Volt Birth Watch 22: Ask Mr. Wizard

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
volt birth watch 22 ask mr wizard

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article about GM's "challenges" with the Volt's lithium-ion battery. Now GM Car Czar Maximum Bob Lutz (a.k.a. God's gift to TTAC) wants to set the record straight: "All of the battery testing is going well." The Car Czar explained everyone was confused because of the various chemical combinations used in different batteries. For example, current technology uses cobalt (the element, not the Chevy) which can lead to "thermal runaway" (a.k.a, a virtually unstoppable fire). Instead, GM is looking into other strategies like nano phosphates and manganese. In fact, MB said taking a generic view of lithium-ion technology is "like saying (something like) ‘You know that beverages can cause alcoholism.' No, Coca Cola doesn't." Oh, and the Car Czar's most recent estimate of when GM will have something test-worthy has moved, from Easter to this summer. For now.

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  • Sammy Hagar Sammy Hagar on Jan 15, 2008

    Is that like 40 AAA batteries in that cutaway photo? Are the hamsters located in the tank to the right? Is GM channelling Rube Goldberg?

  • Akitadog Akitadog on Jan 15, 2008

    Looks like the prototype is being run by 40 cans of "energy" drinks. Why not? Its (possible) future buyers are run by the same thing.

  • Eric_Stepans Eric_Stepans on Jan 15, 2008

    The reason for the "40-cans" appearance is that the cells are wired up in series to generate high voltages. Power = Voltage X Current, so a higher voltage translates to lower operating current. Automakers were discussing going to a 36V/42V system for car electrics a few years ago for the same reason. Safety problems (36V can sustain arcs that 12V can't) stymied those efforts.

  • SunnyvaleCA SunnyvaleCA on Jan 15, 2008

    Eric, you're right that the wiring is in series. To get the series wiring, you have to wire the top of one battery to the bottom of the next, which gives you a configuration typical of a multi-battery flashlight. With "40-cans" configuration you have to put every other batter in upside down and then have wires stringing each battery together. "40-cans" is more typical of wiring in parallel.