The Truth About Cars » chevy volt The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » chevy volt Does Dan Akerson Know GM’s 200 Mile Range Battery is Vaporware? Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:00:32 +0000 Envia-400whk-battery_1

The hagiographic article by Bloomberg/Business Week on outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson did exactly what Selim Bingol and the other PR honchos in the RenCen towers wanted it to do. With other news agencies and blogs amplifying the puffery and pulling quotes, the article got GM and Akerson a lot of good press. One of the quotes that got pulled the most was Akerson’s reference to a “moon shot” project giving GM’s next generation extended range electric vehicle a 200 mile range on battery power, based on breakthroughs in battery technology. It may be more of a moon shot than Akerson let on, since GM has cancelled its contract with that battery’s likely supplier, accusing it of “material misrepresentation”.

In the Business Week article, it says:

Although GM has hinted that it’s working on a next generation of electric vehicle, Akerson says it’s aiming for a compact car that can go 200 miles on a charge and carry a generator, too. While it will be similar to the Volt, engineers are working on generators that could run on gas, diesel, or natural gas. The increased electric range is coming, in part, from advances in battery chemistry. GM is planning to bring the model out in 2016, for about $30,000, according to a person familiar with the idea who asked not to be named because the plans aren’t public. It’s a project that the company doesn’t want to say much about but signifies how it’s been trying to move past inventing things to putting inventions into showrooms. “We want it to be a moon shot so we can surprise the competition,” Akerson says.

That part about the company not wanting to say much about the project and citing an unnamed source is rather cute in the context of a high profile article that was based on weeks of exclusive insider access given to the Business Week writers. What’s also kind of curious is that GM’s “200 mile battery” was not really news, so citing an unnamed source seemed superfluous. In September, at an event at GM’s Tech Center battery lab, GM’s vice president of global product programs, Doug Parks told the Wall Street Journal that the company was developing a next generation electric vehicle that has a 200 mile range and would cost about $30,000, though the cost of the batteries today would make meeting that price point impossible. Last March, Akerson himself told an energy conference about the project. “There will be breakthroughs in battery technology, they’re on the horizon,” Akerson told a session at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference which was broadcast on “We’re actually developing a car today which is really anathema to the way the auto industry works: We’re running a dual play on the technology to see which one will succeed. One will result in” a 100-mile range, “the other will be a 200-mile range.”

Just like his comments in the recent Business Week article, Akerson’s remarks last spring about a 200 mile battery sparked a flurry of news reports about a potential GM EV with such a range. Many of those reports speculated that the battery in question was a lithium ion cell being developed by Envia, a battery startup claiming to use a special cathode and unique silicon carbon nanocomposite anode to produce a battery with a remarkable energy density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram. The level of energy density would indeed make a 200 mile range EV possible. The speculation was founded on the fact that in 2011 General Motors had invested $17 million through its GM Ventures arm to take an equity stake in Envia, resulting in GM Ventures president and GM chief technology officer Jon Lauckner having a seat on the Envia board. In late 2012 the automaker and Envia signed a contract for the battery company to start supplying GM in 2016. Because of the long lead time and validation needed in the auto industry, the contract had very tight deadlines, needing a final design for the battery by 2014.

However, the fact is that by the time Akerson, Parks and Bloomberg’s unnamed source went public with the 200 mile battery project, GM already had doubts about the Envia battery and was in the process of canceling the contract. In an extensive investigative article on the Quartz website, Steve LeVine outlines the history of Envia, how it touted the breakthrough performance of its battery design, based on research at the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Arpa-E program, though it had never manufactured any batteries. GM embraced the company, signing a multi-million dollar contract as well as investing in the company only to find their potential supplier unable to meet deadlines specified in the contract. It turns out that their battery’s outstanding performance only lasted for the first few charge/discharge cycles and then fell off, continuing to decline.

Levine shows that by March of 2013, right around the time that Akerson started touting the 200 mile battery, at their first quarterly meeting specified in the supply contract, GM expressed concern that their own testing showed the Envia battery not meeting claimed performance specs. Envia asked for patience saying that the tight deadlines in the contract weren’t giving them enough time to properly develop the battery. By July, GM’s representative was accusing Envia’s founder, Sujeet Kumar, of making “material misrepresentations during contract negotiations”. GM could not reproduce the Arpa-E results and the automaker was not happy that Envia had claimed a proprietary anode composition when in fact “the anode material is not Envia’s.” GM gave Envia “a failed grade for this quarter.”

In early August, Envia received the following in a letter from General Motors:

Envia has failed to move the project forward or replicate the results on a timetable that could conceivably support the vehicle development process. In fact, Envia was unable even to replicate prior reported test results even when utilizing the third-party anode that had purportedly been utilized in the Arpa-E test battery.

The letter continued that GM was “well within its rights to terminate the December 2012 agreement.” By late August, the contract was cancelled. Envia is currently mired in litigation with former CEO Atul Kapadia, who negotiated the contract with GM, over his firing and with Kapur’s previous employer over intellectual property issues related to battery technology.

While all of this was going on, GM was still talking about a 200 mile battery. To be fair, Akerson did say they were working on two tracks, with more than one battery supplier, and LeVine points out that it’s not likely that GM would have committed to the idea of a 200 mile range EV without having additional battery suppliers under consideration. Still Akerson’s most recent comments to Business Week seem odd in light of the backstory on Envia, almost as though he’s been out of the loop. Akerson’s subordinates recognized Envia’s shortcomings fairly early on, while he continued to reference the project as though there were no problems.

For more information on the topic, Steve LeVine examines the chemistry and physics of Envia’s battery chemistry here, and Gigaom’s Katie Fehrenbacher does her usual thorough job looking at the litigation that surrounds the company here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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LG Chem Suspends Newly Started Chevy Volt Battery Production at Michigan Facility Over Chemical Not Yet E.P.A. Registered Sat, 07 Sep 2013 22:13:36 +0000 LG-Chem

Only weeks after starting up long-delayed production of lithium-ion batteries for the Chevy Volt at their new factory in Holland, Michigan, LG Chem has announced that they are stopping production for up to six weeks because a compound used in that production apparently had not been registered for use in manufacturing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While no shutdown order was issued by the EPA, the agency recently issued a subpoena to LG Chem, demanding a list of chemicals used at the Holland facility.

LG Chem spokesman Jeremy Hagemeyer said in an email to news agencies, “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved. We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately 6 weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

The $303 million factory was partially funded with a $151 million federal stimulus grant to produce batteries for electric and hybrid cars. President Obama spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in 2011. The plant had more recently been in the news when it was discovered that employees were idle there. LG Chem at the time said that the plant’s output was not immediately needed because lower than anticipated sales of the Volt meant that their Korean operations were capable of supplying all the batteries needed for Chevy’s range-extended EV. After an audit by the U.S. Auditor General determined that employees were indeed not doing production work, LG Chem reimbursed the federal government $842,000.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Hybrid and EV sales are up this year and GM will soon start selling the Cadillac ELR, which shares the Volt’s “Voltec” powertrain, increasing the automaker’s demand for batteries. Test builds on the LG Chem production line in Holland began in May. Last month LG Chem said that mass production has started at their Michigan facility and that after those batteries’ conditioning period was over the factory would begin shipments to GM by October for use in the Volt.

Hagemeyer said that during shutdown there would be no layoffs. Employees will be engaged in continuous improvement projects, training and maintaining readiness, according to the company. “We view this as a temporary issue and are very confident that we will proceed with production soon,” he said, stressing that the plant is safe. So far, General Motors has not commented on the battery production shutdown.

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Production of 2014 Chevy Volts Begins, Along With a $5,000 Price Cut Tue, 06 Aug 2013 16:06:11 +0000 voltparade_r

General Motors announced that the 2014 edition of the Chevy Volt will start rolling off the assembly line at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant today. They also announced that when those new Volts arrive at dealers in a few weeks they’ll be $5,000 cheaper than the 2013 model. The move is in response to price cuts and lease deals on competitors’ EVs. After Nissan cut the price of the Leaf by $6,400 in January, its sales are up 300% from last year for the first half of 2013, just barely outselling the Volt. In July, Ford lowered the price of the Focus Electric by $4,000 and the recently launched Fiat 500e and Chevrolet Spark EV are offering $199/month leases.

The base MSRP on the 2014 Volt’s Monroney label will read $34,995, plus $810 to get it from the factory to the dealer. After applying the $7,500 federal tax credit, that puts the effective price of the Volt at $27,495, about what a nicely equipped Chevy Cruze would cost. One of the criticisms of the Volt has been that it’s expensive compared to the Cruze, with which the Volt shares a platform.

So far this year, Volt sales are up 9% to 11,463.

GM said that it has made “great strides” in reducing the manufacturing cost of the Volt, though no dollar figures were released. GM execs have said that the 2nd generation Volt, scheduled to go on sale in 2015, will cost them between $5,000 and $10,000 a unit less to build than the current model.

Apparently one reason for the current price cut is how people now use the internet to shop for cars. The lower MSRP is expected help the Volt show up in consumers’ search results. “Before, if you were going to price-shop a hybrid or a plug-in, the Volt didn’t even show up because of price point,” GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho said.

Though the recent price cuts have raised the sale of EVs and PEVs, they’re still a small fraction of the market. Total U.S. sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids were 41,447 units for the first six months of the year. Chrysler sold more Darts that that figure, and the Dart isn’t exactly moving up the sales charts in its segment.

Chevy dealers were already discounting the Volts they had in stock and GM itself is offering rebates of $4,000 on 2013 Volts and $5,000 on the 2012 models still in stock, so the price cut is not going to have much of a real world effect on transaction prices. reports that the average transaction price on the Volts that were s0ld was $38,578, with a total average incentive per car at $10,489. The dealer part of those incentives are essentially subsidized by a GM bonus program for dealers who hit company determined sales objectives.


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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Cadillac ELR Thu, 07 Feb 2013 23:39:17 +0000

TTAC writers will stoop to any trick to get access to cars. This may be my last post at TTAC because I bribed my way into the ELR and may be removed for ethics violations (a Diet Pepsi was involved.) Fresh off its début in Detroit the ELR may be old news, but since none of the TTAC staff had seen one in the metal, I knew my duty.

Is it a “Cadillac Volt?”  Yes. But what that means is thankfully different now that GM seems to be shunning badge engineering. So it’s a Volt with a different body, different interior, different infotainment systems, a more powerful motor and plenty of tweaks, so it’s not really a Volt at all.

What do you need to know?

It’s a two-door, two-plus-two coupé that places style and efficiency on the same high pedestal. Power is up from 149HP to 207 while torque takes a more modest increase from 273 to 295. Cadillac hasn’t released any weight numbers but we were told that the weight would be largely the same as the Volt since the battery pack is essentially the same. The ELR seems to focus more on handling than economy with wide 245-width rubber all the way around on 20 inch rims.

Did you sit in it?

That’s where the soda bribe came in. The interior is oddly enough the best that Cadillac has made yet. It shares the steering wheel design with the XTS and ATS but the cheap plastic airbag cover is replaced by a leather/suede version. The dashboard is full of angles as you would expect from Cadillac but the materials choices are higher than expected for the most part. As often happens things get a bit less harmonious down on the center console but on the whole it’s a marked improvement.

Cadillac hasn’t announced the important things like sale dates or pricing yet, but you can be sure with wide rubber and a lead foot that the ELR won’t have the same range or economy as the Volt. Does that matter? No. This is what GM should have built first, luxury buyers are more likely to want to pay for gasoline/electric novelty.

2014 Cadillac ELR 2014 Cadillac ELR-001 2014 Cadillac ELR-002 2014 Cadillac ELR-003 2014 Cadillac ELR-004 2014 Cadillac ELR-005 2014 Cadillac ELR-006 2014 Cadillac ELR-007 2014 Cadillac ELR-008 2014 Cadillac ELR-009 2014 Cadillac ELR, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Cadillac ELR-011 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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GM To Build Electric Motors For “Future Range Of RWD Vehicles” Tue, 26 Jan 2010 20:11:34 +0000

It’s one thing to say “the electrification of the car is inevitable” (Bob Lutz) when you’re buying the motors from suppliers. But GM is putting (somebody’s) money where their oracle’s wandering mouth is, and getting into the electric motor building business. The General has announced that $246 million dollars, of which $105 million came from a DOE grant (not loan), will be spent on facilities to build lighter, smaller and more efficient electric motors for the next generation of their two-mode hybrid system and rear-wheel drive applications. Looks like a “slim-Jim” version is being developed for a “future range of rear-drive cars”. Hmm…According to a report in Automotive News, the motors will be 25% smaller and have a 20% greater output than the ones currently used in the not-so-popular two-mode hybrid system. Additionally:

The motors will be used in GM’s next-generation rear-drive, two-mode hybrid vehicles, specifically full-sized trucks arriving in 2013. The motors are also expected to be used in a future range of rear-drive cars, GM will announce today. Savagian said the new motor will use less electricity, resulting in better fuel economy. He didn’t provide specifics.

GM currently offers a two-mode hybrid in such vehicles as the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and Silverado pickup. They average 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

Additionally, with the smaller packaging, “we will be able to utilize them in (rear-drive) cars as well,” said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman of global product operations. He made the announcement today at the Washington auto show. No details were given for car applications. The motors will be built at a plant in White Marsh, Md., outside Baltimore, said spokesman Brian Corbett.

And what would that mysterious  “future range of rear-drive cars” be? If it’s anything other than an eventual replacement for the CTS or the smaller ATS, you got me.

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