Volt tests in 2008 - GM developing family of electric cars
So says Robert Lutz, vice-chairman of General Motors, at the Frankfurt Auto Show on Monday. Lutz acknowledged that progress still needs to be made in battery technology to make such cars possible, but told reporters that GM is already planning electric powered cars beyond the Chevrolet Volt currently in development which is expected to use lithium ion batteries in a plug-in hybrid layout. Lab tests of the batteries to be used in the Volt will begin next month, according to Lutz. GM is “100% confident” that the batteries it is developing will not have the problems which have stalled the Toyota lithium ion battery program, which has encountered safety issues due to excessive heat created by such batteries.
Lutz also said that GM would begin road testing the Volt in the spring of 2008 and that reporters will be able to drive it by the fall of 2008. Lutz told reporters that, “"You personally will be able to experience the joy of gliding down I-94 at 70 miles an hour" solely on electric power.”
Meantime, GM’s German brand Opel will take the wraps off a concept car using the same powertrain as the Volt, but will employt a turbo-diesel instead of the gasoline engine of the Volt as the other part of the hybrid system. Like the Volt, the Opel concept – called the “Flextreme” – is designed to operate in most commuting settings solely on electric power.
The United States is the initial market for the electric technology GM is developing, but not the only market. "China is logical; Europe is logical," said Lutz. In the past, “logical” has been Lutz’ code for “GM will eventually produce it..” (When the Solstice coupe concept car was displayed, Lutz said eventual production would be “logical;” that vehicle is expected in the fall as a 2008 model.)
If GM sticks to the timetable Lutz is describing – and he’s being very blunt about it to the press, so at least he’s confident – it will meant that GM will beat everyone else to the market with a plug-in capable hybrid and also establish its engineering expertise as superior to those of others, including Toyota, who are either far behind in developing the technology or have backed away from it. In the past several months, Toyota has been publicly expressing doubts that “plug-in” technology is viable for the current automotive market. But these doubts were expressed only after the company was forced to publicly admit that its lithium ion program, a joint venture with Panasonic, had failed to develop lithium ion batteries sufficiently to use them in the next generation Prius. Since then, it has been widely reported that Toyota has substantially reduced its corporate commitment to developing lithium ion batteries.