Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Jul 17

Canadian Government Gives $10,000 Chevy Volt Subsidy, Angers Toyota


On Wednesday Ontario Canada’s Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the Ontario government would provide buyers of plug-in hybrid vehicles a rebate of $4000 to $10,000 dollars for cars purchased after July 1, 2010.  A $7500 tax credit exists for the Volt in the US.

McGuinty said “we want to make it easier to buy green cars,” and pledged a goal of 1 in 20 cars to be electric on Canada’s roads by 2020.

The Premier actually made the announcement at a Chevrolet dealership while stepping in and out of a Volt show car.  Buyers of the Volt could expect the full $10,000.

He did not state the program’s cost.  Other incentives mentioned were special green license plates and preferred parking spots in places like Wal-Mart.

Toyota had not been notified of this decision and was caught off guard. In return for $3.16 billion in funding the Canadian governemnt is a 12% owner of the new GM, and as such the Japanese automaker expressed concerns of favoritism.

“How long does this continue?” said Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota Canada Inc. “We can’t set up a situation where the future of the industry depends on constant subsidies.”

“This suggests that (the government) is prepared to be interventionist beyond their aim to help the industry recover,” he said. “The question is: Is this a well thought-out industry strategy? Or is it sort of the next stage in advancing a particular product and helping a particular company?”

Toyota will only be producing a limited test fleet of 500 global plug-in Priuses by the end of 2010, and have hesitated to publicly embrace the technology which could make their hybrid synergy drive obsolete.  “We’re not entirely convinced that the technology is a winning proposition for consumers today,” said Beatty.

Source (Windsor Star) and (LeaderPost)


Jun 19

Cash For Clunkers Bill Passes Congress but Volt Could Arrive Too Late


The value proposition of the Chevy Volt could change further. People tend to be fixated on its sticker price, but the complex nature of the vehicle and its interaction with the national economy, government, and natural resources really have created a moving target for the Volt’s price.

GM will not confirm pricing until May 2010 primarily because of the changing landscape of these facts, but most estimates place it around 40-ish or so.

That value became lower by $7500 when the tax credit for plugin-cars was legislated, which allows the first 250,000 buyers of the Chevy Volt (in the US) to receive a $7500 direct credit, thereby putting the effective price tag close to $30,000.

On Thursday the Congress passed a $1 billion “Cash for Clunkers” bill. This legislation provides up to $4500 in vouchers to anyone who trades in their old inefficient car for a new fuel efficient vehicle.

The requirements are that the old car get less than 18 mpg, and the new one more than 22 mpg. A difference of 4 mpg is worth $3500, if the difference in more than 10 mpg than its worth $4500. For trucks the new one needs at least 18 mpg and be 2 mpg greater than the old one for $3500, if its 4 mpg the voucher is worth $4500.

To see if you vehicle qualifies check here:

The plan will take effect 30 days after Obama signs it into law and could stimulate up to 250,000 vehicle sales.

If this voucher were applied to the Volt it could cost you $12,000 less than sticker if you have an old gas guzzler to trade in for it. Once catch though. The program expires in November, a year too soon for the Volt.

Don’t give up hope though. Some members of Congress are already trying to get the bill extended for another year, and that would cover the Volt launch.

Or better yet, maybe we should propose a new program called “Cash for Gassers” which would give people a cash voucher if they traded in their gas car for one that runs on electricity. The bigger the battery, the bigger the voucher.

Also, the possiblity of state tax credits or removal of states sales tax has the potential to lower initial Volt costs as well. As an example, I discussed with my assemblywoman’s adviser the creation of such a bill here in New York. The adviser said there would be a high likelihood they would draft it and that the assemblywoman would bring it to the NY State assembly in January 2010. You could consider doing the same in your state (or country).


Apr 25

Pontiac Goes, GMC Stays, Chrysler’s on the Gallows Pole


The end game for Chrysler is fast approaching, like the edge of a cliff.

The US government has given Chrysler until this Thursday to either complete a merger with Fiat or enter bankruptcy. Reports indicate that the government has already begun preparing for the bankruptcy proceedings, and that even if a deal is reached, bankruptcy may still ensure.

GM on the other hand has been given to June 1st to restructure or face similar consequences. Both companies are contending with debtholders who are unwilling to accept concessions to reduce the companies obligations.

There are indications that GM may announce on Monday that they will be shutting down their storied American iconic Pontiac brand forever, though the company has not confirmed this. Reports also indicate that GMC will be allowed to stay on along with Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick.  Meanwhile GM will be idling 13 plants up to 9 weeks this summer to save cash and has just received another $2 billion in government funds to continue operations.

Even if GM too has to enter bankruptcy on June 1st, a smaller leaner and profitable GM along with the Volt and Voltec is expected to rapidly emerge.

Chrysler though may simply be liquidated and sold off if deals with banks and Fiat cannot be reached.

Stay tuned, the week ahead may be full of surprises.


Feb 13

GM VP Jon Lauckner on Current Chevy Volt Production Status


I recently had the chance to speak to Jon Lauckner. He co-conceived the Volt with Bob Lutz and is GM’s VP of global program management.

What is the current state of mule development?
Frankly, its complete. We’ve built all of the cars that we intended to, around 33 or 35, and we are done with the hardware building phase. The cars have all been delivered to the Milford proving grounds and testing and development is ongoing.

What we learn from that particular hardware phase will be used for the hardware phase that is upcoming. Around the middle of this year we’ll build our integration cars which not only feature the drivetrain components of the Chevy Volt which we’ve had in the mule cars. Those mule cars were built in Cruze-bodies. Our integration cars are where we integrate all of the pieces together whether they’re drivetrain related or the interior and exterior the car altogether in a series of prototypes. We’ll probably have the first ones completed when it gets warm here next summer.

These will look like Volts?
Yes they will be built off of prototype tools. Those will be tested for a short period of time and then we move to the plant. Then we’ll build our product and process validation vehicles. Those will be built in the plant, on the line using the real assembly documents and all the correct tools in a true production setting. Now it will be at a very low volume to start with but that is the final phase. You’re moving from the prototype production into the high volume production facility and getting that ramped up for start of production.

And that low level production will be at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant?
Correct. And when I say low volume production, keep in mind that’s a high volume plant, so the line rate when its running full production runs very high. We carve out some space in that line by leaving some empty slots and then we put a car in there and we send that down the line and people start to develop the skill to assemble that entire vehicle.

And that will start late in 2009?

No that starts in the beginning of 2010. Sometime around the first or second quarter.

Do you have some retooling to do now in D-HAM?
Sure we need to have all the machinery and equipment in place to build the Volt before we start our production and process validation vehicles. We have to go into that plant and take out equipment and bring in new equipment because its a different car than those that are built there to day. We have to reconfigure all the equipment that’s in the plant so we can build the Volt.

Are you still going to build others cars at that plant alongside the Volts?
I believe that’s still the plan but we continue to still refine what we’re going to do with our manufacturing footprint as we see how the volumes progress. So the plan is we’re still going to have another product or so in that plant, but I cant tell you that for sure.

If you were just building Volts there, what would that plants total annual production capacity be?
Well over 200,000 units.

So if the world demands over 200,000 Volts annually you’ll able to do it?
We would be able to do it in that facility or it may make more sense to put the Volt in another facility. We have to see when we get there exactly what makes the most amount of sense.


Feb 11

Breaking: Tesla Expects to Receive $350 Million in Government Loans to Build Model S Sedan and Will Unveil it March 26


California-based Tesla Motors is a pioneer in the electric car arena. They first brought the 2-seat electric Roadster into production in late 2008 and now have over 200 cars on the road.

The company is known to have inspired Bob Lutz to start the Volt program.

Tesla also has had plans to build an electric sedan called the Model S. The vehicle’s future has been uncertain due to the company’s economic uncertainties. We recently heard their California plant was delayed, and that they had asked for $450 million in US government loans to help them build it.

Today, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced that the company has was advised they would receive $350 Million in government advanced technology loans, and that they expect to receive funding within the next 4 to 5 months.

Furthermore he announced that the company will be publicly unveiling a road-ready prototype of the Model S on March 26th at his SpaceX rocket factory. He indicated that the government funds "will keep us on track for production to start in 2011."

Musk also noted that the company is set to become profitable in the middle of this year mainly because of the fact that Roadster production capacity of 1000 cars are already on backorder for the rest of the year.

Per Musk "My goal for Tesla from the beginning was to do whatever we can to help end the world’s addiction to oil. We’ll do that by making cars directly, helping other automakers develop cars, and serving as an example to the rest of the industry."

And oh yeah, yours truly will be taking home a production Roadster for a one day test-drive this weekend!

Full letter below:



Jan 12

GM Chooses LG Chem to Supply Chevy Volt’s Lithium-ion Batteries and Will Build the Packs Themselves


GM first announced in the summer of 07 that they had chosen two supplier teams to compete against one another to build the Chevy Volt’s battery packs. From an initial field of 27 applicants, LG Chem and Compact Power Inc were one team and A123 Systems/Continental were the other.

We began hearing rumors as early as this summer that it was the LG/CPI packs that were the only ones in use in all the Volt mules, but an official announcement was not forthcoming at that time, despite it being the initial plan. Later we heard the announcement could come by year end, but the financial catastrophe delayed it

And as I sat in the press conference audience here in Detroit today, just moments ago, GM finally announced the contract had been awarded to LG chem of Korea using special large format lithium ion cells. The cells will be made in Korea, and shipped to the battery pack assembly plant in Michigan. More importantly GM will be building the packs themselves. although Compact Power will stay on as a collaborator.

Rick Wagoner noted how GM set a challenge to build the battery “that couldn’t be built”. He noted GMs confidence in the batteries has grown dramatically. He showed a model of the pack.

He announced that GM will manufacture the battery pack “right here in the United States”. He said the facility will be the first lithium-ion battery plant in the US operated by a major automaker, and will be built in Michigan. He noted the overall Volt investment has been over $1 billion so far.

He said LG Chem’s cells met has “performance, production readiness, durability and exceptional quality.”

He also noted GM is developing core-competence in automotive battery engineering that will improve their competitiveness. GM will actually create a new facility just for the manufacture of battery packs that will be distinct from the Volt assembly plant.

He said GM will also open the largest 31,000 square feet battery development laboratory in the US later this year, also in Michigan, and donate money to the U of M to develop a battery engineer training program.

Full Release:

DETROIT – The Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle that delivers up to 40 miles of gasoline- and emissions-free electric driving, will use battery packs manufactured in the United States by General Motors, Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner announced at the North American International Auto Show.

GM will establish the first lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing facility operated by a major automaker in the United States to produce the Volt’s battery pack system. It consists of lithium-ion cells that are grouped into modules, along with other key battery components.

The plant will be located in Michigan, subject to negotiations with state and local government authorities. Facility preparation will begin in early 2009, with production tooling to be installed mid-year and output starting in 2010.

“The design, development and production of advanced batteries must be a core competency for GM, and we’ve been rapidly building our capability and resources to support this direction,” Wagoner said. “This is a further demonstration of our commitment to the electrification of the automobile and to the Chevrolet Volt – a commitment that now totals more than $1 billion.”

The Volt’s lithium-ion battery cells will be supplied by LG Chem. Compact Power Inc., a subsidiary of LG Chem based in Troy, Mich., will build battery packs for Volt prototype vehicles until GM’s battery facility is operational. A joint engineering contract with Compact Power and LG Chem also has been signed to further expedite the development of the Volt’s lithium-ion battery technology.

GM has been testing battery packs for the Volt, powered by cells from LG Chem, for the past 16 months. These tests – both on the road and in the lab – have provided invaluable insight into lithium-ion battery technology.

“Our selection of LG Chem was based on performance, production readiness, efficiency, durability and LG Chem’s demonstrated track record of exceptional quality,” Wagoner said. “At GM, we believe the technical strengths of LG Chem, combined with our own engineering and manufacturing expertise, will help position us as a key player in the development of electrically driven vehicles today and in the future.”

GM’s advanced battery strategy

“Our announcements are part of a comprehensive advanced battery strategy for GM that is expanding along two pathways,” Wagoner said. “First, we’re identifying core competencies – such as battery research, development and assembly – and integrating these fundamentals into our product development and manufacturing operations. We believe this will become a competitive advantage for GM, and will be critical to GM’s long-term success. Secondly, we’re building a roster of battery suppliers and academic experts from around the globe, and leveraging their specialized abilities to develop battery chemistries and cell designs, as well as future automotive battery engineers.”

Key elements of GM’s advanced battery strategy include:

* Opening the largest automotive battery lab in the United States (31,000 square feet / 3,251 square meters) that will be capable of testing new energy storage system technologies, as well as lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries, to accelerate the domestic development of advanced battery technology and lead GM’s network of existing labs in Honeoye Falls, N.Y.; Warren, Mich.; Torrance, Calif.; and Mainz-Kastel, Germany. This new battery lab will be located in Michigan, subject to final negotiations with state and local authorities
* Continuing to ramp-up “in-house” battery-development capability by increasing the staff of GM’s global hybrid, electric vehicle and advanced battery organization to several hundred engineers in 2009, including more than 200 currently dedicated to advanced battery technologies
* Joining with the University of Michigan to create a new automotive advanced battery lab in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a specialized curriculum within U of M’s College of Engineering to develop automotive battery engineers
* Continuing to grow and establish a robust lineup of battery suppliers for cell development and manufacturing and battery integration expertise, with companies such as LG Chem, A123Systems, Hitachi Ltd., Compact Power and Cobasys
* Collaborating with government organizations and industry consortia, such as the U.S. Department of Energy; United States Council for Automotive Research; the United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC; and Electric Power Research Institute to advance the development of hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicles, and related electric infrastructure to support those vehicles

Energy alternatives and advanced technologies that reduce dependency on petroleum, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions are the keys to developing sustainable transportation. GM is pursuing several options to best meet the varied needs of customers around the world – from advanced gasoline, diesel and biofuel technology to electrically assisted vehicles such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and – ultimately -electrically driven extended-range electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. GM believes that electrically driven vehicles, based on battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology, offer the best long-term solution for providing sustainable personal transportation.

In June 2008, the GM Board of Directors approved the Chevrolet Volt program and Voltec™ propulsion system for production starting in late 2010. For trips of up to 40 miles, the Volt is powered by electricity from the grid and stored in its lithium-ion battery pack. Beyond 40 miles, a small engine-generator creates additional electricity to extend the range of the Volt several hundred additional miles. The development of the Volt’s 16 kWh T-shaped lithium-ion battery, which is roughly 6 feet long (1.8 meters) and weighs nearly 400 pounds (181 kg), is key to the Volt’s success. The production-intent design was revealed in September 2008.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world’s largest automaker, has been the annual global industry sales leader for 77 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 252,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 34 countries. In 2007, nearly 9.37 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at

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