Thursday, June 21, 2012

GM Moves On to New Battery Technology for the Pure - Electric Spark

Electric vehicles may be all the rage in the zero-emission-obsessed 21st century automotive world, but they are not the novelty carmakers would have you believe. In fact, the first electric vehicle was manufactured in the early 19th century, predating the invention of both gasoline and diesel internal-combustion engines. Its limited range, though, along with the rapid development of road infrastructure in the early 20th century that made travels much easier, caused its demise.
Naturally, two centuries later, the newly discovered EVs use much more advanced technology. It’s still in its infancy, however, especially compared to the internal combustion engine. Therefore, there is still much room for improvement.
The recent NHTSA investigation concerning the issue of lithium-ion batteries after crash-testing Chevrolet’s Volt extended-range hybrid, has prompted GM to seek a more advanced battery technology for the electric version of its Spark city car, which is due in 2013.
When carmakers like Tesla, Nissan and GM were developing their EVs and hybrids, lithium-ion batteries were the best tech available.
Now they will employ lithium phosphate technology in their next-gen models because, as principal of Detroit consulting firm 2953 Analytics, James Hall, noted, they are safer and longer lasting.
"Lithium phosphate chemistry looks like it could be friendlier in terms of heat management", said Hall. "But it stores less energy. There is a tremendous amount of new discovery. This is new territory for lithium batteries."
GM has already signed a contract with A123 Systems for the development of new, lithium phosphate battery packs. The company’s executive director in charge of Global Electrical Systems, Micky Bly, said that “A123’s systems offer ideal capabilities for a future electrified vehicle application.”
A123 Systems’ vice president Andy Chu revealed that the company was one of the bidders to supply the Volt batteries, but lost out to LG Chem because, at the time, it didn’t have a proven manufacturing record.
The tables have turned, though. Apart from the GM, BMW is also buying lithium phosphate batteries from A123 for its ActiveHybrid 5 and upcoming ActiveHybrid 3, while Fisker will also use the same technology for the Karma.
Story References: Bloomberg


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