GM Engineers Pleased with Performance and Safety of Chevy Volt Battery Pack

With actual production not scheduled to begin for about another year, General Motors’ engineers say they are confident about the safety and performance of the rechargeable electric batteries to be used in the new Chevy Volt.

In an updated delivered last Tuesday, GM executives said that engineers are making some final design modifications but that they are on schedule. Among the refinements being made are attempts to reduce noise produced when the gasoline-powered engine engages during longer drives.

Chief engineer Andrew Farah also hinted that GM may be close to moving forward with a project to produce a Cadillac that employs the Volt’s gas-electric powertrain. Recently, reports of a new Cadillac Converj concept car have been circulating. According to those reports, the GM could launch the Converj as soon as 2013.

The Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack, called the Voltec, is undergoing a series of tests in 80 prototype vehicles. In addition to safety tests the Volts are being studied for how well they perform in extreme hot and cold temperatures and on steep inclines.

GM says that the battery packs have been unscathed in the front impact crash tests it has performed,

Although classified as a gas-electric hybrid, the Volt differs from the Toyota Prius and other hybrid models currently on the road in that propulsion is provided exclusively by electric motors. The Volt’s gas-powered engine is only used to provide energy to the battery pack by way of a generator.

GM’s engineers say that they are pleased with the performance of the vehicle. They also admit that it is somewhat challenging to compare the new technologies employed in the Volt against benchmarks used in evaluating the performance of conventional vehicles. They say that a number of factors, including weather and road conditions, as well as individual driving styles, will affect the battery’s performance.

Voltec engineering group manager David Wallace said, "Ten years is the target life [for the battery]. Depending on how you use it and where you live, you could see significantly longer time."

As with other rechargeable batteries, Wallace said that the single biggest threat to the durability of the Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack is extremely hot weather. The battery packs are expected perform better and longer in more temperate areas and in urban driving situations. "Even if you live in Phoenix,” he added, “as long as you charge at night, and you run during the day, your battery will remain happy,"

GM executives say the batteries, which are being supplied by LG Chem Ltd. of South Korea, have performed well in performance and safety tests.

Chief engineer, Andrew Farah, said that the Volt’s fuel tank capacity, which will provide insight into the Volt’s overall driving range, has not yet been determined.

In addition to possibly producing the Cadillac Converj, GM has announced that it plans to produce an Opel model for European markets based on the Volt’s powertrain. The anticipated launch date for the new Volt-inspired Opel is sometime in 2011.

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