiety and if they are always driving in EV, we want to make sure that once every month or so, we can perform a maintenance run on the engine (for keeping the engine parts lubricated and the gas from getting stale).

This will be done automatically for the customer because of the intelligence built right into the car. We don’t want to have the customers worry about putting additive in their gas tanks like snowmobilers and boaters have to. If the customer runs primarily in EV mode, we would also suggest that they not keep their tank full. That’s a lot of extra mass to carry around. Prior to a long trip is the right time to gas up at one of our countries 170,000 gas stations.

As to whether the car can run without its battery he says “the VOLT can run with an injured battery but not without a battery in the car.”

Finally Posawatz declares “the VOLT is a very smart car, it will be the smartest device on the smart grid of the future.”

 

Aug 13

GM Begins Work at New Chevy Volt Battery Pack Assembly Plant

 

On Thursday GM CEO Fritz Henderson announced that GM has begun construction work on a factory in Brownstown Township Michigan in which the Chevy Volt battery packs will be assembled.

GM invested $43 million to develop the plant where packs for the Volt and “other extended range electric vehicles” will be assembled.

The 160,000 square foot facility will be landfill-free and provide 100 jobs. It is the first US based lithium ion battery plant operated by an automaker and will be part of a wholly-owned subsidiary of GM called GM Subsystem Manufacturing LLC.

Equipment installation there is already underway and series production will start in the fourth quarter of 2010 to support Volt launch. Prototypes will be built earlier next year.

“Developing and producing advanced batteries is a key step in GM’s journey to become the leader in electric vehicles,” said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO. “This state-of-the-art battery manufacturing site reinforces our commitment to achieve that goal and to deliver clean, fuel-efficient vehicles to our customers.”

GM VP Gary Cowger provided pack details:

- 400 pounds, 5 feet long (next generation will be smaller and lighter)

- 16 kwh, 360 Volts, over 220 cells

- 400 amp peak level

- Cells provided by LG Chem

The plant consist of three areas:

- The Battery Module Pre-assembly

- The Battery Module Final Assembly

- The Pack Main Line

The goal is to process 70,000 cells per day or one every 2.7 seconds.

Press Release

Here is an animation of the Battery Pack Assembly Plant in Operation: