Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Nov 30

Are You an EcoGeek?


While at the L.A. Auto show for the Volt briefing, I met some very interesting bloggers.

One of those was Hank Green, founder of, a cool blog devoted to planet-saving innovations. Hank is a genuine and earnest man of great talent. He put up a post so his readers could check out our Chevy Volt Q&A. If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out his blog too.

Also, if you haven’t seen it as well, I was interviewed for WIRED magazine’s automotive blog about my experience with GM and the development of this site, should you be interested in that.

One terrific quality of is the very wide range of opinions, political leanings, and concerns of the people that come and comment here.  We have one common denominator; we all want GM to make the Volt!  So whether you’re an EcoGeek or not, all are welcome.


Nov 29

ExxonMobil Helping to Make Lithium-ion Batteries



Clearly in a sign of times to come, big oil company ExxonMobil has announced it is developing a new technology to be used in lithium-ion battery cells. The energy company’s chemicals division in partnership with its Japanese affiliate Tonen Chemical have apparently been developing a new separator film.

Separators are sometimes necessary in certain lithium-ion cells to prevent short circuits from propagating so far as to cause the battery to go into thermal runaway (i.e. explode)
The new film separator technology will allow for larger and therefore more energy and power capable cells to be made without the risk of overheating. These cells would theoretically be optimal for automotive use.

More details on the cells will be revealed at the upcoming 23rd Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition (EVS-23) in Anaheim, Calif. on December 2-5, 2007.

Well I guess if you can’t beat em’, join em’.

Source (Guardian)


Nov 16

The Chevy Volt’s Battery Has Been Born and Director Denise Gray Tells us About it


Denise Gray

I just completed two days of discussion with key Chevy Volt executives and brought with me the list of the questions you asked right here. Since at the time of the meetings, there were more than 250 questions, I had to boil them down a little. I got to spend a couple of hours with Tony Posawatz, Volt Vehicle Line Director, and Denise Gray, Battery Chief along with Rob Peterson and Scott Fosgard of GM public relations. Due to the sheer volume of questions, we couldn’t get to them all initially but did eventually get to most; I will break the answers up over a few posts. So check in daily for them all.

First, I wanted to share with you firsthand information about the very first Chevy Volt lithium-ion battery pack which is now sitting in GMs advanced battery lab in Detroit.

The pack is from LG Chem and Compact Power Inc. Denise also mentioned that the pack has fully integrated electronic control systems as well as a functioning liquid cooling system (contrary to prior reports). She relayed the delivery event, on Halloween, and complete with CPI engineers in hand as analogous to a new baby coming into the home..very exciting with many GM employees (excited neighbors) coming around to gawk at it and wish it well.

She relays that the pack is 200 kg, T-shaped, and about 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 1-1/2 feet high. These were roughly the dimensions of the table we sat at for lunch which she said happened to be about its size.

She mentioned that the pack is currently undergoing bench testing and has yet to be placed into a mule, but will soon. Furthermore another pack is on its way within 2 weeks, and two more from A123 will arrive after that.

We went over the battery development process and the fact that the initial field of battery contenders were 27, which got cut to 13, and finally to the current two: CPI/LG and A123/Continental. She is in constant contact with the people at both battery companies.

She also defended GM’s decision not to make the batteries in house, as Toyota claims they are, because it makes more sense to work as a group with companies that are excellent at the components they make as opposed to try to do it all themselves.

The pack they got meets all of GM set requirements and is indeed a fully operational 16 kwh pack. Denise tells me special precautions have to be made for the technicians considering the high voltage in regards to their safety. Every cell is monitorable in temperature and voltage with extensive sensing devices.

The cells are segregated into groups or modules each module has a central monitor that evaluated each of its cells, and all the module monitors feed back into a central monitor. All the cells; both from CPI/LG and A123 are prismatic or pancake-shaped (no cylinders). This shape is very important to keep the pack as dense and same as possible, and for better heat dispersion. The modular structure is considered very important from a production, serviceability, and control standpoint.

Indeed there will be several configurations of prototype packs from each manufacturer. Denise’s lab will test them fully on the bench and in mules to see what eventual design will be superior.

No pictures of the pack yet, but I’m working on it.


Nov 15

Clarification: Chevy Volt Will Not be Based on Malibu



Before we get on to the massive Q and As, I felt a need to clarify a certain point.  People might be getting the misconception the the Chevy Volt will be based on the Malibu.  See this article so titled: (LINK).

This isn’t true.  Lutz said the concept’s aerodynamics were not good enough for the efficiencies required for the Volt to get a 40 mile range, and thus had to be re-designed.  This “production Volt” will still look like the concept in some ways.  GM is not releasing the design yet or saying much about it.  Per designer Bob Boniface he wants to keep it a surprise (see my interview).

Lutz said old version Malibus will serve as Volt test mules, but will not have anything to do visually with the final design.

Also, the plan is for the car to be available in November 2010, not 2011, it will just be known as a 2011 Chevy Volt.


Nov 13

60% of New U.S. Car Buyers are Against Buying American Brands



In an article in the Detroit Press, figures are given with respect to the 2.7 million Americans shopping for a new family sedan.

According to GM research, 20% have an American brand in mind prior to purchase, and 20% are “import neutral”; they would buy either U.S. or foreign. However, the majority, a full 60% are against buying a U.S. brand car and those people vary from mild to severely averse.

The point of this article was that the U.S. automakers despite now making great cars still struggle against their mistakes of the 80s and 90s.

Bob Lutz sees recent declines in Toyota quality ratings as a window of opportunity for GM.

Although the Chevy Volt was not mentioned by name, it’s introduction might just turn the tide.

Source (Detroit Free Press)


Oct 26

The Facts on Timing of Automotive Battery Mass Production



As we discussed in our previous post, the NY Times reported an experts opinion that unless ground is broken on a new battery factory very soon, GM won’t make the 2010 deadline for the Volt (see post). We here reasoned that didn’t sound right, for many of the reasons commenters noted.  I decided to get the facts straight from the sources; the two major companies vying to make the Volt’s battereis, A123, and Compact Power. Here is what they said:

Ric Fulop, co-founder and marketing director A123:

“I would be surprised if the expert has ever seen a Lithium Ion factory. If you started from scratch and you know what you are doing you’d need less than 2 years, however, we are not starting from scratch and already have very large Lithium Ion factories in Asia (+300,000sf of mfg space).

We are now expanding our plants to support our different automotive programs. We announced a $30M financing to start this process a few days ago.”

Martin Klein, engineering director CPI:
“While two years is probably an accurate assessment of the time it would take from breaking ground on a new manufacturing facility to mass producing high quality lithium-ion batteries, Compact Power, Inc. (CPI), through its parent LG Chem, is actually well beyond the ground breaking point. We already have a plant in operation (in Korea) that is capable of producing the kinds of volumes of safe, high quality, large-format lithium-ion cells for automotive use required by the calendar year 2010 target. And, the pack assembly lines, which take considerably less time than a cell plant to complete, are well into the planning stages, due to our work over the years in developing and validating pack design and build processes. Moreover, our experience and understanding of the manufacturing methods and processes will quickly allow us to expand volumes to meet the demands beyond 2010.

To look at it another way, if your starting point is an entirely new cell design, or you are trying to force-fit an existing cell design that was not originally intended for automotive use into an automotive application, then two years is very tight. But if you’ve been developing battery cells specifically for automotive applications, and have been developing pack designs in parallel that make the most of those cells, then the next two years will see cell and pack plants that are capable of the necessary volumes and quality in time for a launch in CY 2010.”