GM Planning Engineless All-Electric Cars To Follow the Volt

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2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

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Bob Lutz, the retiring eminence grise of General Motors, is known for pithiness and plain speaking.

Yesterday, he tossed off a nugget of news: GM is working on a range of pure electric cars, without range-extending engines, that will follow the 2011 Chevrolet Volt--most likely a few years hence.

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010

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Volt Battery Pack

Volt Battery Pack

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Coda electric sedan

Coda electric sedan

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2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

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Will GM's electric EV1 ever match up to its gas counterparts?

Will GM's electric EV1 ever match up to its gas counterparts?

Nissan, Coda leading

While the 1.4-liter engine in the 2011 Volt alleviates drivers' concerns over "range anxiety," by powering a generator to add 300 or so miles to its 40-mile electric range, other makers have moved directly into electric cars that offer ranges of around 100 miles.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf and the 2011 Coda Sedan, among others, are pure electric compact cars without range extenders that will go on sale before the end of this year. Now GM apparently feels it needs to play in that sandbox as well.

The 78-year-old Lutz told Associated Press that GM is "planning" a distinct line of electric vehicles without the backup engine that's an integral part of the Voltec powertrain used for the 2011 Volt and future extended-range electric vehicles.

Deep EV experience

Pure EVs would join a range of GM technologies that include a new and more powerful version of its mild-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system; an evolution of the full Two-Mode Hybrid system it now owns; and a plug-in version of the Two-Mode Hybrid.

Designs for a pure EV would build on GM's 15 years of deep experience with electric-drive cars back to the EV1 two-seater. They would also vindicate critics who savaged GM for killing its electric-car program in 2002 as new battery chemistries were coming to the fore.

Former CEO Rick Wagoner has said that ending the EV1 program in the early part of the last decade was one of his biggest mistakes.

Lithium cells from Michigan

It would almost surely use the same lithium-ion cell technology from LG Chem that makes up the Volt's 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The added volume from larger packs in pure EVs could bring down GM's cost for lithium-ion cells, making them more affordable.

Just this morning, LG Chem announced that it plans to manufacture those cells in a $200 million plant in Holland, Michigan, less than 200 miles from the Volt factory in Hamtramck.

"Poster child for planetary destruction"

During the wide-ranging interview, Lutz also said:

  • A large number of GM's full-size pickup trucks and SUVs will be hybrids in the near future, to meet new fuel efficiency standards.
  • GM will spread the cost of adding hybrid and electric-drive technology across all products, rather than packaging it as an option.
  • The Hummer brand, now being wound down, had become "the poster child for planetary destruction."
  • He believes GM will turn a profit in 2011, and pay back its government loans.
  • He plans to write a book about his eight years at GM, including the company's 2009 bankruptcy and government rescue.

[AP via Detroit News]

 
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