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January 08, 2007


Doug W

When I saw the Tesla Roadster I wondered why they didn't do this instead. Opt for a diesel generator using biodiesel or a mix.

Martin  Holland

They are only utilizing part of the battery 8 kwh(50%), to increase lifespan.If Altairs claims of Nanosafes are correct then thay would be able to ultilise 90% of the batteries capacity reducing the pack size to 8.8 kwh while maintaining the same capability.
Heres hoping that batteries are improving this rapidly.


Great move GM! Exactly the car that is needed.

But the battery is here now. Are they claiming they never heard of the Altairnano or A123 batteries?

My instinct is this is another fake. Prove me wrong. A solid oxide fuel cell backup generator? Not a hydrogen one?

Nope, when Detroit says fuel cell, it's code for pie-in-the-sky hydrogen economy.


Dr. X wrote: My instinct is this is another fake. Prove me wrong.


In GM's development process, a program isn't considered a real production intent vehicle until a vehicle line executive is assigned. The Volt has a VLE in the person of Tony Posawatz, so it is intended for showrooms, not just the show circuit.
John Acheson

Deja Vu! The Volt reminds me of Lohner's world's first hybrid. A young engineer built it for him named Ferdinand Porsche.

Not only did he invent the hybrid, he also took out the transmission (for example Hybrid Synergy Drive) and put electric motors in the wheels. The Lohner Porsche was probably the first hybrid AND Front Wheel Drive (FWD)!

He also rigged a turbine to a generator to produce electricity, much like all the diesel-electric trains that built America.

Chevy's plug-in diesel-electric hybrid is the first car in a long time to make a leap forward in efficiency.

As most cars sling 8 or 9 barrels of oil that you help pay for into the air, it's nice to see a vehicle that saves a few for all the trucks that transport everything we buy.

Hybrids increase efficiency. Turbos increase efficiency. Diesels are more efficient than gasoline. Batteries and motors are more efficient than Internal Explosion Engines.

I applaud GM for showing off an efficiency leap and hope that have the balls to advertise the % against the current 37% Prius. It would be nice to see some competition in the world's largest business.

Here's a nice link that shows how many current technologies can reduce the amount of gas you pay for simply disappears into the air:



GM should offer the option to the buyer to increase battery capacity to 32 or 48 kWh, and also to eliminate the generator.

Imagine "electric stations" for fast recharge sprouting up in strip malls, office parking lots, and your local McDonalds. Even individual homes can offer to fill up your electric tank at a premium.

But this thing looks ugleeeeeee. A sure way to turn off the average consumer. They didn't even bother to utilize new possibilities in design offered by this new method of propulsion.


Beek wrote: GM should offer the option to the buyer to increase battery capacity to 32 or 48 kWh, and also to eliminate the generator.

...As a jobs-creation program for tow-truck drivers?


Towing the EV1 was a new experience for the tow truck driver. Although he routinely towed electric cars for Southern California Edison...

...And so that "electric car fans" can again kill it off by refusing to purchase it?


GM's main market rival is coming to its defense on the matter, and supporting the General's assertion that there was no market demand for EVs at the time

Reductio ad Peanutum:

Greg Woulf

I think this is the right car for the market.

It offers performance, cheaper and environmentally friendly commuting, and the convenience of long range. I'd like to see all green, but I don't think people would buy it yet.

GM is in a research partnership with A123 and Cobasys I think. They also have one with another battery maker whose name escapes me.

A123's main drawback is price, I think. They're making too much money to offer a cheap battery for EV's.

Save the world or make some yuppies laptop run longer as he sits in the coffee shop? No offense intended to coffee drinkers.


This is just what I've been waiting for! GM, put it on the market! Charge a premium priec to cover batteries if you like. I will buy.
Doesn't look ugly to me, but I'm not a fancy car freak.

DRX - GM has a battery development contract with A123 via Cobasys (and with Johnson Controls subsidy Saft):



Nucbuddy - Nope, not done yet. Drx is correct. This is just a "concept" car right now. Tesla and Pheonix have still done more than GM, so far, ...and they are small startups. GM needs to follow through to production and maintenance support if they want any real credit. I think they may do it this time. We'll see.
I do agree that Toyota, Honda, and GM all tanked their EV cars in CA. "That was then and this is now." The game has changed.



Well or power all the cordless power tools that the workers of the world use.

DeWalt is using A123.


That is mass production!!

Good for GM. Now a few billion in batteries ordered from A123 will build a whole order of magnitude more massive production line?

Not from GM. Oh well. GM will shelve this.

GM with a 150 mpg plus vehicle would really hurt their oil company partners. Prove me wrong GM!


They actually made the eV-1 buddy. and actively campaigned against it!! And finally killed it as the governator's fuel cell hummer crushed it!

You need to see "Who Killed the electric Car". It'll convert you. Of course you'll want thorium backup generators in the cars, hehey.


Get well soon Jim! And thanks for your great web site. I'm a new reader.

Regarding the GM electric and others, they will flourish when business economics prevail. Bio-fuels may extend the ICE for a while in spite of crude prices.

The fear of global warming and the cost of crude is providing great new opportunities for us all. It may even provide the stimulus to stop hating and killing each other. It's refreshing to read of the new energy advances posted here by you Jim.

Here's a web site about a bio-diesel process with specifications that seem too good to be true...


It's a great time in history to be alive.

Thomas Marihart

GM dosen't have the will (or balls) to do this: production-ready by 2010 to 2012?

Right. 3-5 years is an eternity and tantamount to doing nothing.

This is company PR/BS and the car at the show is pure hype.

If they WERE serious, they'd partner (immediately) with someone like CalCars/Tesla, Altairnano/A123 batteries and be ready with a higher end product they could sell to government and the environmentally sensitive upper class by 2008. Then spend the next couple of years cost reducing it for the masses.

As it is, this thing probably dosen't even work any better (if at all) than that $1.5M H2 car they showed at the past couple of Nexfest events in the Bay Area.

What a waste of time and American resources.

I did both like and appreciate the article as written by our Energy Blog Guru Jim, but I think GM, unfortunately, is just blowing hot air...again.


Hey guys... sorry I been away for a bit myself.. holidays was a bit demanding this year.

Jim... Sorry to here of your illness... get well soon bro and make the post that states Phoenix Motor Cars placed a new order with Altair for over $1 mil in new battery orders and possibly $42 mil throughout 2007 in total battery sales =)

And just to make things a bit clear... A123 is in agreement with DeWalt as we all know but A123 is also in agreement with GM...


That consortium consists of Ford, GM, and DC. Let the race begin!!!

Hey DocX... looks like bankruptcy isn't in the plans... atleast not for GM. And I also am pretty sure Ford is talking with Toyota about partnering up for new a hybrid truck... I'll try to find the article. And the vehicle we've been hoping for (Volt) has finally come... but a 2010-2012 roll out date seems pretty far. The electric infrastructure might be built by than making it obsolete. Hmmmm... come to think about it... bankruptcy still might be in the gameplan.

Looks like battery technology is taking a big leap into the market place... let's just hope people buy into it to bring prices down. Car companies have about 3 years before the ZEV credits expire. With the rate everything seems to be going... cost effective electric vehicles may actually have a chance in the next 5 years.



"GM's big caveat about the Volt is that, according to them, a technological breakthrough is required to make this concept a reality, a large lithium-ion battery. They said that some experts predict that such a battery could be production-ready by 2010 to 2012."

More info here:
"For both the plug-in and series hybrids, GM says the timeline for commercializing the vehicles will depend on the development of the battery systems. But such systems may not be far off. GM representatives say that they have already seen lithium-ion cells that have the performance required for both plug-in and series-hybrid applications. What remains to be done is to combine these cells into large, complex battery packs and make sure they work well together in an actual vehicle. Last week, GM announced that it has a contract with two sets of companies for building lithium-ion-based battery packs and control systems for plug-in hybrids."

It can't take that long to create the packs from the cells can it?


kind of a silly comment.
would it be worthwhile putting solar panels
on the roof of such vehicles.
Considering all the times vehicles are parked outside in the hot sun.


Hey Mitch...

re: "It can't take that long to create the packs from the cells can it?"

It shouldn't. Looking at AltairNano... ALTI made the announcement back in Feb 2005 about it's nTLO compound and possible characteristics. It took them under 2 years to go from concept to a battery that can sustain a pure EV. ALTI also has an agreement with Alcoa made back on Sept 6, 2006 and they expect to be finished by early 2007 with a new battery for hybrids, that's under 6 months of RnD. Hopefully this joint venture with ALTI and Alcoa will priduce something major. Expect this news real soon.


Regarding, "would it be worthwhile putting solar panels on the roof of such vehicles."

Problems here include, there isn't much energy per sq ft in solar with respect to the amount needed to operate a car and the cost vs. energy produced is a poor return on investment. However, it may make sense for battery float maintenance where vehicles may be idle for extended periods.. perhaps as in fleet uses like auto rentals, vacation RVs, etc.


Solar panels over parking lots and on garage roofs, connected to the grid, would power all the electric cars we need.


Yes, I realize that there is a small energy per sq. ft of solar, however if the car is used mainly for work commuting, Im sure some recharging could be done by being parked all day in the hot sun.


Dr. X wrote: Solar panels over parking lots and on garage roofs, connected to the grid, would power all the electric cars we need.

Could you show your math?

Also, what is air-rights development? Is it expensive?



I think GM is going to go through with this one. they are to far behind in the Hybrids
This puts them back in the game and i think they dont want to give there tilte as the
biggest car maker to toyota

Ronald Brak

The University of Queensland is working on a car that can get up to 50km range a day from solar cells. At the moment high efficency solar cells are very expensive but I like the idea as I typically drive less than 30km a day and we have plenty of sunshine here in Australia.


Is GM talking to AltairNano about the NANOSAFE battery? Alcoa did ....so did Phoenix Motorcars.
The future is already here!


Is GM talking to AltairNano about the NANOSAFE battery? Alcoa did ....so did Phoenix Motorcars.
The future is already here!



Sorry man. GM is not currently talking to GM as far as I know. As I stated earlier... GM is talking to A123 Systems which has a similar type battery... called the M1 I think.

I was watching one of the videos on the Volt and one of the persons being interviewed stated that the Volt (don't quote me on this) just doesn't have the battery technology.

Hmmmmmm... where has this guy been. Something just isn't right there. There should be no reason for the delays in developement.

Either case... we are starting to see the end of the automotive combustion engine as we know it.

Martin  Holland

If the altair nano are $400 a kwh to GM then this is is in the price range that they require as they could fully ultlize 90% of the nanosafes capacity given its 20,000 + cycle life.
GM would be up for 9kwh of them instead of 16kwh leading to a cost of $3600 for the batteries.
I read somewhere that GM was estimating there current cost for the battery pack at $20000 but they wanted then in the range of $4000 to $5000.

Heres to hoping that this info is about right about this pricing.

Still don't right off other alternatives such as Fireflys Lead acids. They are on record suggesting that they will price at $100 to $150 a kwh and a quarter the size & weight of current Lead Acids. No documents on its lifcycle yet though, other than it longer than lead acids have traditionally been.

Now all I need to do is convince GM to use some more unproven technology, such us the StarRotor integrated motor/generator or Freepistions FP3 engine with there potentially much higher efficiencies and we will see some serious reductions in oil use.

Sterling Lover

I get that the ICE in the volt will operate at maximum efficency all the time but shoulnd't these serial hybrids use high-efficiency sterling engines rarther than ICE?

I understand that auto manufacturers experimented with sterling engines but they wouldn't work because it would take too long for the engine to build up power. Doesn't serial hybrid eliminate this problem?

Wikipedia says that sterling engines are the most efficient engine in the world. They also vastly more simple in design than an ICE. So why not use them instead of an ICE?

Am I missing something?


How about a Stirling engine to capture waste heat energy from a solid oxide fuel cell? Microturbines are the present solution.

Are Stirling engines more efficient than gas turbines? Remember that a Stirling engine has pistons limiting it's RPMs. A turbine does not and a generator works well at high RPMs.

The Boeing development of solid oxide fuel cell/microturbine generators for backup power on airplanes bodes well for the light weight of this design. Aircraft design is all about minimizing weight.

Sky King

Interesting comments by all. Thought I'd offer some 'educated guess' clarifications/possibilities:

What GM showed as a chassis layout is probably not what will end up in production - not with hundreds of competitors crawling all over the mockup taking thousands of pictures.

Industry Experts predicting 2010-2012 availability? Could this not be a bit of disinformation intended to throw off the competition into a false sense of timeframe security? Don't forget that this whole PHEV thing is probably the most competitive thing that's ever hit the auto industry, so rumours and deceptions abound - for a very good reason if you want to keep the competition guessing.

GM is committed to Li-Ion Battery technology to power the Volt. It's possible, if the commercial availability timeline matches the Volt release date, that Super Capacitors could also play a role in the power pack infrastructure with the Caps providing a quick charge buffer for the batteries and also act as a turbo mode for dead stop acceleration or that extra punch needed to climb a steep hill. It's also possible that if the Caps aren't quite ready that the Volt could be engineered to accept a Cap module at a leter date as an upgrade.

This is a Chevy Badge vehicle and GM is doing this for a very specific reason: get as many of these out on the road for as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. That's how GM hopes to resurrect itself as a world leader in automotive innovation. Based on that, and looking at all of the Chevy models in Sedan version, GM will probably release this at the same price as a Malibu which is right in the middle of the pack.

Battery prices too expensive? Well, after just a week there are over 268000 votes on the Volt site for buying this vehicle. So, an initial order of half a million to a battery supplier should get the volume cost down to a reasonable level and keep the car in the Malibu price range.

The Volt is going to happen, probably sooner rather than later. This is GM's chance to be a coroprate role model for innovation once again, and I don't think they are going to let this one slip away.


Hope you are right Sky! Good conjecturing!

Those A123 power tool batteries are more than ready to power a plugin serial hybrid!

I would really like to see GM revive itself this way. I switched my driving loyalty from GM to Toyota and now Honda. But I still have a GM camper van (hardly ever driven due to gas guzzling).

I now realize driving my Accord feels a lot like driving a 750 Honda road bike. But a lot safer!

Now if I could only figure out how to assemble 9 of those power tool batteries and an electric conversion motor and a Honda generator to convert it to a serial plugin hybrid.

It shouldn't be too hard. I bet the electric motor suppliers have adaptor plates for the Accord.

But how to get a wholesale price on the batteries? and keep them from discharge problems due to cell voltage variations? I'll have to research that. Some configuration of diodes and capacitors maybe?


I have a funny feeling Sky is right about the Volt roll out date. The VOLT article and unveiling was on Jan. 7 (if i remember correctly) where they stated battery technology will be the underlying factor for their 2010-2012 roll out date. At that time they stated that battery technology to run the VOLT was just not out there. On Jan 4, 3 days before the release of the VOLT, GM signed an agreement with A123 to use their batteries for their PHEV program. This is from the A123 site...

"Watertown, Mass. – January 4, 2007 - A123Systems today announced that it will supply General Motors Corp. advanced Lithium Ion batteries optimized for plug in hybrid vehicles through its Tier 1 partner, Cobasys LLC.

A123Systems’ batteries will be evaluated in prototype Saturn Green Line Vue plug-in hybrid SUVs later this year. GM recently announced its intention to produce a Vue Green Line plug-in hybrid SUV that has the potential to achieve double the fuel efficiency of any current SUV."

Hmmmmm... a PHEV SUV... looks like somebody wants to compete with Phoenix Motor Cars and their SUT/SUV vehicles coming out this year.

Hmmmm... looking at the dates, somebody either lied or some misinformation has been presented to the public.

It took all but ONE DAY for GM to decide to use A123 batteries. Remember, GM signed an agreement with Cobyass/A123 on Jan 3. This is from the A123 site...

"Orion, MI and Watertown, Mass. – January 3, 2007 Cobasys and A123Systems announced today that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to enter into a partnership to develop, manufacture, sell, and service lithium-ion energy storage systems for hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) applications. The scope of the agreement will include joint development, marketing and supply of A123Systems nanophosphate lithium batteries and Cobasys systems integration and manufacturing of battery systems for HEV markets."

Hey DocX... looks like I may have been right about GM wanting to avoid bankruptcy. But Ford is a different story. This is a comment I posted the other day...

"Here's an update on possible plans for Ford. Read today in the Virginian-Pilot an article from the Associated Press... forgot the author but he mentioned that Ford has plans to take continual loses for the next few years. It wasn't quoted from a Ford representitive but the author words seemed apparent.

Hey DocX... if you're reading this... guess what Ford might be planning? This is speculation but let's say Ford takes these loses for the next few years... head to bankruptcy proceedings which would take about a year or so to conclude. That's 3 years!!! The same amount of time for the Altair/Phoenix agreement. Would make sense also... Ford can still have an agreement with Altair for HEV and PHEV. That way the can research the nLTO for 3 years "under the HEV/PHEV exclusion" and come out with their own EV in 3 years time. Right after the bankruptcy discharge and a nice semi-clean slate. And that'll beat the time frame of GM's VOLT (2010-2012) which will most likely use A123 technology. Maybe Altair is really in the lead again and remember I'm just speculating =)"

Electric vehicle technology is going to come out in a big way within 5 years. Looks like US auto manufacturers finally woke up. GM/A123/Cobasys versus Phoenix/Altair/UQM... who do you think will win??? GM ofcoarse. But if my speculations are correct than it might just be GM/A123/Cobasys versus Ford/Altair/UQM. I'm thinking Ford might buy out Phoenix that way Ford can hold on to their bread n butter, fleet vehicle contracts of supply and maintenance. Once again I'm just speculating.

Sky King

Regarding rollout dates, the 2010-2012 timeframe was given by the media as 'quoted' from some "Industry Experts". GM has never given out any dates. Some other rather knowledgeable people outside of GM have predicted early 2009. Now, GM hasn't confirmed this 'guess' yet, but they also haven't denied it, either.

One of the Volt team members did state in an Auto Show interview that the Volt project was started just after the '05 Auto Show. GM already had R&D data from the HiWire and EV1, so this has been in process for quite some time now and based on lots of experience already with Electric Motors, Controllers, evolving battery technologies, etc. Once the battery specs fall into the required parameters, it's a hop, skip, and a jump to production.

Sky King

Correction to last post: I meant '06 Auto Show last year.


Thanks for the clarification Sky on the roll-out dates. I'm almost certain that GM will make the announcement of a vehicle utilizing A123's batteries later on this year. With A123 and Altair already set up with Chinese battery manufacturers... GM has no time to waste. They have to mass produce to bring the costs down just to compete with China.

And watch out for Zap... they have EV showrooms across the country now. ABAT retrofitted their PLI batteries to a few Zap models and basically trippled the driving range. Yet the ABAT engineers say they weren't satisfied with the results. Going to dig deeper into Zap... looks like they maybe an underdog about to make some waves in the EV market.


Is it just me thinking crazy or would owning two vehicles be out of the question? Can't I keep my ICE for long range travelling, eg. the lake or skiing and use the EV for going to work? Most of us live close to our jobs, according to stats. Just make me a decent looking EV and I'll buy it. The Volt looks great to me. I'll buy it, just build it.


they are going to have to have electric sockets at gas pumps...lol

Al Roderick

I love Chevys, my whole family's GM owners and/or employees. I'm hoping by the time I'm ready to replace my old Oldsmobile they'll have a decent EV or hybrid out, so I can have a good commuter vehicle to and from the drop yard. Where I keep my semi. (Gotta balance it out somehow.)


Your truck could go plugin serial hybrid too. with an induction pickup coil to recharge in a special lane while driving.

Charge strips embedded in the road surface that are triggered by the induction pickup. And instead of a generator, a solid oxide fuel cell/turbine with 75% efficiency. when you would need to use fuel you would get 5 times the mileage.

Morgan Chemis

Frankly, I think the Volt and the energy savings it promises make for a revolutionary automobile. I have made a site dedicated to the volt here:

Chevy Volt

Morgan Chemis

Frankly, I think the Volt and the energy savings it promises make for a revolutionary automobile. I have made a site dedicated to the volt here:



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The new Chevrolet Volt is just one of the four hybrids being developed by GM. As part of the GM’s E-Flex architecture, its initial features include a plug in cable, battery – dominated series hybrid architecture. GM designed the Volt to start its engine when 40 % of the battery charge remains and it can gain fuel economy of 50 mpg. (4.7 l/ 100km) even when the vehicle is not plugged in.
While the best selling Prius can take you for no more than twenty miles (20), GM’s plan that their Chevrolet Volt will speed you up to forty (40) miles per hour after being charged in a common household outlet. Yes, you are not mistaken. That is, double the speed.

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I don’t think people will pay much of a premium to look good in the that Bob built.

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I wouldn't pay that much for that car. In a recession like this, there is no way I could afford that.

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